We finally took a 2 week trip to Morocco – twice postponed due to Covid – and it was fantastic! We had 4 couples and were there for 2 weeks, which allowed us to cover a lot of the country in an unhurried way.  We stayed at some amazing riads and hotels, and had a terrific guide – both of which really made the trip.  Below is a quick summary, followed by a bit more detailed one. 


Overall: We loved our trip! The people we met and interacted with couldn’t have been nicer, we felt safe the entire time, we learned so much about the country’s history, we saw so many different areas and terrains and feel we got a good sense of Morocco. We were not wowed by the food (rather bland adn the same 3 items on every menu it seems…) but found other options when we were not in the south. We had a lot of driving, but in order to get to the Sahara, which was a highlight of the trip, there’s really no way around that. We did get some rugs (yes, you need to bargain at most places) and there’s a big price range. And we left some behind that I now regret… They can ship them for your easily but still bring an extra bag if you like to shop as there are lots of inexpensive items to be found in the medinas (straw baskets, pillow cases, poufs, rugs, ceramics and much much more).  We stayed in AMAZING accommodations that we looked forward to having downtime in each afternoon, most often sitting poolside!


Planning: We booked the trip via Inspire World Travel (https://inspireworldtravel.com/), who worked with the Moroccan specialist group Cobblestone for on-the-ground logistics/bookings. The recommended accommodations, itinerary, guide, driver etc were all superb, as well as the customer service in general were all terrific.


Logistics: We had our guide Said and driver Ali (and a Sprinter Van) for the entire trip and couldn’t have been happier with them. They started as guide/driver and they ended as friends. Any issue we had or change we wanted to make was seamless, Said was a wealth of information (and humor) and we learned so much along the way.


Itinerary: Summary for 2 Weeks in Morocco: 


Day 0: Arrive Casablanca in evening. Sleep Casablanca (Hotel Le Doge)

Day 1: Tour Casablanca, lunch in Casablanca, and Drive to Rabat (70 mins). Sleep Rabat (La Villa Mandarine).

Day 2: Tour Rabat. Sleep Rabat (La Villa Mandarine).

Day 3: Drive to Fez, stopping at Volubulis, Moulad Idriss, Meknes. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).

Day 4: Tour Fez. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).

Day 5: Tour Fez. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).

Day 6: Drive to Erfoud, Merzouga (7 hours), across Middle Atlas Mountains. Sleep Erfoud (Hotel Chergui).

Day 7: Tour Erfoud, after lunch drive to Desert Camp (90 mins) in 4x4s. Sleep Desert Camp (Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp Tents).

Day 8: Drive to Skoura. Sleep Skoura (Le Jardins de Skoura).

Day 9: Drive to Ourika Valley in High Atlas Mountains after exploring Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. Sleep Ourika Valley (Kasbah Bab Ourika).

Day 10: Hike through Berber villages in am.  Sleep Ourika Valley (Kasbah Bab Ourika).

Day 11: Drive to Marrakech after lunch at Richard Branson’s lodge. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).

Day 12: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).

Day 13: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).

Day 14: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marracech (Riad de Tarabel).

Day 15: Early departures for some. We went on to Essaouira for the day and then to Casablanca for flight home.



If I were to do it all again I would have taken out one day by driving (a loooong day drive I know) all the way from Fez to the Desert Camp, skipping the night in Erfoud as it was not a great hotel and the following day in Erfoud could be removed entirely.  I also may have taken one day in Marrakech out. I would also consider having one fewer night in Rabat and adding in a stay in Chefchaouen, although I know it means more driving to what some feel is an ‘Instagram city’. 


Another way to shorten the trip would be to take Rabat out altogether, arriving Casablanca in the morning (direct flight from JFK), seeing the mosque and then going to Fez (stopping at Volubulis en route),  or just doing a quick 1 night stopover in Rabat before moving on to Fez (with stops along the way). The place we stayed in Rabat however we loved and it was a great way to get over jetlag in a beautiful spot.



More Detailed Description/Itinerary of the Trip, including sites seen, restaurants, etc:


Day 0: Arrive Casablanca in evening. Sleep Casablanca (Hotel Le Doge)


Arrived in the evening, checked into the hotel (nice!) and then off to dinner at Rick’s cafe, modeled after the movie version.  Fun dinner in fun atmosphere – touristy but still fun to do.


Day 1: Tour Casablanca, lunch in Casablanca, and Drive to Rabat (70 mins). Sleep Rabat (La Villa Mandarine).


Toured the Mosque Hassan II which is super impressive – the second largest in the world. Drove around the city and then had lunch on the waterfront at Le Cabastan before heading to Rabat. 

Our hotel in Rabat was beautiful – an old home and citrus orchards that were converted into a hotel. Pool, orchards, lots of sitting area and very laid back casual feel. Dinner at Ty Potes (after going to the wrong restaurant first) – French and good in a small, relaxed atmosphere. Had fondue and buckwheat ham and cheese crepes. Would recommend!


Day 2: Tour Rabat. Sleep Rabat (La Villa Mandarine).


-Walked around the walls of the 12th century Chellah (closed for restoration) which had storks all around it

-Drove to Le Tour Hassan, a half-finished mosque that is quite impressive. 

-From there did a walk along the causeway to the Kasbah de Oudaias where we wandered the alleys free of cars.  Beautiful right on the water. Saw the not yet complete Hadid-designed theater and new ‘rocket’ building (which looks totally out of place). Visited a beautiful garden near the kasbah, wandered the medina and into the modern part of town. 

-Visited the modern art museum, had lunch at local chicken spot. 

-Afternoon hang out at Villa Mandarine – which is beautiful and great place to hang by the pool or in the orchards.

-Dinner at Dinerjat in the old medina where a cloaked man with a lantern picks you up at the van and leads you through the alleys of the medina to the beautiful restaurant that’s hidden behind a nondescript door. Had the first of many tagines. 


Day 3: Drive to Fez, stopping at Volubulis, Moulad Idriss, Meknes. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).


Left around 9am to drive to fes … beautiful countryside full of Cork oak trees, Olive trees

Small olive trees from Spain – they die after 10 years. Grapes – brought from France. 

Stopped at fancy gas station with Starbucks 

Lots of Apples and Cherries (up higher where cold) as well as peach trees.


-Stopped in Meknes but a lot was under construction. Saw Bab Monsour – gate with columns brought from Rome.

-Ladhim square – market – wandered through the wet market with lots of live and dead animals and olives and spices. 

-Drove another 40 minutes to Moulay Idreiss Zerhoun for lunch. Great tiny town built into hill – we sat on side of road and watched donkeys and bikes and everything. Grilled food and the fry guy walking across the road delivery hot greasy delicious fries. So good. 

-Drove another 40 minutes to Voulibolis, an ancient Roman town uncovered in the early 1900s. Amazing mosaics and ruins. Our guide Rashid was terrific and we loved the visit. 

-Arrived Fez in the afternoon and walked down the alleyways to Riad Fez. What a wonderful spot! SO beautiful when you enter the small wooden door you are greeted by soaring ceilings, amazing tiles, fountains etc. It is made up of 5 riads put together. All the rooms are different. Amazing rooftop bar. Heated pool. Really special place. We were told not to wander by ourselves for fear of getting lost in the medina.

 

-Drinks on the amazing rooftop. Dinner at hotel which everyone really liked.


Day 4: Tour Fez. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).


Great hotel breakfast!

Got in van and visited

-Royal Palace 

– Wandered through Mallah – Jewish quarter

– Aben Dana. – synagogue

– Touhan ceramic co-op


-Walked around medina – tiny winding alleyways, exploring and trying local foods. People pounding copper, dying clothes, baking bread, selling everything etc.

– Visited Madersa religious school – fancy square – early 14th c

– Oldest university 

– Library – university 

-Went to rug place – lots rolled out and all bought but us. 

-Late Lunch at touristy place in medina. 

-Walked back to hotel. Went to pool. Some in group had hamman treatment which they said was torture. Too hot and too harsh. 

-Dinner at a hotel rooftop dinner – but sat inside, very hot, no alcohol, and food was not great. Forgot name…



Day 5: Tour Fez. Sleep Fez (Riad Fez).


No van today. 

– Walked through to the Tannery where they soak clothes in pigeon poop amongst other things in the process to tan the hides. Shopped for some leather items/clothing. 

-Antique shop – talisman – expensive stuff – pretty. Went to see fabric woven from agave which makes silk … washable … 

-Lunch on rooftop in Medina at Nayar Restaurant which we loved- so many skewers – and great vegetables – and big plates of fruit. Most expensive meal yet for some reason we couldn’t figure out, but was worth it (and we overorders x2). Cats all over. Very steep staircases. 

-Media wandering/shopping

-Audrey arrived! 

-Sat by pool for a bit. 

-Drinks on roof – had a Funky Old Medina 

– Dinner – walked to Ruined Garden in the medina. Great atmosphere – we had a

Bastilla – kind of a chicken pie – it was sweet and savory. 


Day 6: Drive to Erfoud, Merzouga (7 hours), across Middle Atlas Mountains. Sleep Erfoud (Hotel Chergui).


Big driving day. 7 hours plus stops along the way. 

Drove over the Middle Atlas mountains.


-Stopped at Iframe for coffee stop – sort of felt like Switzerland. Has silver birch, maple trees, a Royal palace (didn’t visit), Macaw monkeys

– Zaida – stop for lunch – known for grilling. Dusty little town and lunch was not good. Dead lambs on porch. Grilled meats again – not much taste. Lots of snacks … 


Stayed at Hotel Chergui in Erfoud- big Disney-type hotel. Cold pool that felt great. Buffet dinner … not a great place to stay but limited options.


Day 7: Tour Erfoud, after lunch drive to Desert Camp (90 mins) in 4x4s. Sleep Desert Camp (Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp Tents).


Visited Moulay Ali Sherif …17th century kasbah – from the sultan 

Wandered thru Casa – kind of neighborhood where lots of families and cats live. Electricity water and wifi in casa.

Visit neighborhood co-op

Shopping – chrissie got rug at 75% off, Kirsten bargained, Paul got compasses, we all got scarfs and tied into turbans. 

Went to fossil shop – marble cut and finishing …Trillibit 

Pizzeria for lunch


Met 4x4s for drive to desert camp – 2×2 – drive thru dessert – so dry, parched. Little towns in the middle of nowhere – rocky ground leads to sand dunes. ATVs dune buggies camels … 


Arrived at Merzouga Luxery Desert Camp!!! Tents set up in the middle of the desert. Sat in hot main tent for tea and almond biscotti. Had a little rest and went for a walk up the dunes. Little beetles scurrying around. 

Camel ride! Camels arrived for our ride up to the dunes for sunset – hiked to top of peak and waited for sunset. Rode back down and had cocktails (lots of gin and tonics) and dinner. Chef and workers played music – bongos etc … Stars were amazing! So many stars and Mars. SO BEAUTIFUL.


Day 8: Drive to Skoura. Sleep Skoura (Le Jardins de Skoura).


Bfast – woke up at 7 for coffee and sunrise – walked up sand dunes to see sunrise. Great breakfast with Berber omelette. 

The boys sand sledded and we packed up the 4x4s and drove back to fossil factory where we met Ali and Said.


Long day of driving. 


Lots of date palm trees. Beaten mud houses – women washing clothes in streams with kids swimming. nearby … Palm trees and mountains. 

Visited Todgha Gorge 

Lunch on top floor of a house – –  orange soup, bread, and platters of stuffed chickens – stuffed with rice olives and lemons and French fries.

Looked at rugs downstairs in the house.


Visited an old, famous Kasbahof Ait Ben Haddou – 70-80 people used to live in it (1 family, 3 generations) in the 17th c – mud houses, very beautiful. 



Met 4x4s for the ride to our hotel – Les Jardins de Skoura. Beautiful spot run by a french woman Caroline. Beautiful pool, rooftop area for drinks/breakfast, outdoor dining area. Low key but perfect. Swam, drinks on roof, dinner. Morocco salads and chicken thighs – family style and good. Date ice cream and cookies. 


Day 9: Drive to Ourika Valley in High Atlas Mountains after exploring Kasbah Amridil. Sleep Ourika Valley (Kasbah Bab Ourika).


Bfast on the roof – checked out and met drivers who took us back to Ali and Said.

-Went to kasbah Amridil- parked and walked across water on tiny bridges. Toured kasbah which was beautiful. 

-Long drive thru countryside up up up – past solar power plant. Looked like Utah. Lots of movie studios.

-Coffee stop – for nos nos coffee- overlooking unesco site Ben ait Haddou. 

-Hair pin turns through canyon …. With many abandon looking villages. Winding our way along a river dotted with flowering almond trees

-Lunch on patio in restaurant overlooking hillside – French fries and lamb and chicken. Looked at carpets across street.

-Drove over the pass at 7000’. Honey sold on side of road. Tons of litter.

-Left Kirsten and El at bus station to get cab to take them to Marrakesh. Drove about another 20 mins and met 4×4 drivers to take us to kasbah Bab Ourika …. Skinny dirt road thru village to hotel. Beautiful hotel with pool, grounds etc overlooking the valley. Good gift shop and friendly dogs and cats.


Dinner at hotel outside on terrasse.


Day 10: Hike through Berber villages in am.  Sleep Ourika Valley (Kasbah Bab Ourika).


Met our guide Hassan for hike in the hills next to our hotel – 2 hours – gorgeous. A dog followed us and prevented chrissie and Audrey from getting lost!

Afternoon to relax!  Sat by pool. Had lunch. Slept by pool. Had massage (50 mins for $50). Shopped for rugs in lobby. 


Dinner at hotel.




Day 11: Drive to Marrakech after lunch at Richard Branson’s lodge. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).


Met driver at 9 and he took us to amazing rug place La Source Du Tapis. Mohamad’s What’s App: 212-611-720-388, address: ‘Ourika vallee amassin 30km from Marrakech’. Worked with Mohamad. Great prices. Huge selection. 


Back to hotel and 4×4 took us to Said and Ali and we drove a very windy road to Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot. Wow. We walked around and had lunch on patio – burgers and fries and Caesar salad and chicken sandwich. Gorgeous hotel and grounds set in the mountains. 


Drove into Marrakech – bustling – dropped off on roadside and met by riad employees who took our bags and led us down the alley to Riad Tarabel, hidden behind an unassuming door. Beautiful Riad with courtyard, pool and lovely rooms. 


Walked around medina. Paul bought chess set made by father/son. Met Said – walked to the big square Jemaa el-Fnaa which was bustling! Saw them cooking snails and sheep’s heads. Snake charmers. Mass of humanity. Had a drink on rooftop and watched from above. Walked to the mosque. 


-Dinner: Met Ali who drove us to Sabhi Sabhi in new town. Cool spot – hip and all-female owned and run. Great dinner.


Day 12: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).


Toured the Medina most of the day until early afternoon. Went to antique stores, to Said’s favorite coffee shop,  to the Hidden Garden (gorgeous), and all around.


Lunch rooftop at Nomad in Spice area of medina – really nice.


Afternoon at the hotel pool.


Drinks at Mamounia Hotel. (we liked our Riad better – hotel is really big, although very beautiful).

Dinner at +61 in new town. Good! Run by an Autralian woman.



Day 13: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marrakech (Riad de Tarabel).


Leave at 930 and went right to coffee shop

Drove to Badia Palace and then to Mellah, Jewish quarters, synagogue. 

Drive to Marjorelle Gardens, YSL museum.

Lunch at Terasse dee Espices in medina- really nice vibe and good.

Pool time

Drinks and dinner at El Fenn – amazing views and fun dinner.


Day 14: Tour Marrakech. Sleep Marracech (Riad de Tarabel).


Coffee at famous Bacha Coffee in Museum of Confluences (super close to our Riad). Coffee place is beautiful – over 200 kinds to try. Museum also beautiful.


Final day to wander/shop. 


Dinner at Cafe Arabe. I’d been years before and liked it, but this time the food was disappointing, although the rooftop view is nice. Wouldn’t recommend.



Day 15: Early departures for some. We went on to Essaouira for the day and then to Casablanca for flight home.


Drove 3 hours to Essaouria, passing the argan trees (goats were next to the trees but did not climb them…), visiting an Argan co-op (this is only region in the world where argan trees bear fruit for some reason) and then on to Essaouria. 


Loved wandering the medina, which is on the Atlantic. Feels like more of a traveler town and is smaller/less polished than Marrakech. Great stores to visit are Histoire de Fille which was started by a frenchman and currates stylish items from Moroccan and Moroccan-based designers. They have a cafe next door where John was happy to sit with a coffee in the nice vibe while I shopped. 


Had a great lunch at Restaurant Adwak which is across the alley fro the well known surfer store Gipsy Surfer. Super cozy atmosphere and best tagine we had on the trip!


5 hour drive to Casablanca and then headed home!





Day 1: Madrid


Arrive Madrid in afternoon. Taxi’s have flat fee of 30 Euro to the city.


Checked into Air BnB


Wander to park area for sunset, to outside of Palace, through XXX area and then have dinner at Tintoy Tapas – wonderful small, quaint bar/tapas restaurant.


Day 2: Madrid


Slept in!


Wandered around Malasana district, filled with lots of funky vintage clothing stores and fun shops. Had lunch at XXX outdoor on the square (don’t miss the ‘basement beach’ which apparently is a fun evening spot).  Explored this and other neighboring ‘hoods in the afternoon before having a wonderful homemade paella dinner at Carter’s host family’s home.


Day 3: Madrid/Morocco


Visited wonderful Prado museum, wandered through the gardens, toured the Royal Palace. Then off to the airport and flew via a $30 Ryan Air ticket to Marrakech.  We were picked up the airport and driven 15 minutes to the closest parking area to our Riad. Cars can’t get into the narrow alleys of the area around the Riad so we were met by someone who then took us down the winding alleyways to Riad Darhani. It is a nice Riad in a great location. We could have increased to a more deluxe accommodation but it was perfect for us with a very kind and friendly staff to help us as needed.


Riad Darhani: Includes B&B in Double or Twin room(s) at this spacious riad with a swimming pool and large roof terrace, ideally located near the Dar el Bacha Museum in an antique dealers’ quarter in the medina, just a few minutes on foot from Jemaa el Fna and very convenient for the well known Café Arabe. No hammam at the riad, but a good one is nearby.



Day 4: Morocco


After breakfast we got the map of the area (be sure to get directions on where your Riad is as it’s not easy to find! – as we left I took some photos so I could remember where to make turns on our way home later). We explored the Jemaa el Fna square things were getting set up (terrific fresh OJ and we go great dried fruit). We opted not to explore the cobras, monkeys on chains etc….  We then changed money at the bank (lots of ATMs as well) and spent the day seeing some sights (the Bahia Palace was terrific, as was the Ben Youssel Madressa school).


We purchased rugs at Lahandira and they shipped them home, arriving in less than a week. They have mainly vintage but some new. The rug area off the Spice square has lots of options (I don’t know about shipping).

 

Lahandira: Rugs

From Trip Advisor:

Foundouk Namouss ”Draz” Sidi Ishaq Num 100 Errahba El QadimaMarrakech, MoroccoEmail: Lahandira@gmail.com 212(0)677423353/ 212(0)679225719It took some effort to find: when entering the souks from the right hand side coming from Jemaa El Fna, keep going straight ahead. Shortly after passing the spice market, there is a white sign with blue lettering above you that says “Lahandira”, directing you to a small white-tiled courtyard on your right. The actual shop is at the top floor of an old catholic church, stacked to the ceiling with carpets. While all of their carpets are priced reasonably, the shop owner and his son are specialised in vintage and antique carpets, which they buy directly from the Berber tribes in the Moroccan hinterland. Eventually, we went home with a lambswool Beni Ouarain carpet for a very fair price.


LUNCH:

cafe des epices – rooftop dining on the Spice Market square. Wonderful food (spiced turkey burger was to die for) and coffees etc. Nice hang out in the midst of the busy day.

www.terrassedesepices.com


More shopping later – poufs (leather and fabric), belt, gifts etc. Everything is negotation….


Dinner on the rooftop ofCafé Arabe. I emailed them via their site ahead and made a reservation which was good, as it was busy. Request a rooftop seat – great place for a meal and a drink(not all places sell alcohol, but they do).

CAFE ARABE – make reservations ahead of time. Sit upstairs

184 rue Mouassine, Marrakech (00 212 524 42 97 28; www.cafearabe.com). The first proper café in the sinuous alleys of the Medina, Café Arabe fills most of an old traditional-style house, with seating beneath orange trees in the courtyard and in a couple of colourful adjacent salons. It serves Italian food (the café’s owners are from Rome) and a lengthy menu of traditional, Moroccan and fruit teas, plus juices, a buffet of salads and pastas, and a selection of own-made quiches, tarts and pastries.


Day 5: Morocco/Atlas Mountains/Azzaden Valley


We were picked up at 9 by a man with a cart who wheeled our luggage out to the waiting car. We then drove approx 1.5 hours to the town of Imlil where we were dropped at the Trekking store. We rented sleeping bags ($5/day), met our guide and cook, saw our bags put into our donkey’s side packs and off we started on our 2 day trek into the Atlas Mountains. It was all up until lunch- starting through the town and then up the rocky slopes with a view of the snowy peaks around us. Lunch was served on the crest of the mountain – which was spectacular! The food that was made from what our donkey was carrying, spread on a blanket with view all around was terrific. After lunch and a rest we continued down the other side and came to the village (Usem?) where we were to spend the night in a Gite. The hiking in total, walking slowly, was about 4 hours. The lodging was a sort of bunkroom style local building (we were only ones there) and our cook made us dinner. There was no heating and as we were at high elevation it was chilly, but ok. You need your own sleeping bags (they have blankets) and towels if you plan to shower (cold water). No cars can get into the Berber villages here.


Day 6: Morocco/Atlas Mountians


Trek continued, leaving about 8amand walking in totally about 5-6 hours through a variety of terrain along the river. We went through a number of Berber villages and it was a beautiful walk. We stopped for lunch and then finished in Ourigane which is by a reservoir.


AZZADEN VALLEY (starts in Imlil ends in Ouirgane).

Includes transfers to AND from Marrakech (Journey time approx. 1 hour), Ouirgane or Ourika, 2 day/1 night trek for 2-4 people with guide, mules to carry bags, cook, accommodation in Berber houses or gites, all food and camping materials if needed (small tents, big tents, mattress) but EXCLUDES mineral water. Trek routes may be subject to change due to weather and local conditions, especially in winter (late November to March). Trek Grade: Moderate.

DAY 1 Imlil ——-Tizi M’zzik —Tizi Oussem —–Id Aissa

Trek from Imlil valley to Id Aissa on a five hour walk which takes you over Tizi M’zzik Mountain pass 2540m and down into the spectacular valley of Azzaden, spend night in village of Id Aissa (gite).

Day 2: Ia Aissa ——-Tiziane —–Azerfsane —-Tassa Ouirgane —–Ouirgane centre.

A downhill walk leading through the nature reserve protecting the Barbary sheep. Lunch will be served at a stop off en route to Tassa Ouirgane, another hour and half after that and you will arrive in the centre of Ouirgane travelling through olive groves and many Berber villages.


We spent the night at the Chez Momo hotel. It is beautiful with a pool, rooftop deck for reading etc, hot water (although ours wasn’t working really…) and very nice staff. We asked for an earlier pick up time the next day which they were able to do as our driver was from the local village.


Accom: Chez Momo, Ouirgane – Spacious, nicely appointed earth-built auberge overlooking the reservoir. Rebuilt in 2008 due to the flooding of the valley. Pool, pretty gardens, attractive bar & restaurant. No air conditioning in rooms, but fans are available upon request.


Day 7:Morocco/ a bit of Marrakech and back to Madrid


Breakfast at the hotel, then left at 9:30 for the 1.5 hour drive to the city. The driver dropped us near the square so we could have a few more hours in the city. Started pouring rain as soon as we left him (raincoats in the car) so we just did a bit of shopping (fabric poufs!) and had lunch again atCafé d’espice and then headed to the airport, and back to Madrid.


Day 8: to home

Caught an early flight back home! 


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