Morocco feedback

Old Oct 6th, 2006, 08:23 AM
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Morocco feedback

Based on the posts that we have read here, we have been working with Hamid Dandane to plan a 10-day trip to Morocco the last two weeks of December. Are itinerary is as follows:

1 night in Rabat at the Hotel Balima
3 nights in Fes at the Hotel Batha
1 night in the desert in a Berber Tent with camel ride to see sunrise
1 night in Berber guest house in Sekoura
4 night in Marrakech at Riad Omar.

My questions are:
1. Does anyone know these hotels and can give me some feedback about them.
2. Any thoughts about the safety of Americans in Morocco, especially in the desert?
3. Does this seem like a reasonable itinerary or are we trying to do too much?
4. The travel agent there wants to be paid in advance for the hotels in cash. I am a little reluctant to pay for places I am not sure we will be happy with. Is the customary in Morocco?

Thanks in advance for your help.
Daniel
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 04:43 PM
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Daniel,
As it turns out, I've stayed at all of those hotels at one time or another. The Balima is very centrally located in Rabat and is a good value for money hotel. Its not luxurious or beautifully decorated, but rooms are clean and comfortable. Its my top choice of accommodation whenever I'm in Rabat (not for ambience, but its inexpensive and near the medina, train station, etc).

The the same could be said for Hotel Batha in Fes. Great location right on the edge of the medina, reasonably priced. Rooms are simple and cute, but not chic or expensively decorated.

Riad Omar - again, superb location, simple modest rooms - but Omar is more like a "riad" than the other two hotels. I stayed there when it had just opened, so there were some rough edges and the breakfast buffet was not great, but it was comfortable and friendly - and right off the Jemaa el Fna.

Regarding safety of Americans in Morocco - this question is asked a lot -and it alwys surprises me and makes me wonder how American media is portraying Morocco to make people think they'd be unsafe. As an American, I have never in five years felt unsafe here or been threatened or even uncomfortable. Moroccans welcome Americans and - unlike many Americans -understand the difference between an individual and the policies of that individual's government. The desert is no less safe than anywhere else.

The itinerary seems reasonable - you will have a couple long days in the car, but the scenery and experience should be worth it.

I've not heard of travel agents demanding payment upfront. Cant you book these hotels independently? Also, did you pick these hotels, or were they suggested? They are perfectly decent, but a little low on charm - I think you could fine nicer places. A lot depends on your budget - all of these hotels are in the 40-50 euro per night range. If that's your budget, then I think you're doing well with them. If you can spend even 20 euros a night more, you can get some very lovely accommodation.
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Old Oct 6th, 2006, 09:48 PM
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jenmaroc,

Thanks for your quick reply. We are quite comfortable paying $125-150 per night. Do you have specific recommendations for Fes and Marrakech? I guess one night in the Balima is no big deal. But we would like something more comfortable and interesting for our 3 and 4 night stays. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Daniel
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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 01:49 AM
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In that price range, you can do SO much better than Riad Omar and Hotel Batha! In Fes, there are several lovely riads and guesthouses with suites in that range - check out the Trip Advisor lists of top hotels and B&Bs. The google directory also has an extensive list with direct link to the websites so that you can see the places for yourself. If you do a google search on "open directory fez", you'll get there.

In Marrakech, the choices are extensive - its almost overwhelming. Again, Trip Advisor is a good resource for reviews of riads. I've stayed in the Jardins de la Medina and really enjoyed it (bigger than a traditional riad, but gorgeous gardens and great food). I also liked Riad Mehdi, which is the lodging part of the spa Les Bains de Marrakech. This was a couple years ago, and there are new places opening up all the time. I use Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay and www.i-escape.com a lot as well. Their recommendations and reviews usually seem to be right on.

If you can narrow the field down a bit, I might be able to offer more helpful advice/comments on specific riads.
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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 09:34 AM
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Jenmaroc,

Thank you again for the helpful replies. Well, I found a number of, what looks like, really nice places in Fes and Marrakech.

Fes: Luna et Soleil and Dar Seffarine
Marrakech: Aviateur (we like a lot) and Dar Jamila and El Ouarda.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

Daniel

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Old Oct 7th, 2006, 11:55 AM
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I am not familiar with any of the places you mentioned in Marrakech (there are so many these days!).

I know both places in Fes. Dar Seffarine is architecturally gorgeous and reasonably priced. Its in the heart of the medina (walking around at night makes some people nervous - but on the other hand, you're right in the middle of the action).

Lune et Soleil is more modest in size and grandeur, but full of interesting objets d'art and artifacts. It is a riad as opposed to a dar (i.e. the interior courtyard is planted with plants and trees as opposed to almost completely tiled). It, too, is reasonably priced and nearly accessible by car (you can drive up to within a few feet of the door...but it is at one edge of the medina, so most sights are at least a 10 mintue walk away).

Hope that helps...
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Old Oct 8th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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Hello Daniel and Jen,

I recently spent a bit more than two weeks in Morocco and loved every minute. There is no safety issue for Americans. In fact, since there are so many European tourists I doubt that anyone will know, or care, what your nationality is. My impression was that the country was quite safe for all.

Jen, I've never seen a negative portrayal of Morocco in the media. I think Americans are concerned now about traveling anywhere out of the country.

Daniel, You'll have a great time. the country is beautiful and the food is wonderful. I miss the fresh vegetables and fruit as well as the various tagines I fell in love with.

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Old Oct 9th, 2006, 07:04 AM
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Totally agree with JenMaroc and also with her resources for finding riads...there are so many charming ones..do the research and book them yourself...you have control if you need to make a change and pick the type of room etc. I would never pay up front in cash (no recourse at all if something goes wrong etc.) and it is not necessary. AS for safety no problem at all from my perspective having been twice and planning on going back. It is to me the safest islamic country right now so you feel the culture but are not threatened at all. Have fun!
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Old Oct 9th, 2006, 09:12 AM
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Having just got back from two weeks in Morocco I can say that my Mom and I never felt afraid. The people were wonderful and extremely friendly and warm. Everyone made a point of saying they disagree with the extremists of Islam and that that is an exteme interpretation of Islam. The thing I found so eye opening was the complete distortion the American media puts on Muslims and Islam. I came away with a totally different view of Muslims and Islam and am very thankful for that.

Enjoy your trip! Camping in the desert was just awesome and we loved the sunrise hike!
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Old Oct 9th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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margiecpa -thank you so much for posting! I think a lot of Americans who travel here are astounded at the misinformation about Islam and Muslims provided by a great deal of "Western" media. Travellers like you who share their experiences are a major step towards creating cultural understanding, which can only help the "peace process".
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Old Oct 9th, 2006, 01:55 PM
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"The thing I found so eye opening was the complete distortion the American media puts on Muslims and Islam. I came away with a totally different view of Muslims and Islam and am very thankful for that."

I don't really understand the above statement. What has been distorted in the American media? Everything I've seen and read makes it clear that the jihadists and terrorists are extremists and that violence is not part of Islam. I've seen specials on TV where reporters have gone to mosques and Muslim communities and interviewed people and discussed their beliefs. Editorial pages and opinion pages of major newspapers print essays by Muslims that explain their religion.

Of course the media is going to report bombings and attacks, that's news. The problem is that some people are not making the distinction between muslim extremists and true muslims.

I had read enough and seen enough TV specials to know that when I went to Morocco I would be visiting a country that does not condone or encourage extremism.
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Old Oct 12th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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Thank you everyone for your incredibly reassuring and exciting words about visiting Morocco. Although, intellectually I know that about the media and it's focus on negativity (except for maybe NPR), we just started to get a little scared for obvious reasons. Being Jewish always adds another layer to things (thought we are excited about visiting some of the Jewish communities in Fes and Marrakech).

We ended up booking the Lune et Soleil in Fes, and Aviator in Marrakech. After much web searching we finally reached Hotel Balima in Rabat by phone (thanks to Skype) where we will spending our first night.

Hopefully our guide is not annoyed with us for booking the rooms ourselves. When he wanted us to pay him for the rooms he booked upon arrival I got little uncomfortable. Also, from what I read, the places that he booked were not that nice. We were able to book much nicer places for the same amount. I haven't heard back from him but he may be out with another group so we are keeping our fingers crossed.

From reading all your posts, and everything I have read elsewhere, I know that this is going to be an incredible experience. I am even learning French so as to make at least an effort to communicate. My daughter is taking French in high school and my wife took it in college. So between the three of us we might be able to find a bathroom, order some food and thank people for their wonderful hospitality.

Merci beaucoup!
Daniel, Mindy and Marissa
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Old Oct 12th, 2006, 07:33 AM
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Have a great trip! I think you've made good decisions vis a vis your guide and hotel selections. Be sure to post your thoughts and experiences when you return - we'd love to hear how it all went!
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Old Oct 12th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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We are two older women who traveled in Morocco in Sept. We were never once afraid. Everyone was so very nice. We got to experience the first 3 days of Ramadan, and it was impressive!!
As for your guide asking you for payment of hotels up front..its part of what guides do..everyone gets their little cut. Yes you made a better deal yourself. Guides will always take you to places that they have "arrangements" with. You have to decide if you have the time and energy to find it yourself, or just go at least part way along with your guide. Kick-backs seem to be a way of life in that part of the world. That being said, you will have a wonderful time. We stayed at a FAB. Riad in Marrakech called Dar Les Cigognes. Very well located and the best service we've ever experienced!
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Old Oct 14th, 2006, 02:38 PM
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Hi,
I just got a quote directly from the Dar les Cigognes and the rooms with breakfast ranged from $250 to $400 a night.
I wasn't planning on spending that much per night. Do you think the Riad is "worth it"?
Thanks for your input.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 09:20 AM
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I can only judge by the service we received. We paid in the $200. range. Yes its expensive, we paid no where near that elsewhere on our tour. But it was our first time in Marrakech, and in Morocco and we wanted something special, and something luxurious. It really fulfilled all our expectations. Its listed as one of the top Riads in Morocco. After the noise and chaos of the city, it was heaven to come into this lovely quite and private riad and feel like you were really living there.
We had drinks and tea on the roof top terrace and right across the street is one of the palaces and we saw the storks on their nests and saw them flying off and landing again. To hear the call to prayer at sunset from that roof is truly magical. So for us, it was worth it to have those special memories.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Thanks for the information. did you book all hotels/riads on your own and how did you travel from place to place? We will arrive in Marrakech and have as many days as we need, but haven't decided whether to go with a tour operator or make our own way from place to place by ?train. I don't think we want to rent a car. After Morocco we will plan to visit another country, and have 4 weeks in all. I was thinking about 12 days in Morocco.
Any advice would be welcome!
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 01:00 PM
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I just wanted to jump in for a few things on this post.

1) totally safe in my experience.
2) amazing food everywhere.
3) the desert will change your life
4) good call on making your own reservations.

Now, I have a few questions. I did serious budget travel to Morocco last summer and now I am going back with my Dad. We were hoping to spend something like $50 for a double room (mind you that when I went in summer 05 I spent $5 per person per room). I can't tell if my budget experiences made me think that nicer places were cheaper than they are (we are not going to luxury, but yes, it should be cute and clean) or what, but could someone suggest something in the $50-75 range? We don't mind communal bathrooms at all, and our bathing will be done at the hammam.

We will spend 4 nights in Marrakech (Dec. 5,6,10,11) with a trip to the Sahara sandwiched in.

Merci!
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 06:07 PM
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Actually our trip to Morocco was with Elderhostel, so they took care of all travel arrangements in the country. We just had a few days on our own, in the beginning in Marrakech before the tour started, and we booked Dar les Cigognes ourselves. We tried to book a nice little hotel in Casablanca for our first night, but they came back with a crazy high price, so we booked at the Hyatt (and got upgraded to a suite after arriving at midnight), but just before we left, we received an email from the original hotel offering us the room we originally wanted at a $50. price!! So that was our first lesson that one should negotiate EVERYTHING. At least try. We were there before the big tourist season, which I think starts around now. So hotels might not need to cut prices for you.
You can certainly travel on your own, but trains do not go everywhere in the country. There are good long distance bus' I understand, but we had the bus from our tour. I think driving would be a little stressful since the roads are only two lanes and everyone isthisclosetoyourbumper trying to pass.
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Old Oct 15th, 2006, 07:07 PM
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We will go in May so I imagine that the prices might be 'high season' by then.
Thanks for all the input Kleroux.
I rely on doing a lot of basic groundwork on Fodors and it has really paid off in the past.
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