First of all, Jamal. WHAT A STAR. From beginning to end he was far more than an excellent driver with a fierce love for the car. He was problem-solver, teller of jokes, guide to all things Moroccan (including Eid ; we spent a great deal of time talking about the sheep in the laundry room of his parents’ apartment). He was flexible and resourceful, adapting our plans to the situation. He was always on time, always cheerful, enthusiastic, informative and detail-oriented. He took us to non-tourist places like his favorite Marrakesh restaurant, where I had my first, delighted taste of tangine. I cannot imagine the trip without him. We just adored him.
Highlights? I don’t know where to begin. But here are a few:
*Mausoleum in Rabat, one of the most beautiful interiors I’ve ever seen.
*The Fes medina.
*The trip into the desert.
*The drive over the High Atlas.
*The people, ever-smiling and always talking, talking, talking.
*Volubilis, even for me who’s no expert on Roman ruins.
*Djemaa el-Fna, of course. I loved inspecting the busy food stalls.
*Shopping in Marrakesh. I’m usually not a big shopper but so many things were irresistible. Our guide, Said, took me to some of the best shops in the medina.
*The Majorelle Gardens
Here are a few comments on places we stayed and ate:
The Repose, Rabat, was a sweet little place, if slightly claustrophic. A very pretty bedroom and bath. The Riad Jaouhara was lovely. Fes was fascinating in every way. Our guide, Ezzedine, was the best guide of the whole trip. The dinner that we had at El Batha, near the riad, was the best meal of the trip, and the oud music didn’t hurt either. I loved the Batha location, which was full of chatting people and had a real neighborhood feeling… Fes was perfect, not least because I recovered my lost suitcase after four days, thanks to Jamal’s friend at the airport.
Due to my fragile state, we did not get to Erfoud but stayed in Midelt at a modern hotel that was very comfortable. I have no idea how the food was. I slept for 15 hours but was no better the next day.
The night in the desert was fantastic in spite of my condition. The best thing that happened was when we climbed to the top of a dune to see the sunset. While I was lying there on a little rug, I said that I was too sick to walk down the dune and thought I might spend the night there, at which point the camel drivers grabbed the rug and suddenly we were sledding at top speed down the dune. What fun!
The tents were as comfortable as could be, with all mod cons and a huge bed. I loved sitting by the open fire looking at the most unbelievable array of stars I have ever seen. The people there couldn’t have been nicer.
The next morning I realized that I was getting sicker and needed to see a doctor. Practically as soon as I said it, we were rushing across the sand and scree with hopes of finding a doctor in Erfoud. The only one we found first said that she wouldn’t come to her office but changed her mind when she heard I was an American whom she could overcharge. Jamal dealt with her summarily and we were off to Tinerhir to look for another doctor. Jamal really went into high gear at this time, arranging with an hotelier friend for a room where I could lie down and arranging for a doctor to see me. The doctor was very professional, did not overcharge me, and cured me.
Onwards to Skoura and then to Marrakesh. The Riad Moucharabieh was a fabulous surprise , especially after walking to it through a lively , messy market. Who could have imagined that it would have a real swimming pool. We had dinner there the first night and it was delicious. So were the breakfasts, which included light-as-a-feather baghrir. The manager is not wildly friendly, but it didn’t matter.
Shopping tip, Marrakesh :Atika in Gueliz has shoes and bags in many colors of butter-soft leather.
Next-to-last stop was Essaouira, which turned out to be a lovely and relaxing conclusion to the trip. We loved the Villa Maroc, especially having breakfast outside on the roof with its view of the sea.
A beautiful drive up the coast to Casablanca, where the Palace d’Anfa was terrific. And then an extremely reluctant goodbye to Jamal and Morocco, forever linked in my mind.
Would I recommend Experience-It? Without a doubt. The whole operation was efficient and friendly from beginning to end. My only regret is that I did not realize how much Ouarzazate had changed since I was there 30 years ago ; it would have been fun to stay in such a transformed city this is rather long, but we writers have trouble controlling ourselves.
Thank you for everything,
Joan & Martha.
(October of 2011)