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Morocco - Quick Trip Report

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Just back from 10 days in Morocco. The trip was a loop of Rabat, Fes, Merzouga (and an few smaller villages, Tinehir (Todra Gorges), Marrakech, and back to Rabat. A more detailed report to follow, but wanted to post a few quickie reviews and tips:

Lodging:

1) Rabat - Riad Zyo - Excellent. A bit more pricey and a bit larger (more rooms, a bit more like a little luxury hotel) than the others (which are more like really good bed and breakfasts. Nice location just off one of main pedestrial 'streets'. Lots of good street food and near the souks. Great plunge pool for cooling off. Very good breakfast and about 15 minutes walk to the train. Very helpful in arranging airport pickup and dropoff.

2) Fes - Dar Faracha Fes - Simply great. Down some winding alleys (beware - it's only about 24 inches wide at one point) then opening up to just a beautiful riad. Reasonably easy to find location (at least for being in the medina). Great host and very reasonable. Excellent dinners on the roof terrace with a nice view of the medina.

3) Marrakech - Riad Abaca Badra - Another great choice. Nice location close the souks. Far enough from some of the mayhem to relax and near a nice none touristy area of stalls as well. Great hosts and very good breakfasts. Beautiful bulding with large rooms with huge bathrooms. Very reasonable in price. Filtered water available for free... nice touch to be able to refill you bottles with COLD water.

4) Tinenhir - Panorama Todra - This one was arranged by Morocco Countryside Tours (see below) as part of our tour package. Was a little cautious when I saw where we were book, but it's a great place. Definitely not a luxury hotel, just cool, comfortable an quirky. The view from the back terraces and roof (and our room... #6) is unbelievable. Staff is friendly (they and our guides put on an impromtu Berber music session), food is very good.

Tours:

1) We spent 4 days and 3 nights with Morocco Countryside Tours. We made all of the arrangements with Said via email (and a deposit via Western Union) and Mohamed (guide) and Zaid (driver) handled the tour. They were great and we really enjoyed it. We did many of the typical things (camel ride and night in a Berber camp from Merzouga), Todra Gorges, and Ait BenHaddou but then also spent quite a bit of time in the countryside... offroading through the desert and dry riverbeds to little villages in desert, picnicing under acacia trees in the middle of nowhere, etc. This gave us a chance to see the 'real Morocco' and meet meet and have tea and eat with more aunts, uncles, brothers, neices, nephews and cousins of our guides than we could count. Their prices were very reasonable (700 euro for two people... including most everything except for two lunches, a few bottles of water and souveniers).

2) In Fes, we arranged, through our riad, for a guide for one of the days. We shared the cost with another tourist staying at another riad. It ended up costing us about $45 for two people (+ a tip) for about 8 hours. It was nice to have someone to orient you and show you around. Quite reasonable and she did a very nice job. Maybe ended up in a few more shops that necessary, but they weren't overly pushy.

Food:

Generally very good. You'll run into tajine everywhere and will probably grow weary of them at some point. Most are very good, some excellent. Prices are cheap and portions generally huge (especially with all of the side dishes provided). Salads and fruit are excellent. Loved the pastilla and found great street food (lots of good sandwhiches for around $1. Favorite being from a totally non-tourist stall in Fes - large french roll with canned fish (sort of like tuna), hard boiled eggs, onions, lettuce, carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and mayo - came with fries for 10 dirham (about $1.20). Another favorite of eggs, ground meat, onions, and spices on a little round roll can be found in many locations for well under $1 (and under 50 cents in some cases).

Bottle water was easy to find. Much cheaper at the stall (under $1 for 1.5 liters) than at most restaurants ($2 or so). Beer and wine could be found some places catering to tourists. We mostly stuck to having a drink at the riads (they all had alcohol available and were quite reasonabl in price).

Snail soup as good (my opinion) and cheap. Orange juice cheap and excellent (from any stand). Stall in the square in Marrakech are touristy, but fun, cheap and quite good. We ate dinner at stall #1 and really enjoyed it.

Transport:

Trains were cheap and reliable (took them from Rabat to Fes, and Marrakech to Rabat), taxi service was good (just make sure they either run the meter or agree to a fare before getting in). Flights were fine (Air France from Paris, Delta from Newark).

MORE DETAILS TO COME!

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