We wanted to take a few days to let our spectacular trip to Morocco sink in before writing to you regarding our time there. We had an amazing vacation! All the while we were there, we kept saying to each other “how are we going to remember all this!?!”
Here are a few impressions from our trip.
All the initial contact with Morocco Tours & Experience It Tours was great. Kit and Ruth were very helpful, and very timely in responding to our questions. The printed materials were very helpful, and got us very excited for our trip. All communication was very clear and we were never confused about anything.
Regarding the trip itself, Kit, you were absolutely right about Ryad. He was the perfect driver for us. We felt safe, always. He picked out excellent guides (especially Hisham in Rissani and Momo in Fes) and while we were on the road, he regaled us with the history of Morocco, and was able to point out all sorts of details about our surroundings. His English is terrific (very helpful to us!), and he has a great sense of humor. We dreaded the seven-hour drive from Merzouga to Fes, but that day was remarkable in its beauty and variety, and the trip simply flew by.
On a day by day basis, here are our impressions regarding accommodations:
La Maison Arabe was amazing. We loved it there. We had a terrific room, and the service was terrific. The food in the restaurant, particularly the breakfasts, was really great. We couldn’t have been happier.
The Berbere Palace in Ouarzazate was something of a letdown by comparison. It’s a very nice hotel, but it’s big and corporate and impersonal. Everything was fine, there were no glitches, but there was nothing special about it. It was good for us that we opted to eat outside the hotel, and Jane discovered La Kasbah des Sables, which was a wonderful restaurant, and which we feel you should have on your radar because it’s beautiful, the food is great, and it’s a very unusual place. The owner, with whom we spoke at length, is planning on turning some parts of the space into large overnight rooms for visitors. In our humble opinion, were this option available, this would have been much more in the five-star category, commensurate with our trip design. Stay tuned.
Palais du Desert was, sorry to say, a gigantic disappointment. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to laugh about it, but it was very sad. We were the only guests in the hotel, there was no chef apparent and Jane found her dinner and breakfast inedible. Breakfast looked as though it was a week old, and, while the few people we saw working there were very friendly, it was a bizarre and lonely experience being there. Most definitely not five star. Or four star, Or even three star.
In contrast to this, the Marahaba Desert Luxury Camp was simply amazing. It was a stellar experience all around. We had a great 4×4 driver, who, though he only spoke French, was a great guide and showed us many things along the way including an irrigation ditch, how to fertilize date palms, and he took us to hear some African musicians.
The camel ride through the desert was amazing. It was overcast, so we didn’t really have a sunset. But the camp was incredible. Flush toilet, fossil stone sink, and a hot shower. Really comfortable. Great food. The host was very personable and helpful. And our camel guides (evening and morning) were very sweet and gentle, and took us to see incredible things. As everyone predicted, this was the highlight of our tour, and, coincidentally, it fell on our 24th anniversary, making for a very special celebration indeed.
The Riad Fes was fantastic. An incredible place. Great service, beautiful room, and the restaurant was probably the best of our entire trip (we went back a second time). I think Jane favored La Maison Arabe slightly over Riad Fes, because the service is slightly warmer, and the environment is slightly less formal. However, both were really in the five-star category in our estimation, and made the time very enjoyable. Jane used the hammams in both places and enjoyed both experiences.
In Rabat, Villa Mandarine sort of fell into the middle. It’s clear that at one time it was a very special place, but it seems to have fallen a little bit into disrepair and it has lost its former glory. The environment is very nice, lots of antiques, especially rugs, and beautiful landscaping, but the room was so so, and the dinner was pretty disappointing. Jane’s fish was neither fresh nor edible, so made for an unsatisfying last night in Morocco.
Fortunately, the low points were far and few between. The various tours and guides were great. Ryad did an excellent job of picking out guides for us and making sure we got to the right place at the right time. The experience in the Fes souk was fantastic, and very rich, and we felt like we got much insight that we would not have had with a lesser guide. In Rissani, Hisham took us through what felt like a typical morning for a native, and this was very special, as was his passion for Morocco and Rissani in particular. Ryad also found some great out-of-the-way places for us to eat, where the environment was unusual and the food was great. This was one of the things we were hoping for in our trip, something approximating the local experience.
Volubilis turned out to be much more interesting than either of us had expected, and, even though it was very hot, we had an interesting guide who was very well read, and had done some digging in the various sites. The tour of the mosque in Casablanca, while a much more standard touristic experience, was exciting because of how grand the mosque is.
All in all, we had a great time, and we will likely travel to Morocco again. Clearly there’s so much more to see, that we feel we’ve just scratched the surface.
I think the broad observation we would make is that, having opted for the five-star experience, we shouldn’t have had the limited experiences of Palais du Desert, Palais Berbere and Villa Mandarine. I believe at one point, Jane was in discussions with Kit regarding Palais du Desert and a suggestion was made regarding Palais Masandoia in nearby Errachidia, but it was indicated that the price jump would be too great. I think that the five-star nature of the trip should have afforded us the level of service available at Palais Masandoia without question or concern for the increment.
Again, we had a really great time (it’s our favorite vacation ever!), and Ryad did a terrific job of making our trip special and unique and once-in-a-lifetime. Thanks for connecting us to such a wonderful driver and arranging such a spectacular trip.
Terry & Jane, USA (May 2016)