Morocco feature: Modern Table Fes Tile Factory

Morocco Accommodation

In Travel, Morocco by tony3 Comments

Morocco featured image: Modern Table, Fes Tile Factory

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  17 March 2017

Morocco Accommodation Variety

AirBNB & Other, October 2016

Introduction

In planning our trip we used personal recommendations from friends who had been to Morocco twice and an acquaintance we stayed with in far Western NSW who all loved Morocco, and also from some well travelled budget accommodation friends who’d visited Morocco last summer and were equivocal about it. All were right in their own ways.

Another friend put us in contact with Kate who was involved in the management of a Riad in Marrakech. Kate was endlessly patient in answering my questions and we stayed with her in Marrakech.

In consequence in planning the trip and almost by accident, we ended up with a varied range of accommodation in both standard and price. Most was chosen beforehand and we were pleased with the result, which added to our holiday experience. All the accommodation was either as expected or better. The bulk was also through Air BNB, though only two were private accommodation.

For more information on AirBNB, particularly its early history, see AirBNB Adventures1: Italy & Sicily 2012. For contact details on the accommodation see Further Information below.

Chefchaouan houses

Chefchaouan houses


Morocco Accommodation

(all fees are for 2 people)

Ceuta, Spain (Africa)

Private Room (AirBNB), 1 October 2016

1 night $34 AUD (23 EUR)

Ceuta as the guidebook says is a pleasant Spanish town in Africa. We’d stayed the previous night in Algeciras, which was also much nicer than the guidebook intimated. There was not much budget AirBNB accommodation in Ceuta, though this has changed. Ana picked us up at the ferry and after a brief orientation drove us home along the esplanade to a block of units not far from the sea. The units were — as our accommodation in Madrid — in a transition area. The blocks looked slightly unkempt from the outside (around 1930s), but inside the apartment we stayed in was relatively modern, renovated and comfortable.

Horse, Fes Medina

Horse, Fes Medina Quarter

Our accommodation was a pleasant private room with a shared bathroom and kitchen. Ana explained directions and gave us the options to walk or bus into town. We walked along the lovely esplanade twenty minutes to the beginning of the centre. The centre of Ceuta was cosmopolitan and interesting. After promenading with the Saturday shoppers and enjoying lunch in a tapas bar, we walked back through the middle of the peninsular and up the hill getting a little lost on our way back in the heat of the day, but overshooting by only a little.

We missed seeing the Spanish Foreign Legion Museum because it was the wrong Saturday of the month, which was a pity.

As outsiders we were not aware of the bitter territorial war fought with Morocco by the Spanish Foreign Legion. It was the battle hardened veterans of General Franco from Africa, however, that turned the early course of the Spanish Civil War and eventually put Spain into a stultifying military dictatorship. Spain hangs onto Ceuta in much the same way that Spain complains about Britain and Gibraltar.

We had a fine time in Ceuta walking back down the hill towards the city in the evening and coming upon a slightly grubby, but family orientated square of restaurants and a supermarket. We were enticed by the kebabs and fish grilling outside a bar and had an enormous but delightful meal (a problem in translation) with beer and wine.

Ana and Luis cooked us a lovely breakfast in the morning and couldn’t have been nicer as hosts. They took us for an outer Ceuta sightseeing trip before dropping us at the border the following morning and helping us to change money. On the hills above Ceuta, although the sea mist spoiled the view, one was struck by the continuing strong military presence.

The accommodation was not five-star, only a private room, but it was spotlessly clean and the amenities were excellent. Ana and Luis were an interesting and delightful young couple. Many of their guests are middle class Moroccans in Ceuta for the shopping. Morocco is wonderful for fresh fruit and vegetables, but not for consumer goods. Ana and Luis used to shop in Morocco for fruit and vegetables, but as their car is from the mainland and owned by Luis’ father they can no longer just pop across the border. The red tape and paperwork has become too onerous.

Highly recommended and exactly as shown on AirBNB.

Lower Dadès Valley

Lower Dadès Valley


Morocco

We had no trouble crossing the border in the middle of the day or getting a taxi at a reasonable rate for Tétouan. However, later we heard the border crossing can be difficult at peak times in the early morning and evening. One has to be careful of one’s possessions and touts, and the border guards can be very rough with the locals.

The drive to Tétouan was on good dual carriage roads. Although we did see an accident between a new Mercedes and a delivery van. Morocco was a shock on this journey because I’d expected run down and poor; whereas the whole drive along the coast was past endless upmarket but seemingly deserted resorts, most of them new. Part of the youngish King’s drive to encourage tourism.


Tétouan houses from our Riad

Tétouan houses from our Riad

Tétouan

Riad Tetuan, private room (AirBNB), 2 October 2016

1 night $69 AUD (47 EUR)

We were dropped off at the entrance to the Tétouan medina, which after the touristy approaches to town is at the moment little touched by tourism. It is a genuine ancient and large medina still functioning in a traditional way (not quite as large as Fez, but impressive). Tétouan is a great place to begin one’s explorations of Moroccan medinas.

After being dropped by the taxi, we phoned our Riad and were met by Abdul after a few minutes, who walked us through the maze of streets to the Riad (actually not hard to find).

Abdul & Denise in Tétouan Medina Quarter

Abdul & Denise in Tétouan Medina Quarter

The Riad Tetuan was relatively small. It had a lovely entrance area and our room was on the third floor. We settled into the room, which was quirky but very comfortable. Abdul made us local fresh mint tea, which we drank in a pleasant outside lounging area.

The key architectural feature of Tétouan medina is the enclosed square around the royal palace entrance, but it is not a focal point as the police or royal guard keep the populace out of the square and one is only allowed to circulate along the edges, even though the king is rarely in residence.

Abdul took us on a long tour of the medina in the late afternoon, which was necessary, as we’d not have found our way around alone immediately. Abdul also took us to another Riad for dinner, our first tagine, which was reasonable but not special.

We also explored a little the following morning before heading for the bus station to catch a bus to Chefchaouen. This was easy and uncomplicated. On the way to Chefchaouen we saw the real Moroccan countryside for the first time. The country here is more fertile than we saw later on, but it is obvious that though the countryside is idyllic to view, life is tough in rural Morocco.


Chefchaouen

Riad Baraka, 3-6 October

3 Nights $87.70 AUD (60 EU), $29 per night (20EU)

Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains was a shock after Tétouan, because it is a real tourist town with all the accoutrements of tourism throughout the old city. Nevertheless, it is also a delightful place. The famous blue city. Off limits to Christians until the 1920s — they killed you — it now thrives on the tourist dollar. However, the locals are friendly and helpful. Although, we did see a rather vicious fight between young locals with rocks on the edge of town. Friends from both sides eventually pacified the angry participants.

Chefchaouan, Blue City

Chefchaouan, Blue City

Our Australian friends, inveterate travellers, had alerted us to Riad Baraka and we weren’t disappointed. The Riad is run by an English woman, aided by volunteers with temporary accommodation, and friendly Moroccan staff. Although small, Riad Baraka is really a cheap hostel, but run so efficiently, with such a good atmosphere that it transcends what one expects from low price accommodation. We stayed in one of three doubles, the rest of the accommodation is bunk rooms both large and small.

There is a pleasant downstairs area where most have breakfast. There are two types of breakfast. Both are excellent, but the fruit salad (of in season fruit) with yoghurt is fabulous. There is also a large rooftop terrace with wonderful views across the city. The terrace is a good place to relax with tea or coffee and to talk with the other guests especially at dusk. Riad Baraka is highly recommended and a good place for information.

Chefchaouen is a great place to wander around and to explore. Despite being touristy, it has a good atmosphere. There are also good walks into the countryside. Unfortunately, I got food poisoning on our second evening and was sick for our last day, so we didn’t go walking.

We’d booked a bus on our second day in Chefchaouen well-ahead of departure (on advice from the guidebook and the Riad). We caught it to Fez late morning. The bus ride was about 4 hours but comfortable and interesting.


Basket Shop, Fes Medina

Basket Shop, Fes Medina

Fes

Alya, private room (AirBNB) 6-11 October

Riad Naila

5 Nights $298 AUD, $59.60 per night (40.50 EUR)

Public Fountain, Fez Medina

Public Fountain, Fes Medina

We arrived late afternoon but had no trouble getting an excellent private taxi (at double the going rate, but nothing) with an English speaking guide. He was most likely looking for further business from us, but soon realised we weren’t the right type of customer for him.

Riad Naila was easy to get to from a carpark and in a very quiet enclave tucked away from the main medina, but barely five minutes walk from the two walking thoroughfares through the bazaar. We loved Fez as most people do. The medina is the largest in Morocco.

We also stayed longer than most people do. Our guide organised by the Australian friend did not turn up. This led to us getting a guide through the hotel, most of whom were excellent. Ours, however, was a relic of the old school of touts, pleasant for the first part but venal and manipulative under the surface. The worst experience was a ‘supposed’ government carpet emporium with a hard sell equivalent to the worst I’ve experienced anywhere. The guide thought our stay five days was too long. Tourists are meant to be cash cows, kept docile and milked frequently, then moved on quickly. The medina is daunting at first. But, after a day (or even immediately) navigating your way through the medina isn’t difficult and getting lost is part of the fun. It isn’t that big and most people in the medina are friendly and helpful. A guide should enlighten and inform, not take one shopping.

Riad Naila was an excellent place though small and old. The main downstairs foyer was lovely (as shown in the AirBNB pictures). Our room overlooked this and was spacious and comfortable. The staff were excellent, really helpful and kind. The location could not have been better. We had breakfast on the rooftop terrace and enjoyed our stay immensely.

I’m sure there are many good places to stay in Fez, but we’d recommend Riad Naila highly.

Middle Atlas

Middle Atlas

One day we caught a petit taxi (the going price in most places in Morocco is 10 dirham — MAD, nothing) to the train station and a train to Meknes (about 45 min). Then we were lazy and hired a taxi to take us to Volubilis and back. It was about quarter the price of taking one all day from Fes and quite reasonable. Volubilis with its Roman ruins is a must see. Meknes was also quite interesting. Getting to and from Meknes by train was easy.

After a pleasant and relaxing day with no time pressure we arrived back in Fes about 5.30 pm. We thought this was an ideal time to visit the new town and enjoy the Sunday promenade. We spent a pleasant time in a coffee shop watching the passing parade and some time wandering and searching for a particular restaurant. We had no trouble catching a taxi home about 11 pm, which cost 20 MAD double the day rate, but also correct.


Nourdine in Mid Atlas

Nourdine Driving

Hire car and driver

Fes to Marrakech, 11-15 October

On our last morning in Fes we were picked up by Nourdine Kradi (see below for contact information). Our Australian contact who runs the Riad in Marrakech connected us with Nourdine. I am always rather stingy with money and hiring a car and driver in Morocco is expensive. We thought, however, certainly afterwards, that it was well worth it!

You could go most of the places we went by bus, but you couldn’t travel easily to many of the tourist sites, nor get the specialist information and advice needed.

Nourdine had worked as a chef in Italy for seven years, has a Scottish wife, owns his own car (a large plush 4-wheel drive) and speaks perfect English. These assets, plus a lifestyle and attitudes similar to our own, made him the perfect companion on our trip through the middle and high Atlas Mountains.

Hassilabied Village, Merzouga

Hassilabied Village, Merzouga


Merzouga

Camel Tour Sahara 11-13 October

Village House in Hassilabied Village

2 Nights $34 AUD, $17 per night (11.60 EUR, deposit for a package)

Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi (iphone photo)

It is a long trip to Merzouga from Fes but a fascinating one. Nourdine stopped for lunch at an Afriquia gas station where they cooked tagines and barbecue meat over an open brazier (see photo below). This was the best and possibly the only authentic tagine we had in Morocco. In restaurants they tend to cut corners and make tagines as stews, and not cook them slowly for hours over coals.

Merzouga offers a tourist experience but one that had been recommended by all of our friends and acquaintances. We also thought it was well worth it. Basically, Merzouga is a couple of villages on a road past Erg Chebbi. Erg Chebbi is an area of shifting sand dunes covering a moderately large area capable of giving one an experience typical of the Sahara Desert without having to spend much time doing it. The package offered at Merzouga is similar everywhere but offered at different standards. Basically, you take a 4-wheel drive or a camel into the sand dunes to a fixed camp in the desert, spend the night and head back next morning. The 4WD option is not recommended (unless you are disabled). The area of dune is not that big and the camel ride is a much better and more eco friendly alternative.

Camel Trip on Erg Chebbi

Camel Trip on Erg Chebbi (iphone photo)

Most of the people operating here are Berber or as they call themselves Amazigh. (Berber is a corruption of the French for barbarian; hence somewhat problematic.)

Staying at a resort (with a pool in summer) is much more luxurious, as can be the desert camp but it is also very expensive. I’d researched our accommodation through AirBNB and chosen a cheap but I felt authentic alternative. Our trip included two nights deposit at Hssaine’s house (we stayed one night and left our things there on the second night and had a shower when we returned from the desert), plus food for us and our driver the night we arrived. We had the camel tour to the desert in the late afternoon and our second night was spent in a comfortable double bed in a tent in the desert. This included sunset on the dunes and dinner and breakfast.

All up it cost us 800 dirhams (MAD) plus a large tip or $108 AUD (for 2; 73.70 EU) for everything Hssaine provided. Elsewhere this would have cost us 3 to 10 times as much. Hssaine caters mainly for backpackers who are very price conscious. As he says you can do it even cheaper than this, but the quality declines drastically. We didn’t think that what we experienced differed much from the top end. And, as it wasn’t fiercely hot we felt that staying with an authentic Berber family in their own compound and village — Hassilabied Village — was a better experience than a resort.

Hssaine and his wife are wonderful hosts. Hssaine speaks good enough English and is a bit of a philosopher. Although he has something to learn still about backpackers and did not understand that Nourdine was a potentially wonderful asset for him. He shouldn’t have charged him for his bed the night we arrived.

After a leisurely morning in Hassilabied Village, which was a nice start after our long drive of the day before, Nourdine organised a guide Ali, a knowledeable local historian for us to explore Rissani. I’d thought we’d be doing a desert circuit, but think we learned so much in Rissani itself that there was no need. Something everyone should do when visiting Merzouga is to visit Rissani.


Dadès Valley

Chez Pierre, 13-15 October

2 Nights 154 EU (221.80 AUD), 55 EU for one night B&B and 99 EU for half board (included dinner and breakfast)

Next morning after we returned from the desert and had a shower, we set out for the Dadès Valley. We passed through Tinghir and had lunch on the way up to the Todra Gorge. We only spent an hour here, but on another trip might have undertaken the walk around Todra. Then we set off for Boumaine Dades and Chez Pierre in the Dadès Valley within the gorge.

One problem in Morocco outside of large cities is that you cannot have snacks. Hence after a large lunch near Todra when we were very hungry, the last thing we wanted in the evening was a large dinner. Had we known how wonderful the food would be at Chez Pierre we’d have gone hungry at lunch.

The Fingers, Dadès Valley

The Fingers, Dadès Valley

Dinner was meant to be on our first night at Chez Pierre, but they were very accommodating when we said we wanted it on our second. In retrospect, the dinner was so wonderful we should have had it both nights. (We also had wine with dinner, which was extra.)

The accommodation at Chez Pierre nestled against the rock wall at the edge of the gorge was quirky and upmarket. We had a lovely room. But, the food on our second night was to die for. It was of International standard and as good as you’d get anywhere, by far our best meal in Morocco. We also enjoyed the contrast between the basics of Merzouga and lashing out in Dadès.

Chez Pierre was the life long dream of a Frenchman, who sold out to a local family whom he’d trained, when his health was no longer up to running Chez Pierre. The Family have run the place for some years and kept up the high standards. It is a gourmet’s paradise and a good base for exploring the Dadès Valley.

We enjoyed the environment of the Dadès Valley, the landscape is spectacular. Although we had one excellent short walk (two hours) on our own, next time we’d stay longer and hire a guide and perhaps do a multi-day walk.

Near Aït Benhaddou

Near Aït Benhaddou


Marrakech

Riad Mur Akush 15-17 October & 20-21 October

3 Nights B&B 225 EU ($324 AUD), 75 EU ($108 AUD) per night

The trip to Marrakech was a long one but with two interesting stop offs at Ouarzazate (Atlas Film Studios) and Aït Benhaddou, as well as short stops in the High Atlas. The final drive through the High Atlas mountains was spectacular. We arrived in the evening.

Aït Benhaddou

Aït Benhaddou

I’d been in contact with Kate a fellow Australian at Riad Mur Akush through a mutual friend. Kate had helped us to plan our holiday to Morocco. Nourdine explained more about the team at the Riad because he knew them well. The Riad is owned by Maria who lives in London. (Much boutique accommodation in Morocco is owned by foreigners, a historical trend that may be changing.) Kate and Mohamed manage the Riad ably assisted by Mustapha from the Dadès Valley, not far from Chez Pierre. Mohamed is a mountain guide but rarely gets to do trips anymore.

As with Chez Pierre, Riad Mur Akash is an upmarket accommodation option. The Riad is delightful. The decore is well-thought out and well-chosen to suit the old building. The staff are a formidable team.

We stayed here comfortably for two nights initially and one night on our return from Essaouira before flying out next morning for Barcelona. Marrakech is a pleasant cosmopolitan city, but we used it for relaxation only. We spent one full day in exploring Marrakech and parts of others but we didn’t try to do too much. Our Riad was in the old city conveniently located only a ten-minute walk from the central square and the night bazaar.

The High Atlas

The High Atlas

The highlights of our visit were the Majorelle Gardens and just wandering about the old city. The Majorelle Gardens donated to Morocco by Yves Saint Laurent, as well as being a green oasis in the middle of the city, have a wonderful museum of Berber culture The Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech collected by Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé and donated by Bergé to the city.

We ate reasonably well in Marrakech both cheaply and expensively, but have nothing in particular to recommend. We found the touts for the open-air restaurants in the main square churlish and offensive on our first night, when we were tired from the trip and would not recommend them.

Riad Mur Akash like Chez Pierre is highly recommended for when you feel you need pampering and a feeling of luxury that doesn’t break the budget.

Essaouira

Le petit bleu apartment (AirBNB) 17-20 October

3 nights $125 AUD; $41.67 per night (28.88 EUR)

Fishing Boasts, Essaouira (iphone)

Fishing Boasts, Essaouira (iphone photo)

Everyone likes Essaouira. Although it is one of those places that it is not so easy to say why. The open beach is pleasant though neither Denise or I wanted to go swimming because of the rubbish and probable pollution. Nevertheless, the beach was full of Europeans swimming to their hearts content. The medina although touristy is nice (the atmosphere friendly and relaxed), like but also quite unlike Chefchaouen. The locals take us tourists in their stride, seem to recognise the benefits but are relaxed about it. Essaouira is primarily a functioning fishing port and exploring the port when the boats are in is a delight, though perhaps not for the squeamish.

Essaouira is also known as the ‘Wind City of Africa’ and much of the time it is too windy to walk on the beach. It is a centre for wind surfing and kite surfing. We were lucky as it wasn’t windy for most of the time we were there. My critical comments on the beach are accurate but most people go to other beaches on the Atlantic coast of Morocco for a purely beach holiday. Essaouira is another Moroccan World Heritage site.

Claudia picked us up at the bus station and took us to her AirBNB apartment in a local Moroccan area a couple of blocks from the beach and the small strip of European style beach restaurants. The apartment was small but delightful, exactly as shown on AirBNB. It had been furnished with thought and attention and everything one needed was provided. The outside covered eating area on the terrace was quirky and useful.

Medina, Essaouira (iphone photo)

Medina, Essaouira (iphone photo)

The thing we liked most about the apartment was the non-touristy local area. A large supermarket and in another direction the beach were five minutes walk. The walk along the promenade and the beach into the old town and the port was a pleasant 20 minutes. Although it was easy to hail a petit taxi which cost almost nothing as elsewhere.

We also liked being in an apartment for a change. We even cooked. And we liked being away from the medina and the bustle of town, because we didn’t need to be in the centre. We found the beach (despite its drawbacks) and the beach restaurants to be an excellent attraction in the heat of the day after wandering around and at sunset. We also liked the break from Moroccan food.

Bus travel to and from Marrakech was easy to organise, comfortable and without hassle.


Leather Tanning, Fes Medina

Leather Tanning, Fes Medina

Conclusion

I think the array of Moroccan accommodation we stayed in is representative of the best of the range available, under the top of the market and most expensive, and above the roughing it end. We found all the places we stayed were excellent for what they were and would recommend them all.

Regarding Morocco, we undertook this trip as a taster of what Morocco has to offer. Most Moroccans seem supportive of their king and his tourism initiative. We didn’t go to Tangier but heard from friends that the nasty side of Tangier previously, particularly the aggressive touts everywhere, mentioned in the guidebooks, appear to be a thing of the past.

Similarly, Fez and problem guides have almost disappeared. We were unlucky with our guide in Fez and as seasoned travellers were not put off by the experience for long. But, even for us, it was unpleasant on the day, left a bad taste, and was completely unnecessary.

Many of the places we visited were world heritage sites and justly so. Morocco is special and a must see at some stage in your life.

Buying Premium Dates (iphone photo)

Buying Premium Dates (iphone photo)

Nevertheless, throughout Morocco we always felt like ‘cash cows’ at the back of our minds and I sense that this is holding Morocco back from achieving their ultimate tourism goals. There needs to be more work. Alternatively, I’m sure there are old Morocco hands who deplore this focus on tourism because it is driving up prices. In Marrakech, we also met people from Europe and the UK who were using Morocco as an exotic weekend or week out of a busy professional life for whom price was not an issue.

Ceramic Kiln, Fes Tile Factory

Ceramic Kiln, Fes Tile Factory

Similarly, unless you are particularly after certain carpets, tiles, embroidery or leather work, it is a bore to be offered the same stuff at inflated prices wherever you go. Regionality should be the answer here! Yet, I do also understand that people are desperate and need the money.

We were not overwhelmed with an immediate love of Morocco as some of our friends and acquaintances have been.

However, our trip was a taster or introduction to Morocco. We had plenty of time and enjoyed everywhere we went. But, I suspect that we are beginning to grow out of just being tourists (and we’d already spent a month in Spain).

The idea of wanting something more than just tourism has been a growing trend since the 1980s. I’ve been on two specialised textile tours in India and Turkey, and our friends in general who take more tours than we do are always undertaking specialist tours: textiles, crafts, gardens, nature, architecture, archaeology, history and so on.

On future trips to Morocco, we’d either hang out in one or two places with a specific project to undertake or plan, or alternatively organise activities, such as trekking for a week or more, or a focused educational tour looking at a specific craft, arts, architecture or history.

Photographs

Perfect stove for tagine & grilled meat (iphone photo)

Perfect stove for tagine & grilled meat (iphone photo)

Someone bumped the lens of my camera hard in the Fes Medina as I was taking a photo. A few minutes later the zoom ceased to function. For the rest of the trip I could only use the wide angle setting. This made for an interesting discipline. Consequently, I have experimented more with the photographs in this post and also inserted some basic iphone 4 photographs (another story of technological disaster before I left — curses Apple!).

Posted in Canberra


Key words: Morocco Accommodation, Morocco, Accommodation, Variety, Hire car & driver, Ceuta, Spain, Africa, Tétouan, medina, riad, Chefchaouen, Rif Mountains, Middle Atlas, Atlas Mountains, Fes, Fez, Merzouga, tagine, Todra Gorge, Dadès Valley, Essaouira


Further Information

Hire Car and Driver

For a car and driver in Morocco based in Marrakech with pick-up in most parts of Morocco, we couldn’t recommend Nourdine Kradi more highly (nkradi@yahoo.com).

As mentioned:

Nourdine had worked as a chef in Italy for seven years, has a Scottish wife, owns his own car (a large plush 4-wheel drive) and speaks perfect English. These assets, plus a lifestyle and attitudes similar to our own, made him the perfect companion on our trip through the middle and high Atlas Mountains.

Nourdine is also completely trustworthy and reliable, he is passionate about Morocco and has a wealth of useful information that you won’t get anywhere else.

Kate Woods and Bespoke Tours

Kate Woods emailed me about the article. I’m always happy to receive compliments. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about how her tour advice and independent operations separate from Riad Mur Akash worked. However, she has clarified that and I would thoroughly recommend her advice and services. Kate is a thoroughly warm and professional organiser and is quite happy to offer advice and to arrange bespoke tours, if this is what you are after.

Your well written piece is impressive and comprehensive….no stone left unturned. I really do hope you come back and I now have a list of specific places to see and experience if you want to take special interest tours including textiles and Jewish history. I am happy if you either wish to mention my tour company www.moroccobespoke.comor point people in my direction for assistance via emailing me at kate123woods@gmail.com . Just to assure you, I make no dirham out of this, it purely gives me a chance to share my love of Morocco and to help people have the best and safest time possible.


Accommodation

Non-AirBNB

Advertisement, Chefchaouan

Advertisement, Chefchaouan

Chefchaouen

Riad Baraka

Riad Baraka

Riad Baraka was recommended by our budget conscious Australian friends. It was terrifically run, well-organised and did not seem at all like a hostel. It is small scrupulously clean and well-managed. The breakfasts were great and both staff and fellow guests were extremely friendly and helpful. However, it is a hostel and not recommended if you want something up-market.

Dadès Valley

Chez Pierre

Chez Pierre

Chez Pierre is hard to pass up in the Dades Valley. The setting and accommodation are lovely and the food is to die for. Fine dining equivalent to any good city restaurant in the world. If you are doing hard day trekking you may consider somewhere cheaper until you are ready for a rest. For multi-day treks Chez Pierre would be a good beginning and ending.

Riad Mur Akash

Riad Mur Akash

Riad Mur Akash is a place to pamper yourself when visiting cosmopolitan Marrakech. The building, the ambience, the furnishing and the staff are hard to beat. Luxury at a reasonable price.

Door, Fes Medina

Door, Fes Medina

AirBNB

Reviews we gave

AirBNB asks hosts and guests to review each other. This is the strength of the AirBNB model. However, whereas previously you felt honour-bound to do the right thing, AirBNB has changed the system so that the review of you is not released until you have competed yours. This change appears minor, but has diminished the ‘couch-surfing’ morality of AirBNB to some extent. Perhaps this is to be expected as AirBNB grows and the private and commercial boundaries blur.

The verbatim reviews we gave and links to the AirBNB website are given below, as are the direct web addresses where available.

By the way, I read the hoary old example of an apartment trashed by ‘junkies’ in the Sydney Morning Herald quite recently. The new host was supposedly up for thousands of dollars damage with no recourse. The story was quite misleading, but good for selling papers. Hosts are protected by insurance against such things through AirBNB, and AirBNB is very quick to solve problems for both hosts and guests. It is a robust model.


Ceuta, Spain

Acogedora habitación con una o dos camas

Review for Ana

Ana and Luis were wonderful AirBNB hosts as AirBNB was set up to be but may be disappearing as AirBNB is commercialised. Everything was as described the place and room were clean and comfortable. Ana picked us up at the Ferry and made us extremely welcome. We enjoyed Ceuta and enjoyed the area they live in and the walk into town. We only stayed one night but had breakfast together. Ana and Luis took us on a scenic tour of Ceuta. Although the weather was wrong for the views from the heights. They also took us to the border and helped us to change money with the honest currency men and gave us help in what to do, Couldn’t recommend more highly!


Tétouan

Riad Tetuan, precioso palacio Hab 1

Review for Maite

Riad Tetuan is very pleasant and well-located in the Medina. Abdul met us where the petit taxi dropped us from the bus station and helped us with the luggage on our departure. Abdul is an absolute asset to the place, a great guide and very helpful. we didn’t meet the owners. Pleasant place, a bit quirky, good breakfast and welcoming. A good place to stay.

Alley, Fes

Alley, Fes Medina

Fes

Riad Naila (Alya)

Review for Riad Naila

Riad Naila is an old small Riad but it is extremely comfortable and a beautiful place to stay. The location couldn’t be better. It is in the medina close to the action but also in a very quiet and clean area. The staff were very helpful. Highly recommended.


Merzouga

Camel Tour Sahara

Review for Hssaine

Hssaine is a really gentle and genuine Berber man offering a quiet and comfortable stay with a Berber family in a Berber village. Hssaine’s main aim is to take you on his camels to a communal camp (with other tourists) in the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. This is the main reason to go to Merzouga and is the same trip offered by everyone. You can stay at a luxury auberge with a swimming pool (probably desirable in summer) and glam camp in the dunes in a luxury tent for a large amount of money. Hssaine offers the mid-range option at a budget price. He complains that some backpackers shop around and tell him that they can get a cheaper deal elsewhere. They can but that desert camp is of much lower quality with thin bedding and to my mind not a good option. We were unusual for Hssaine’s clients (2 persons) as we had a car and driver. Most are backpackers who arrive by bus. This was one of our most memorable experiences in Morocco. It was comfortable, well-organised and I would encourage more people like us to experience it. If you are adventurous and want a genuine Moroccan experience this is the real deal. What did we pay. We paid 200 dirhams for our accommodation in Hassaine’s house (we stayed one night and left the room locked with our luggage for the second night and were able to have a shower and used the facilities next morning after the camp). The cost of the trip to the desert: camels, tent with a thick mattress, dinner and breakfast is 350 dm per person (pretty standard price). We also paid for dinner for us and our driver for the night we arrived and breakfast next morning 200 dm and gave a tip. Remember tipping is important in Morocco for normal people. He is a normal man trying to support his family. Highly recommended. Great accommodation. Hssaine is a really nice man and interesting to talk to. This was one of the best experiences we had in Morocco and turned out exactly as we wanted. Good luck Hssaine!


Essaouira

Le petit bleu à Essaouira

Review for Claudia

Claudia was very nice, picked us up at the bus station and explained the apartment to us. The apartment is pleasant and well thought out. It was nice to have an apartment for a change. It is a few blocks back from the beach but very convenient in a quiet Moroccan residential area. We liked the area. It is about a 5-minute walk to the beach and the European beach cafes (and to a large supermarket). We really liked ‘Beach and Friends’ for food drinks and to watch the sunset. Essaouira is a relaxed laid back place. The petite taxis to the Medina are ridiculously cheap or it is a 20-minute walk along the beach and the beach promenade. If you haven’t been to many medinas you might prefer to stay there, but we actually preferred to be somewhere different. A very pleasant apartment well-equipped at a reasonable price. Highly recommended.

Cat, Fes

Cat, Fes Medina


Basic Information on Morocco

King Mohammed VI

List of Rulers of Morocco

Tourism numbers 2001 to 2014 (increased from 4 to 10 million)

Public Water, Fes

Public Water, Fes Medina

Tourism in Morocco

Tourism is the second largest foreign exchange earner in Morocco, after the phosphate industry. The “Plan Azur”, is a large scale project initiated by king Mohammed VI, is meant to internationalise Morocco’s tourism.

Moroccans we spoke to seemed generally proud of their king and mentioned his initiatives in tourism, including cleaning up touts and poor guides. An Australian friend we met in Chefchaouen and a couple of Western residents in Morocco mentioned that Tangier, which the guidebook recommends against has been cleaned up and is much more pleasant for tourists.

Facts on Morocco

CIA Factbook on Morocco

Berbers or Amazigh


Places on our trip

Ceuta

Wikipedia on Ceuta

Rough Guide on Ceuta

Lonely Planet on Ceuta

Tétouan

Wikipedia on Tétouan 

Rough Guides on Tétouan

Lonely Planet on Tétouan

Main Square, Meknes

Main Square, Meknes

Fez, Meknes and the Middle Atlas

Rough Guides on Fez, Meknes and the Middle Atlas

Merzouga

Wikipedia on Merzouga

Lonely Planet on Merzouga

Rough Guides on Merzouga

Minaret, Fes

Minaret, Fes Medina

Todra Gorge, Dadès Gorge and the High Atlas to Marrakech

Rough Guides on the route

JBT on Dadès Valley and Todra Gorge

Marrakech

Wikipedia on Marrakech

Lonely Planet on Marrakech

Lonely Planet front page inspiring Photograph

Rough Guides on Marrakech

Essaouira

Wikipedia on Essaouira

Lonely Planet on Essaouira

Rough Guide on Essaouira

Fruit, Fes

Fruit, Fes Medina

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Comments

    1. Author
      tony

      Thanks Peggy. A bit different to your trans-Africa in a truck but I’m sure we saw many of the same things.

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