“I’ve found my tribe in Morocco – the diversity is extraordinary and the people open-armed”
By Jez Fredenburgh
Carla’s story couldn’t be more Epic. A Swiss-American, she grew up in Singapore and spent 17 years living in Asia, before backpacking around Africa and finding her true home in Morocco as our Managing Director.
“I never found the place I wanted to put down roots in Asia,” she says. “My inner calling was always Africa.”
Her path to Epic began a few years ago: Feeling burnt out from her job managing a surfing retreat in Indonesia, Carla decided to take a year-long sabbatical and chase her African dreams.
But before leaving, fate stepped in through a chance encounter with an Epic contact. “He told me, ‘if you ever get to Morocco, look up Epic’s fearless Charlie Shepherd’,” remembers Carla.
And that’s exactly what she did. Carla met Charlie, and spent two months travelling around Morocco – which included exploring with renowned adventurer Alice Morrison – before roving through Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.
But Morocco already had her heart and when she got back to the country, Charlie promptly offered her an opportunity she couldn’t resist.
“I remember the moment I decided to stay,” she says. “I was on a camel trek across the Sahara. We were pitching our tents each night, baking bread and eating tagine. One morning, I walked up a dune to watch the sunrise, my feet bare in the sand. It was so beautiful, and I just thought – ‘I’m home, I’ve found my tribe’.”
The vibrancy and diversity of the country, are what Carla loves, as well as the people. “I’ve never seen such a blue sky, red earth, and green trees,” she says. “And everyone wears bright yellow shoes and kaftans – it’s an amazing kaleidoscope of colours.
“The people are also very warm and open-armed – it’s the kind of place where someone would share their last bread with you.
“There’s so much to see and do too – there’s the Sahara’s sand dunes and the Agafay desert’s stoney landscape, Fez’s medieval old town, Tangier’s Spanish influences, and Essaouira’s blue and white-washed houses, which remind me of Greece.
“Then there’s the Atlas Mountains where I like to go hiking, walking through green orchards of fig, apple, quince and walnut, and up to shale landscapes with juniper trees.
“I also love cycling here and once biked 500km from Marrakesh, south-west to Agadir, passing snow-capped mountains.”
Having made Morocco her home, Carla now spends her time helping Epic’s clients settle in too.
“Morocco can feel very alien when you first arrive, so I help take the fear factor out of it. I think having lived here, guests often look at me and think, ‘oh ok, she can do it, so can I.’
“It can be a very full-on place – your senses are really awakened, which is what I love about it. When guests first arrive in Marrakesh, I often take them through the Medina, the old town which dates back to the 8th Century. It’s a labyrinth of 9,000 alleys, and I always say that to get a feeling for it you have to get lost in it!
“I love the bustle of the place – the overloaded carts full of mandarines, people selling carpets, colourful spices piled high, vendors juicing pomegranates, craftsman mending shoes, and baking bread, even the cobblestones and grit that are the soul of the city.”
Next on Carla’s bucket list is to explore the seldom-visited Northeast part of the Kingdom, taking in Al Hoseima by the Mediterranean sea and Figigue in the south.