Moroccan Trip Report
My wife and I just came back from an 18 day trip of Morocco. I will try and keep the trip report brief and rely on replies to the trip report or individual private emails to fill in any questions that anyone may have. Also, I have posted the trip report on Trip Advisor, Fodor's and Lonely Planet since all three were important sources of information for planning this trip.
The trip through southern Morocco, six days and five nights, via a Toyota Prado 4X4 was done with Arrahla Expeditions (AE) and was outstanding in terms of comfort, driving skills, costs and the individuals that were involved in both arranging the trip and doing the driving. The company is owned by brothers Lahcen and Said. They were as good as any company that anyone could want or have written about on trip reports in Morocco in all respects. We were extremely satisfied to say the least with this portion of the trip.
I apologize beforehand if my opinions are not in agreement with previous travelers to Morocco but this is what forums are all about namely for information and discussion.
The trip was as follows:
JFK-> Casablanca-> Royal Air Maroc overnight flight. Only non-stop flight from the States. Royal Air Maroc was tolerable at the most as others have pointed out on various forums previously.
Casablanca-> via taxi to Chefchouean-> nice village to walk around and take pictures of blue walls and occasionally people with permission.
Chef->via taxi to Fes-> somewhat disappointed in Fes town, museums and souks as compared to Marrakech.
Fes->via Arrahlia Expeditions (AE) to Merzouga-> Erg Chebbi sand dunes were great
Merzouga->via AE to Boulmaine Dades-> Todra Gorge and Dades Gorge were both very nice
Boulmaine Dades-> via AE to Quarzazate-> not much to do here. Mainly used it as a stop to get elsewhere !!!
Quarzazate->via AE to Taurodant-> nice small village. Worth more time to wander the souks.
Taurodant->via AE to Essaouira-> great sea side town and souks. Souks and restaurants were very good. Cheaper than Marrakech and on a par with Fes concerning souk prices for various items.
Essaouira-> via taxi to Marrakech-> Marrakech can be crazy but better in many respects than Fes (in our opinion). Also more expensive as noted above.
Marrakech->via taxi to Casablanca for flight back to JFK
RIads stayed at: (Please see my more expanded individual Riad reviews on TA)
Chef-> two nights-> Casa Perleta->Very clean.
Restaurant->Casa Hassan near central plaza->very good
Fes->four nights-> Riad Le Calife->Outstanding for both accommodation and food
Restaurant->Fatima, the chef, at Riad Le Calife->outstanding for all meals.
Merzouga->two nights->Riad Nezah-> very clean
Restaurant->Riad Nezah->very good for breakfast and dinner.
Dades->one night->Xaluda Dades-> good but with limited choice of RIads/hotels in area
Restaurant->Xaluca Dades -> plentiful but average food quality/taste for breakfast and dinner. A qualifying factor here is the hotel has to cater to multiple tour groups and nationalities at the same time.
Quarzazate-> one night-> Dar Chamaa->very clean
Restaurant->Dar Chamaa->very good for breakfast and dinner
Taurodant->one night-> Riad Maia->small but good location and clean
Restaurant->Riad Maia for breakfast->very good
Essaouira-> three nights-> Riad Chbanate-Outstanding accommodation and good food
Restaurant->Laayoune located just before main plaza heading to harbor when leaving souks->Outstanding for lunch and dinner and relatively inexpensive.
Marrakech-> three nights-> Riad Noir d'Ivoire-> the absolute "Best of the Best".
Restaurants-> Riad Noir d'Ivoire-> very good.
Some additional thoughts:
1) Photography of people, both men and women, in Morocco is very difficult and one has to be both careful and respectful of this at all times.
2) Moroccan people were very warm and friendly. No exceptions.
3) Morocco is a very clean country.
4) Food at all places was very good. See reviews above and on TA.
5) Morocco is a very safe country. Never had any problems wherever we walked.
6) ATM's->BCME and Bank Populaire were the most reliable with minimal charge. Used an USAA debit/mastercard ATM card.
7) Royal Air Maroc-> very average airline for many reasons. On time departures, food, seats, etc.
8) The trip through the canyon on leaving Dades Gorge to visit the friendly nomad Berbers in their caves is a "must" for those interested in seeing and meeting the nomad Berbers. This was the highlight of our trip being photographers and enjoying meeting the Berber nomads and other Moroccans during our trip.
9) As has been said many times, "negotiating" in the souks, if done in a courteous fashion and negotiating on only items that you "really" are interested in, can be done at a price that is no more than 1/2 of their asking price. But also be willing to walk away on good terms if an agreement cannot be satisfactorily reached.
10) I always take (and frequently use) Pepto Bismuth or similar medications. Use Imodium only when necessary i.e. getting on train, bus or airplane.
11) Only drink "unopen" bottled water and stay well hydrated.
12) If hiring a professional guide in Morocco, make sure you outline exactly what you want to see or do prior to leaving the Riad/hotel in nice but no uncertain terms. If the guide discusses other things to see or do and it is agreeable, then fine. Costs for a 3 hour professional guide in Fes and Marrakech will range from $30-$50 and was worth the introduction in both places. However, the guides in both cities were average and not outstanding.
13) If leaving from JFK, arrive at least 2 and 1/2 hours before departure because of the long security lines but don't expect Royal Air Maroc to leave on time !!!
14) If arriving by train to Penn Station, just walk across the street to the Penn Hotel and get a yellow cab to JFK costing about $55 including tolls but not the tip.
Glad to respond to any questions concernng the above. Again thanks to all those individuals that contribute to TA, Fodors and Lonely Planet which enables all of us to be more informed travelers.
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Moroccan Trip Report