Luxurious Morocco
By Lee Moody
QT Magazine
September 2002

Morocco is hard to describe with mere words.  In order to appreciate this country, you need all your senses.  Everything about this country is unique.  While Morocco is an Islamic country, it is very welcoming to visitors from all backgrounds.  As you wander though many parts of the cities you may think you have traveled back in time to medieval times, yet almost everyone has satellite TV and a cell phone.  The food is made of familiar ingredients, however, the tastes are blended in ways you may never have imagined.  If you are looking for a different sort of destination, then Morocco is for you.

We chose to experience Morocco on a luxurious DavidTours [DavidTravel] trip.  The trip strikes the perfect balance between sightseeing and relaxation.   One of the greatest benefits of taking an organized tour is having someone to explain the culture and the sights to you.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] utilizes knowledgeable local guides who are fluent in English and can make problems disappear.  This can be a great help in a country where things do not always naturally run smoothly.  In addition, the hotels where we stayed were truly top of the line.

Our guide Mohamed greeted us upon arrival in Casablanca and from that point onwards he saw to our every desire from obtaining restaurant reservations to locating a specific medication at a pharmacy.  After meeting our driver Khalid, our luggage was loaded in the comfortable, new and air-conditioned Mercedes minivan that was to be our chauffeured vehicle for the entire trip and we started our voyage through the exotic land of Morocco.

Our first stop was Rabat, the capital of Morocco.  By chance, our visit coincided with the king's wedding and it seemed like the whole of the country was in the city to enjoy the festivities.  But even with the influx of additional visitors, we were treated like VIPs at the Hilton Hotel where we stayed while in the city.  The hotel has extensive gardens to stroll through and a beautiful pool where you can relax.

We spent the next several days exploring Rabat and relaxing by the pool.  While much of the city is a modern capital city, it still has plenty of sights and smells to remind you that you are in this unique country.  The medina, the old fortified town, may be small compared to those of Fez and Marrakech, but it is a good place to get acclimatized to urban Islamic architecture and life.  You will pass by mosques, probably hear a call to prayer, and see plenty of merchants selling food and handcrafted goods.  At the highest point in the medina, the Kasbah des Oudaias offers a view into residential life and provides some dramatic views down the bluffs to the Atlantic Ocean.  Spend some time at the Cafe Maure in the Kasbah where you enjoy a Moroccan ritual, sipping mint tea and snacking on pastries while enjoying the views down to the beach.

While in Rabat, DavidTours [DavidTravel] arranged a dinner at Restaurant Dinarjat with a local gay resident so that we could learn about life as a gay man in Morocco.  We were escorted to the restaurant that is located in the heart of the medina by a lantern-bearing guide.  The restaurant is located in a converted private residence and is decorated in a luxurious Moroccan style.  The food was traditional Moroccan food including tajines and couscous served by a very friendly staff. Whether it was the delightful dinner guest or just the ambience and food, this was one of my favorite restaurants in Morocco.

Our next destination was the mysterious city of Fez.  As you wander through the medina of Fez, it is hard to believe that you have not been transported back in time.  The labyrinth of narrow alleyways within the old city are not wide enough to allow for motorized vehicles so almost everything is carried on the back of mules.  And as there are no street signs, even local residents can get lost.  Luckily for us, Mohamed was able to navigate this maze and take us deep into the heart of the medina during several return visits to the markets and sights that are located within the old city.  Each time we emerged out of the medina into this century, our Mercedes would pull into view and we were whisked away like rock stars.

While Mohamed checked us into our hotel in Fez, the five star Palais Jamai, we were offered refreshing moist towels and mint tea.  The Palais Jamai overlooks the medina and was once the vizier's pleasure palace.  You might feel like you are the vizier himself while you look over the city spread out below you.  The hotel is a beautiful oasis within the city with an Andalusian styled garden and rose petals in the fountain that feeds the pool.

On our final night in Fez we had a traditional Moroccan dinner at the highly rated La Maison Bleue.  Before dinner we had drinks with Mehdi, the owner, who told us the history of this beautifully restored building, which was formerly his family's home.  This personal attention made it a truly memorable evening.

Leaving Fez, we drove through the scenic Middle Atlas Mountains on our way to the dramatic city of Marrakech.  If you have ever dreamed of Morocco, Marrakech is probably the embodiment of this dream.  This glowing red city is set in an arid landscape surrounded by vast stands of palm trees.  It looks almost like a set for a French Foreign Legion film.  Located in its own lush garden within this magical setting is the legendary La Mamounia hotel where we stayed.  This five star hotel, which has consistently garnered awards from various travel magazines as one of the best hotels in the world, has hosted visiting dignitaries and celebrities since the1930's.

While the medina of Marrakech offers plenty of shops and sights, the heart of Marrakech is the Djemaa el-Fna.  This is a huge square where entertainment is on offer at all times of the day.  There you will find dancers, fortunetellers, jugglers, snake charmers, musicians, and storytellers all competing for your attention.  In the evening the square is transformed into a huge open-air eatery.  Most visitors find themselves returning often to the square to bask in this unique open-air spectacle.

Our farewell dinner with our guide and driver was at Dar Marjana, one of the best restaurants in the city.  The evening started with drinks on the rooftop terrace with a nighttime panoramic view of the city and the stars overhead.  The delicious traditional Moroccan feast that followed was accompanied by live music.

Much too soon, it was time to head back to Casablanca for our flight home.  Before checking into Le Royal Mansour hotel, the swankiest hotel in the city, we toured the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca.  This mosque is a modern architectural masterpiece and the largest mosque in the world outside of Saudi Arabia.  A tour of the mosque, which was designed by a non-Muslim Frenchman and has a retractable roof seemed to be a fitting ending to a sojourn in this country, which is within sight of Europe but is a world apart.

Morocco has long attracted visitors looking for mystery and adventure.  DavidTours [DavidTravel] provided us with both while we traveled in luxurious comfort.  Our guide and driver were at our disposal 24 hours a day and made sure that we saw all the highlights of each city we visited.  They were both willing to engage in discussions on all topics giving us insights into the religion, customs, and history of their unique land.  After all, gaining an understanding a different culture is one of the benefits of travel.  And at the end of each day, the high-end hotels where we stayed offered perfect amenities for relaxation.

After traveling with DavidTours [DavidTravel] to Southern Africa with a group and to Morocco on a customized itinerary, I very highly recommend them for any travel needs, including great deals on hotels and air worldwide.