“…a special experience”

We returned on Friday evening from our amazing trip and I just wanted to let you know that everything could not have gone more perfectly!

We knew that, because we had so little frame of reference regarding Morocco, a driver/guide would be necessary to help us make the most of our time there. However, we did have some concerns before we left home about spending so many days with someone whom we did not know! Well, after day one, we knew that Youssef–with his sense of humor, his smile, his thorough knowledge of all things Morocco and beyond, his flexibility–was going to work out great with our family. Like you had told me, he was very open to introducing us to the more everyday things of Morocco, not just staying in the tourist realm and we welcomed those times!

We loved the whole Sahara experience, from the camel ride, watching the sunset with our Berber guide, dinner, music, campfire jokes with the guides and other guests. It was a lot more luxurious than I was expecting, which was a nice surprise. Food was excellent, the bed was great, though very cold outside of the blankets! We all got up to watch the sunrise which was perfect and were sad to leave such a fun experience.

We thought all the lodging was mostly excellent, unique and well situated. I loved seeing the expanse and beauty of the large riads (such as Riad Myra in Fes) but personally liked the feel of the smaller Riads (Dar) such as Riad Cherifa in Chefchaouen and Le Clos Des Artes. The roof areas of the smaller riads were lovely and all of the hosts in all three were very kind and accommodating. We especially enjoyed dinner at Le Clos Des artes, as the food was delicious and we ended up chatting for a long while after dinner with a family from Australia, and Massimo the owner. Le Doge in Casablanca was really unique, and served as a good bookend to the trip and was a really special place to stay. The Erfoud accommodation, Palais du Desert, was a really lovely place, with comfortable rooms and sooo much potential. As it turned out we were the ONLY guests there that night and it was a bit strange feeling, maybe uncomfortable, especially when we went to dinner and we realized there were no other guests! It made it feel a little empty or sad, but the people who worked there could not have been nicer. Was glad it was only for one night.

We all really loved L’Ma Lodge and could have seen ourselves just being there for a few days to chill out. What a special place, with a lovely host and amazing food. Would have enjoyed two days there just because of how pretty and relaxing it was, but arriving late in the afternoon and leaving early the next morning made it seem like a bit of a “lost” opportunity to enjoy it more and explore the local area on foot.

We enjoyed a few experiences with Youssef that made us feel that he created a special “entree” to the “local” life. The first time was as we were leaving Rabat on our way to Chefchaouen. He gave us the option of eating lunch in Rabat or along the way. Luckily we opted for the latter and had the opportunity to experience something that we would not otherwise have done. We stopped in a small village where a shop keeper was cooking chicken tagine in front of his shop and a butcher was inside offering cuts of meat to bar-b-que. We enjoyed partaking in the entire experience ( Youssef asked our daughter to help pick out the meat!), feeling that the food and ambience were authentic. Having Youssef eat lunch with us was fun and lively. In Fes, Youssef was kind enough to invite us to his home to meet his wife, children and enjoy a delicious dinner. It was indeed a special experience for all of us. In Chefchaouen he brought us to dinner at his friend’s restaurant, which as it turns out was one of the top rated trip advisor places in the town–small, intimate, friendly and we were welcomed like old friends. I don’t think we would have discovered it otherwise. Visiting the Sunday market and having tea with the Berber family near Rissani was also a fascinating highlight of our trip, as was our lunch of Berber pizza and especially chatting with the owner prior to getting picked up for our Sahara trip.

On some days, I think we may have welcomed the opportunity to wander around by ourselves, such as in Chefchaouen, but by the time we were finished with the Youssef “walking tour” part, it was late in the day and we ended up just going back to the riad.

We thought Marrakech would be a highlight, but after seeing other parts of the country first, we were less intrigued than we thought we’d be! We felt more parts of the country to be more “exotic” and interesting, and the hectic scene around the main square was not as enticing as we thought it would be, and it just felt touristy.

If there was one thing that we felt was a negative it would be the uncomfortable feeling we had when we visited the rug merchant in Fes. I realize that seeing these creations, which are part of the Moroccan culture, is important, and that as a guide it is part of their service, but it left us a bit uncomfortable–especially the part after he took out 20 carpets and we had to say “yes” or “no” to each one as he took them away! We enjoyed the tour of the ceramics cooperative and didn’t feel the pressure to purchase (though we did purchase some pretty items). We realized that this was part of promoting the local economy to the tourists but initially we felt a little “blindsided” at the carpet place. On the other hand I was happy to bargain with the Berber merchant with the little shop in Ksar Ait ben haddou and buy some Hamsas from him. Even though Youssef brought us there with the intent for us to browse, the experience felt more authentic and I was happy to give the business to this particular man and enjoy a little friendly rapport while doing so.

I’ve attached a few photos from our trip!

Lisa, Matthew, & Cara, USA (January 2017)