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Trip Report Moroccan Allure by Gate 1

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Having just returned from Morocco, I'd like to report on what was overall a wonderful experience, despite a few things that were disappointing. Morocco is a most interesting country, where the 21st century and the 8th century co-exist. Nomads roam the desert with the flocks as they have done for centuries, although now they have cell phones, charged with electricity generated by their solar panels. Mercedes and donkeys share the same streets in downtown Marakesh. Despite some preconceived notions, we found the Moroccan people to be friendly and welcoming. They are clearly pro-American and pro-Western. We felt completely safe at all times, even while riding our camels in the desert at night!
We departed JFK as scheduled on Sunday evening and arrived in Casablanca on time Monday morning. We flew Royal Air Maroc, which is clearly an inferior airline. The restrooms were filthy and missing basic supplies. Many entertainment systems didn't work, nor did the earphones distributed (actually thrown at passengers) by the flight crew. The food ranged from mediocre to vile and the flight attendants were inattentive.
Gate 1 staff and our excellent tour guide, Ham, cheerfully met us at the airport, and what was to be our bus for the entire trip whisked us to Rabat. Our hotel, the Villa Mandarine, was spectacular. Overlooking the magnificently landscaped courtyard and gardens, guest rooms offered private balconies with garden views. Beautiful art work was on display throughout the common areas. Hotels throughout the trip were unique. One Riad (in Fes) had rooms reminiscent of Sheherazod, with wood carved walls and magnificently tiled ceilings. Hotels in Marakesh and Casablanca were contemporary International style hotels. One hotel is kasbah-style and built in a traditional way using authentic materials: Moroccan pottery, traditional lamps, and authentic artifacts creating a unique atmosphere. Both Spanish and Moroccan cultures influence the architecture and room decoration.
Our hotel in Essaouira was awful. The hotel was the only one that was not air conditioned, nor did it have an elevator to the upper floors where most rooms were. (And breakfast was on the 6th floor!) Our bathroom was encrusted with mold. Some lights did not work. Soap was a precious commodity. While our room had two floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lobby, it did NOT have a window to the outside. Of course the lobby windows had to be covered with heavy drapery for privacy. Stifling! The beds were like sleeping on a slab of marble.
The selections of sites for us to visit was excellent. We visited medinas, castles, mosques, a synagogue, a church, cemeteries, market places, souks, factories (silver, rug, fossils, argon oil), and even a date festival. Our guide Ham, was awesome! Not only was he knowledgeable (and proud) of every aspect of Moroccan life and history, but he was so accommodating to the particular needs and interests of each member of our tour.
The highlight of the tour was the night we spent in the desert, under the stars. It began with a half-hour camel ride to the "dunes" where we disembarked to watch the sunset over the dunes. This was a photographer's paradise. We then continued our camel ride, in the dark, to our tent encampment, where we spent the night. Dinner and local entertainment were excellent.
Despite being disappointed with an inferior airline, a cramped bus, and two nights in an inferior hotel, the trip was wonderful. Perhaps Gate 1 will be able to address these few issues. As is, the trip provided excellent value and was a wonderful experience.

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