Travelogue: Morocco, Part 5

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)

  • Day 8: Ouarzazate to Marrakech
    • Ouarzazate is the film capital of Morocco; many movies have been filmed there, like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia. And television like Game of Thrones. We really liked Ouarzazate from our brief stay and many of us commented that we wished we could have spent more time there.
    • But now it was off to Marrakech. Another long bus ride, this time winding through the 8,000 ft Atlas Mountains. A few people on our bus struggled immensely with car sickness, but I thought it was alright.
    • Though we did not love our tour guide, we did acquire a few sets of “trip parents.” We were the youngest people on the tour and a few couples (Clive & Lucie, Mike & Carol, Krish & Nilima, and Wey) kind of adopted us as their kids. We loved them!
    • We did receive the news, however, that our beloved Krish was stuck with food poisoning.  He and his wife had to hire a private driver to get them from Ouarzazate to Marrakech because of how sick he was.  We felt terrible for him.
    • After 4 or 5 hours of the winding roads, we finally arrived in Marrakech.  Our hotel, the Kennedy Hospitality Resort, was a dump. People were furious. It truly felt like a Moroccan Super 8.
    • This was especially frustrating because we were promised another hotel, which was much nicer, but we ended up with this.  The issue likely stemmed from the fact that there was an international finance conference (International Monetary Fund) happening in Marrakech. Maybe our promised hotel had to give us the boot because they needed the rooms for conference goers. But the replacement hotel was simply unacceptable. Dirty, no working AC, etc.
    • Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned that Jillian and I booked a room at the Four Seasons? Well, THANK GOD we did.
    • We left the Kennedy Space Center (as Jillian mockingly started calling it) and walked with our luggage, in 95 degree heat, over to the Four Seasons.  The Four Seasons was about a 20 minute walk away. We checked in and got Room #31… it was GORGEOUS.
    • The entire Four Seasons experience was rejuvenating and helped to boost our morale.
    • We ate room service for dinner and then walked around the luxury outdoor shopping mall that was next to the hotel. We even found a Baskin Robbins – ahhh, a taste of home.
  • Day 9: Marrakech
    • It was on this morning that we decided to try to go home early. We were done with Morocco.
    • Our tour group still thought we were over at the Kennedy Hotel – we really truly did sneak out and never told anyone where we were going.
    • We walked back to the Kennedy Hotel because our tour group was leaving via bus to see the Jardin Majorelle (which was restored by French designer Yves Saint Laurent). The gardens were just OK.  I’m glad we went, but I don’t think I’d ever need to go back.
    • Poor Krish was still not feeling 100%, and we wanted to leave the tour group entirely, so Jillian, myself, and Krish went back to the Kennedy Hotel via cab.  Krish was just so precious and we told him that we’d get him back “home” to the hotel… “you’re our dad now.”
    • Once we were back, we said our goodbyes to Krish. I think he knew what we were up to (dads always know) and wished us well on our trip home. We picked up the rest of our luggage and made our final walk back to the Four Seasons.
    • We did email our tour guide to tell him we were leaving early, to which he responded and yelled at us.  He really was terrible all around.
    • Our amazing travel agent, Jody, worked hard to rearrange our flights so we could head home the next day. We were thrilled!
    • On our last night in Morocco, Jillian went and had a 3 hour spa treatment and we went out for a fancy dinner at Quattro. It was interesting being there while the IMF conference was happening. Saudis with armed guards roaming about… and then there was the two of us, in our leggings and messy buns, asking if the pool bar served Coke Zeros.
  • Day 10: Heading Home
    • We woke up at 5:45am and headed to the airport, which was only a 5 minute drive away. We paid for a private driver from the Four Seasons because we were tired of being scammed using normal cabs.
    • The Marrakech airport was beautiful and so much nicer than Casablanca’s. I can understand why people choose to visit Marrakech!
    • Our travels home were smooth, on-time, and uneventful. Marrakech to Paris, Paris to Atlanta, Atlanta to Chicago. All of our luggage made it home with us as well! Our driver picked us up at O’Hare at midnight and I was home in my own bed at 3:45am. BLESS.
  • Final Thoughts
    • Do I want to go back to Morocco? Not really. Though I’m not totally against it if the circumstances were different.
    • Would I recommend Morocco to others? That is a very strong it depends.
    • Did I enjoy our trip? For the most part, no. Your tour guide makes or breaks your experience — and ours broke it. He was just awful, on so many levels.
    • Am I glad I went? 100% YES. It was an experience, for better or worse, and my life was enriched by it. Even though parts of that experience were uncomfortable and unpleasant, I’m happy that I took this trip.
    • The cons:
      • Our tour guide; his demeanor, lack of communication, and combativeness were all a challenge
      • The weather was HOT; which was to be expected, but it was still tough as parts of the country are not adequately air-conditioned
      • Having to be so careful about what you eat and drink (no tap water, no produce/fruit, etc)
      • The men. I will be perfectly honest: it was hard to be a young-ish, white, blonde woman in Morocco. The staring, the yelling, the groping, and the leering. You feel constantly on display and unsafe. Not every man was like this (some were truly wonderful and kind), but there were enough of the bad apples that it was noticeable and jarring.
      • The constant scamming. Everything is a game, everything is a ruse, everything is questionable.
    • The pros:
      • The tile work/colors/artistry/architecture was phenomenal. I loved every bit of it.
      • The women. All of the women we encountered were kind and helpful.
      • The Sahara. I raved about it in a previous post, but honestly, the Sahara at sunset made the entire trip worth it.
      • Our “parents” in the tour group; we really did enjoy their company and how we all bonded with each other. Lucie, Clive, Krish, Nilima, Mike, and Carol, if there is a chance in hell that you’re reading this, we enjoyed our 10 days with you and hope you’re doing well!
      • The complete immersion in a different world. Being in Africa, in a predominantly Muslim country, surrounded by Arabic was an experience. It was a wild ride for us, the two Wisconsinites.

A film studio in Ouarzazate.
See that bright light? It’s a concentrated solar power tower.
Roadside kitsch.
A gift shop at a roadside gas station. It was one of my favorite stops of the trip.
Look at these beautiful bathrooms!!
Gas station kitty cat.
Our lord and savior, Four Seasons.
It was the dreamiest!
Brunch and cake. Accurate.
Oh hell yeah!
The Jardin Majorelle
Sweet Krish. Look at his visor!
Back home at the Four Seasons
The Marrakech airport.
Peace out, Morocco.
A rainbow in Paris. Denny welcoming us.
One of the few souvenirs that I bought.