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Mr & Mrs Flashware's Moroccan Adventure

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Off the back of kpc's wonderful TR http://www.australianfrequentflyer....rocco-casablanca-fes-and-marrakesh-21568.html, I decided to do a TR of my own for Morocco, with this being my 4th visit to the country my outlook on the place is certainly more different to the comment I made in the above TR saying it was somewhere that would be way down my list of places to visit!

What I will also do is provide some commentary around components from my first 3 trips.
 

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I enjoyed Morocco many years ago, so looking forward to this TR
 

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After a small bout of travel (PER and back in a weekend) and illness along with a project completing at work I've finally got some time to sit down and get this done. Now, I can't vouch for what the quality will be like so will hopefully let the pictures do the talking!
 

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The idea for the trip started with a combination of some easy TP's (SC for you QF folk ;)) and the fact that I had been to RAK several times but Mrs Flashback had not been - so we decided we would head over for a week and explore outside of RAK taking in the desert and Fes while we were at it. We certainly had a lot of ground to cover in a short time, but it was going to be fun and allowed plenty of time for a bit of rest... or so we hoped!

The flight over was in BA's Club Europe cabin; their standard European "business class" offering where the middle seat is blocked in an economy style (but slightly longer seat pitch). Nothing much to say about the flight really. We were sat in 1D/1F which offers good legroom for the bulkhead (there is no 1A/1C); 737-436.

Word of warning to anyone traveling in Club Europe on an A319/A320; 1A/C/D/F is available but the legroom on the bulkhead is a little restrictive IMHO.

It was good to see that the awful muck they had onboard (Pommery champagne) has now been replaced for good with Charles Heidseck. A noticeable improvement Mrs Flashback tells me on the former.

Anyway, after a flight time of roughly 3hr15mins we landed safely in RAK. I even think we were a little early! It was as if the airport wasn't quite ready for us. Each time I've arrived into RAK it's been a fairly easy process but today was slightly more confusing ... we ended up walking into the wrong building, before being shooed off and finally directed into the correct one. Going through passport control was probably a little quicker then my previous trips so that was a nice bonus and it was then a quick stop at the carousel to get one of our bags and off we went....... or so we thought!

After my first experience of RAK thinking it would be easy to find our own way to the accommodation in the Medina; I quickly learnt the best way would be to book a transfer with the Riad. That's all good and well... however unfortunately someone at the Riad seem to have forgotten, so we waited around for an hour doing laps of the arrivals area several times trying to find our pickup but with no success. Eventually I went to the Moroc Telecom shop and bought a SIM (150 Dirham or so for the SIM and 7 days credit) and called the Riad. Unfortunately this particular place spoke predominantly French and my wife's highschool French wasn't getting the point through!

I went back to the phone shop to enlist the help of the chap who sold me the SIM who was more than happy to let the guy know we had a transfer booked, no one was there ... and we needed that transfer to happen :shock:

Not an ideal start, but at least having been to RAK before I wasn't feeling stressed as I expected things like this! If it was my first time however, I think it would have been a bit messier.

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Finally arriving at Riad Barroko it was an oasis of calm inside the otherwise busy Medina ; the pool was just the right temperature for a quick dip as it was quite warm outside.

We were not far from Jemaa el-Fnaa - the main square in the medina so we went for a little wander to take in the sights of Marrakech which during the evening is probably the best time to experience the madness and great colour.
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One thing to be wary of... if you take photos of any of the performers (snake charmer, the monkeys, etc.) expect them to start hassling you for some money!
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Unfortunately the place we were staying at was full the 2nd night we had in RAK so we decided to move to the new town (Gueliz) in order to make pickup easier for the tour we would be starting the next day.

A few shots of the medina wall as we made our way to the next hotel.

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It was an early start the next day - we had arranged a 3 day/2 night tour via Moroccan Views which was excellent value at 120 EUR/person.

A small minibus arrived at 7.30 or so (we were told 7am pickup) - welcome to Africa time! We jumped on, put our bags in the back and we were on our way.

Our first stop was in a small Berber village called Tadart to allow those who skipped breakfast to have a quick bite to eat and enjoy the view.
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After a short stop it was back on the bus and then onto our first major stop for the day via the Atlas Mountains and onto Aït Ben Haddou Kasbah. It was a 16th century fortress classified by UNESCO as a human international patrimony. The sun was out and the heat could be felt - but we spent an hour wandering through the Kasbah and walked up to the top enjoying the little shops on the way and the view once at the top. There have been some famous things filmed around here such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator and Laurence of Arabia.
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After having lunch there we made our way to the Dades Gorges via the Roses Valley - very dry and barren scenery but stunning none-the-less.
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The next morning was a relaxed breakfast - we were leaving at 8.30 today which was a little more palatable. We were to drive towards the Todgha Valley and visit the gorges, but not without first stopping by a Berber village to check out some local artisan crafts. We were offered some Berber Whisky (green tea with lots of sugar!) which was quite tasty as I normally only ever have green tea as is!
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Of course, we couldn't escape without the obligatory rug sell! Made from either camel hair, baby camel hair, sheep's wool and some kind of cactus silk.
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A few shots of the gorges - the water was nice and cool!
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The Berber's bring their goats, horses, etc. down to drink the water once a day.
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It was then back on the bus for a quick drive to Erfoud for some lunch and then back into the bus and ready for a good solid few hours of driving to get to Merzouga - the gateway to the dunes. We stopped in at Palais des Dunes Hotel to enjoy a little R&R, go for a swim and relax a bit while we waited for the temperature to drop to something more manageable and then get ready to ride some camels for 1.5-2 hours into the dunes where we were to then spend the night at a Berber camp in the desert and watch the sun set as we traveled.
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Once the sun had gone down we got the sandboard out and started to go surfing down the dunes - good fun, even Mrs Flashback had a go!
 

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Some more shots of the Berber camp including the entertainment.
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After a fairly long day it was time for bed - exhausted. We had to be up at 6am the next morning to enable us to get back on the camels and ride back towards Merzouga catching the sunrise on the ride back.
 

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So it was up early and ready to trek back to Palais des Dune for breakfast.... was wonderful to see the sun rise over the dunes!
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With nothing more left for the tour but to trek back to Marrakech, a very long day of driving we opted to leave slightly early and make our own way to Fes. We were dropped off at Rissani which was about 30km from Merzouga and waited to board our bus to Fes. 120 Dirham each and comfort negotiable!
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A fairly old list of tariffs for getting on along the route.
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All in all a fairly uneventful trip. Hot, long, trying ... but all part of the experience! Eventually we made it to Fes ready to kick back and relax for a few days staying right in the middle of the action in the old Medina at Dar El Menia.

It was rather interesting driving through Ifrane - the architecture is much more European in style, there is a lot of greenery around and seemed to be a lot of wealthy people. I understand that during the winter it gets rather cold and has lots of snow due to it's altitude, turning into a ski resort. Might be worth going back to visit in the winter.
 

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Fes was an interesting place. I much preferred it to Marrakech - it felt a little more relaxed, the price of street food was much better and I didn't feel as hassled by the street vendors, whereas in Marrakech I found them to be very in your face.

You really get a feel for how old this place is when you look around at the buildings!
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We checked out all the usual sites - it was very handy that our accommodation was located very central as we could go out and wander for an hour or two and then have a nice short walk back to relax when the heat became too much.
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Vehicles aren't officially allowed in the Medina streets so here's the common form of transport to move things around...
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Lots of colour and excitement around the Medina
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There's also quite a few animals around.... mainly dogs and cats. I think there's more stray cats here than I noticed in Marrakech. There's quite a few there as well but I think Fes wins!
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Turtles, anyone?
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After having spent 2 nights in Fes it was time to head back to Marrakech via train to then fly back to London. It's just over a 7 hour train ride, the air con was decent, first class was 290 Dh each (vs 190 Dh in 2nd class) so was a no brainer for such a long journey. We had a 6.50am departure so walked to the main gate of the Medina and caught a Petit Taxi (cost about 15Dh) to the Fes station.
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I like the idea of solar charging points to power your devices!
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The departure board - just to be sure we were getting the right train! Our host at Dar El Menia said you can sometimes end up on the wrong train .. so just make sure you're on the right platform!
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Our chariot back to Marrakech
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Apart from the slight worry that one of the doors to the outside had flung open the trip was otherwise uneventful :mrgreen:

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The seats were nice and comfy and the aircon was a godsend!

We arrived back into Marrakech, spent a few hours wandering through the shops and picking up a few final bits and pieces then made our way back to the square for one last crack at an item I found last time I was in Marrakech; the Croque Monsieur! It's basically a ham and cheese toasted sanger but covered top and bottom with cheese too! :D

We then caught the Airport Bus from the square, 30 Dh each - arrived, checked in and made our way through to the lounge. One thing you'll note when going through security is that there is a male line and a female line. Fortunately this time it was very quiet. The other times I've traveled through it's taken at least 30 minutes to get through security :shock:

We relaxed in the lounge where there was WiFi but it was non-existent, beverages had been reduced to non-alcoholic only (a new change) and the place was heaving as the Club Europe cabin had 9 rows of people.

We arrived back in London to be met with rain (after having spent most of the week in 38 degree heat) so it was in a way a very acceptable welcome home!

Thanks all for reading and I hope this gives you a good insight into Morocco.
 
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