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Thread: Advice Please! Can you help me re-discover Morocco???

  1. #1
    Pilgrim
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Apeldoorn, Netherlands
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    3

    Advice Please! Can you help me re-discover Morocco???

    Hello there! I stumbled upon this site while researching Morocco, and have already found it to be full of useful information. I was hoping you could offer some advice for my upcoming trip.

    First, some background information... about 15 years ago I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. I lived in a very small Berber village called Tit n'Ali, north of Gourrama in the province of Errachidia. In the 2.5 years that I lived there, I had the privilege of travelling throughout much of the country, making many friends, and getting to see intimate details of the culture and daily family life. I eventually became fairly adept at speaking Tamazight, although my Arabic was never more than rudimentary. I loved my time in Morocco, and cherish the memories of my time there.

    When I left, it was with a heavy heart. Of course, I always intended to return. But life seemed to have other plans for me, and somehow the years passed. Now, a decade and a half later, I finally have the opportunity to visit once more. There is a Peace Corps reunion in Rabat scheduled for the very end of May, and as I've recently moved to the Netherlands, it is within easy traveling distance... hurray!

    Unfortunately, I do have some challenges. First off, I will be vacationing with my husband who is an inexperienced traveler and quite nervous about going "off the beaten path" (my assurances that Morocco has been a popular destination for decades haven't calmed his worries). Also, we will have our nearly two year old daughter with us. She's a fairly adaptable and adventurous sort, but frankly 2 is not the loveliest age. She's a squirmy, impatient kid who doesn't like to sit still for long, so extended car trips with her are rather miserable. Of course I love my family dearly, but they aren't the easiest of travel companions!

    Also, my memory isn't what it once was. As I've begun planning this trip, I'm realizing that many useful details have become quite fuzzy. I haven't spoken a word of Tamazight in over a decade, and I'm not sure how I'll be able to get on with communicating. I'm completely ignorant of the roadways because, as a Peace Corps volunteer on a tight budget, I typically traveled by souk bus or the like. My husband, the nervous nellie, is relying on me to be a tour guide extraordinaire but honestly I'm not sure I'm up to the task!

    I haven't made any firm plans yet, but here are some relevant tidbits:

    1) We are somewhat flexible in our travel dates. I do need to be in Rabat for the reunion the weekend of May 25th, but we can position the reunion for the start, finish, or middle of our trip.

    2) We have 3 weeks of vacation, but we may spend up to a week of that time in southern Spain. This is still up in the air... hubby would like to see some of Spain while we're in the area, but I can probably convince him to focus entirely on Morocco if I have a compelling itinerary!

    3) Travel times MUST be kept to short bursts in order to prevent a toddler melt-down. No more than 3-4 hours at a go. Means of transport that allow getting up and walking around are ideal (trains are wonderful for a curious toddler, but of course the trains don't go everywhere)

    4) Finicky husband requires "comfortable" lodgings. This doesn't necessarily mean fancy, but perhaps a cut or two above the youth hostels and dives that I used to frequent

    5) I don't think it will be feasible to visit my village this time (sigh). Some of the destinations I have been considering include: Chefchaouen, Asilah, Rabat (for the reunion), Fez, Meknes/Volubulis, Azrou/Ifrane, Marrakech (a must!), Essaouira, Ouarzazate/Skoura. I realize that there is no way that we will comfortably fit all of this into our trip, just haven't narrowed it down yet.

    Well, now that I've practically written a novel... I do hope you'll drop a few pearls of wisdom my way! I so want this trip to be enjoyable for my entire family. Perhaps if everyone leaves happy, I can inspire them to return again soon! Any suggestions or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Amy

  2. #2
    Trailblazer Tim Cullis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Putney, London (Morocco in winter)
    Posts
    273
    May is a wonderful time to visit Morocco, in fact I shall be there from mid May then my family will join me in early June.

    Roads in Morocco are vastly improved since your time. In the last five or six years the government has built 12,500km of new tarmac roads. This is not good news for the offroad explorer, but it makes things easier for you. Personally I think you'd be mad to go back to Morocco and not visit Tit n'Ali. From the details at http://you.travel/17400212 I've worked out the village is at approximately N32 25.507 W4 08.884. I found some photos of Tit n'Ali, it seems tarmac has yet to reach the village streets, but there's electricity. It looks like the easiest access is from Gourrama, it's in an area I criss-crossed last year exploring French Foreign Legion outposts.

    You could combine car, train and bus. The train network isn't huge but covers the coast from Tanger down to Casablanca (so includes Asilah and Rabat), and then south to Marrakech. There's another line going from Rabat to Fes (which includes Meknes as well). But to link Fez, Azrou/Ifrane and Ouarzazate (and potentially Tit n'Ali) you would need to rent a car. Chefchaouen could be accessed by bus from Fez, Essaouira by bus from Marrakech.

    Obviously you need to check air fares from Netherlands, but my suggestion would be to fly into Fez and stop for a couple of nights, use the bus to and from Chefchaouen (about four hours each way) for a couple of nights, visit Meknes/Volubilis by rail plus grande taxi, then hire a car from Fez with a drop off in Marrakech. Check out Europcar for sample rates.

    Drive from Fez to Azrou, then onwards to Midelt, Gourrama and Tit n'Ali. After that head for the Todra Gorge, Dades Gorge, Skoura and Ouarzazate. And then onwards to Marrakech where you drop the car off. Essaouira is about three hours from Marrakech by bus, from there you can either return to Marrakech and take the train to Rabat, or take a bus along the coast which is a couple of hours shorter. Finally you could visit Asilah by train from Rabat.

    Use Looklex as a way to quickly check out destinations. Train times are at http://www.oncf.ma/index_En.aspx.

    Once you've determined a rough plan I'm happy to flesh it out with additional suggestions and possibly places to stay. Hope you persuade your hubby to spend all three weeks in Morocco, you can visit Spain any time!
    "For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
    and enlarges the world in which you live,"
    Irving Mather (1892-1966)

  3. #3
    While in Ouarzazate, you might consider trying to get out to Ait Ben Haddhou, ancient Caravan trade hilltop city, history & scenery. an oasis if the river is running. About 30 minutes south. Best seen at sunrise.

  4. #4
    Pilgrim
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Apeldoorn, Netherlands
    Posts
    3
    Thank you for the ideas! The link to Looklex was quite helpful, and it was great to see photos of Tit n'Ali. You inspired me to do a little searching online for more photos of the region, and it turns out that there is now a Facebook page for the village! My, how times have changed

    After much discussion and debate, I have convinced the hubby that three weeks in Morocco is a good idea (we'll head to Spain some other time). Hurray! As it turns out, a few close friends will also be in for the reunion so in an attempt to meet up with various people along the way we have come up with this basic route:

    Fly into Tangier, then head to Asilah for a relaxing introduction to the country. Hop the train to Rabat for a few days, to enjoy reunion activities, then go by train to Marrakech for awhile, with a probable side trip to Essaouira. The plan from that point is still a bit wobbly. I would like to take a few days to wander from Marrakech to Meknes, stopping to take in points of interest along the way... any suggestions for this portion of our trip would be very useful! I suppose we'll head to the falls at Ouzoud via Demnate, and probably take in Imi n'Ifri while we're there. Also would like to stop off in the Azrou/Ifrane area to check out what it has to offer. Not sure if hiring out grande taxis and/or taking buses for this portion of the trip would be feasible, but that would be my preference. From Azrou we'll go to Meknes to meet up with an old friend who is living there, and probably see Volubulis before heading to Fes for several days. Then up to Chefchaouen (is bus the best way to get there?) for a nice wind-down before heading back to Tangier to fly back home to Holland. Unfortunately we aren't going to squeeze the south route into this trip, but I am already planning a solo return trip so that I can visit Tit n'Ali on my own.

    Any thoughts on this itinerary? Could use some suggestions on points of interest along the way, as well as some tips for places to stay. Also, I'm a bit concerned about transportation/lodgings on route from Marrakech to Meknes, as this isn't on the typical tourist path. Of course this is a good thing, but may present a few challenges. We are still planning to bring our toddler with us, and I would like to avoid lugging her enormous and heavy car seat with us... which makes going by bus and train more appealing (plus she can walk around a bit, which helps with cranky child syndrome!) If we go by taxi, I thought to do as the Moroccans do and simply hold her in my lap, but my safety-conscious husband is very concerned about that. If we rent a car and drive ourselves, I think we will require a child seat. Please let me know what you think?

  5. #5
    Pilgrim
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Apeldoorn, Netherlands
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    3
    So after looking into car rentals, I realized that we could just rent a car seat... I never realized that was an option! Looks like we might rent car from Marrakech to Fez after all. Could still use some suggestions for points of interest along the way/ lodgings/ best roads to take. Thanks!

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