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Magnificent MoroccoAuthor: Marie S.
Date of Trip: July 2009
Rainy season? Disappointing Canadian summer? Seek an adventure in an exotic and unforgettable country. Morocco is a fascinating land of diversity and contrasts. Eager to return and explore a country that I had not seen in more than two decades, I was not disappointed.
My previous trips to Morocco were spent primarily in the capital with family. This time, I wanted to explore beyond the cities and venture into the Atlas Mountains and beyond. Having many family contacts in a foreign country has advantages, but when too many people try to control the itinerary, complications are inevitable. Family was invaluable for travel in Rabat and Fez, but for outlying areas I chose more professional assistance. Therefore, I was most pleased to rely on the services of Youssef with Desert-Trips, a company out of Hassi Labiad: www.desert-trips.com Arrangements for a desert excursion grew to include tips, ideas and arrangements for other sights and services to facilitate travelling in Morocco. The proprietor of Desert-Trips was able to coordinate a rental car from Rabat which I then drove to the desert. The rental arrangement was with a local company out of Sale offering greater service and affordability unequalled by the international companies with web presence. The vehicle was brought to my apartment in Rabat and the owner of the agency brought me back to the apartment when the contract was over. Such personalized service greatly reduced taxi costs.
Hearing that I wanted to find the Mzoura Prehistoric Stone Circle near Sidi el Yemeni, www.desert-trips.com was most helpful in providing a guide and useful information to get to the unmarked site. The trip to the stone circle was most intriguing and should not be missed. By some accounts, one of only thirty perfectly elliptical megalithic sites in more than four hundred found in The United Kingdom and Europe, the place would benefit from proper signage. Unlike Stonehenge, visitors can walk on the stones, through the stones and stand on the inner mound which contains a tomb rumoured to be of a Mauritanian King from 3000 BC. Next time I will surely go to Tetuan’s museum to see Mzoura’s excavated artifacts.
The day after visiting Mzoura, I headed southeast from Rabat to Meknes, Asrou to Errachidia, Erfoud and Merzouga toward the Sahara Desert. A very comfortable room at Auberge Sahara in Hassi Labiad was booked for me, and even though I arrived at a very late hour, an evening meal was served.
Youssef at Desert-Trips made arrangements for sight-seeing the following day: The Gnoua ( a singing group descendants of sub-Saharan slaves brought to Morocco by caravan) at Khamlia, Tifert Lake, the oasis, lunch and a swim at Hotel Yasmina outside of Merzouga, and then a camel trek into the Erg Chebbi Dunes. The two-day, one-night trek was the best option for me. The following day, sight-seeing in Rissani: the colourful souk and Kasbahs. Some of the many advantages of having a personalized tour was the ability to stop whenever I wished, but still enjoy the impeccable timing of a knowledgeable guide. Only a well-informed and experienced guide would know the precise time it takes to get from sites like the Todra Gorge to Ait Ben Haddou to Dades Gorge.
Experiencing the High Atlas Mountains with a guide conversant in several languages was also a great bonus. I had assistance with bargaining, ordering, and generally providing a buffer between me and whatever challenges presented themselves. In the Dades Gorge, I spent two nights at Levieux Chateaux du Dades and enjoyed excellent service and affordable pricing. Another day was spent visiting Moulay Idriss and Volubilis in the company of a Desert-Trips guide. I would recommend both sites to people visiting the area.
Moulay Idriss is a cluster of homes clinging to a hill that reminded me very much of towns in the Costa del Sol region of Spain. The Roman Ruins at Volubilis has a series of amazing mosaics that are wonderfully preserved. A very pushy guide at Volubilis was annoying, but soon left us in peace to enjoy the site. I was most pleased to be in the company of a person whose language skills surpassed those of the self-appointed resident guide.
In all, the trip was thrilling, colourful and getting back to the reality of daily living has proven to be a challenge!
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