Morocco: A Journey to the West

Old Dec 3rd, 2021, 09:06 PM
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Yo TP, what a FANTASTIC itinerary you folks designed. And your enthusiasm comes through crystal clear on your TR here. Btw regarding Toubkal, there's a great story about rocker Robert Plant's experience at the famed lodge there about 15 years ago. He apparently has long favoured Le Maroc as his fave destination.
I'm with PG above, have a super remainder of this voyage and do enjoy your riad.

I am done. the Boujmia
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Old Dec 4th, 2021, 12:55 AM
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@progol, thank you so much for your suggestions. We covered some of the sights you listed yesterday and have the Majorelle Gardens on our agenda for today. I have not come across Dar el Basha in our research and will look into it for possibly tomorrow.

@zebec, thank you for reading and commenting. Appreciate the information about Toubkal.

A Royal Day Out


A fantastic breakfast welcomed our first morning in Marrakesh and a day devoted to the former Moroccan capital’s palaces and gardens. Our first stop of the day was Dar Si Said, just down the hallway from our riad. Set in a beautiful 19th century home, it houses a carpet museum. We enjoyed wandering around the museum, admiring the exquisite wood, tile, and plaster work unique to Morocco. Turn after turn, we found something interesting to look at. The carpets were beautiful too and sort of took us through the country’s history and different cultures in carpets.

Next stop was Maison Tiskiwin, a museum dedicated to the peoples, cultures, and traditions of Morocco and the rest of West Africa. The exhibits were educational with its variety of art pieces and photographs.

Bahia Palace followed. A 19th century palace for an important government official, Bahia sits inside a walled compound inside the medina. Within its walls are beautiful buildings, courtyards filled with different plants and trees, and hidden nooks and crannies made for exploring. The grand halls and reception areas are exceptional in its architectural design and detail. The colors are spectacular. The architecture, the details, and the colors are exactly what we picture when we think about Morocco and drawn us here, and so far, in this regard, it has not disappointed. Bahia wound up being our favorite stop of the day.

Our afternoon agenda has us visiting Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs, but not before a wander through the former Jewish quarter or Mellah. Unlike the Mellah in Fez, much of the shops were closed with the exception of vendors hawking produce and spices. We would otherwise enjoy wandering except for the concentration of hustlers. Seems like in Marrakesh, the hasslers are not spread out throughout the medina but congregate in and around the souks and shopping quarters. What is annoying is that the shop owners seem to be among the most persistent, as in Egypt. For these reasons, we didn’t stay long.

It didn’t take long for Marrakesh to put us back in a good mood again. We made our way to Badi Palace, picking up fresh cups of pomegranate juice along the way - delicious! Unlike Bahia, Badi Palace is in more of a state of ruin. It is also much older and former houses Morocco’s sultans. It was fun to wander among the walls of the former palace. Storks call the crevices of the walls home and built their nests on the structure. Also unique to Badi is its sunken gardens filled with orange trees, rose bushes, and other plants. As at Bahia, we sat and lingered here. It is so peaceful and, best of all, devoid of the harassment.

Up next is the Saadian Tombs, about a 15-minute walk away. The tombs are spectacular. If you like Moroccan architecture, as do we, this along with Bahia Palace are the places to be. The gold and marble attracted our attention but what really grabbed us is the cathedral-like ceilings with ornamentation hanging like stalactites inside a large cave. The garden-like setting invited relaxation and contemplation.

From here we went down the block to the Artisanal Center for some souvenir shopping. We enjoyed browsing and picking up items in a setting in which prices are marked on each object and we were able to browse in peace.

By now, it was about 5:30. We made our way back north towards Jemaa al Fna Square. Because it was a Friday evening, the place was humming with locals out and about enjoying a warm, pleasant evening. The atmosphere also changed as night started to settle in and performers were out and about and small groups were singing and dancing. There is a carnival-like ambience to the square that we had not experienced before.

Before we knew it, dinner time was approaching. We never made it back to our hotel to drop off our day’s purchases and instead walked straight to La Maison Arabe for tonight’s meal. The food was simply extraordinary and the setting, in a garden by the pool with a musician on strings, could not be better. It is hard to describe how good our dining experience was.

Today was a very full but infinitely better day. We also learned to avoid the souks to save the frustration. Walking back and forth from Jemaa al Fna and La Maison Arabe using larger streets and avoiding the lanes and alleyways of the souks, we managed not to engage with anyone looking to sell us their wares and services.
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Old Dec 4th, 2021, 07:57 AM
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I’m so glad things took a turn for the better! Once again, it sounds like you really found some some of the amazing sights. And I’m imagining the dinner - perfection!

I hope the rest of the trip goes as perfectly!
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Old Dec 4th, 2021, 03:14 PM
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@progol, thank you. Tomorrow is our last planned day in Marrakesh and Morocco in general. If all goes smoothly, we will depart on Monday.

A Lazy Day in Marrakesh

If we thought Moroccan breakfasts could not get any better, boy were we wrong. The chef at our hotel decided to get creative and we benefitted greatly. From crepes filled with fresh apples (it is apple season in the Atlas Mountains, as we saw in Imlil) to a sweet pasta, he took our palates on a culinary journey.

After breakfast, we walked over to Jemaa al Fna Square, from where we hired a horse carriage for the quick jaunt to the Majorelle Gardens. Although small, the gardens were a delight, especially to succulent lovers like us. We happily wandered the gardens, pointing out the different cacti that captured our attentions. Located within the gardens is a small but interesting Berber museum with a good display of traditional costumes and ceremonial jewelry. We also visited the nearby Yves Saint Laurent Museum and browsed through its collection of clothing by the designer.

From the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and the Majorelle Gardens we went by foot to Avenue Mohammed V, Marrakesh’s main shopping district. Filled with international brand names and other typical Western boutiques, we were here more to glimpse what another part of Marrakesh looked like than to shop. The rest of the afternoon was spend people watching at Jemaa al Fna and some unwinding at our hotel. And yes, progol, there’s a good amount of mint tea involved! (It’s become a daily affair on this trip.)

Dinner tonight was back in Gueliz / Ville Nouville, at Al Fassia, an institution. We had high expectations and we were not disappointed.
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Old Dec 5th, 2021, 01:09 PM
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A Moroccan Finale

We met with a medical professional at our hotel for our PCR tests following breakfast. We arranged the sample taking with our driver Hassan a few days prior. We also made appointments with other providers, but this one made the most sense in terms of turnaround time. We kept track of changing developments as we went; as of now, France requires test results at most 48 hours prior to departure. France allows for PCR and antigen tests; we went with PCR to be sure.

From our hotel we walked about 15 minutes to our first stop of the day, the Museum of Marrakesh, adjacent to Ben Youssef Mosque. We again avoided the souks and took other thoroughfares. Given that it is a Sunday and relatively early, we enjoyed a hassle-free walk to the museum. The exhibits, a mix of history and art, were interesting but were not extensive and did not take long. Following the museum, we visited the Almoravid Koubba, the only surviving monument of the type of architecture from the 11th century. Visits to both took about an hour.

From here we walked over to the Secret Gardens (thank you progol). Hidden among the lanes of the medina, the gardens are a good respite from the hustle and bustle outside. We enjoyed sitting by the citrus trees in the Islamic garden for cups of mint tea - very relaxing.

Next up is Dar el Basha (thanks again, progol), the home of the Glaouis. The home combines traditional Moroccan and more modern touches. The home housed a few interesting exhibits including ones to Fez ceramics as well as the Jewish heritage in Morocco. We loved the expansive courtyard with the orange and other fruit trees.

From here we headed to La Mamounia for lunch. The hotel is set in a beautiful garden. We enjoyed a Western meal, tea, and desserts in the garden under the shade of a large orange tree. The food was very good but very expensive, as was dessert. A stroll through the hotel’s gardens was also nice.

Our last stop of the day was the Menara Gardens. Home to a royal pavilion but not much else, it is a good place to enjoy some cool breeze and people watch. Families are out to play on a warm Sunday afternoon. From the Menara Gardens we returned to Jemaa al Fna Square by horse carriage.

All things considered, with COVID-19, ever-changing health-related restrictions, and border closures, we had the pretty darn good time in Morocco. Fingers crossed, we will be able to depart as scheduled, even with a forced detour via Paris (hey, it’s Paris; could be worse). Stay tuned…
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Old Dec 5th, 2021, 02:23 PM
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Sounds like a great ending to your wonderful trip to Morocco! I’m so pleased to have at least “participated” in your experience!

Have a safe journey home. I hope it goes smoothly! Are you stopping over in Paris at all?
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Old Dec 5th, 2021, 07:44 PM
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@progol, we will be in Paris for two nights. It was tempting not to have some time given that we will already be there.
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Old Dec 5th, 2021, 08:37 PM
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Looks like you have a good experienced travelling in Morocco
I want to go to Morocco It's an incredible country. But, I need to learn a little more about it before I go!
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 03:47 AM
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Have a wonderful time in Paris, tp! I’ve so enjoyed following this trip!
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 10:45 PM
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@palapasdenren7954, Morocco is certainly a fascinating country. There's a lot to see, do, and experience, depending on your interests. It is one of those countries that will be easier if you are more accustomed to international travel so I would not make it the first place to go.

@progol, thank you. Hard not to like and enjoy Paris.

Exiting Morocco

Just a quick update to my friends here that we made it out of Morocco uneventfully yesterday. We purchased tickets on an Air France flight a few days earlier. The flight operated as scheduled. At the airport, looking at the boards, we saw a couple other Air France flights, also to Paris, that day. There were about a couple of dozen Royal Air Maroc flights bound for France, Spain, Italy, Istanbul, and Montreal. There may have been a few other destinations but I'm working from memory. There was also an Emirates flight going to Dubai.

The check-in agents at the Air France counter asked for vaccination records and PCR test results. In Paris, we were not asked for any of it. We also obtained Sanitary Passes for France at the airport, Charles de Gaulle. There is a pharmacy at the departures hall in Terminal 2E. We showed them our passports and CDC cards. The staff person entered it into the system and printed our passes in about five minutes. The cost was 36 euros. We downloaded the TousAntiCovid app, and scanned the QR code onto our phone so we didn't need to carry around the paper. We used one phone for all four passes, and it worked just fine.

We're now here enjoying Paris at one of the most beautiful times of the year - the holiday season. The streets and buildings are full of lights and color. The holiday markets are operating as any other year. We are making the most of our brief stop in one of our favorite cities before heading home tomorrow.

Thank you all for reading and coming along, but most thankful for your support and encouragement when things were not all going smoothly. I will come back and update with photos when I have it sorted in the next couple of weeks.
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 12:23 PM
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As promised, here is a selection of photographs from our Morocco trip.


Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

Al-Kairouine Mosque and University, Fez

Bab Bou Jeloud or Blue Gate, Fez

Bou Inania Medersa, Fez

Chouara Tannery, Fez

Copper shop near Place Seffarine, Fez

Fountain and entrance to Nejjarine Museum, Fez

Glaoui Palace courtyard, Fez

Medina residential streetscape, Fez

Street in the Mellah or Jewish quarter, Fez

Doorway in the medina, Fez

Royal Palace gates, Fez

Slipper shop, Fez
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 12:28 PM
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Mosaic Floor, Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Ruins at Volubilis

Main plaza, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Painted homes, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Mausoleum and town, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Bab Mansour, Meknes
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 12:33 PM
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Camels, Erg Chebbi

Camp, Erg Chebbi

Dunes, Erg Chebbi

Todra Valley

Auberge le Festival (our hotel), Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge

Todra Gorge

Dades Gorge

New Ait Ben Haddou

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou

Kasbah Amridil, Skoura

Mount Toubkal

Goats near Mount Toubkal

Village near Mount Toubkal

Waterfall near Mount Toubkal
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 12:37 PM
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Badi Palace, Marrakesh

Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

Bahia Palace, Marrakesh

Medieval caravanserai, Marrakesh

Ceramics shop, Marrakesh

Jemaa al Fna Square at dusk, Marrakesh

Koutoubia Mosque and gardens, Marrakesh

Majorelle Gardens, Marrakesh

Menara Pavilion, Marrakesh

Saadian Tombs and gardens, Marrakesh

Interior of Saadian Tombs, Marrakesh

Shops in the medina, Marrakesh
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 02:58 PM
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Yo TP---that third shot, the one of Bab Jeloud arch view, is absolutely fantastic! Maybe consider getting that one enlarged then picture-plaqued, yeah? Well-done TP.
And I've never seen imagery looking down from above Ait Benhadou, that was unique.
I am glad that you had a great trip!

I am done. kraj
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Old Dec 21st, 2021, 05:50 PM
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So many lovely photos and I’m remembering almost all those places. Such a visually stunning country.

I’m taken by the photo of the goats near Mt. Toubkal - a wonderful shot of a traditional scene.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2021, 11:27 AM
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@zebec, thank you for your recommendation. I'm glad that you enjoyed the photos.

@progol, thank you too. Right back at you regarding the photos bringing back memories, hopefully most if not all good. You certainty do that for me with Croatia.
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Old Dec 25th, 2021, 06:19 AM
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Thanks, tp! And I hope to get back to the Croatia /Italy TR this weekend. More pix there to come!

I really admired how you handled the trip to Morocco and dealt with the last minute changes to your plans. Here's hoping that 2022 will see some stability soon!
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Old Dec 25th, 2021, 02:09 PM
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@progol, thank you. We were prepared for some level of disruption but fortunate in that it was only a blip if that.

Here's to a less stressful 2022 of travel.
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Old Jan 29th, 2022, 02:39 PM
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It's so nice to see a trip report from Morocco on here! Thanks for taking the time to post it. I've been planning a trip using other forums that are more active for Morocco, but it's these kinds of narratives that are far more valuable and enjoyable.
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