30 October 2014 | Morocco
Ah! Morocco! I had been there 30 years ago, fresh out of college. At that time, I met some local college students who took me under their wing and guided me through the labyrinthian medinas and kasbahs. This time, we organized a private tour with an English speaking guide and a driver for our two families off Miss Behaving and Por Dos. Our guide and our driver picked us up from the ferry terminal at Tangier and we drove directly to Meknes and Fez, the most important of the old Imperial cities. For me, it was a trip back in time - to my eyes, life had not changed much in Morocco, except that everybody had cell phones: many people dressed with the traditional long dress over pants for men, and long dress and standard Islamic head dresses for women; cafes full of men, but almost no women; donkeys were still carrying unbelievable tall and wide loads; medinas and markets were crammed with local people and tourists, and the smells were pungent (both, the pleasant and the unpleasant ones).
Our tour took us to the Imperial cities of Meknes and Fez, the desert at Erg Chebbi, the famous Dades gorge, Marrakesh, and the modern cities of Casablanca and Rabat. Despite the amount of driving - we did close to 2,500 km in total - the kids (and the adults) did really well. The highlights were the trip to the desert, the city of Marrakesh and our accommodation throughout the trip. Our visit to the desert included a trip in and out in camel, and stay overnight in a Bedouin camp (modernized for tourists - we had real mattresses to sleep on). We woke early in the morning to climb the dunes and watch the sunrise, which was truly spectacular!
Marrakesh and its famous downtown square of Djema el Fna is not to be missed. During the day, the snake charmers (remember to agree on price for a photo before you take the photo) and food vendors fill the square. At dusk, the square becomes alive with local performances of music, dances and all sorts of street shows - ask Mark how he ended up with a rooster on his head. We had fun exploring the casbah and shops in the narrow streets of the medina on our own.
We stayed in what they called rhiads, traditional houses now converted in hotel/B&B/accommodation for tourists. All of them had a central courtyard often covered or with a roof that could open. The rooms opened into this central courtyard. Meals were often served on tables set on the courtyard. The rooms were on the luxurious side, usually humongous for European standards. Some of our accommodation included a bedroom and a sitting room. The rhiad in downtown Rabat was architecturally interesting and we had the place to ourselves. It felt like someone’s house that had been beautiful renovated but had kept the traditional courtyard with a fountain in the middle and open roof. I could have spent several days in that house just chilling.
At the end of our nine days, our guide dropped us off at the ferry that would take us back to Spain and our boats.