Tom has always dreamed of visiting Morocco, but is unsure about the best way to get there and how safe he’ll be when he arrives. So in today’s Travel SOS, Lee Mylne sets his mind at ease.
For so many years I’ve been excited by the thought of visiting Morocco but have never had the chance, until now. I have decided to simply bite the bullet and book my flights – that was the easy part! I have so many questions and the more research I do, the more questions I have. Could you help me with some of the basics? What’s the best route to take when flying? Is it safe? Other than Marrakesh, where should I visit? Is it possible to spend time with a Berber tribe? Can I go it alone or is a guided tour better? Sorry for all the questions but any assistance would be appreciated.
I am really envious, Tom! I’ve never been to Morocco but it sounds so exotic and everyone I know who has been has just loved it. I know there are many options, so I went to an expert in the field to help answer your questions. Carol Prior runs an Australian-based tour company, By Prior Arrangement, and has 40 years’ experience working in tourism in Morocco.
Carol’s first piece of advice is “not to rush it”. She suggests spending at least 14 to 18 days there and explains that Morocco has four mountain ranges and, even though there are now very good motorways linking the major cities, travelling still takes a while.
From Australia, the best air routes are with Etihad, Emirates and Qatar from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide to Casablanca via their Middle Eastern hubs. Casablanca is a great stepping stone to set off north, south or east towards Fes.
DFAT’s current travel warning is for a “high degree of caution”, particularly in the southern and border areas of Morocco but Carol says tours will not take you anywhere near that area. “Our travellers have always felt extremely safe when travelling with us and we have many solo travellers who have loved their time in Morocco,” she says. “The Moroccan people are charming, helpful and hospitable.”
Where should you visit? Carol says Marrakech is a “must” – so cosmopolitan, yet full of history and the souks (markets) are bursting with colour. You should also consider Fes, the oldest spiritual capital in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage site, with the ancient Medina and labyrinth of 900 alleys making up the old town. The craftsmanship is outstanding in Fes with pottery, tanning leather and carpet weaving all working much as they have done for 1000 years.
Close to Fes is the Imperial City of Meknes, founded at the end of the 17th century, which was once the capital of Morocco; and the well-preserved Roman ruins of Volubilis dating back to the first and second centuries. On the coast, there is Essaouira, a charming fishing port abandoned by the Portuguese in 1541 and later transformed into a fortified city. Now a charming town with its old port and cannons overlooking the fishing fleet, Essaouira is home to many artisans making tables, boxes and sundry items in lemon or Thuya wood inlaid with mother of pearl.
Spending time with a Berber tribe is certainly possible! Carol says this is a very special experience and By Prior Arrangement offers a day and night in the dunes of the Chigaga desert at Bobo’s Camp, with a camel ride, and Berber folklore dancing and singing around a huge fire. In the Atlas Mountains, you can also visit Ouirgane, a small village away from the tourist trail, where you can walk, trek or ride mules to reach a small Berber village in the foothills for a tagine lunch with a Berber family in a traditional house.
Going it alone is great as you have the chance to really connect with the locals, and you are able to go to the places that appeal to you and stay for longer if you wish, but a guided tour will certainly give you the flavour of the country, and have the added bonus of meeting fellow travellers.
By Prior Arrangement can create an itinerary that will incorporatie your interests, timeframe and budget. Carol also has scheduled small group tours each year, which suits many solo travellers.
Good luck with your research – and enjoy Morocco, Tom!
For more information, please visit www.bypriorarrangement.com