Morocco Trip Report

Old Apr 2nd, 2015, 08:04 AM
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Morocco Trip Report

Just back from a memorable 16-day trip to Morocco and wanted to give thanks to everyone who helped me with their much-needed advice and guidance. I always find looking at other people’s itineraries very helpful so I thought I would do a quick trip report. While I don’t have the amazing writing skills of Seemskt, whose itinerary I used as a basis for this trip, I hope someone finds this helpful.

DAY 1
Arrive in Marrakech. We are picked up by a driver from Dar Rocmarra, where we will be staying two nights. We are exhausted and we both have the feeling of “we’re not in Kansas anymore” (Actually, we’re from Chicago) We have a wonderful dinner at the Dar (Jamilla is a fantastic cook.) We walk around a little bit to try and get our bearings and then sleep for 12 hours.

DAY 2
Jamilla has arranged a guide for us for the day who shows us all the sites. He was great, and it was my own fault that I told him that I wanted to buy a rug before going home. I hate shopping, cannot make a decision, and let’s just say we ended up having the classic rug-buying experience of tea, a show, high pressure, and ended up paying WAY too much, but felt helpless to get out of it. But it’s a story we’ll always laugh at. That evening we walked over to Jemaa al-Fnaa square and got a drink at Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier and watched the show from the balcony. We then walked around a bit, but I found it kind of touristy and didn’t like seeing monkeys dressed up. We ate at one of the food stalls, which actually was quite good and a fun atmosphere.

DAY 3
We are picked up by our guide/driver from Desert Majesty. I had communicated with many different companies and found widely different prices for tour guides/drivers. Desert Majesty had a much more reasonable price than the others and were agreeable to letting me plan exactly where I wanted to go and where I wanted to stay. They just charged me a per day price. We stopped at Kasbah Telouet, which is absolutely amazing. We were the only ones there and it is just exquisite. In contrast, Ait Benhaddou felt very touristy. We stayed at Les Jardins de Skoura for the night, and like all the reviews said, we wished we had stayed two. We had a wonderful dinner in front of a roaring fire while a musician played his lute. There are so many gorgeous nooks and crannies to hang out in, but we just didn’t have enough time.

DAY 4
The hotel arranged a guide for us to take a long walk through the palmeraie. We then were picked up by Muhammed, our driver, and made our way to our next stop, Auberge Le Festival, in the Todra Gorge, stopping along the way to buy rose products in “Valley of Roses” and a stop at Dades Gorge. The setting for the hotel is incredible. We were the only ones staying there that night. We stayed in a cave room, and could sit on the front terrace and listen to the water trickling over the rocks. In the morning, we could hear the bleating of the sheep and goats as nomads walked them through the hills in front of the hotel. A very unique place to stay.

DAY 5
Muhammed took us to the market in Rissani. We saw a “donkey parking lot” and people buying and selling sheep and goats. It was colorful chaos and we greatly enjoyed it. But now it was on to the highlight of the trip. Our desert trek. After researching different treks, I chose Kasbah Mohayut because they offered several things I was looking for. I wanted to stay in a small, private camp. I wanted a 1-½ to 2 hour trek. I didn’t need a luxury tent since I figured I would rather be out looking at the dunes and the stars. And…..I wanted a bathroom. Mohayut was perfect. In the beginning, it was just my husband and I. Later, while we were watching the sunset, two other girls arrived. It was just a magical experience that I will never, ever forget.

DAY 6
We chose to stay another night at the hotel so we didn’t feel like we were rushing all the time. Muhammed did pick us up and take us to see Gnawa music being performed. We also had tea in a nomad’s tent, which was quite a unique experience. At this point though my husband wasn’t feeling great so we asked to go back to the hotel to hang out. Our room had a balcony facing the pen where they kept the camels so we were able to watch other trekkers leaving for the night. Fun to watch them.

DAY 7
Slept in and then drove to Midelt, sort of a half-way point between Merzouga and Fez. Stayed at Riad Villa Midelt where they had a nice fire and we had a fantastic dinner.

DAY 8
Azrou. We stopped and watched the highly-entertaining barbary apes. We then went to Dar Neghrassi, which I had read about online, and had a much better rug-buying experience. Not a lot of haggling, no tea, fair prices, lovely rugs, very nice shop-owner and his son. Our driver then took us to the bus station and train station in Fez so we could buy tickets for other destinations we’d be doing on our own, which saved us a lot of time and hassle. He dropped us at our hotel, the gorgeous Dar Seffarine. It‘s truly like staying in a palace. We enjoyed what was, unfortunately, to be our only night up on the lovely roof terrace as the next day the weather turned cold and rainy for most of the rest of our trip. We had a fantastic dinner at the hotel. It’s hard for us to get used to eating dinner so late though.

DAY 10
Walking artisinal tour with Culture Vulture to see and talk with local craftsmen. Highly overpriced, even though I know the idea is to help support the artisans. Visited the tanneries, which is incredible. Bought some pouffes and gifts. Just hate the haggling and always feeling ripped-off.

DAY 11
Friday is a holy day so thankfully things are much more quiet and laid back. We also had a temporary break in the weather so after visiting all the usual sites we stopped at a café by the Blue Gate and people-watched. There is always something to see.

DAY 12
Took the CTM bus to Chefchaouen and stayed at Casa Perleta. It was pouring rain, but I was still blown away by the beauty of the town. Like walking into a watercolor painting.

DAY 13
Gaped at and photographed the color blue.
Bus back to Dar Seffarine, where we had stowed our luggage. Last fantastic dinner at the hotel.

DAY 14
Spent the day packing and relaxing. In the afternoon we were picked up by a translator and two sisters from Plan-it-Fez to cook dinner with a local family. Another highlight and a wonderful way to end an incredible trip.

DAY 15
Train to Casablanca. Overnight at Ibis Hotel across from the tracks.

DAY 16
Cab to airport. The nightmare begins……..Cancelled flights, rerouting, 36 hours in airports and planes.

DAY 17
Home sweet home.

So hard to write a short trip report because I am leaving out so much. It's such a completely different culture. I have to say I was surprised to see so many cafes filled with only men. The women work very hard in the fields. I can’t even begin to describe the beauty of the scenery. The pink almond blossoms, the baby camels, the snow-capped mountains, the berber villages, the donkeys, the people, the haunting beauty of the call to prayer. It’s total sensory overload and just too much to put in a trip report.
Thanks again!
blackmons is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2015, 03:22 PM
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Sounds like a wonderful visit! Thanks for the TR and congratulations on organizing the trip.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2015, 05:12 PM
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Thanks for the trip report! I'm leaving for Morocco next week, going on a similar trip to many of the same places and staying at some of the same hotels, and it's great to read a recent report, as there aren't that many lately on Morocco. Glad you had a great visit!
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Old Apr 4th, 2015, 07:06 AM
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Thanks so much for reading my trip report. Yes, this board is pretty quiet. Have a wonderful trip! I would love to hear about it when you get back. One tip I learned too late -- when asking for directions in the medina, ask a shopkeeper when no one else is in earshot. Otherwise you will have an escort who will follow you everywhere. Also, get small change for tips whenever you get the opportunity. It is a fascinating country.
Bon Voyage!
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Old Apr 9th, 2015, 12:17 PM
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Sallam 'lekum and shukrran bezzef for the tantalizingly brief trip report, Laurie. It would seem that you had the typically varied and memorable Moroccan journey...ranging from over-priced carpets and wobbly tummies to amazing hospitality and desert serenity. Great traveling, well done.
Darren
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Old Apr 9th, 2015, 07:12 PM
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Great trip report. Thanks for sharing. Like lily3, I am also going next week to many of the same places... Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez, Chefchaouen, Atlas Mountains, night in the desert, Essaouira. Struggling a little with the clothing packing. When checking the weather it seems to be cooler than I expected. Perhaps shorts and sandals weather might more often be long pants and closed shoes. It also seemed that the Atlas Mountains were a bit hotter than elsewhere. I expected the opposite. How did your packing fare out? Thanks for your help.
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 01:51 PM
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I would never wear shorts and sandals in Morocco, no matter what the weather.
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 05:30 PM
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Well perhaps capris or a dress if it was very hot but I didn't think sandals were taboo.
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Old Apr 10th, 2015, 05:44 PM
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Sandals are fine.
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Old Apr 11th, 2015, 06:52 AM
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Packing....that's always a problem for me. Especially going somewhere where there is a wide range of temperature. While some people pride themselves on how little they bring (and I'm totally envious of those people) I always overpack. I did bring long skirts and sandals but did not end up wearing them. The rain made everything very muddy. We also were happy to have the extra room of a large suitcase to bring home rugs, pouffes, and gifts. I had a long raincoat with a zip-out lining that came in very handy and also T-shirts with sweaters for layering. Bike shorts were helpful for the camel ride. I brought along long underwear for the desert overnight because I heard it got cold at night, but with all the heavy blankets I ended up not needing it. I also never had need for the shawl I brought along.
Have a fantastic adventure!
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Old Apr 11th, 2015, 03:32 PM
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Great report, so good to read an up to date account. I am heading off to Morocco in Sept this year. Starting in Fez, staying at Dar Seffarine for three nights. I was wondering if you could give me more detail about the overnight trip to Chefchauoen, I am going to the bus thing for one night. Where did you buy your bus tickets, did the Dar help you with this. Did they take you to the bus stop? How did you get back from the bus to Dar when you got home? I am also leaving luggage at the hotel but I am joining a tour when I get back to Fez which starts at another hotel so have to do a bit of a shuffle when I get back. What time buses did you catch? I was thinking of leaving straight after breakie then I need to be back in Fez at the hotel by 5pm the next day. We're you happy with Casa Perleta? I am needing to book somewhere for the night and was strongly considering Casa P. Is it in a good location?

I hope you don't mind me bombarding you with questions but it is so good to read about your experiences and I am loving that you did the same things I am wanting to do.

Cheers, Schnauzer.
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Old Apr 11th, 2015, 08:25 PM
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Hi, Schnauzer
I’m happy to answer any questions I can. Many of the things you ask are questions I had too while planning this trip.
The bus you need to take from Fez to Chefchaouen is the CTM bus in the Ville Nouvelle. Their website is www.ctm.ma, but you won’t be able to buy tickets ahead of time online. It is strongly recommended that you buy tickets a day ahead of time though. We bought our return tickets a day ahead of time and were still in the last row of the bus. I had printed out the timetable and circled the time and date of the tickets I wanted. I showed it to the ticket agent to make sure there weren’t any language problems. You can take a taxi from the Rcif Gate in Fez, which is a short walk from Dar Seffarine, to buy your tickets ahead of time. On the morning of our departure, we took a cab to the bus station ridiculously early, but I was worried that we might have trouble catching a cab, which I had heard sometimes happens. We took the 11:00 bus, which got us into Chefchaouen at 3:00, with a stop for snacks. There is an earlier bus at 8:00 a.m., which gets into Chefchaouen at 11:45. I don’t know though if the schedule will be the same when you go.
Once we arrived in Chefchaouen, we caught a taxi at the station and had him take us to Bab Souk, which is the gate closest to Dar Perleta. It’s a short walk from there to the Dar, but you can call them if you want them to meet you at the gate. (We didn’t have a phone so someone walked us over for a small tip, but we could have easily found it on our own.)
Dar Perleta is in a very nice location, convenient to everything. I had read on trip advisor to request a room away from the mosque as the call to prayer can be quite loud in the morning. Our room was pretty tiny, but comfortable. They have a really lovely rooftop terrace, but unfortunately it rained most of the time we were there.
We caught the bus back to Fez the following afternoon, but that would get you back too late. There is a 10:30 bus that would get you back by 3:00, but again, you would need to confirm that in September. We had no problem catching a taxi back to Rcif from the bus station. It all went very smoothly.
Good luck with all your planning and feel free to ask any questions that you have. Hopefully I can help.
Laurie
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Old Apr 12th, 2015, 05:00 AM
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Thanks Laurie for the quick reply. I naively thought there would be several buses a day...wrong it would appear. Do you feel it is worth it for not even a whole 24 hours? I would catch the early bus up there but unless there are more buses say around lunchtime coming back it may appear not worth the long bus ride. In my mind and after reading research I thought it was only about a 3.5 hour ride. Sitting in a bus for 9 hours in a 24 hour period is not quite so appealing. Hmmm, now you have me wondering.... advice please....if I didn't go would four nights in Fez be too long do you think! I am arriving from Austtralia via Paris, so will need a bit of time to recover thus the idea of spending four nights before my tour starts. I will be a bit zonked for the first day or so anyway.

Help please... schnauzer
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Old Apr 13th, 2015, 05:31 AM
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Thanks for the packing advice. I also love to overpack. I just bought a new spinner suitcase that's slightly smaller than my previous one so that's where the packing stress begins. I hadn't even considered bringing a raincoat! Biking shorts for the camel ride, good idea. I was thinking jeans for the camel ride but maybe too hot? Besides, I already got in trouble for using the word shorts associated with Morocco.
I'm hoping t-shirts with long sleeve shirts for layering will work. Maybe a light fleece. And I guess there's no avoiding packing an assortment of shoes... sandals, sneakers, closed shoes. Thanks for your help.
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Old Apr 14th, 2015, 01:51 AM
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Sallam 'lekum all,
long2travel...I dare to enter the fray regarding appropriate attire:
Although wholeheartedly Muslim and conservative by nature, Moroccans are also understanding of, and have been exposed to, Western culture. Unfortunately, many Westerners take this tolerance to the extreme, and dress as if they were back home. Travelers will be treated with undoubtedly higher respect by all Moroccans if dressed conservatively. For men it’s worth looking around and seeing the type of dress generally worn by all Moroccan men: collared shirt or T-shirt covering the shoulders, long pants or jeans, and sandals or shoes. Running shorts, sleeveless shirts, and beachwear are only worn when playing sports or at the beach, and if worn at other times are almost tantamount to wearing only your underwear. For women, dressing conservatively can range from loose, long pants, shoulder-covering short-sleeve shirts, and shoes or sandals to a full-length Moroccan robe, called a jellabah. This rule of thumb covers both day and night, although is a bit more relaxed should you be visiting one of the country’s finer restaurants or highbrow nightclubs, generally found in the more cosmopolitan cities of Casablanca and Marrakech. Some of these establishments are decidedly more European than Moroccan, and the dress of the clientele often reflects this. I would still, however, recommend “classy” over “revealing.”

Women Travelers
Encountering unwanted attention from Moroccan men is unfortunately a possibility for female travelers. The relative lack of social interaction between the sexes in Morocco results in men having little exposure to women other than their immediate family. They often see Western women as not being bound by Morocco’s social restrictions, and perhaps have a not-so-respectful assumption of them via easily accessible Internet pornography. This assumption of availability emboldens the Moroccan male to make advances on female travelers that he would never attempt with Moroccan women. This generally takes the form of catcalls and straight-up come-ons. Blonde women may be singled out, and women traveling alone generally receive more attention than most.
Women on the receiving end of nonphysical sexual harassment should do what Moroccan women do: Ignore it. Showing confidence and self-assurance also seems to deter a lot of would-be Romeos. I’ve often explained the situation to female travelers by comparing the male harasser to your 13-year-old brother—full of bravado and not much else, especially when isolated from his friends. What you are basically trying to project is that you wish to be treated with the same respect and standards as Moroccan women, who regularly put up with catcalls but will never stand for anything more, especially unwanted physical attention such as groping. Should this happen, make a scene, and Moroccans around you will come to your assistance and often strongly admonish your attacker. If you’re in one of the major medinas, ask for the Brigade Touristique.
Dressing modestly—a long skirt and loose, long-sleeve shirt—can help. Having said that, I’ve seen Western women wearing jellabahs (the traditional robe worn by local women) on the receiving end of lewd comments. Traveling with a male can help you avoid verbal harassment; however, be prepared to call him your “husband” on occasions.
All of this sounds terribly negative, but most women never receive any harassment and are nothing but glowing in their praise for the respect shown to them. Try not to be paranoid or aggressive toward all Moroccan men. It’s extremely rare for harassment to go any further than the odd catcall or lewd remark. If you do need to escape at any time, head for the nearest salon de thé (upmarket teahouse) or cafe-restaurant (but not the local all-male cafe) to gather yourself.

This is just from my experience. Happy travels.
Darren
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Old Apr 14th, 2015, 05:51 PM
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Darren,
Wow, thanks for taking the time to give such thorough insight into appropriate attire and women travelers. It was very helpful. I will be traveling with my husband so I hopefully won't run into too much trouble from Moroccan men. As for the subject of attire… in all honesty I was really trying to find out more about temperatures and being too warm or too cold with what I plan to pack but since we're on the subject... do you think Capris would be appropriate?
Thanks for all your advice.
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Old Apr 15th, 2015, 11:34 AM
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Hi long2travel,
Capris will definitely be appropriate and also practical for this time of the year, where the weather can be cool or warm-hot depending on your location. Perhaps try to pack some lightweight clothing that will cover the whole range of temperatures. I often pack just my lightweight Columbia-brand rain jacket to cover both rain and the cold.
Happy packing, and I do truly wish you a wonderful journey.
Darren
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Old Apr 15th, 2015, 12:48 PM
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Thanks so much!
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Old Apr 16th, 2015, 01:46 AM
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"I have to say I was surprised to see so many cafes filled with only men. The women work very hard in the fields."

The women socialise in the comfort of each others' houses after they have thrown the men out. The hammam is another form of relaxation for the women. Certain tasks are traditionally allocated to a particular sex—men build the houses, plough the fields, plant the crops, trek to the markets to sell the produce. Children forage for firewood and fodder for the animals. Which isn't to say I disagree that women work hard, they all do.

Glad you enjoyed Desert Majesty. Although I don't use tour companies myself, they have a good reputation.
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Old Apr 16th, 2015, 05:34 AM
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"The women socialise in the comfort of each others' houses after they have thrown the men out"

I think this is an incredibly inaccurate and western male view of the situation.
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