Whereas before most corporate incentives took the shape of cash bonuses or travel vouchers, nowadays companies are looking for ways of offering their staff or clients an unforgettable experience. Climate, geographical diversity, fauna and flora, history, tradition, cuisine, quality and services come to together to make Spain and Morocco the perfect incentive travel destinations.
Spain's climate allows for a great variety of crops, market garden produce and fruit to be cultivated. To this must be added all kinds of fish and shellfish, both from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, olive oil, mouth-watering ham and other pork products, game, and a broad selection of cheeses, honey, wines, eau-de-vies, desserts and sweetmeats. Spanish cuisine is inimitable, with many specialties, varying from region to region, as well as its own unique signature cuisine – a fusion of tradition and modernity – and a seemingly endless selection of delicious tapas.
Likewise, Moroccan cuisine is unique and possibly the most varied in the world, since it is influenced by Moorish, Berber, Middle Eastern, African and Mediterranean gastronomy, with nuances of Sephardic cooking. In addition to succulent fish dishes, there is typical roast lamb, cuscus, tagine, pastela, a delicious variety of bread, abundant fruit and vegetables, macerated meat, 30 types of date, exquisite puddings, and a lot more. As the Moroccan proverb says, "When there is food on the table, conversation is unnecessary." Last but not least, there is a good selection restaurants and luxury hotels offering fine dinning.
Whether located on a secluded stretch of the coast, in the heart of the countryside or in a historical quarter or a residential neighbourhood, the region's charming hotels and boutique hotels, small, friendly establishments, frequently family-run and usually serving excellent food, afford visitors a comfortable, intimate way of getting to know the authentic Spain.
Morocco also has a good selection of charming hotels, featuring the kind typical of Marrakech: the riad. Riads or ryads are houses, the majority of which are located in the medina, whose rooms give onto a beautiful patio decorated with mosaics, with a fountain. Nowadays, some of these building house boutique hotels, offering sublime cuisine and all the mod cons.
Spain is one of Europe's top destinations for outdoor activities. For walking, rambling and hiking enthusiasts, there are hundreds of different routes, all varying in difficulty, from gentle itineraries on the inland and coastal plains to more demanding ones in the sierras and mountains. For cycling tourism – as well as horse-riding and walking – there is an ample network of green ways, some coinciding with railway lines in disuse and others with routes that have been used over the centuries for transhumance.
Morocco offers visitors an endless choice of options above all for trekking on foot or by mule. From the Rif to the Atlas Mountains, there are routes to suit all taste and levels of stamina. And for hikers and those who only want to take a relaxing stroll, there are miles of beaches and country tracks.
Spain has a number of wetland and marshland reserves – including the famous Doñana National Park – vital to migratory birds, as well as 14 national parks, 38 Biosphere Reserves, and 134 natural parks, which are a powerful lure for birdwatchers and nature photography enthusiasts keen on discovering the country's dazzling variety of fauna and flora.
Likewise, Morocco is not to be outdone. The country's 12 national parks and reserves – Aguelman Affenourir, the Bioshpere Reserve of Arganeraie, Bouarfa, Iriki, Khnifiss, Massa, Merja Sidi Boughaba, Merja Zegra, Talassemtane, Tazzeka, and Toubkal (the highest peak in the Atlas) – cover an area of 45,000 square miles, representing 6% of Moroccan territory, home to many of the autochthonous species of this part of North Africa, such as the Barbary ape, the ruddy shelduck, the argan, and the dorcas gazelle.
Reflected in its rupestrian cave paintings, dolmens, prehistoric burial sights, Phoenician walls and garum factories, Greek emporia, Roman villas, Moorish palatial complexes, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Mudejar and Baroque monuments, and in its art galleries, museums and exhibition halls, Spain possesses an immense cultural and historical heritage. The old quarters of Salamanca, Avila, Caceres, Cordova, Santiago de Compostela and Segovia, the walled cities of Toledo and Cuenca, the monasteries of San Millan de Yuso and Suso, El Escorial, the works of Gaudi, the University of Alcala de Henares, the cathedral of Burgos, the Roman remains of Merida and Tarragona, the archaeological digs of Atapuerca and Altamira, La Alhambra of Granada. Spain boasts a seeming endless list of cultural attractions.
Inhabited since the Neolithic, a succession of cultures – Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Byzantines – and dynasties – Idrisid, Almoravid, Almohad and Alawite – have left their mark on Morocco. From the Wall of the Andalusians and the citadel of Oudaias of Rabat, the Karaouine mosque and the numerous madrassas of Fez, the monumental gates, gardens, mosques, forts and palace of Dar Kebira at beautiful Meknes, and the squares, mosques and minarets of Marrakech, to the magnificently conserved medinas of Tangiers, Tetouen, Cefchaouen, Assilah and Larache, Morocco's splendid historical-cultural heritage will never fail to delight visitors.
Spain comprises a complex mosaic of deep-rooted traditions and customs, the genesis of some of which are lost in the mists of time. The Celtic traditions of green Galicia, with its bagpipes, legends and witches, the dances, traditional competitions and culinary fairs of the Basque Country, the sardanas and " colles de castellers" of Catalonia rival with the Moors and Christians festivals of Eastern Spain, and the pilgrimages and flamenco music of Andalusia. Each village has its fair, each region its idiosyncrasies – the drums and sobriety of Easter Week in the northern regions contrasting with the Baroque exuberance of the southern processions – and also their similarities – carnival, the bonfires on Midsummer Night, the religious festivals, to name but a few. As regards entertainment, there are film, theatre and music festivals, concerts and opera seasons throughout the country.
As with its cuisine, Morocco is a patchwork of the traditions and customs of many cultures. In addition to those daily rites, such as the serving of peppermint tea and the Hammam, the country possesses an enormous artistic and cultural heritage, whose chief exponent is the National Folklore Festival, an explosion of music, singing and dance – Arab-Andalusian songs, Berber songs and dances, afro-Arab sounds of the gnawa, the lyrical Jewish-Moroccan poems, chaabi – held every year in June, against the incomparable backdrop of Marrakech. Likewise, there are many festivals and fairs, such as those of the cherry, rose, honey and the wax lanterns, as well as the famous horse and camel fairs. The mouseems, or ammougars, a mixture of pilgrimage and local fair, like that held in Moulay Idriss, close to Meknes, in August, constitute another of Morocco's marks of identity.
Strictly for enthusiasts, the bullfighting season starts officially in April and ends in October, bullfights usually coinciding with Spain's popular fairs and religious festivals.
Bullrings are graded by importance, the 1st class rings in Spain being those of Seville, Cordova, Malaga, Madrid, Valencia, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Zaragoza and Barcelona, as well as that of Pamplona, governed by its own norms. The bullring at Ronda, the oldest in Spain, deserves a special mention for its stunning architecture.
Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, also hosts the famous Sanfermines in July, where the brave (and the foolhardy) run before the bulls while they are driven towards their pens in the bullring. Other similar events are held in San Sebastian de los Reyes, Cuellar, Medina del Campo and Navalcarnero, among other localities.
The countryside around Seville and the fluvial plains of Cadiz form what is known as "bull country", where bulls can be seen grazing or being herded by Andalusian "cowboys" on specially trained horses. An essential part of this type of stockbreeding is acoso y derribo, in which two horsemen pursue and knock down young bulls in order to test their valour for the ring. These bloodless but exhilarating contests are held above all in the provinces of Cadiz, Huelva and Seville, and also in other parts of Spain.
Bullfighting and horse enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to watch a corrida de rejones, or bullfighting on horseback. Although just as gory as its better-known counterpart, the highly trained horses and the skill of their riders are marvellous to watch.
Thanks to Spain and Morocco' protected areas and richly diverse natural heritage, with hundreds of miles of coastline, mountains, rivers, forests and deserts, in addition to their benign climate, both countries are ideal destinations for high-risk and adventure sports enthusiasts. There are specialized agencies in both countries, with professional and experienced monitors.
The list of high-risk and adventure sports include:
Big and small game hunting, target shooting, archery, freshwater and deep-sea fishing, water-skiing, jet skiing, canoeing, kayaking, snorkelling, diving, hiking, trekking, climbing, mountaineering, mushing, snowshoe trekking, alpine and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowbiking, bungy jumping, rafting, hang gliding, paragliding, skydiving, ballooning, canyoning, mountain biking, potholing, orienteering with maps and GPS, quad and 4x4 safaris, motor racing, paintballing, laser tag, survival, bullfighting (very young bulls), and horse, mule or camel trekking.
Most riding enthusiasts will have heard of the Andalusian horse, coveted throughout history by kings and princes for its docility, valour, elegance and beauty. Besides Jerez de la Frontera's Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, Spain has numerous stables and riding centres, offering show-jumping, driving, Spanish and classical dressage and even polo classes, both for beginners and experienced riders, in addition to horse trekking.
Likewise, there is horseracing at courses in Madrid, San Sebastian, Orense and Mijas (Malaga), and on beach at Sanlucar de Barrameda every summer. And for those looking for something more traditional, there is always the possibility of participating on horseback, in a coach or cart drawn by horses, mules or oxen in one of many pilgrimages and fairs held in Spain, above all in Andalusia.
Due its beauty, resistance and speed, the Berber horse, from which the Andalusian is descended, was much prized by the ancient Muslim conquerors. Each year, a festival is held in which horseman ride these horses in remembrance of their valiant ancestors. It should not then come as a surprise that it is a much venerated animal, especially by the Berbers in the south.
Horse-riding activities in Morocco feature trekking in the Atlas and Rif Mountains, and through the Hamada.
There is an enormous number of associated language schools in Spain, offering intensive language and culture courses to students of all levels. Some schools also provide their students with accommodation and most organise excursions and additional activities.
For visitors seeking more hedonistic pursuits, they only have to choose their destination, since there are all kinds of facilities from modern wellness and talassotherapy centre to traditional watering places and spa hotels and centres throughout Spain, offering a complete range of treatments – including aromatherapy, wine therapy, chocolate therapy, and body wraps, to name but a few – and facial and body massages.
Morocco also has a plentiful selection of luxury hotels with spa centres, without forgetting the traditional hammams, the majority of which offer massage and henna body painting.
In Spain and Morocco, there is a comprehensive selection of venues for practising every imaginable sport. Modern sports facilities and the excellent climate attract both amateurs and professionals, alike. Sports include:
Sailing of all classes and rowing.
Tennis and paddle tennis, badminton, pelota, beach volleyball, basketball, handball, football, rugby, hockey, bowls, and even cricket.
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