Once we decided that Morocco would be our destination on a mid-December tour, we did some research on how to go about it: do it ourselves or go through a customized package. Some friends who are from that country recommended that we go through an organized tour. We settled for “Experience It Tours” hoping it would deliver based on our expectations. And deliver they did!
We decided to take a 15-day tour through Morocco during the second half of December and wanted to feel firsthand the hospitality in their famous Riads (a house with an inner courtyard), Dars (smaller in scale than a riad) and a Kasbah (the equivalent of a mansion/fortress in the outskirts of smaller towns). We are glad we chose these instead of conventional western-style hotels for a fuller experience.
What made our tour very pleasant and void of incidents was our tour guide for 15 days, Mr. Chahine, a proud Moroccan who loves his country and wants to showcase it, with a vast knowledge of its history, its geography, its customs; a very pleasant person you can trust. Together with the tour company, they have crafted itineraries that will make you happy you went with them: from the chosen accommodations to the chosen restaurants and local houses serving set dinners to please your palate.
We visited several cities, being Casablanca our point of entry and departure. Casablanca’s Hassan II mosque is a fabulous must-see site. Rabat, the capital, has so much greenery that it reminded me of my first visit to Washington DC. In Rabat we had a short visit of its medina, giving you a preview of what you may see in a grander scale in the city of Chefchaouan, the famous blue city, full of alleys on hilly terrain that invites you to get lost in it: such a picturesque place that you may wish to explore again in future travels. Every corner, every street, every door begs a picture. Because of the rain that poured for the two consecutive days we were there, we have made a promise to return to this Mediterranean town: Tangier and Tetouan are just two additional places we would love to visit someday.
From Chefchaouan to Fes was a long drive, going from a Mediterranean climate, wet and green, to an alpine-like town with vestiges of snow and great ski resorts, to crossing the Middle Atlas mountains and seeing the landscape becoming a rider. Fes deserves time to enjoy, having a medieval medina that is the largest inhabited place anywhere, and if you want to get into the labyrinthine streets of the old medina, you need a good tour guide. In our case, we met Ahmed, a charming and knowledgeable middle age, tall, lean and soft-spoken person with a great command of English, in addition to other Latin languages. Fes can be intimidating at first, but after the tour with Ahmed, we felt at ease, although lost inside the maze. Our accommodation here was even better than in the first two cities, an oasis that you wanted to take home, so elegant and simple at once, with great food, and a masseuse that soothed the aching muscles of my wife’s and daughter’s. You would not expect to find such a gem in what you may perceive as a hostile or inadequate neighborhood. Such are the enchantments that Morocco offers to its visitors.
From Fes, we started heading South-East towards our meeting point with the desert. It was, again, a long drive, but our next oasis in the outskirts of Merzouga made for a great restful night. The room was the biggest we had on the whole tour! This riad was very photogenic, with a very nice swimming pool, although too cold to use. The accommodations had been going better with every next stop. The one that topped off all of them was in Skoura, a midpoint between Sahara’s and Marrakech. That was a kasbah, or a fortress, a place you would not want to leave, so massive and beautiful, with great food in romantic settings if you will, with a Hamman (sauna) and massage place to calm your fears and pain.
For our appointment with Sahara, we had a ride on camels to our camp. This happened on Christmas eve, making it feel very special. For my wife, being at the Sahara desert was the pinnacle of the trip.
Marrakech was a city with the most activity in its streets. Its medina was smaller in scale than in Fes, so we were able to do some walking around the old town on our own. In here, our tour guide was Zouvida, a nice lady who had an excellent rapport with my wife and helped her buy some natural ingredients, and her tagine after a great meal in a restaurant called Cafe Arabe.
Our last destination was the city port of Essaouira, west of Marrakech by the Atlantic. Its medina is more manageable, and you can get great deals in silver jewelry. Before getting here, we stopped by the road to see some argan trees with goats on them, something that goats have been doing for millennia to get the fruits from the tree, but now it has caught on by the shepherds as a tourist attraction. For the equivalent of 2 euros, you can get some pictures with a goat on your arms, while the tree behind is ‘decorated’ with climbing goats.
During all this tour, all the people we dealt with were very accommodating and friendly, from the tour guides, the waiters at restaurants, the attendants at the accommodations; even passersby. In Marrakech, in our free-day, we needed to contact our guide/driver to bring us to the new town. The people at the art store where we got some paintings helped us communicate with him and gave us instructions on how to go through the allies of the medina to the meeting point, not an easy feat in itself, but along the way, we asked directions and got pointed closer and closer to our destination. In one intersection, we decided to go with a street sign. A passerby in a motorcycle, noticing our hesitation, stopped to help us, even when we thought he wanted something else. We were wrong in our assessment of his help, not to mention the direction we were heading, he was right on point the way.
This trip has been our best-organized tour, and we want to thank Experience It for the painstaking work they have put to make it unforgettable, giving us the options for places to see and accommodations to match our needs. Morocco is a beautiful country, forward-looking, with an infrastructure that is getting better for the demands of an ever-increasing influx of travelers. We liked their highways, so modern; we noticed the well-conceived amplification of the cities we encountered, with ample boulevards, among other novelties we take for granted.
Thank you Experience It Tours, thank you, Brian, Lori who made sure that our trip to Morocco will satisfy our expectations and Chahine, for making our custom trip a thing to remember, and to have put the bar quite high for future travels.
Carlos, Susan and Emilie.
(December of 2019)