Help with itinerary for Morocco

Apr 11th, 2008, 02:38 AM
  #1  
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Help with itinerary for Morocco

Hi. I need help to make some decisions. The only part of my trip confirmed is my husband and I (45 year olds, fit and adventurous) end up in Fez for 3 nights and fly back to JFK on May 4th. It will be our first visit to Morocco.
Planning to land in Casablanca from JFK on April 20th. There I have to decide whether:
1. to fly to Essaouira for 1-2 nights, bus to Marrakesch for one night, pick up a car, head for the desert and ultimately Fez.
2. fly to Marrakesch stay one night and pick up car, foregoing Essauoira.
3. fly into Ouarzazate, head for the desert, pick up car and onwards, thus foregoing Marrakesch and Essauoira.
My husband hates bustling crowds altho Fez sounds bearable for him and I've booked a stay at Riad Myra in Fez where he can hang out if he can't take the madding crowd.
Any ideas for our 9-10 day driving trip will be much appreciated. He is a great driver and we've driven in Turkey/ Bali/Rome to name the scary few. Thank you in anticipation.
tangwah is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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Hi
I recently got back from a week in Morocco, a trip that was my first to Morocco but will not be my last.
I loved it.
If you'd like to see my trip file, email me at ESL1051 at yahoo dot com.

I didn't get to the desert on this trip, it's a must for next time.
I LOVED Fes and Marrakech but then I like cities in general. Rabat had some very interesting sights.
Casablanca has little to distinguish it imo except for the larege and beautiful Hassan II mosque, one of the few religious sites that allows non-believers in on scheduled tours.

I'd say, rather than land in Casablanca after a tiring trip, spend the day sightseeing and get some rest. Start off the next day going to Fes, then Marrakech. Fes to Marrakech is a long distance; break it up by visiting Volubilis and/or Meknes, and staying over night in that area. There are 4-5 days gone right there.
From Marrakech you can take a guided tour for a couple of days into the desert. I know nothing about going on your own.
Then you could still go to Essaouira for a day or two, and end up again in Casablanca to fly home.
elaine is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 07:41 PM
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correction, I had my geography and itinerary mixed up. The stop we had at Volubilis and Meknes was between Rabat and Fes, not between Fes and Marrakech.
elaine is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 02:32 AM
  #4  
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Thanks for your reply. How long did you spend in Marrakech and Fez?
tangwah is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 08:17 AM
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Hi
This was only a 7 day tour, so time was inadequate; we had barely 1.5 days in each of those cities, but next time I would want 2-3 days each.
elaine is offline  
Apr 12th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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Hi tangwah, it's hard to know what's right for others, but if it's helpful, this is what we did in 12 days, before heading on to Spain by ferry:

Personally I feel Essaouira is a great place to start a trip in Morocco. It's got a lot going for it for infrastructure, fantastic views and a good vibe. But it's low pressure and as such a good place to get your feet wet. I'm not sure about flying in - we bought a combined ticket in the Casa Voyageurs station in Casablanca that allowed us to train to Marrakech and then connect directly by bus at the adjoining station on to Essaouira. Easy and comfortable.

We came back to Marrakesh and that's where your bustling crowds are going to kick in. It's a true wonder of a city, but it's crowded and the sales pitch is coming at you from every direction. Still, I'm glad we went at least the one time.

From there, we rented a car to self-drive across the mountains and into the desert. Personally I thought the driving wasn't bad at all. We saw the kasbahs (and slept in one in Skoura called Ait Ben Moro - highly recommended). Do stop at Ait Ben Haddou if you can. Its a old mud walled city, kinda abandoned, but a great place to climb around and explore. It's been the backdrop for quite a few movies too.

Then on out to Merzouga to ride camels and see the dunes. It's the Sahara and the golden dunes are huge... can't explain them in words.

From there we drove on towards Fez. Reallllly impressive views on the way, quite a bit like the SW US around Arizona. We were glad we were driving so we could stop along the way. We overnighted in Azrou, which doesn't look a thing like Morocco is "supposed" to look like. But, they have a throughly local weekly market (think it was a Tuesday) authentic enough that sheep were being tied to the tops of taxis. Back in town, there's a few local shops selling crafts and rugs for half or less anything we saw in Fez and Marrakech. If you're going to buy something, this is the place to do it. Many things sold in the cities are made in this area (by the way, Moroccans are buying this stuff too).

Then there was Fez, which is so authentic feeling it's like you've gone back 1000 years. What a vibe. No motorbikes buzzing around like in Marrakech.. just having to dodge the donkey carts bringing goods in and out. Hook up with a local guide here. Fez is a maze of alleys you'd never even know were public streets. We turned in the car on arrival in Fez. We loved, loved, loved Dar Seffarine www.darseffarine.com which is a guesthouse in an ancient building with the nicest laid-back hosts, Kate and Alaa. Beams, doors 18 foot high, gigantic rooms. A roof terrace overlooking the entire medina yet only a few steps from the oldest plaza in Fez. Alaa was the architect that restored the place and the pics on the website are completely accurate. Look for the + sign on individual pages to scroll through the pics.

From there, we headed off to Chefchouen by bus, which we loved but it's way off the normal route, transportation-wise, so backtracking is the downside there.

Anyway, that's what we did. When we go back, for us it's to see new places plus returns to Essa and Fez for sure and maybe a couple other places. Have fun!
Clifton is offline  
Apr 13th, 2008, 02:21 AM
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Thanks Clifton for your most helpful reply. I am glad that you think it's not impossible to drive in Morocco. I am using tigercarrental.com which was recommended on a travel chatsite and the prices are affordable, I just hope the car (from Budget) will be in good shape. did you need a 4 W drive? Royal Air Maroc has flights from Casablanca to Essauoira but it's a 5 hour wait, I may take the train and bus like you suggested to Essauoira.
tangwah is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 02:59 PM
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Hi Tingwah
My husband and I just returned from a 3 week trip to Morocco and Spain. The first 7 days were spent in Morocco. For the first 5 days we hired a private guide. The guide met us at the Casablanca airport and drove us to Meknes. The next morning we traveled to Merzouga, stopping for lunch at a hotel in Midelt. In Merzouga he arranged a camel ride to the desert with an overnight in a tent. On the return trip to Midelt, he took us to see several villages and we were able to visit some local markets. After Midelt, we went to Fes, Meknes, and Volubilis. He got us to Rabat where we were joining the rest of our tour group for the trip to Ceuta and then to Spain. The tourguide, Rachid Ouragaga, made all of our arrangements for accommodations which included breakfast and some dinners. He also arranged for all of the local tourguides in the cities. We found this to be less stressfull way to travel. It also helped that the guide was multilingual. He assisted with our lost luggage situation at the airport.
yalegirl is offline  
Apr 16th, 2008, 11:19 PM
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bookmarking...wonderful information...thanks all.
julia1 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 03:30 AM
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Budget rentals and Morocco. Hmmm... we had a bad experience, but could have been a fluke. Booked on budget.com, no car available when we went out the the Marrakesh airport to pick up so we could leave town. Had email confirmation and everything, which meant beans to him. Much drama (me) and shrugs (him) and after I quietly offered to sleep on his counter for the next week in lieu of having any place else to go, he went and found a peer at First rental, a local company, who had a car available. This turned out to be a 4 cyl Peugout with more dimples and dents per sq inch than I've ever seen. Ran fine though and had no trouble getting anywhere.

The train/bus combo to Essa is timed to connect, but do keep in mind you have to actually exit front the Marrakesh train station and turn right, out to the street and around a small building (like 1/4 of a block) and theres the bus station.
Clifton is offline  
Apr 17th, 2008, 05:34 AM
  #11  
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Thanks yalegirl for sharing your experience.
Clifton, I will remember your method to get retailers to honor a reservation. I finally got hold of a Fodors 2007 guide from the library and I am really excited about leaving this weekend. Planning to download the theme from Lawrence of Arabia to play on my ipod while travelling throw the desert. Thanks again.
tangwah is offline  

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