rough guide to morocco

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What is the latest version of the rough guide to morocco and is there likely to be updated version before we travel in April 2014?

Jean Kehoe 05/12/13    Getting thereAfrica Link Report

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I’m just back from a bikepacking trip in Morocco using the e-book on my kindle for tips. I’ve discovered a new Gite to stay near Akka and have a few updates. Should I email Rough Guides?

Farawayvisions 08/01/14    Link Report

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Hi there,

The latest version of our Morocco guide (10th edition) was published in April this year and will be the most recent edition of this guide for your trip.

Hope you have a great time!

Olivia Rawes 06/12/13    Link Report

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After eight months of anticipating and planning, we set off from our home in Upstate NY to Casablanca, the first stop on our Moroccan adventure. We planned for two weeks in Morocco which was the most time I could take off from my work and still allowing us to see a fair amount of this magnificent country. What made the trip even more exciting was that we were doing most of it with our son and our daughter, her husband and our almost 13 year-old granddaughter, six of us in all. This trip report won’t be a blow-by-blow, but rather impressions from a first-time visitor.

The journey began a bit tenuously. I booked a late Air France flight out of Detroit to Paris with a connection to Casablanca. The originating flight from our small regional airport was the last flight out for the day. A couple days before we left a light came on in my brain about being on the last flight out; if we missed our AF connection, we’d be out of luck! I called Delta and they put us on an earlier flight with no change in fare. As we were boarding, sure enough, Delta cancelled the flight we were originally on! Whew – close call!

We were advised not to spend time in Casablanca, but we especially wanted to visit the mosque as it’s one of the only ones in Morocco accessible to non-Muslims. We arrived from a short layover in Paris the afternoon of Thursday, April 17. Unfortunately, our luggage didn’t make the connection at CDG, but no problem, there was another flight arriving that evening. By 9:00 our hotel told us that the suitcases hadn’t arrived, so we went to bed hoping to see them the next morning. Fortunately, they arrived on an early flight but instead of being delivered to the hotel, we had to go back out to the airport to collect them. Our train to Marrakech where we were to meet up with the rest of our family left at 11:00 a.m., so our visit to the mosque turned into a trip back to the airport. Needless to say, we were disappointed not to be able to see the mosque, but so happy to be reunited with our luggage!

We stayed in the Royal Mansour Meridian, a Marriott, in the middle of the city. Normally we don’t stay in chains when we travel outside the US, but we wanted a western-type hotel knowing we’d be suffering from jetlag after a very long trip. It was a big, very nice hotel. Other than seeing the route to the airport and back – twice – we didn’t see any sites in Casablanca. Our impression is that it’s a huge, somewhat dirty and bleak city but that might be unfair given our short time there.

The train to Marrakech was pleasant and uneventful.

In all, we took three trains during the two weeks. We bought first-class tickets which were cheap by US standards. Moroccan trains are mostly clean and reliable. Each train arrived after schedule, but no problem. The trip to Marrakech takes about three hours and we enjoyed seeing the countryside along the way, a combination of hilly terrain, cactus and lots of sheep!

Sahara Desert .

Since we figured this would be our one and only trip to Morocco, we wanted to make sure we included a visit to the desert. It turned out to be the highlight of two weeks of highlights. Because our children had only 10 days, we had to limit our Sahara trip to three days/two nights. I found that most excursion companies don’t offer an itinerary that short because it involves too much driving. I did find Morocco Excursion Company , http://www.morocco-excursion.com/.

They picked us up from our riad in Marakkech. There were six of us, seven including the driver, The first day we crossed the Atlas Mountains and spent the night at a hotel in the Dades Gorges. I have a fear of driving over mountain passes, but surprisingly, this didn’t bother me. The scenery was breathtaking, climbing through lush greenery, finally reaching the top of the treeline, then descending again. We often remarked that it reminded us of the Rockies.

We stopped for lunch at Aït Benhaddou a kasbah and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We climbed to the top and were able to see miles into the countryside.

We stayed here the first night. http://www.riadvieillescharrues.com/. It was a rustic, charming riad in the middle of the Dades Gorges. We had three choices of lodging that night and we chose this which was the medium option. Definitely rustic, but fine for a night. It was a narrow gorge and that night was particularly windy which lent an almost eerie quality to it. We were served a delicious dinner family style with the few other boarders.

Our driver that first day only spoke Arabic and Spanish. Most Moroccans speak French, then English after Arabic, but not this young man. Our son speaks Arabic, but the Moroccan dialect is very different from traditionally-taught Arabic, so as the only Spanish speaking member of the family, he served as our interpreter. Looking back, it made it all that more interesting and exotic!

The second day we left early after another delicious Moroccan breakfast. A new driver, Ibrahim, met us in a somewhat larger (thank heavens) SUV. Once over the mountains, the landscape was flatter and more desert-y with low scrub. We passed through countless villages and began to see even more traditional dress – lots more burqas. We were interested to see so many women on donkeys with baskets of greenery. Our best guess was that they would make mats of some sort with it.

We had lunch at a cafe in Erfoud, a busy city on the edge of the dunes. After lunch Ibrahim took us on an off-road excursion through the moonscape leading to the dunes. We started to see a mass or orange ahead of us which got bigger and bigger as we approached. That was our first glimpse of Erg Chebbi and it was a thrill.

Marrakech

When you step onto Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, you enter another world. Several acres of cacophony assault you. The souq (the Arabic term for marketplace) is full of people hurrying in every direction, music, snake charmers trying to entice you to put a snake around your neck, men with monkeys on a leash, vendors selling everything from toys, ceramics, herbs and spices to beautiful vegetables. At night the square transforms into one huge outdoor restaurant. The daytime stands are removed in place of scores of food sellers. Tables are set and every 10 feet a different food hawker tries to lure you into his patch of real estate to have dinner. From what we could tell, the food in each place was relatively similar; Moroccan salad, skewers of different meats, couscous, sweet, sticky pasteries. Through the haze from the grills, there’s a wonderfully pungent aroma of Middle Eastern cooking.

People are dressed in every manner; men in djellabas (the ‘d’ is silent), the full-length “robe” that many Muslim men wear, women in full burqas, and Western dress. The vast majority of women we saw in Morocco wear at a minimum the hijab, or head scarf. They’re used to Westerners in Morocco, so although we didn’t wear shorts in public, our crop pants and short-sleeved shirts didn’t seem to offend them. Of all the places we visited in Morocco, Jemaa el Fna is one that I felt I didn’t get enough time in. Here are some photos of the square and Moroccan dress.

Some photos

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Marrakech and Fes

Marrakech is Morocco’s fourth largest city. Founded in 1062, its population is now just over 1M. You can see the Atlas Mountains which run north and south through the middle of the country. A number of well-known international names have lived in Marrakech including Yves Saint Laurent who bought the beautiful Majorelle Gardens, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the modern city known for its stunning “majorelle” blue. The 12th century saw the building of madrasas, or koranic schools. We visited one well-restored madrasa which served as home and school to over 100 boys and men for almost eight centuries. The narrow alleys of the old medina are full of pedestrians but if you’re not careful, you may be run over by a motorcycle, moped or motorized cart speeding around the next corner. The ville nouvelle, or modern city boasts a number of luxurious hotels, including the gorgeous Mamounia, a five star art deco property which has hosted the likes of Mick Jagger and Winston Churchill. We treated ourselves to a drink there one evening.

Fes

If the medina in Marrakech seems old, it’s nothing compared to Fes. Founded in 789, it appears to have stood still in time and you can almost picture what it was like all those centuries ago. Unlike Marrakech, there are no motorized vehicles in the medina which would normally give it a calmer atmosphere were it not for the fact that the streets (alleyways) are so narrow that the crush of people makes it frenetic. The medina is one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world. Fes itself is the third largest city in Morocco with a population of almost 2M. Driving through it when we arrived, it appeared to never end. We spotted McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut! :(. The old medina is so large that we didn’t spend much time outside in the nouvelle ville other than a stroll along a tree-lined boulevard where we stopped at an outdoor café for a morning break. We hesitated because, typical of most cafes, there were no women customers, but my presence didn’t seem to bother them.

When you step onto Jemaa el Fna square in Marrakech, you enter another world. Several acres of cacophony assault you. The souq (the Arabic term for marketplace) is full of people hurrying in every direction, music, snake charmers trying to entice you to put a snake around your neck, men with monkeys on a leash, vendors selling everything from toys, ceramics, herbs and spices to beautiful vegetables. At night the square transforms into one huge outdoor restaurant. The daytime stands are removed in place of scores of food sellers. Tables are set and every 10 feet a different food hawker tries to lure you into his patch of real estate to have dinner. From what we could tell, the food in each place was relatively similar; Moroccan salad, skewers of different meats, couscous, sweet, sticky pasteries. Through the haze from the grills, there’s a wonderfully pungent aroma of Middle Eastern cooking.

People are dressed in every manner; men in djellabas (the ‘d’ is silent), the full-length “robe” that many Muslim men wear, women in full burqas, and Western dress. The vast majority of women we saw in Morocco wear at a minimum the hijab, or head scarf. They’re used to Westerners in Morocco, so although we didn’t wear shorts in public, our crop pants and short-sleeved shirts didn’t seem to offend them. Of all the places we visited in Morocco, Jemaa el Fna is one that I felt I didn’t get enough time in. Here are some photos of the square and Moroccan dress.

Photos

https:/…6009218917199840065

Riads and Dars…

We were fortunate to stay in the equivalent of five-star hotels. But they’re more elegant guest houses than hotels. While there are many Western-style hotels in Morocco, we opted to stay in dars and riads. A riad by definition, is a building that surrounds an inner courtyard. The courtyard usually has a pool or fountain and is a quiet refuge after a day in the souk. ‘Dar’ means house. They’re usually very small; the most rooms any of ours had were seven.

Our rooms were exquisite. The bathrooms were beautiful, usually decorated with beautiful ceramic tile. No detail was overlooked. All three of our riads/dars had rooftop terraces. The terrace of our riad in Marrakech offered a view of two stork nests. We spent a lot of time engrossed in the nesting culture of storks; it was fascinating.

The terrace of our dar in Fes overlooked the entire old medina and from the terrace of our dar in Tangier we were able to see the Rock of Gibraltar across the Mediterranean. Since the weather was warm and perfect throughout our stay, breakfast was served every morning on the terraces. Breakfast usually consisted of yogurt, fruit, wonderful Moroccan bread, crepes, fresh orange juice and coffee or tea.

The owners of two of the riads were French. The owner of the dar in Fes is American. She painstakingly restored every detail of it over a period of years and hired a young couple to manage it. All of them welcomed us as family visiting their house.

I found all three Riad And Morocco Excursions Company on Trip Advisor after a lot of searching and reading reviews. I’d highly recommend each one.

Riads

Marrakech – Riad Badi http://www.riadbadi.org/fr/

Fes – Dar Roumana http://www.darroumana.com/

Tangier – Dar Chams Tanja http://www.darchamstanja.com/‎

Morocco Excursions Company ( Morocco Tours and Desert Treks )

http://www.Morocco-Excursion.com

ellende 21/07/14    Link Report

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Recently my friends and I come back from a Moroccan sahara desert adventure.

The Sahara. The most famous desert around the world, and a source of fascination for a variety of reasons. Stretching over 9,400,000 kilometers (or 3,600,000 miles) the Sahara reaches from the Red Sea all the way over to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean, making it roughly the size of China or the United States. Its huge, hot, and sparsely inhabited. In Morocco, camping in the Sahara is one of the most popular attractions and brings people from all across the globe. Roughly a week and a half ago, The Breakfast Club (to recap, thats myself, Chase, Melanie, Matt, Meridith, and Sydney) decided we wanted to go camping there before the weather started getting cold. We also decided to see if a few other people wanted to go, because camping is always fun with a few more people and we knew how high the demand was for such a trip.

Now, a lot of what we do here in Morocco is last-minute and hardly planned, just kind of hopping into a grand-taxi or on a bus and going until we stop. But for this trip, a certain degree of co-ordination and planning was required. So Melanie and I sat down to discover. After lots of google searches and trip advisor comparisons, we selected a company ( Morocco Excursions Company) with which to tour and emailed the guide for more information. The package we selected was a full day and night deal- starting with breakfast on the saturday and going through breakfast the next morning. ( here is the full itinerary from their website : http://www.morocco-excursion.com) We finally heard back from him on Tuesday and plans were set in to motion. In a group that started with 6, we soon found ourselves with 19 people. So until Thursday afternoon our plan was to take taxis from Ifrane (our town) to Fez (a bigger city roughly an hour away) and then an overnight bus down to Merzouga (the village on the edge of the Sahara) and do the same thing coming back. The problem with that ended up being the overnight bus would put us home around 8am Monday, and several of our group members had 8am classes. Then from there we discovered there was no official bus station, bus schedule, or way to purchase ticket in advance. That set off alarm bells all over the place, so once again Mel and I sat down to figure out an alternative plan. We ended up finding a private bus company, and with her mad French skills Mel managed to negotiate a bus to pick us up at school, drive us the 7 or so hours down to Merzouga, wait there, and then bring us home Sunday. It was a miraculous discovery that saved our sanity, time, and wallets. So everything was hunky dory and arranged. We ended up with 17 people, and finalized our plans less than 24 hours before our departure.

So Friday afternoon around 4:00pm we all assembled. Everyone had their backpacks, passports and a water bottle, and we piled on the bus to go. The ride down to Merzouga was relatively uneventful- I ended up watching World War Z with Chase (which is actually a terrific movie), and we had a half an hour gas station stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We finally reached our hotel at around 12:20am, and they had dinner ready for us when we pulled in. Guys, you haven’t lived until you have consumed home-made Moroccan food. The flavors, colors and spices they blend are both a work of art and delicious on so many levels. I wish I could explain what they made for us, but its too difficult. A sum would be eggs, lamb meat, bread, and lentils. So good. So after we were all stuffed we went to our rooms and slept.

Saturday morning dawned cloudy and cool, with enough of a breeze to be comfortable. We got up and had breakfast, then piled into four 4×4 offroading vans to set out for our daytime romp round the Sahara. Our first stop was a little village maybe two miles away, where we spent a while listening to and dancing with Sudanese musicians. They fed us tea and nuts, chanted and we had a grand old time. After that we drove across a volcanic rock field and looking for desert foxes. They are cute little white animals, with huge ears and gangly legs. The reason this is significant is because for the past two weeks or so our group has been in love with the new Ylvis song called “The Fox”. We were hoping these desert foxes would give us a hint a to what the fox does in fact say, but they merely sat silently staring at us as we ooooohed and aaaaahed over them.

After we had our fill of fox, we hopped back into the jeeps and set off to find the fossil mines. These mines were basically holes where they dig for quartz, fossil rock and other cool stuff that they then use to carve pretty statues, jewelry, etc. From there we traveled north to look at some abandoned fortresses, and to see the Algerian border. We unfortunately couldn’t get close to the border, but it was neat looking out across the dunes and knowing that just beyond these three hills was the country of Algeria. So back to the awesome rocks, we kept running in to nomads selling their carved wares. I ended up purchasing two of this little figurines, an elephant for myself and a camel for my Chase. It’s always fun to buy trinkets out in the middle of nowhere, because you get to bargain and know that you are directly contributing to someone’s livelihood. This is where I am a bad Arab- I like to get the price down, but still allow myself to be overcharged because I know every bit help. In a place where haggling is a way of life, I probably fail pretty spectacularly more often than not.

So post haggling and climbing and watching the guys strike gladiator poses, back in the vans to go find the lunching pad. I’d like to pause here and bunny trail for a second. Mel, Chase, Matt and I were in the “lead van”- the one with our main guide that was always in the lead. Mel decided that we needed code names for each van, so we could better keep track of who was where and so that each group would have a name. She ended up dubbing the vans Squad Alpha, Beta, Charlie and Delta. Of course we were traveling with several military kids, and it was hilarious listening to Chase explain to her why her reasoning was flawed and then letting her have her way in the end. Yet another bunny trail involves explaining the “family” dynamic that I have yet to mention: we are all very close anyways, and have reached that family attitude. Within that, the breakfast club and company have adopted specific roles. It’s kind of hard to explain, but just know that if you hear me causally say daughter or husband, it is within that realm. ANYWAYS! Lunch time. Our guide took us to a little cropping of buildings on the edge of some huge dunes. We were given roughly an hour to just relax, take pictures and enjoy the fact that we were IN the Sahara. Lots of due rolling, running, laying in the sand and pictures ensured. Lunch was delicious, they cooked what is called “Berber pizza” for us- think a huge pita pocket that is buried in the sand and cooked thoroughly. We had a great time sitting on the ground around the low tables, eating as much as they offered and laughing.

After lunch we did some more hardcore desert driving, stopping at an outcrop of rocks to take more pictures and look at the vast difference between the desert to our left and the volcanic rock land to our right. We headed back to the hotel after that to clean up, change into warm clothes, grab our backpacks and head out into the heart of our Sahara for the epic camping trip.

We reconvened around 18:00 (that’s another thing, time here is all military) and set out to the camel parking lot to choose our rides and head to camp. I was in the lead string with Chase and Landon, and we had a grand time choosing names for our camels and watching the sand go by. I named my camel Philipe, Chase named his Ben and Landon’s ended up being Walter. They were all lovely creatures, plodding along steadily ad trying not to throw us off. Side note: camels in Morocco are VERY different from camels in Jordan. They are smaller, single humped and the saddles are much less secure (at least in my opinion- I prefer having a front and back horn on my saddle, and lacking that was difficult) their pace was interesting; the Saharan sand is soft and deep, so half the time when they step they sink in. It isn’t so bad until they start going downhill and you suddenly see yourself falling head first off the camel and being trampled. Luckily that didn’t happen to anyone, and we arrived at the camp eagerly awaiting what was coming.

The first thing we did after arriving was put down our luggage and check out the camp. I removed my shoes (I know, barefoot for two days in a desert that is supposedly full of scorpions, beetles and other yucky things. All I can say is I took my BFF Joy’s challenge of YOLO to heart, and didn’t concern myself with what ifs. I would have been miserable in shoes) and headed out to check out the dunes. Our guide provided us with sandboards (like snowboards, but for the sand) and we spent the next few hours watching people sandsurf, sandsled, roll down the dunes, and other fun frolicky type stuff. It was a really good time, and an excellent workout climbing the dunes up and down. Although the whole day had been cloudy, a section of those clouds broke just long enough for us to watch the sunset. Honestly, I was born and will forever be a desert child. I love the sites, smells and feels of the desert more than anything, and one of the most beautiful parts of all that is a desert sunset. There are no words in any language I know that can adequately describe the feeling you get as those colors change, the quiet looms and you really feel like there is so much out there to discover. It is a sensation that cannot be compared, and something I hope everyone gets to experience once in their lifetime. But I digress. So after watching the beautiful sun set over the dunes, we trekked back to camp and sat around conversing. There were tea and biscuits, and delightful company. After that they started bringing out dinner, and as always it was completely delicious. For this meal the appetizer was rice, and it made me so very happy.

So after dinner noms, people kind of split off in to smaller groups to walk around, relax or sleep. I ended up laying out in the sand (on a blanket) with Mel, Meridith, Tyler and Chase, and we spent time just watching the tiny patch of stars peeking through the clouds and talking. Mel informed us that “THIS IS AFRICA” and we watched the earth rotate. We all fell asleep after that, and stayed out there until roughly 3am when we realized how cold it was. So we migrated to the tents and finished the night inside, dreaming of camels and s’mores. We woke up the next morning (didnt get to see the sunset, the clouds came back) hopped on our camels and headed back to the hotel. Everyone cleaned up a bit, we grabbed breakfast and hit the road.

We all assumed that was the end of the adventure, and settled in for the long ride back to school. About an hour away from campus our bus ended up getting pulled over, and we found out it was for speeding. It was an adventure dealing with that whole fiasco (the bus driver was trying to tell us we had to pay the ticket, which wasnt true because it wasnt our responsibility) but with some intimidation from our Westpoint men and some Arabic, we got back on the road and made it home in time for dinner.

3 days, 17 kids, and exploring THE Sahara. It is so much fun experiencing such a beautiful place with so many people that I adore, and getting to know my “family” better ever time we travel. I have been continuously blessed so far beyond anything I could have imagined, and am so grateful for just the opportunity to get to do half of what I am.

So that was the Sahara! There was a lot more detail, but much of it revolves around inside jokes that would merely bore you or other such things. For anyone curious I am absolutely having the time of my life, and waking up each morning knowing I am living in Africa is dream I have yet to tire of. I bid you all adieu, and Inshallah you will be hearing from me sooner!

Here is our blog form more adventures and pictures about Morocco: http://anospreyabroad.blogspot.com/2013/09/casually-conquering-sahara.html

Peace, love, and lots of shawerma!

Anna Barlow 25/07/14    Link Report

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