Exploring Morocco

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Even with all the issues that are going on in the world and the recent travel alert issued by Department of State, we headed down to Morocco for a 10 day trip to see the country as well as a little hiking in the Atlas mountains.

We started with a nonstop flight from Gatwick on British Airlines. Josh and I splurged a little and went with business class tickets. It was nice to get to the airport and head over to the lounge to relax and enjoy a small meal before heading on to board. With the inflight meal of saffron chicken and a lovely glass of wine, we disembarked early enough to also beat the lines for the customs portion of the journey.

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We booked an 8 day tour with Luxor Tour company that included transfer. We met the driver in the lobby and that is where the issues started to occur. Apparently the company placed us on the Spanish tour. Now my Spanish is the point where I can ask, how much, where is the bathroom, do you speak english, and my all time favorite: where is the pharmacy. So I had a couple of concerns on how much I would be able to get out of this tour.

We headed over to the hotel in Marrakech at Hotel Atlas. Located outside the city, it’s not easy to get into town with out a taxi, while can be arranged by the hotel, the concern on how to get back is what caused some problems.

With dinner being included, we headed down to enjoy the meal. It didn’t really leave a lasting impression more so to get your energy for the last bit of the day. Upon returning to the room I noticed another issue that didn’t stand out when we checked in. We shared the wall with the elevator. Now I have a couple of questions on who is using the elevator at 2 am on a Thursday but they are and that prevented me from getting a restful sleep before we would be heading out the next day.

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We found out that they added us to the Spanish group since there was not a lot of English speaking tourist due to the low season. Normally I wouldn’t mind and understand however we were not given a heads up on the change of plans. Also I understand enough Spanish to know that they were getting more information than we were on the tour in English.

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After heading out of town we started the journey to Casablanca where we were driven around to see the city and dropped off in front of Hassan II Mosque. With a private guide you are able to go inside with a scheduled time, all we saw was the outside. Which don’t get me wrong was amazing and I can only imagine what was done inside and wish we had the chance to find out. But it was off to lunch in town before heading up to Rabat.

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Next was a stop at the Royal Palace to view the grounds and see the mosque, again not allowed inside just pictures on the outside. Afterwards we headed over to see the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Which was beautiful. Don’t forget to look up when you enter to take in the view of the roof.

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Then we were to the hotel for dinner at the Helnan Chellah Hotel Rabat. Here we sat with the rest of the group to improve our Spanish and get to know them. The room was alright, nothing to truly write home about. The gym only had one working bike, everything else was in shambles. Dinner as well as breakfast was buffet.

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The next morning we started with a tour of the Rabat Fortified City with the blue paint on all the buildings. It was breathtaking. We also made some friends with the local cats that followed me around the rest of the city. Then it was back to the bus to head up to Tangier.

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At this point, the Spanish portion left for the port to go home and we were given a lift to the hotel and advised that there really wasn’t much to do in town but the night club and to not head out at night. So I decided to head out for the main road in town and walk up and down the area.

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We saw a mall and tried that out, however it was more grocery shopping than a clothes shopping area. There is also the beach to visit however I did not have room in my bag to pack the swim suit.

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We met up with the new tour guide that would be taking us up to Fez for a couple of days. This city needs more than 2 days to appreciate it. From the endless streets of Medina, to all the craftsmanship that they have with leather and mosaics, and let’s not forget the Royal Palace you really need 3-4 days here. I purchased a nice bowl for my sister and a jacket for myself. Here you can really appreciate the local cuisine and were even invited to a dinner show. With great food and entertainment from belly dancing, a mock Moroccan wedding, and music through out the evening it was an amazing couple of days spent in town.

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While in Fez we stayed at the Hotel Sofia, which was amazing with a small balcony on the room and a pool outside, to the spa and gym, and even several different restaurants and night clubs on site. This was the best hotel included in the tour.

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We had the option to take the 10 hour scenic route through the High Atlas Mountains or by highway. Since we came by highway the first go around we choose the scenic route and was not disappointed. With rest stops along the way the journey did fly by with the views of the small towns and man made lake.

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Finally it was back to Marrakech where we stayed at the same hotel as before. Here we visited the Meara Gardens, Bahia Palace and then the Medina in town. You will want to get the Moroccan oil and saffron for super cheap and good quality as well. While the tour finished, we decided to spend two days trekking through the Atlas Mountains. With a local guide and a mule we were off. However it was quickly realized that my foot was not 100% since I dropped the dresser drawer on it a week prior. So with the help of the guide we changed the plan and did one high peak and the rest of trekking through the local towns.

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All in all, the trip was an experience in learning the local customs and seeing a lot of the outside sights. I would recommend a private tour so that you can get inside than just being part of the outside looking in.

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