Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Grand Morocco tour in 12 days

By Wednesday, March 11, 2020 , , ,

It's been more than a year since #meetthelulus went on our honeymoon to Morocco and i've procrastinated on the writing because i found it daunting to cover a 12 day trip in 1 post. The only thing i managed so far was a trip report on the wonderful Singapore Airlines A350 business class from Singapore to Barcelona
I wanted a fuss free honeymoon experience which doesn't involve fretting over the logistical arrangements on the road so i booked a private tour with Berber Space Morocco, a Moroccan agency that started in the Sahara Desert. I compared several Singapore and Moroccan agencies before deciding on them due to the great pricing and good reviews. I provided them with a skeleton itinerary (of cities to visit and activities that i want included in the trip) and they got back with the rest- which included accommodation options. 
The accommodation that we took were mostly riad stays (think of them as small boutique hotels) with some hotel options (for convenience in the bigger cities). I was happy with most of the options except the one in Fes (there was some screw-up and we were put up at a different riad). Anyway, if there's a specific accommodation that you want for sure, just let them know and they'll make the necessary arrangements. 
To get into Morocco, we took SQ from SIN to Barcelona, and then Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca. Our English-speaking driver Hamid drove us around the country and helped us settle into our local accommodation, got us our SIM cards and also helped us with general enquiries and suggestions. At the various cities, we were met with the local guides who'd provide us with insights to each location. Breakfasts are provided, and some dinners are included too (in locations that are not accessible e.g. in the desert and mountainous regions). Our luxury desert camp stay which includes our camel rides were also part of the package. The price was only 1400 Euros per person. We added on a little bit more for a half day hiking trip at the Atlas mountains (100 Euros each). Honestly i think it's a steal. A friend went on a 10 day trip and paid more than S$4000 per pax. Her accommodation was more standard luxurious but i was pretty satisfied with what we got at the price we paid. 

Below is a highlight of my trip. Do note that in order to visit the following spots, there may be some long drives in between and overnight stays in smaller towns. 
We stayed the night at Riad Zyo, a clean and modern riad just outside the old city (medina), had our first Moroccan meal of chicken with preserved lemons at Dar Naji (they did not speak a word of English) and spent the next morning with a local guide touring the medina. We visited the oldest house in the Medina and the Kasbah des Oudaias which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. Here you'll see houses painted in white and blue (apparently to keep out the mosquitos). While touring the Medina, we saw a really lovely riad Dar Shaan which you could also consider.

Chefchaouen is the blue city of Morocco, situated at the footstep of the Rif mountains. Unlike many parts of Morocco, Chefchaouen was occupied by Spain; therefore there is much influence from the Spanish civilisation and Moorish architecture.
Our original planned riad was supposed to be Darech Chaouen but somehow the booking changed and  we were put up somewhere else. Thankfully Riad Cherifa was equally charming, where every nook is the perfect photo spot. They have a pool and a hamman too! It was our safe harbour from the torrid rain that we experienced the 2 nights we stayed in Chefchaouen, which ruined our plans to go hiking.
There's nothing to do in Chefchaouen except to explore the labyrinth of blue alleyways and take plenty of pictures. A guy tried to show us his marijuana farm situated inside his house, which we politely declined of course. 
There are plenty of restaurants in Chefchaouen and we checked out the Lala Mesouda, which is a sister restaurant of another top rated one Beldi Bab Ssour. They conduct Moroccan cooking classes too if you're interested. If you're all tajined out already, head over to Pizza Mandala if you have the time to wait for the pizzas to be served (they're decent but really slow). We also chanced upon this stall just outside our riad that sells awesome fresh Moroccan doughnut crullers aka Sfenj (or you tiao formed in a circle), which i cleverly turned into a dessert by sprinkling sugar on, our first cold rainy night in Chefchaouen. We were absolutely delight to have it again for breakfast! If there's something we learned about Moroccan breakfasts, it's that there are a ton of carbs in various forms every morning and more breads at every meal.

Our trip continues toward Fes. On the way, we explored Volubilis in the pouring rain (which thankfully stopped after a while). Volubilis is one of Morocco’s best-preserved Roman ruins, also a UNESCO World Heritage site (read more here) and we marvelled at the architecture and decorative tiles which are still pristine.

Lunch was in Meknes Medina, and we enjoyed a lovely meal at Riad Lahboul. We had our first meatball dish and it was a nice depart from the beef with prunes and chicken with lemon tajines. Some sights include the Bab El Mansour gate and Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. Hamid convinced us to take a look at the thick-walled, barrel-vaulted granaries in Heri Es Souani. We indulged him by taking some pictures. :P 
We finally arrived at Fes only to find out that there was another change in our accommodation, which i wasn't at all happy about. We had a huge room but the heater didn't work and it was just a tad chilly and our bathroom had a bit of a musty smell. We made the most of it though and thankfully it was only for 2 nights. Just make sure you choose a nicer accommodation in Fes. 
Lousy accommodation aside, Fes is a lovely city. We went on a guided tour around the 9500+ souks (or alleys). It may look like a dead city from the outside but it's bustling inside with street life, cultural and historical sites like the famous University of Al-Karaouine, the oldest in the region, the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, and even the Tanneries!
I kept thinking that the tanneries are somewhere outside the city, but our guide led us through a little door from the street level to the third storey and viola, the tanneries are on the inside. You may be tempted to get some leather poufs but do not buy it from the shop that the guide brings you. Instead, walk around and check out the other stores. You'll probably get a better price without having to bargain.
Sahara Desert 
We began the long drive towards the Sahara desert and took stops along Ifrane, Azrou, Midelt, Ziz Valley, Erfoud, and Merzouga. 
The landscape changed from alpine ski town (there was snow/ice!) to tropical palm plantations and then to the windy sand dunes. 

In Merzouga, DO NOT MISS their specialty stuffed pizza, the Medfouna. It is the best Moroccan dish we've had. We spent a night at Riad Madu, which is just at the edge of the desert and had our first Saharan wine (it was not good).
The highlight of the trip was certainly the Sahara desert experience. Our sunset camel ride took us to the luxurious Sahara Star Camp, which comes with hot showers and flushing toilets! 
There aren't many operators which provide such service in the desert. Dinner and breakfast is in a separate tent and there's even wifi connection (though spotty). 
To get back to Marrakech without doing a 9h drive, we stayed overnight at Dar Blues in Dades Gorges. We got a chance to see Todra Gorges, the highest and narrowest gorge in Morocco. We also spent a night in Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Africa. 
It is most known for the various production sets. It's quite boring but create your own fun like we did. We stayed at Dar Chamaa, which has a lovely outdoor pool. 

A worthy site to visit is the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, another UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Marrakech itself, lose yourself in Souk Semmarine and wander around the open square Jemaa el-Fna where restaurants are plenty. We also found the Bahia Palace to be very interesting. Of course, make an early appointment for one of the luxury hammans in town. We also had a great meal at NOMAD cafe and had a surprising sardine tart with a nutty tapenade and artisanal ice cream. 
Another highlight was also hiking in the Atlas mountain. As we missed out on the chance to do so in Chefchaouen, we managed to get away in Marrakech for a half day hike and was treated to the best cous cous we had in Morocco!
So here you go, a quick breakdown of the places to visit in Morocco. This is a quick touch and go guide if you plan to go around the country. If you enjoy hiking, do allocate more time for it as the nature is simply amazing. I also highly recommend the desert and camel experience!

My thoughts on doing the trip on my own? I wonder if it's really possible. Public transport is quite non-existent. We saw some inter-city buses and they're rather small, packed, and uncomfortable. If you have the luxury of time and are on a shoestring budget, you could certainly find alternatives. Then again, my private tour was a steal already so i can't imagine doing anything less for more. 

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