Morocco is a fascinating place to visit. We could not have asked for a more diverse country to explore, ranging from bustling city to tiny town to farmland, from modern buildings and hotels to medinas, adobe homes, kasbahs and riads, and from snow covered mountains to a barren desert of sand dunes to the Atlantic Ocean. We even stopped at a little town called Ifrane that looked like a Swiss village. Who would have expected that?
For us, the wonderfully photogenic Chefchaouen probably best qualifies as our most memorable experience in Morocco, with the huge Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the authentic souk in Rissani, and the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou outside Ouarzazate tied for second. And of course, no trip to Morocco is complete without a camel ride into the Sahara. We found the medina in Fes particularly fascinating, but we didn’t care that much for the market, the hagglers, and all the mini bikes zooming around in Marrakesh. It made us wonder if it might have made more sense to schedule the trip backward, saving the best for last.
As nice as the hotels were, we enjoyed the times we stayed in riads. They tend to be cold in the winter, even with the heaters going full blast, but they truly gave us a feel for how the people, at least those more well-to-do, used to live. One of the most interesting things we learned about the Moroccan culture is their preference to keep their home exteriors simple and uninviting while the hidden interiors are beautifully finished and furnished.. We also enjoyed the excellent authentic meals served in the riads even more than the buffets at the hotel.
I must add that the weather cooperated throughout our entire trip. We’d been warned that January was the rainy season, but except for a snowfall crossing the Lower Atlas Mountains en route to Erfoud, we had absolutely gorgeous weather with bright blue skies that were ideal for photography. Admittedly, it was quite chilly at times, and that may be the main reason that January is their winter low season, but I think we made a great choice of times to visit Morocco.
Rostom was excellent – always on time, upbeat, entertaining, and helpful. We never felt nervous with him driving, even when we crossed the High Atlas Mountains with steep drop-offs along the side. He was very attentive to our well being and went out of his way to please us in any way he could. He arranged for top notch local guides who were knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and added his own perspectives while we were traveling. Though not on our official itinerary, he also took us to Rissani on the morning before we drove into the desert, and since we’re very interested in experiencing local culture, that proved to be one of our most interesting stops.
This note wouldn’t be complete without thanking Kit, Ruth, and the rest of the Morocco Tours staff for putting together a well organized trip that went pretty much flawlessly. It was great to be able to speak to Kit on the telephone before we left to clarify the few questions we had after looking through your thorough pre-trip package. And we sure are glad you warned us to bring our heavy coats!
Eric & Ellen, January 2012