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Morocco in April 2014

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We are in the first stages of planning our trip to Morocco. I have checked several hotels, Riads, tour guides, travel agencies etc but I am overwhelmed with all the information,reviews,recommendations people provided.

Any recommendations? Tips? regarding Riads in Fes and Marrakesh? desert camps? tour guides?

thanks,

Kathleen

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    You have asked some very broad questions. I think we need some more information such as how long are you going for, what are your interests, budget for starters. I agree with Zambezi you need to do some more reading on this site, and I would suggest you read some trip reports on here.

    To get you started, here is a link to my trip report which also includes pictures:
    http://www.fromhometoroam.com/category/travels/africa/morocco/

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    Thank you very much for your kind replies. We are looking at April 2nd and want to stay till April 13th. We are interested in a comfortable tour that will feature all the highlights of the country. But would prefer to engage a guide to lead our trip there. Any suggestions?

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    We are on our last day of our two week trip in Morocco. There's a lot here and my suggestion is to pick a few places and not feel rushed trying to see it all. There's just too much to see and going place to place isn't always easy.

    We were able to fly into Rabat, which made for an easier cultural transition. We stayed at the Villa Mandarine, got the full body scrub at the hammam upon arrival. I liked Rabat and wished we had stayed an extra day. Took the train to Fes which was fairly easy. People are nice here and they are eager to help and sometimes not ask to be paid!

    Fes was a bit of a nightmare for us. It's truly an amazing place, but it just seemed like everyone has an agenda to get into your pocket and that was a big turnoff. Get a certified guide and let them know upfront that if they take you to some shops you want to know that they make a commission. I had no problem with the commissions. I had a problem with the unnecessary sneakiness by not disclosing the commissions.

    You HAVE to go south. The desert is a once in a lifetime experience. For the Southern portion of the trip we used Travel Exploration mainly because it's based in New York and Marrakech. We (couple) had a driver from ourzezate who spoke French, Berber, Arabic and good enough English. He was great. We spent 7 days and 6 nights in the South. We were very happy with the services we received. There were a few extras along the way for us that made the trip very special.

    We arranged our hotel in Marrakech on our own as we did in Fes and Rabat, but we had the tour company book city tours for us in Fes and Marrakech. We may have paid a little more for the city tours, but we were comfortable that we were getting quality guides.

    I'm happy to share other thoughts and impressions if you'd like. I've travelled quite a bit and found planning Morocco was perplexing. There's a lot of information and you can't be too sure of everyone's motives. I can assure you however that you will have an amazing experience. One more tip, brush up on your French. English is not widely spoken and knowing a few important French words will come in handy.

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    I think you are perhaps too ambitious in wanting to see "all the highlights" of Morocco in 10 or so days. The country is bigger than you think, and while you can make good time travelling the major highways on the west side of the country, you won't see much. So whether you're travelling by bus or car, eg., you're best to travel the secondary highways. While they're generally in pretty good condition, there's a lot more local traffic (including donkey carts and pedestrians), so you're typically going around 80 km an hour. And BTW, Morocco's trains are excellent, but again, don't cover the country.

    Having said that, here is what I'd do with 10 days: I'd fly in/out of Marrakech. Then I'd first go to the desert: I agree with BKD above: it's the signature landscape of Morocco. So, from Marrakech, it's a two-day drive to Merzouga. On the way, you can overnight in Ouarzazate, eg., then see the Todra Gorge on your way. Other things too -- it's a magnificent drive! You'll need another overnight either around the Todra Gorge area, or in Merzouga, then have an overnight in the desert -- it's fun to ride in to the nomad camp on a camel! Then head for Fez via Ifrane or Azrou. (More beautiful scenery, plus Barbary apes along the road, maybe!) You can easily spend two days in Fes. Now, I loved Fez, and had a great experience: I walked around the medina on my own one day, and then got a registered guide through my riad the next. Unlike BKD above, I had no problem in Fez, even on my own. But I know others have made comments about Fez that are closer to BKD's than my own. Hard to know what to say. I personally thought Marrakech's medina had a bit of a harder edge (more jaded by tourists!) but again -- it's so individual. What I liked about using a guide the second day is that I got more "interpretation" of the various historical sites, etc., that we visited, but I also got shepherded into the carpet shops and leather shops, etc., despite having told him I was NOT on a shopping tour... and I HATED that part!

    While you're in the Fes area, you also MUST go to Volubilis. You can easily make it a half-day trip, but maybe go to Moulay Idriss as well, and then go on to Meknes to make it a full day, and stay in Meknes. Then you can look around Meknes the next day as well. Depending on your interests, consider going to Assilah on the coast, then down to Casablanca, then back to Marrakech, and spend a couple of days there as well. If you find you have extra time, do a day trip to Essaouira from Marrakech, or El Jadida out of Casablanca.

    As for your question about a guide, BKD's suggestion may be what you need: it sounds like they wanted someone who would both drive them and walk them around places. For myself, as I say, I travelled completely independently on my first trip, but then towards the end of that trip, I stayed at a riad in Marrakech that employed a driver who would take you an tours if you so wanted. That's actually what enabled me to go into the desert on my first trip, because I wasn't prepared to drive myself. And frankly, having never been there before, I just found the prospect of trying to find a "guide" on the spot too intimidating. And then on my two subsequent trips, I used him again to just drive me to places I wanted to go. I discovered that there are many such people: they are, and really only want to be "drivers" providing tourist transportation, but they end up calling themselves "guides" because that's how we understand what they do. So you just need to be clear about what you want. Hope this is helpful! Have a GREAT time!

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