It was a long held dream of mine to get back to Morocco. I had first visited in 1987 as a backpacker and desperately wanted to go again with more time, money and better accommodation!
Morocco is not somewhere to try and travel independently without endless days and patience so I talked a couple of friends into coming with me and headed off on Intrepid’s Best of Morocco. A small group tour is a great way to see this country as the distances are not great and you can get into tiny villages and off the beaten track easily. It also is very varied in geography, in 15 days we travelled from the ocean, to plains, to mountains, the desert and back to the ocean.
We started off in Casablanca which, despite the romantic connotations, is quite an unattractive city and we didn’t linger. We headed off to the first of four imperial cities on the tour. We travelled by train to Rabat and you arrive in an unexpectedly modern and stylish part of the city. It doesn’t take long however, to walk down to the old part of the city and wander through the markets with the locals and wind your way down to the sea. It is the first taste of the wonderful architecture and colour of the old Morocco and it is beautiful.
We then started to head inland and arrived in Meknes, and even though Rabat was impressive Meknes is even more so. Our guide was truly brilliant and brought the history alive for us and in fact many of these people are still living in the old souks with very traditional lifestyles. The tiles and the carvings and the mosaics are so vivid and the whole place is vibrant and enticing. Unbelievably, Fez the next day blows us away even more with rambling lanes you get lost in and we spent the day squeezing and ducking and turning corners into even more beguiling areas. We visited the famous tanneries and other craftspeople and a lot of the group started filling their suitcases with goodies. In the evening we ate a traditional meal in a family home that was delicious from the first to the fifth course!
Next stop the desert and any fears I had that all those iconic photos you have seen were photo-shopped disappeared. It truly is that gorgeous apricot colour contrasted with the bluest of skies. The camel ride wasn’t as awful as I had anticipated and the view overwhelmed the smell and the slight discomfort…..unmissable beauty.
The next part of the trip through the Todra Gorge was the Morocco of my imagination, a road following the oases and narrow strips of palm trees dotted with mud brick fortresses (kasbahs). It is hard to picture somewhere so unique and special anywhere else. Swimming in the pool of our hotel with this in the background was a real treat. We then travelled on past nomadic camps to the High Atlas mountains, tree covered and with stone buildings they could almost be in Europe and are a nice retreat from the heat.
Essaouira on the coast is quite different again, all white and blue and relaxed, it is an easy place to wander alone and eat great seafood and a less frenetic place to shop. Lots of rooftop bars with sea views complete the chill out factor.
We finished our tour in Marrakech of the famed souk filled with jugglers, snake charmers and the smell of 100 street stalls competing for custom. Gorgeous riads (old buildings around a central courtyard converted into hotels) line the lanes and restaurants and shops abound. A crazy, busy town but with lovely garden pockets to escape to and a high to finish on.
Morocco was amazing in every way, the food, the people, the architecture, the crafts, the accommodation was all brilliant and our tour covered it all. I really felt as if I had seen all the highlights and I couldn’t fault our guide or the organisation. I would go again tomorrow!!!