We’ve been wanting to add Morocco to the program of small-group tours we offer and Liz and I are heading over for a recce in May 2018
It’s quite a process, with a lot of prep that goes into our trips before they happen. The first step is to work out an itinerary that fits within our ideal time frame, and a little over two weeks is the sweet spot. Next we’ll look at the hotels, dining and experiences we want to include. Hotels are important – we try and stay three nights in most places and we’re looking for small, special hotels high on comfort with atmosphere, warm service and great food.
Finding the right guides and experiences is tough. We want guides who can breathe life into their subject matter, not just those who trot out a tedious litany of what they’ve learned. We’re also looking for experiences with the Wow! factor, that re going to surprise our guests and stand out in their memory.
The recce is the acid test. We’ll stay at all the hotels we’re planning to include, eat in all the restaurants and sample all the experiences. For this trip we’ll be lunching at Scorpion House after visiting the incredible Roman ruins at Volubilis, taking a photography tour of the World Heritage medina in in Fez, riding camels in the Sahara, hiking among the palmeries and kasbahs in Dades Gorge and mixing it with the snake charmers, Koran readers, acrobats, Berber musicians, fortune tellers, dervishes, performing monkeys, trance healers and sellers of fetishes who practice their trades by semi-darkness in Djemaa el Fna, the great plaza at the heart of Marrakech.
There’s a bit of shopping – and I defy anyone to come home from the souks of Morocco empty-handed – and plenty of great dining experiences, since what people eat is a great way to understand a culture, as well as the sheer pleasure of sampling a foreign cuisine. We’ll be taking a guided food tour through the market in Fes, doing a street food tasting tour in Marrakech, taking a short cooking class and dining at some special places including Nur, run by Najat Kaanache, who grew up in San Sebastián, and worked at Spain’s legendary El Bulli before opening her restaurant in Fez’s medina.
We’ll also be testing out our Destination Management Company. Liz and I were in Morocco last year so we’ve got a head start. The DMC arranges transport, books hotels, guides and experiences according to the itinerary that we devise. In this case we’ll be working with Mark Willenbrock who took us around in 2017 and who has his own touring outfit, Mad about Morocco. Mark is a Brit who has lived there for decades. He does a lot of work with film crews as well as small groups. His specialty is getting way off the beaten track in his Range Rover, and what he doesn’t know about Morocco probably isn’t worth knowing. We’ll also shoot lots of images and some video, which I really enjoy, and especially in a place like Morocco.
First guided trip will probably happen in April 2019. Maximum 10 people, probably 17 days total, register your interest we’ll keep you posted!