We had an amazing time in Morocco, thanks to you guys. We will definitely recommend your agency to our travel-minded friends!
Here are some observations which I hope you find helpful:
DRISS (our driver):
We really enjoyed having Driss as our driver. He was very knowledgeable, very flexible, and seemed to share our same sense of humor. We were a bit surprised that he did not eat with us (previous trips to Israel and Jordan had led us to expect otherwise). Our last night in Casablanca we had arranged to eat at Rick’s, and, although he had a drive back to Fes that night, he would not let us take a taxi to Rick’s, which would have let him go back to Fes several hours early. He insisted on taking us himself. We really appreciated his sacrifice for us.
We had an issue at the Hotel Maamoura, in that they did not return our passports when we checked out. We didn’t realize this till we got to Fes. They mailed our passports to Fes (securely – with a rock in the package to weight it down!) but then we had to pay for the postage when it arrived. Only 51 dh but it’s the principle of it…
We have slept in hotels in 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East, North America and North Africa and we both agreed that the Riyad Noujoum Medina was the single best hotel experience of our lives. We are really in your debt for suggesting it (am I right that this was an upgrade over the originally recommended property?) The owners were extremely courteous and helpful, we ended up eating there two nights because their food was just so good. The building itself is an out-of-this-world experience!
Fouad, our guide in Fes, was very funny and informative. We liked him a lot.
TRIP TO THE DESERT:
Everything it was advertised as. The Berber guides were wonderful and gave us a great deal of insight into the lives of ordinary Moroccans. The camp was comfortable, the food excellent, and the experience was wonderful.
This was the one great disappointment of the trip. We loved the Riyad Yasmine, and its staff were courteous and generous in every way. But we were put off by the clogging traffic, and unfortunately the Riyad has some dangerously inaccurate and ambiguous hand-drawn maps. On our first attempt to go out on our own (using their map) to find the Jemaa al-Fna by ourselves, we got hopelessly lost. Not all of this is the fault of the map, of course; the street names are never posted on the streets. To make a long story short, we never found the Jemaa, and spent the rest of our cash on a taxi to take us back to the Riyad.
The fact that the taxi driver himself got lost and had to call in a backup driver to show him to the Riyad (despite the fact the Riyad’s staff had written out the address, in Arabic, on their map) only highlighted for us what an absolutely chaotic mess Marrakech is.
So now we were back at the Riyad but with no cash. The staff indicated on the map the location of the nearest ATM, but again, we never found it. Fortunately we were able to make our way back to base. Amy got extremely frustrated and upset and it was a lousy night for both of us.
Our local guide in Marrakech (I don’t think we ever learned his name) was a last-minute replacement for the one who was originally assigned to us. We found him rather rude, it always seemed he was in a hurry. However, he earned his tip when he took us to a local restaurant apparently unknown to tourists, where we had some wonderful b’stilla for next to nothing.
Amy and I were trying to figure out what else to say here. One thing you might include in your page on Moroccan food is that when you eat out in a Moroccan restaurant, a couple need only order for one! It took us a couple of days before we realized that when you order a single meal, they bring you enough food for two.
Rick’s Cafe was a fun way to end the trip. I would recommend this to everyone, especially Americans (although there were several Chinese there that night). The food was great.
I should also mention that the driver who picked us up on our last morning to take us to the airport in Casablanca dropped us off at the wrong terminal!
Sorry if it sounds like we’re complaining. 🙂 We both have a great deal of travel experience and just want you to know the (few) issues that we faced. None of that changes our impression of the country or of the trip — both were wonderful! Indeed, we are talking about possibly going back in a couple of years to see the north. We had a lot of fun in Morocco and you folks made it possible!
Thanks for everything,
Ben & Amy