Morocco report and pictures

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Jun 25th, 2002, 08:17 AM
  #1
Eric
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Morocco report and pictures

A couple of quick notes about the trip. We went on the Globus tour of Morocco that covers Morocco exclusively. Overall the tour was fabulous, we were blessed with a group of only 12 which allowed us to make excellent time. If you are looking for a tour to take of Morocco, I recommend Globus highly. Also, if you are going to be going to Morocco, please take a tour, as our guide did an excellent job of keeping us out of trouble, not getting us lost and saying the right things to get the locals to leave us alone. Most of the hotels were great, the only exception was El Ati in Erfoud which left much to be desired. The meals were all ok, with some dinners being world class and some breakfasts being not must more than coffee and orange juice. But we didn’t starve and I came away from each meal feeling full. We did a lot of driving, but I guess if you are going to see Morocco driving is required. I would have liked to spend more time in Marrakesh and Fez. But the trip is such a great value and for all we got to see and do, it was worth every penny!

While Arabic is the official language, everyone will first address you in French, so it is helpful to know a little (and I mean just a little, I spoke none going in, and just enough to order black coffee coming out). After they see the confusion if you don’t speak either, most people will then try English. While not nearly as widespoken as French I was very impressed with the country’s overall grasp of English and for the most part we had no trouble communicating.

The entire time neither my wife or I felt any sort of tension, threat or discomfort (other than the traveler’s diarreha we both picked up) the country is very safe and the people are all so friendly. Of course, there were no other American tourist we saw the entire time we were there, and everyone thought we were British (believe me, we don’t sound British at all). I believe that is because most of the tourists are European so it is safe to assume if you speak English primarily, you must be British! However, when they learned we were American everyone was genuinely excited and wanted to go on and on in length about the friend/brother/cousin etc. that is living in the States right now.

If you go in the summer, it is perfectly ok to wear shorts. I wish I had known this going in, as both my wife and I had read to not wear shorts, but no one cared. There were a few people, male and female, in our group who wore shorts and I asked them if they received any strange looks or comments and they said none at all. After seeing what the Europeans were wearing, then shorts would be perfectly acceptable.

A more thorough report is included with the pictures of our trip at my webshots homepage:
community.webshots.com/user/ehazard1

There are also our wedding and honeymoon pictures up, but you don’t have to look at those and can go straight to the Morocco trip. All of the pictures are captioned, giving a brief description of the location with some commentary.

If anyone has any additional questions, feel free to post them on the forum and I will try to provide an answer.
 
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Jun 25th, 2002, 10:11 AM
  #2
kavey
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Welcome back Eric and thanks for sharing...

Kavey
 
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Jun 25th, 2002, 07:33 PM
  #3
Dianne
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Thanks Eric. I'll be sure to visit your website. I don't suppose you've been to Egypt? I thought Egypt was so incredible and I wonder if I'd be disappointed in Morocco after seeing Egypt first.

 
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Jun 25th, 2002, 10:33 PM
  #4
Ursula
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Eric, loved your pictures a lot. Thanks for sharing.
They are wonderful, but then, Morocco IS wonderful.
Have visited a couple of times myself a bit all over and would love to go back, especially to the southern part around Ouarzazate.
 
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Jun 26th, 2002, 04:42 AM
  #5
Eric
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Dianne,

Unfortunately, I have not yet been to Egypt, although it is very high on my list, maybe even next year if everything falls into place. There were a couple of people in my tour group who had been to Egypt before Morocco and they didn't seem to find Morocco any less spectacular. Of course, Egypt is in a class by itself, so the comparison to a lot of destinations may not hold up. After our trip, I recommond that everyone travel to Morocco, there is something there for everybody. If is was up to me, I would have spent more time in Marrakesh and Fez, and like Ursula said the Ourazazate area is worth extra time, exploring the Valley of 1000 kasbahs more in depth, the High Atlas mountains and taking desert excursions.
 
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Jun 26th, 2002, 03:19 PM
  #6
DCL
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Eric,
Thinking about a day trip from Spain (Marbella) to Morocco. Any thoughts/itineraries/safety issues?
Thanks. DCL
 
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Jun 26th, 2002, 11:22 PM
  #7
Ursula
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DCL hello! Morocco is interesting mainly when going south. Forget about Tangier, etc. Most interesting place in the north would be the capital Rabat. But that's too far just for a day, unless you intend to take the plane from Malaga (not even sure there are good connection with Royal Air Maroc and Iberia is not that terrific).
If you want to really see something of beautiful Morocco, do yourself a favour and plan to tour at least one week and add another somewhere in a beach resort.
The area around Marbella has a lot to offer and just go to Morocco for one day is too much of a hassle.
Just my opinion.
 
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Jul 10th, 2002, 07:58 PM
  #8
Gee
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Eric,Thanks so much for your wonderful pics. Your trip looked adventureous and exciting. I need some help, I am trying to plan a trip for myself and my 24 yr old daughter to Morocco leaving end of Aug thru Sept 7 or 8th. That gives me about 8-9 maybe 10 days. I am African-American and despite the e-mail name not a travel agent.Can you or anyone help us plan. I'd like to hit the major cities , Casablanca,
Fes,Rabat and Marrakech. I'd also like to do a short camel ride at the dunes if time allows. Someone also mentioned a day trip to Meknes. We are traveling independently. Are there small group excursions we could join up with to see the major sights with an English speaking guide or is it best to hire someone privately? How much should we expect to spend? Is this really an affordable trip(our air is already taken care of).How much is a cup of good mint tea? What about finding safe, comfortable, centrally located hotels, not necessarily 5 star but 4 or better. AS women, where should we not venture alone? Question for LaNita, where are the best shops? When you traveled thru the High Atlas, where was your luggage? How long was the camel trip thru the desert? Travel agents are ok, but there is nothing like the advice of real people who've "been there, done that." Thanks in advance to all.

Gee
 
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Jul 11th, 2002, 05:00 AM
  #9
Eric
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Gee,

Thank you for the kind words about the pictures! Yes, the trip was absolutely amazing and everyone that I talk to since I have been back I tell them that they should definitely find a way to see Morocco if ever they get the chance, it is a fabulous country with so much to offer.

Ok, enough nostaliga, allow me to help you with the itenarary. A couple of broad points to help you out first, and then on the specifics. First, I don't know how you could really see Morocco without a guide. Our guides were invaluable, getting us from place to place without too much trouble. However, should you choose to do it on your own, I would recommend picking up some French before you go, even though English is fairly wide spoken. Your list of major cities to see is pretty much right on with some of the better sights in the country. My advice is to spend as little time as possible in Casablanca and a much time as you can in both Fez and Marrakesh. Those two cities in my opinion offer the very best of Morocco, the strong spiritual sense in Fez and the nomadic desert hertiage in Marrakesh. You probably would have no problem catching an escorted tour during your time frame. We did the Globus tour, about 10 days that saw all the cities you had on your intenary plus the desert excursion with camel ride. It was very affordable, costing us $800/each which included all our hotels, most meals, guides, transportation, etc. In addition, there are a number of other tour companies (Traflagar, Contiki, Insight, etc) that you could easily join while there. So yes, I think it is a very affordable trip, even when out in the cities away from your tour group, the American dollar goes far. As far as specific hotel recommendations, I can only tell you about the hotels we stayed at, since I really didn't see any others while there. My two favorites were Jnan Palace in Fez and Es Saadi in Marrakesh, both of these were wonderful hotels that offered much more than would have expected (Jnan palace had the largest hotel swimming pool I had ever seen, about 6 clay tennis courts and a golf driving range on site). The worst hotel we stayed at was in Erfoud called El Ati, but if you get to Erfoud (which is the jumping off point for the dunes of the Sahara) you will see your options are fairly limited for accomodations. The camel ride we took was excellent and probably the best part of our trip. We were on that tour probably close to three hours, and were able to watch the sunset while on top of the dunes, which was a Mastercard moment if ever there was one (you know, "PRICELESS"). The trip out to the dunes in Landrovers was about $40/person and the camels were about $20/person. SEE PART II FOR THE REST>>>
 
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Jul 11th, 2002, 05:00 AM
  #10
Eric
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Sorry, long winded, had to break up the response....

PART II

As women, I would recommend two different strategies, first, join an escorted tour and you would have no problems, second if not, buy something that resembles a wedding ring and wear that while in the city. A couple of women on our trip tried this strategy and said it kept them from being approached. Of course any of the major guide books are great about giving various tips to get rid of unwanted attention, as Morocco is a conservative country and men approaching single women in the street is not well respected in the community. As far a shopping, I would recommend buying most of your souviners in Marrakesh, especially along Mohammed V boulevard which was a lot of "fixed price" (nothing is really fixed in Morocco but this was close) shops similar to a street in New York. We saved most of our spending for this strip and were glad that we did, getting everything we wanted and not spending a fortune on any of it. Going through the High Atlas was wonderful and our luggage was beneath us in our motorcoach, and finnally, we never bought a cup of mint tea but drank it almost everyday. If you are shopping you will always find a way to get that provided to you.

Hope this helps, feel free to ask more questions, as I would be happy to assist more if needed. Enjoy your trip!
 
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Jul 22nd, 2002, 06:22 AM
  #11
Elsie Ow
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I read with interest Eric's message of July 11th to Gee. He gave me an idea of what to expect in Morocco when my family goes there for our next vacation in January next year. Eric, thanks for a very informative email.
 
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Jul 25th, 2002, 12:30 PM
  #12
Elizabeth
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Hi, Eric -

I loved your pictures, and it made me even more excited about my upcoming trip to Morocco in October. It also amused me to discover that you celebrated your 1 year anniversary there, as I will be too!

I wanted to ask you a couple of questions, if I may. I will have about 14 days in Morocco, and wanted some advice about how to break it up. I will not be going on an escorted tour, but plan to hire official guides in each of my planned stops.

My tentative plan, unless you advise otherwise, is to land in Rabat, but fly out of Marrakech, and proceed to Fez and Meknes, and then head south to Marrakech, Ouarazate, and the Sahara. How much time do you suggest we spend in these places. Is Rabat worth seeing, or should we just proceed to the more interesting cities?

We would also like to hit some of the coastal cities such as Agadir and Essaoira. I don't believe you made it out there on your trip, but did you hear anything about these places? Are they worth visiting?

Finally, are there must-sees?

Thanks for your help in advance, and I hope I have as good a time as you did!

Best,

Elizabeth


 
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Jul 25th, 2002, 06:12 PM
  #13
Eric
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Elizabeth,

I am glad that you enjoyed the pictures! I have been amazed at how many people have actually viewed our pictures since we have been back, especially when compared to our Hawaii pictures which have been up for over year, and already Morocco has more views than both of those albums put together. But then again, I can’t blame people because Morocco is such a fascinating place, and every picture I have seen has just left me breathless for one reason or another.

That said you are going to have a wonderful time, and I am so jealous, not only do you get to spend 14 days there (which by the way I think is perfect, and I will detail for you below) but also you are flying into Rabat (a great city and worth a day) and out of Marrakesh (words cannot describe, and why I would devote the majority of my time there). The biggest advantage to your plan is that you are avoiding Casablanca and Tangier, which gives so many people the wrong idea of what Morocco is like.

So my advice on your trip itinerary (please keep in mind that this and 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee, and not that fancy stuff, just black in a Styrofoam cup at some gas station in Little Rock). First, since you are landing in Rabat it is definitely worth a day. I compared it to what Washington DC is to the United States (being from Maryland you will more than understand this). Being the capital, it is extremely safe and extremely well kept, much like Capital Hill is in Washington. There is so much to see that a day will seem to fly by but really I don’t think there is much more than that to hold you attention. You will want to see the royal palace, the city walls, the tomb of Mohammed V, and the kasbah on the edge of the water across the river from Sale. I would suggest landing on your first day and just relaxing. You will be exhausted after your flight so stay close to your hotel and try not to see too much. This gives you a chance to deal with the jet lag and not be too terribly disoriented. (Believe me, you always need your wits about you in Morocco!). The next day, get up when you are ready, eat a big breakfast and head out to see Rabat, you will be glad you did! Towards the end of the day, start heading to Meknes and plan on spending you second night there. Even if you get there kind of late you could still see the Medina and some of the outlying area on your way in.

After catching some shut eye, once again an early start and I recommend heading out to the Roman ruins Volubis on the outside of Meknes followed by a more detailed city tour that afternoon, with that evening being spent once again in Meknes. This will make the driving a lot easier (and safer) during the next morning between Meknes and Fez. Arrive in Fez about midmorning and catch a guide to tour the medina upon arrival and check in at the hotel. There are a couple of reasons I suggest this when you arrive: one, it gives you an opportunity to see the best part of the city first and two, you are going to want to go back after seeing it the first time and by not putting it off, you will no exactly what you want to see on the return. Spend the night and the next day in and around Fez seeing all the wonderful religious sights the city has to offer (after all it is the spiritual capital of Morocco). Catch up on anything you may have missed and even hit the median again, but save your money for Marrakesh as this is where we found the best prices and selections.
 
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Jul 25th, 2002, 06:13 PM
  #14
Eric
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Part II

After waking up the next day, you are in for a LONG day of riding to get down to Erfoud/Rissani to see the Sahara. However, the drive offers a lot of interesting sights along the way going through the Middle Atlas and touching on the Eastern tip of the High Atlas. Take your time on this drive and stop when you can for pictures. You will be especially amazed when you begin to enter the desert and see absolutely nothing and then, as if out of a dream, an oasis appears contrasting so much life and lush greenery to the barren wasteland surrounding it. You don’t really want to arrive in Erfoud/Rissani too early in the afternoon but not after night fall either. These cities are extremely conservative and will not offer too much in the way of tourism compared to Fez and Rabat and especially Marrakesh!

Really the only reason I would even suggest heading this way is to see the dunes of the Sahara. I really felt like I was in a MasterCard commercial riding a camel at sundown with miles and miles of desert in every direction of me (you know PRICELESS). Spend night six here and the next day head to Rissani to see the amazing souk that goes on there, not to mention there are plenty of other sights to suit your fancy since Rissani used to be the last outpost on the trek to Timbuktu. Later in the afternoon is when you want to arrange for your excursion into the desert. Bring plenty of film and a sense of adventure and enjoy every minute you can! Afterwards spend the night in your hotel here and prepare for travel the next day.
 
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Jul 25th, 2002, 06:15 PM
  #15
Eric
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Part III

The next day (day seven now, if I haven’t lost track) head to Ourazazate with stops along the way for whatever tickles your fancy. The todra gorge is really great with the sheer cliffs and narrow walls catching the sunlight just right contrasting the orange walls of the canyon with the azure skies making for some amazing pictures! It was about this time that we became almost jaded from seeing Morocco. You will drive past so many fascinating little villages but you begin to say to yourself “oh look another mosque, oh look another kasbah, boring” but it really is not, especially when you remember this is a once in a lifetime opportunity! If you arrive early enough in Ourazazate tour the movie studio on the outskirts of town. The night will be spent here and the morning of the next day. I hate to cut this part of the trip short, but there is so much to see in this country and only two weeks to see it. Now this is where I get a little controversial in my planning but logistically it is the only way I see this working. You have two options from this point: one, drive through Marrakesh on first pass and head for Essouria to catch the coast or two stay first in Marrakesh then on to Essouria. Really it is a coin toss, but I would opt for Marrakesh first, leaving your schedule open and then the last couple of days in Essouria. From what I understand, Essouria is a lot more authentic Morocco than Agadir, and choosing between the two Essouria is the hands down favorite.

So lets say you decide Marrakesh is too exciting to pass up (it is!). Stay at least two full days here, pick up your local guidebook and just go. If everything has fallen into place here you will be spending the ninth night in Marrakesh, and day ten and eleven there as well. Spend the twelfth day going to Essouria, and then the next day driving back so that you can catch you flight out without too much trouble. It really does not leave much time in Essouria, but it is hard to cut any other part short.

I hope all of this makes sense, if not let me know I will try and clear it up a bit. If I can (and believe me this is a BIG if) I will try and find the names of the guides we had in each of the cities. All of them were great and I would highly recommend any one to accompany some one around their cities. The problem is all of them were named Mohammed and trying to find the Mohammed that we used in a sea of other guides named Mohammed can be difficult. Of course, my advice is not free; I do require proper notification when you return on where I (and the rest of the board) can view your pictures! Happy anniversary, and if you have any other questions feel free to ask!
 
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Jul 26th, 2002, 07:48 AM
  #16
Elizabeth
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Eric -

Thank you SO much for your wonderful advice, and your unbelievably prompt response! I am confident that your advice will come in handy.

If I can be so bold as to ask you a couple more questions. Is it fairly easy to get from city to city? Do you advise going by train, bus, booking a tour, or hiring a car and driver? Or perhaps a combination of these?

Thanks again for all your wonderful advice, and I hope to have many pictures to show upon my return!

Best,

Elizabeth
 
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Jul 28th, 2002, 02:42 PM
  #17
Eric
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Elizabeth,

Unfortunately, I can't help you out too much on this part, the only real expereince we had in Morocco was in our motorcoach with your tour group.

However, I will relay some of my observations, and hopefully with help from other posters and travel sources you can find the best fit for you. First, when we first arrived in Morocco our trip from the airport to the hotel in Casablanca was dubbed "Why we no longer fear death" by my wife and I. The only way I can describe drivers in Morocco is to say this: take a New York City cab driver, replace him with a crack addicted ferret with ADD who just downed six pixie sticks and through in half a million bicycles and donkeys and you get the picture! There is absolutely no rhymne or reason to any of it! So with that, I would recommend trying to drive in any of the cities (not to mention that car rental in Morocco could require taking out a second mortgage on your home or pledging your first born male child to the rental company).

The rail system seemed very efficient in between major cities but non-exsistant if you wanted to explore some of the outlying areas (Erfoud, Ouarzazate). This may be a good way to get from Rabat to Fez, or Fez to Marrakesh however.

So that leaves us with hiring a car and driver and taking buses. The bus system was everywhere with regular trips between most every town and city. However, they always seemed fairly crowded and especially when driving through the mountains, you will wonder how you survived. But this would probably be the best bet to reach the outlying areas. As far as hiring a car and driver, this would probably be the best way to see, and understand the country, but I know nothing of the cost associated with this service, probably will be a bit on the $ side.

In conclusion, I don't know it will require a little more research on your part. But, if you know a little Arabic or French you should have no problem getting around however you choose. Again, best of luck and have a great trip!
 
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