Our Morocco tour was amazing! I speak some arabic (Iraqui dialect from youth), and I’m pretty much fluent in French, which helped a lot. But regardless, we found that tourists who spoke only English also navigated Morocco with ease. The riads were very attractive and uniquely decorated, a very different and welcome old world experience.
The Food and Beverage: At the riads as well as restaurants on this tour it was in a word, excellent and plentiful at all times. There was typically a mix of vegetables and fruits with each meal, making for a well rounded diet that was both delicious and healthy. Morning service typically includes bottled water, fresh squeezed OJ and a choice of coffee or tea, eggs, a variety of delicious local jams and various breads and pastries. One highly recommended dish we had is called “Medfouna” which literally means “buried” in arabic. It’s basically 2 rounds of pizza like dough with a layer of finely minced spiced vegetables (with or without meat), buried and cooked in preheated sand – and here’s the kicker – it’s cooked without any barrier between the moist dough and heated sand ! You’re probably wondering as we did, how a bite of medfouna doesn’t also come with a mouthful of hot grit. Well, as the dough rises and expands, the sand particles stuck on the surface of the dough are squeezed out and fall out completely. Then as the outer crust hardens, it forms a further barrier to any adherence of sand to the outer layer. This dish is a must, and if possible have it made at the Berber village you’ll be taken to. I got the recipe (for oven cooking of course!).
Prior to arriving we were under the impression Moroccan coffee was not like that of Europe or North America. We were told it is spiced and served black. As coffee lovers who truly appreciate (and at times desperately crave) our morning java, we were pleasantly surprised that this style of Moroccan coffee is not necessarily the norm. Rather in virtually all restaurants and bars we visited, it was served from an espresso machine and if you wish, mixed with hot milk, which was exactly to our liking. In the riads it was primarily Brazilian filter coffee, which was also quite to our liking.
The Countryside: Morocco is very rich with culture and ancient history, with excellently preserved Jewish and Muslim heritage sites. When one walks through the ancient medinas crowded with merchants, tourists, and local shoppers, one gets a feel of Moroccan society as it once was ages past – a thriving and highly integrated society with delicious foods, warm social gatherings, and a rich variety of vendors of all sorts, where people of all socioeconomic strata socialized, did business and worshipped seamlessly.
There’s really so much to tell about our many stops, but for us the unparalleled highlight was the night in the Sahara desert. The surroundings were so picturesque, and other worldly, almost movie like. My evening ride with the camel guide was a special treat. The camel guide and I spoke some arabic along the way and he took photos of me watching the sunset, a selfie together, and one next to the camel. It was unfortunately a cloudy night but nonetheless very special and memorable. In Arabic I asked him the name of the camel. It was “What do I care?” which so perfectly matched its lackadaisical, unassuming facial expression.
Our Driver: Kudos to Rachid !! In a word Rachid was outstanding. His van was always kept immaculate with a fresh bottle of water from his cooler placed in the rear drink holders every morning. He was always attentive, addressing our questions about the culture and the scenery with warmth, depth of knowledge and sincerity. There are few roadways in Morocco that are 4 lanes except those leading in and out of major cities. As such 2 lane highways are the rule, which required extensive experience and careful judgement to safely pass other vehicles on a crowded route with winding curves, many of which consisted of slow moving transport trucks, motorcycle powered pickups, tractors, and donkey and horse carts. Rachid navigated through all with care and patience like a true professional, especially the extremely crowded major cities where distance between vehicles was mere inches, and motorbikes suddenly veering in and out of (as well as between) lanes. In addition Rachid was highly attentive to our needs for bathroom stops, ATM’s and snacks. But most importantly he considered himself a chaperone, always aware of our whereabouts and ensuring smooth handovers to guides, medina staff and baggage handlers.
Rachid also went the extra mile to please. Rather than doing what was planned for our itinerary in Marrakech on the final day, we asked if we could instead visit the industrial district on the outskirts of the modern Marrakech. We read there were stores with fine artisanal fabric, cosmetic shops, and high end furniture and curio shops that are rarely seen by tourists. Rachid was not familiar with the area’s boutiques and stores and addresses were impossible to follow on Google. Nevertheless, without knowing the area or location of the artisan stores, he readily agreed to take us. We roamed about the streets for at least an hour and a half in the van, finding various boutiques and larger stores that were scattered randomly throughout the industrial zone (about 1 square mile). Whenever we spotted a shop he would obligingly turn back, park and wait for us to browse and/or make a purchase. We bought a beautiful couch pillow with a stunning 2 sided floral design at a truly unique store (Maison Sarayan). It had an ecclectic mix of furniture, fabric, clothing and interior design items. As you enter there’s a spacious coffee/snack shop and juice bar,and further in, a grand show room with truly unique and spectacular artisan goods. At another location we saw a quaint cosmetic shop (Natus) where we purchased local scented soaps, bath salts and fragrances unique to Morocco. There are many other exclusive fabric, furniture and lighting stores hidden here and there which we browsed along the way. A couple of caveats: These stores are difficult to spot from a car as they’re hidden among heavy duty industrial shops (steel fabrication and manufacturing plants). In addition their prices are considerably higher than at the medinas, but the quality of workmanship and artistry (also very much in true classic Moroccan style) is well worth seeing, even if just window shopping. Without Rachid’s kind patience and cooperation, it would have been a missed opportunity to see a hidden of Marakkech.
Overall a big thank you Jeff, and especially Jill for her kindness and understanding of a problem we had there when we confused where we had to be for dinner. This was a superbly planned and guided glimpse into Morocco’s soul and we’re extremely grateful for having Morocco Tours do the heavy lifting. We most highly recommend it.
Ezra & Marilynn.
October/November of 2022