“PHENOMENAL Experience It! Tour of Morocco! “

All in all, this ten-day taste of Morocco was extra-special. Thanks to you for working out such a memorable schedule of places and events with my sister Clare. I have already recommended Experience It! Tours to friends eager to hear my tales of traveling to Morocco.

PHENOMENAL Experience It! Tour of Morocco! I could easily have stayed longer in this beautiful country. Drivers were courteous, friendly, skilled, and well-informed. Wahid (he picked me up at airport and drove me around the highlights of Casablanca on day of arrival and then took us back to airport at 4 am on day of departure) was delightful. Younes was full of valuable info on drive to Rabat and Meknes and Volubilis and Fes. On crowded city streets, he wove in and out of traffic safely and efficiently. In the Atlas Mountain range and other scimitar-shaped roads, he maneuvered S-curves with precision and stopped for photo opportunities. When axle on van broke, he immediately found us other transportation until we had the Mercedes the next morning. He was so helpful to my luggageless sister as she shopped for undergarments and shirts and trousers in a village shop in Erfoud. Younes was also very patient as we visited three different airports in the futile search for my sister’s luggage. We have lots of amusing and “frustrating” experiences to share because of airline mistakes. Occasionally, Younes was very quiet, but we realized that he needed to concentrate on the roads.
Idou Anfa in Casablanca was well-located, clean, and friendly. One of the bellhops remembered me by name when I returned a week later. The pianist in the restaurant created a Rick’s Cafe atmosphere by playing “As Time Goes By” at both dinners. Both riads–in Fes and Marrakech–were definite highlights. Ambience, service (from mint tea to raisins and apricots on arrival to rose petals in toilets and ample towels), dinners (tasty appetizers and tajines), breakfasts (three kinds of bread, steaming eggs, etc.), woodwork, pools, reading rooms and rooftop lounges, comfy beds–all were so different in each place and so perfect.
Xaluca hotels in Erfoud and Dades were equally pleasant and distinctive in their amenties and architecture. The Erfoud hammam with red clay scrub was unforgettable; the Dades hammam with Beldi soap was okay. All of the midday restaurants, though expensive in places where you needed to choose three items on the menu, were more than satisfactory. I especially enjoyed the one in Meknes, the Kasbah Asmaa on the road from Fes to Erfoud, and Chez Michele near Todre Gorge. While I liked going to smaller local places for dinner in Fes and Marrakech, I felt they could have had a little more atmosphere and more variety in food offerings.

The Sahara Desert trip was unbeatable, even though cloudy skies prevented the color-splashed sunset and sunrise we were anticipating. Mohar, our young guide fluent in five languages, could not have been sweeter and more helpful. The Berber tent-setting augmented by hearty food, a warm bonfire, and heavily blanketed mattresses was even better than I expected. I felt so at home on the camel. My sister had some difficulties the first day, but Mohar rigged her up in better fashion for the return trip. The warm shower at Dunes d’Or was most welcome.

Local guides (Mohammed in Fes and Aziz in Marrakech) were very knowledgeable, but I occasionally felt abandoned to overly aggressive carpet and jewelry and leather-goods salesmen. I realize this is a part of the culture, but some of the techniques to get one to buy items seemed like overkill. I loved the free time to get lost in the ninth-century souks of Fes, to explore the night-time excitement of the Djemaa el-Fna (I highly recommend that folks read The Storyteller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya), and to wander amid the cacti in the Majorelle Gardens.

Two suggestions: I would love to have stayed in Ouarzazate instead of Xaluca Dades. It would have evened out the time on the road during those two days and given us a chance to visit the film studios. I think that the strain of driving through the Atlas Mountains would have been less on Younes if we had set out from Ouarzazate. I also would have liked to attend what I think the guides called “Fantasia,” a nightly cultural celebration on the outskirts of Marrakech. I know that some of these fetes can be a little too touristy, but it might have been a cool way to learn more about Moroccan music and dance.

Thanks very much.

March 2011

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