Morocco, A Visual Journey

Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 06:45 AM
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More wonderful photos. It's so interesting about the quality of guides and drivers. The driver that took us to Volubis got a guide for us there and the guide was great. Very knowledgeable and added alot to what we saw. Some of his dialogue was clearly rote, but he went well beyond that and answered alll our questions.

tripplanner -- I completely agree with progol's description of the constantly annoying hustlers that were the worst in the cities. It was just about impossible to discourage them some of the times. Despite being very polite we were greeted with some not so nice comments when we said, no thanks. I've traveled to lots of places with touts and Morocco had by far the most bothersome touts. So much so that it severely impacted our feelings about our trip.

Last edited by yestravel; Jun 3rd, 2018 at 06:52 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 07:22 AM
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Thanks for your thoughts, yestravel. Dealing with the agressive hustle is an aspect of the travel that isn’t talked about much, and I think it would’ve helped us if we were better prepared mentally. And, like you, we’ve been elsewhere with aggressive touts, but our experience in Morocco was definitely in a class of its own.

About the guide at Volubilis - Salem had called ahead to see if the guide he knew was available, but unfortunately, he was not, so we took one of the guides at the site. I’m sure some are better than others,
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 07:34 AM
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It's true about the agressive hustle not being mentioned alot when researching our trip to Morocco. When we went to Turkey it was common to read about the touts in Istanbul. Interestingly when we go to Turkey the touts didn't really bother me. So perhaps you are correct that expectations may have played a role in my feelings. While I knew there would be touts, I didn't expect them to be as aggressive and obnoxious as they were.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 07:54 AM
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yestravel, we felt the same thing about Turkey. Of course, it was a number of years ago, but we never found it as hard to deal with as in Morocco

One more photo of Volubilis before moving on!

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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 08:23 AM
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Thanks Paule and yestravel. Morocco looks so beautiful and it's one of the places on which I've had my mind set for a long time. Just not interested in having to deal with touts constantly. I've been to Turkey twice - Istanbul and Cappadocia - although I may have lucked out as it was not bad.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 08:37 AM
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tripplanner -- Plenty of people go and don't seem to be bothered by the touts. Everyone has a different level of tolerance for these type of things & everyone's experiences are different. We had some pretty crazy encounters. We just had a friend here who spent a week in Fes and it didn't faze her at all. Was surprised at out strong reaction. As I mentioned above, Turkey didn't bother me at all.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 12:24 PM
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tripplanner, Ditto to what yestravel said! I don’t want to discourage you from going to Morocco - truly, we did have a wonderful trip, and loved the diversity of experiences. And it very well may be that if you anticipate the hustle, it won’t be nearly as wearing for you as It was for yestravel or me.

Another suggestion is getting a driver or at least a guide for part of the time. For us, having the driver was not simply the transportation, but also great companionship and a window into the cultures of Morocco.

Last edited by progol; Jun 3rd, 2018 at 12:26 PM.
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Old Jun 6th, 2018, 01:38 PM
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We made a quick stop for lunch at Meknes, one of the 4 imperial cities of Morocco. We stopped in front of the stunning Bab Mansour gate, with its ornate mosaic designs and inscriptions, the grand entry that was built under the sultan Moulay Ismail.

One of the reasons I wanted to stop at Meknes was to see the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, but was told it was closed for restoration. We took a quick walk around inside the gates, and then across to the very large Lahdim Square, where there were some vendors set up. By this time, we were hot and tired, and though we didn't really get to explore much of Meknes, we were ready to move on to Fes, where we stayed for the next 3 nights.

A few shots of and around the Bab Mansour gate:







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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 03:52 AM
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At last, we are in Fes! Michael says that he finally feels Morocco in Fes. It is a sensory overload, but first, let me take you to Dar Seffarine, the stunning guesthouse that we stayed in for our 3 nights in Fes. And the photos just do not give the place full justice. This is an old house that has been restored by an architect/graphic designer couple (he is from Iraq, she is from Norway), and the attention to detail here is nothing short of amazing. We stayed in the Kobbe Suite, which is its creme de la creme set of rooms - and the entire place is museum-like in its beauty.

My review on TripAdvisor:
The moment I read about Dar Seffarine, I knew I had to stay here. This is not just another pretty riad/dar -- but as others have said, a work of art that is lovingly restored by its owners. Truly, it is an honor to stay in a place that is so exquisite. Waking up in the Kobbe Suite is like waking up in a far away time in a dream. Staring at the details of the the work just takes one's breath away, and it almost feels like one should just stay in the room the entire time to soak up the atmosphere! But there is more - the rooftop terrace is set up so that one can hang out and relax over a great view. And meals - we had 2 of our best dinners of the trip here that is served communally.
This place isn't for everyone; rooms are not locked and wifi was limited (but easily accessible in the public spaces). But those are small inconveniences next to the sheer thrill of being able to experience this special place.



The courtyard



A warm welcome (note the handle of the teapot!). Love the Moroccan tea!



The courtyard



The detail in the floor tiles



The view of Fes from the terrace



The view of Fes from the terrace
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 04:11 AM
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We ate at Dar Seffarine 2 nights out of 3, and these dinners were some of the best meals we ate on our trip, which they offer to their guests only. If you go, definitely have at least one meal, which is served at a long table with other guests.

The Kobbe Suite - or our very sweet suite! I only wish the colors really came through - I'm not kidding when I said it was an honor to stay here. I would look up and around the rooms, just awestruck by the beauty here. The owners' album of the before and after pictures really tells the story of their love and commitment to restoring it.


Looking into the bedroom






The view from the bedroom












Morning view

Last edited by progol; Jun 9th, 2018 at 05:09 AM.
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 04:14 AM
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Do you see why we had to stay here? It was traveling to another place and time, and truly a joy to be able to take in this remarkable place.




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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 04:50 AM
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Wow! Absolutely beautiful. Just looking at the photos of the place gives me sensory overload - in a very good way.
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 05:10 AM
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Thanks, TP! It still thrills me to think about our stay there. It was like being transported to another time - in a very good way!
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 10:16 AM
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what wonderful photos, progol - and a very interesting account of your trip. I've joining in late but so glad I did.

It's hard to pick out a favourite, but I noticed those mosaics particularly as they reminded me very much of the mosaics at the Villa Casale in Sicily, which I think you've been to as well. There of course they have someone come round with a mop to highlight the colours, rather than waiting for the rain!
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 03:15 PM
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The suite at Dar Seffarine is beyond amazing!! Good food too? Wow, wha a perfect choice!
Gotta love the terrace! Did you have to climb into it?
The ruins...the mosaics! (I think you may be disappointed when you get to herculaneum!) Again, as with the Rif Mt photo, I amstruck by the greenness--it isn't a color I recall seeing much of in my brief time in the area.
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 03:27 PM
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Gorgeous place! One thing that stood out were the wonderful restorations of the riads and dars. Some, as the one where you stayed, were just stunning. And staff in all of them that couldn't be beat. So welcoming and helpful.
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Old Jun 9th, 2018, 10:18 PM
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Hi Progol,
It takes really a lot of work to do all this detailed Visual Journey " trip report", Thank you so much for sharing such a lovely pictures as well takes me into your journey step by step, really interesting.
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Old Jun 10th, 2018, 04:34 AM
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annhig, thanks so much for your comments! I'm glad you're enjoying the "trip"! Volubilis is a wonderful site, and seeing the mosaics did bring back memories of the Villa Casale, although the mosaics at the latter are much more extensive. But seeing Volubilis here, in Morocco, in such a lovely setting really was delightful.

CaliNurse, we loved Dar Seffarine! It really was a special place! Now you commented on the greenness of the countryside - this will change soon! The diversity was remarkable, and one of the amazing aspects of the trip.

yestravel, the riads and dars were amazing to experience, weren't they? And yes, the staff were generally wonderful. Dar Seffarine was in a class all its own; the restoration work by the couple who bought it was amazing, and it really was like staying in a museum.

Alex, thanks so much for your words! I'm pleased that you are enjoying the "journey"!
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Old Jun 10th, 2018, 06:56 AM
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Fes

In so many ways, the trip felt like it started when we arrived in Fes. We spent 3 nights, staying in the Medina, the old part of the city that consists of hundreds of small lanes and narrow streets in maze-like patterns, which are crowded with tourists exploring, vendors hustling, workers with carts or donkeys transporting goods. We are constantly jumping out of the way in this crush of people and animals! As Michael said, “Now I really feel like we’re in Morocco!”

It took a while for us to decide if we enjoyed the experience - and definitively, yes, we did! It was an amazing place to be, as intense a place as we’ve visited. We found it fascinating and exhausting at the same time. It was also physically tiring as it was surprisingly hilly from one end of the Medina to the other (a health problem affects my walking, and hilly places are challenging).

I found taking photos difficult - partly because it was often hard to stop and take a photo in the crowds, but also, we often experienced a hostility to photography, making it harder to even try to take a photo.

A tour guide had been arranged, but unfortunately, he was not very engaged with us and I have no memory of anything he told us. We were given the standard tour: walk through the medina; the tanneries; a visit to a ceramics tile factory; a stop at a viewpoint over the city; a visit to the Mellah (the old Jewish area); and seeing the royal palace gates. The latter are stunning work and a popular stop - but entry into the palace is not allowed. The exposure to these places were worthwhile - I didn’t mind the factory tour - in fact, it was interesting to see the work in progress and, surprisingly, there was no real hustle here. It’s in the Medina where the small vendors are aggressively trying to grab our attention.

We did like the tanneries far more than I had expected - and the smell was a lot less pronounced than I expected. A sprig of mint was given to us to hold under our noses to mitigate the odor, but it really wasn't that stinky.

We had one of the more bizarre experiences with an aggressive merchant in Fes. We got drawn into a place not far from Dar Seffarine by the proprietor of an antiques and other memorabilia shop, and the moment we walked in, he overwhelmed us with a manic energy, telling us he was one of the “last Jews in Fes!” Once we told him that we were also Jewish, he jumped up and down and hugged my husband, and gave us the line that this was a sign and that we had to buy something from him! Why we stayed beyond this point, I’m still not sure, but somehow, he managed to keep us there, and the moment he saw me looking at a necklace, he offered it to us at what I considered an outrageous price. But he “got” my husband and, even as we both tried to end the bargaining, he managed to “get” us. And he “generously” (she says, sarcastically) threw in some earrings if we would buy the necklace , too! By the time we walked out, we had spent more money on something that I really didn’t want and the whole experience left us feeling uncomfortable. But it didn’t really make me mad until I got home: the moment I put on the necklace, it fell apart! And I can’t even look at the earrings without cringing!

So Welcome to Fes! Be prepared for what is an exciting and exhausting adventure into a medieval world with modern overtones!
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Old Jun 10th, 2018, 07:57 AM
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Around the medina


Seffarine Square, known for its metalwork



carrying its burden



Fes Gate



A slow walk



One of the many lanes in the medina



Doorway
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