Travelogue: Morocco, Part 1

October 2023
Tour: Insight’s “Best of Morocco”
Tour Hotels:
Grand Mogador City Center (Casablanca)
Marriott Jnan Palace Fes (Fes)
Kasbah Hotel Xaluca Arfoud (Erfoud)
Le Berbère Palace (Ouarzazate)
Kennedy Hospitality Resort (Marrakech; we left the tour and went to the Four Seasons)
Atlas Essaouira & Spa (Essaouira; we left the tour early and did not experience Essaouira)

  • My my my. Morocco. I loved it but I mostly hated it. (I mean, we left the tour early, but more on that in another post!)
  • Morocco was on my bucket list for years and years… it looked so colorful and different. Well, it was that and more!
  • I went on this trip with my law school bestie, Jillian. We always travel well together but let me tell you, I’m going to let her pick our destination next time.
  • I’m breaking these posts up into the following parts:
    • Part 1: Intro, Arrival, Casablanca, Rabat
    • Part 2: Fes
    • Part 3: Erfoud, Sahara Desert
    • Part 4: Ouarzazate
    • Part 5: Marrakesh, Departure
  • We chose Insight’s “Best of Morocco” tour. I took a tour through Insight to Ireland and had a great experience — unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my Insight experience in Morocco. Our tour guide was the primary problem, as well as a serious bait and switch on the hotel in Marrakech. But you win some, you lose some, and while it wasn’t a great experience, it’s still an experience I’m grateful for!
  • One of the parts of this trip that I had to prepare for in advance was additional vaccinations.  The CDC’s website recommended the typhoid and hepatitis A vaccinations if traveling to Morocco, so I received those vaccines about 6 months ahead of my trip.  I made an appointment at Walgreens and the two vaccines together cost about $150. Not cheap, but I viewed it as another form of insurance while traveling to Africa. I had minimal side effects from the vaccines (just injection site reaction and fatigue).
  • We decided to arrive a few days ahead of the start of our tour for two reasons 1) buffer time in case of flight delays/cancelations and 2) time to work the jet lag out of our systems.
  • Day 1:  Arrival
    • We flew from Chicago to Paris, Paris to Casablanca via AirFrance. A long day/evening/overnight of air travel.  But I decided to spring for business class airfare on this trip and let me tell you, it was worth it. Nothing beats having privacy and the ability to lay down and sleep during overnight flights.
    • Our flights were uneventful except for a medical emergency somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean — a woman on our flight was experiencing severe gastrointestinal distress, but apparently everything resolved itself because we didn’t have to divert or make an emergency landing, thank god.
    • We had a 4 hour layover in Paris and a delayed flight to Casablanca due to a “deceased passenger” — you know, at this point, I was starting to think that we were having one too many brushes with bad luck!
    • But we eventually made it to Casablanca. We were greeted with a bathroom with no toilet paper (common in Morocco, but took some getting used to!). We also almost lost our luggage and our transfer to the hotel never showed up.  The bad luck continued.
    • We had to take a taxi to the hotel and likely got scammed on the price.  At least our taxi driver was kind enough to tell me, “roll up your window or someone will steal your phone out of your hand.” Oooookay.
    • We finally made it to our hotel, the Grand Mogador City Center, which was… fine. The surrounding area was rough. We had dinner at the hotel and called it a night because we were exhausted.
  • Day 2: Jet Lag Adjustment Day
    • This was our “free” day in Casablanca, but we never left our hotel because we were told not to. It was “too dangerous” and you know, I was inclined to believe the hotel staff on that just by the looks of things outside our windows.
    • We had breakfast at the hotel, hoarded Coke Zeros, and had the most chill day of nothing. It was so weird to keep realizing that we were in AFRICA. Wild.
    • I started to miss ice. And also had to keep reminding myself to be careful with the water — you cannot drink the tap water in Morocco. Bottled only! Even when brushing your teeth.
    • Day 2 was a Friday and Fridays are the most religious day for Muslims. We could hear the call to prayer from our hotel room, which was neat to experience.
    • Both Jillian and I had uneasy vibes about this trip right from the start, so we decided to book the Four Seasons in Marrakech.  Just in case.  And because Insight bait and switched us on the planned hotel for Marrakech.  We were supposed to have a lovely hotel, but at the last minute they switched us to what could best be described as a Moroccan Super 8. No. Hell no. So we took matters into our own hands and booked the very last room that the Four Seasons had available. Again… just in case.
  • Day 3: Start of the Tour
    • We officially started our “Best of Morocco” tour at dinner. Until then, we had another lonnnnnng day of hotel lounging and Coke Zero drinking. This day also brought us the news of the attack in Israel by Hama, so that added to our feelings of unease.
    • We met our tour group for dinner and we were by far the youngest.  We took our tour bus to a restaurant named La Bavaroise and had bread, olives, caprese salad, steak, fries, and creme brulee.  We sat solo because no one wanted to sit with us — or maybe they were intimidated as we looked like a lesbian power couple at this point?
  • Day 4: Casablanca to Rabat to Fes
    • We started the day with breakfast at our hotel, then off to see the Hassan II mosque, which is the second largest functioning mosque in Africa and the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims can enter. It was gorgeous.
    • We took the bus to Rabat, Morocco’s political capital. Rabat was truly delightful – clean, lovely, landscaped. The King keeps it lookin’ NICE.
    • However, all was not beautiful, as we had to use squat toilets while visiting the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V. Keepin’ it real.  The Mausoleum was one of the few holy places in Rabat that was open to non-Muslims and houses the tombs of King Mohammed V and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah.
    • We went from the beautiful mausoleum to a gas station for lunch.  That’s right, folks. Gas station lunch!
    • We drove through Miknes on our way to Fes. That’s about all I have to say on that because it was so uneventful.
    • Arrival in Fes was a little chaotic. It was hot, we were all grouchy and dehydrated. There was a mix-up for many of us with paying for the schedule excursions. And to top it all off we had to head to a “carnival” dinner… which was as cliched and tacky as it sounds. Belly dancers, a magician, etc.  The food was mysterious and we all were convinced that we may have eaten pigeon.
    • But we did make friends during the dinner — Lucie and Clive from Montreal and Mike and Carol from somewhere near Liverpool. They were lovely and we immediately bonded over our mutual and shared skepticism of this trip so far.

Off we go!
Always want my Dad close. Though he knew about this trip and DID NOT approve of me going. LOL.
Bougie bizzy class.
Hi, Dad. Look at that TINY little rainbow peeking through.
Arrival in Casablanca. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Hotel art.
View from my hotel room window. Bleak.
Bleak, but in black and white.
Let the hoarding of Coke Zeros begin!
Lobby of our hotel in Casablanca.
Seems legit.
More Coke Zero at dinner. Sensing a theme here?
Departing our hotel.
Hassan II Mosque
Cats were everywhere.
Casablanca is on the ocean.
Cell phone towers.
Rabat! We loved it there.
Another cat.
And so began my love affair with the tile work in Morocco.
Time for our gas station lunch!
Another cat.
Arrival at the Marriott in Fes.
Moroccan cemetery. All graves must face toward Mecca.
The place settings were very cute at the carnival dinner.