Salam Morocco! G Adventures Style

Morocco has been a place that has always intrigued me. It all started when I decided I wanted to buy maracas from Morocco, and added it to my 30 before 30 goal list. I soon realized that maracas do NOT come from Morocco, but I still wanted to go anyways.

My Instagram feed is full of travel bloggers who are constantly inspiring me with their beautiful content. I kept seeing photos of Morocco and decided I NEEDED to go there. Being a young and blonde female, I was a little hesitant about solo-tripping around Morocco so I then began my research for tour companies. My sister suggested G Adventures and I instantly fell in love with their Moroccan itinerary, and price. My decision was made. I was going to Morocco. And I was going by myself.

This is not a sponsored post for G Adventures (although I would LOVE if it was!) but I truly want to share my amazing experience with this company. From the moment I booked my trip, G Adventures made the entire process easy to prepare for, and guided you along the way. There was not a time when I didn’t get a question answered, or felt like I was unprepared. Their mobile app is also wonderful! They have a suggested packing list that you can check off as you pack, or add more items to it. As a person who gets very stressed and overwhelmed about packing, that helped me immensely!

I arrived in Casablanca a day early so I could make sure to see part of the city before our tour took off for Fes! It was a Friday night, so while I was waiting for my airport transfer I could hear the prayers projecting from the surrounding mosque towers. I knew instantly this was going to be an amazing experience!

I settled into my princess bed in my bright pink room, and slept like a baby. The following morning I set out to see Hassan II Mosque. This was the first mosque I’ve ever seen, and it was incredible! I’m sure it’s amazing to see the crowd of thousands of worshipers who come to the mosque during Ramadan.

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That evening, the G Adventures tour group met up and our incredible adventure began! The nice thing about a G Adventures tour is the small group size. There were 15 of us total, and that was the max size for this specific tour. That makes for a very intimate adventure!

From the beginning, our CEO Said demonstrated knowledge and passion for his job. I could tell that he loved what he was doing! The first night, the majority of us went out to dinner, and took his recommendations on what to order. My new Aussie friend ordered a cheeseburger (and we loved her for that, you do you!) and I had my first of many tagines for the trip. Said explained the two typical Moroccan drinks, noos noos (coffee) and mint tea. Our other G Adventures guide, Aziz, ordered the mint tea and we were all impressed with the way the waiter poured the tea. Little did we know we would all soon fall in love with Moroccan mint tea. (Others fell in love with noos noos as well… but no coffee for this girl!)

The next day we all piled up into our van, and we were off to Fes! On our way there, we stopped in Meknes for a G Adventures supported traditional lunch. The women who cooked our delicious meal are part of the Association of Rural Women and Children (AFER). This program is a non-profit, and their main goal is to improve the quality of life in rural areas to maintain their population through sustainable and integrated local development. I loved learning about what they do, and the struggles they have been able to overcome with the help of this program. The lunch program is supported by G Adventures, which creates work for local women and also enables AFER to carry out activities to help women in need. Supporting them made my heart happy. And one of the ladies attempted to teach us Arabic as well! I wouldn’t say we were very successful, but it was interesting to learn! I love that part of G Adventure’s mission is to help the local community. We need more of that in our lives!

Our next stop was Volubilis, a UNESCO world heritage site. Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century B.C. and was an important outpost of the Roman Empire. It is one of the richest sites of this period in North Africa for it’s ruins and for the great wealth of epigraphic evidence! This site was incredible to see!

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We made it to Fes and a few of us opted to go see how they make mosaics and pottery! I was completely blown away watching them make mosaics. They hand cut every piece, and assemble the mosaic upside down!! They have the pattern in their brain, and they won’t see the end result until it has already been filled with cement. Very impressive. I would have forgotten instantly what color I laid down or what pattern I was shooting for… guess that’s why we leave it to the professionals!

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That night we went to a lovely dinner with musicians, belly dancers, and a magician! It was very entertaining. Said made sure we got there early so we could see the view from the rooftop of all the mosques lit up at night. Quite a few of us from our group were pulled up onto stage to dance with the belly dancers! It was a great time with amazing food! So. Much. Food.

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The following day we met up with a local guide, Sheham, to give us the ultimate Fes tour. We started by seeing the Royal Palace in Fes, making our way through the Jewish quarter, and then ended up in the medina. Sheham grew up in the residential part of the Fes Medina, so he took us around and made us pick which direction to go. We ended up at multiple dead ends, but we were the ONLY tourists in that part of the medina! Sheham took us into a peanut oven, where locals were baking peanuts. We saw many women who just came back from the market, their hands full of groceries. He also showed us that the doors had two knockers on them, so you didn’t have to unmount your donkey to knock on someone’s door! It was such a silent maze inside the residential medina.

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Our next destination was the artisan’s quarters. Walking through all of the different parts of the medina was incredible! Everything is organized in sections: carpenters, bakers, butchers, spice sellers, etc. Sheham brought us to a leather shop where we could view the famous Fes tannery from above. All of us were intrigued by the beautiful hand crafted leather products. Sheham’s father used to work at this specific leather shop, so he made sure we got the best deal for our products. Only the best tour guides for a G Adventures trip!!!

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The guides tried, but did not succeed, to lose any of us inside the medina. They brought us to yet another delicious restaurant that we all enjoyed. I ate almost the entire plate of dessert. Fruit with cinnamon is my new favorite!!

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The latter part of the afternoon was ours to explore. Rainy weather was in the forecast, so I opted to get a massage at the hotel and have a relaxing evening. Luckily, this was the ONLY time it rained on the entire trip! We were incredibly lucky.

We all had a super early morning on the agenda so we could head to the desert for our camel and camping adventure! The drive was long, but we were able to see monkeys in the Cedar forest, snow in the mountains, and then camels in the desert! Such diverse and beautiful scenery. We arrived in Merzouga and were greeted with Moroccan hospitality, mint tea!! All of us were incredibly excited to ride into the desert perched atop a sturdy, surprisingly swift beast. Said helped us all tie our scarves into a typical turban fashion, and we were ready to head into the desert!

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Everything was so perfect, it felt unreal. The lighting was a photographers dream, the camels were so adorable, and the sand had a beautiful glow to it. After an hour ride, we reached our peaceful campsite. We all dropped our stuff down in our tents, and then ran up the sand dunes to watch the sunset from above. Another picture perfect sunset! We had another delicious dinner prepared for us by our wonderful hosts, and then listened to Said and our hosts play traditional music on the drums. Many of us stayed up to talk to Said, so we could learn more about the Moroccan lifestyle. The moon was so bright, and so were the stars. I could have stayed many nights in the desert, it was perfect.

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We woke up early so we could gather our belongings to set off by camelback to catch the sunrise. YET AGAIN, it was PERFECT. The second we got to the sunrise spot, the sun rose over the horizon. It was seriously like they told the sun when to rise. The entire time spent in the desert I was blown away by the beauty. The photographs only show a fraction of the beauty that I saw. I can’t even properly describe the way these beautiful moments made me feel.

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Next on the itinerary was Todra Gorge. When we arrived, Said asked if any of us were interested in going to a rug shop. All of us were! We walked down the road less traveled, over the stream and through some bushes, and we arrived at the rug shop. We were given the Moroccan welcome with mint tea, and shop owner explained the different types of rugs to us. There were even ladies who were demonstrating how to spool the wool, and use the loom! The owner stated, “You aren’t here to buy carpet, you are here to learn!” (Which made me want to buy a rug even more… because he was so sweet! ) Then the carpet buying process began! They bring out the rugs one by one, unfold and hold up for us all to see. Once there was a large pile, the elimination process began. Then again they hold up each rug one by one, and you have to say haali (keep it to consider) or ishmaa (send it back). Once you have a few you are thinking about, the bartering process begins! I ended up with a gem of a rug, and I absolutely love it.

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After we all bought rugs we didn’t necessarily need, we all went on a nature walk through Todra Gorge. It was so beautiful! The gorge is filled with a green oasis of palm trees. It was such a great way to spend an afternoon! Said showed me the areas people climb in the gorge, and I swore I would be back one day to rock climb there. It was incredible!

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The next day we traveled along the Route of 1000 Kasbahs to get to Ait Benhaddou. We passed many filming studios along the way, it was pretty interesting! There were many movies filmed at Ait Benhaddou, and the surrounding areas. The most famous are Game of Thrones and Gladiator. (Unfortunately I haven’t seen either, I should work on that). Said took us into a Kasbah in Ait Benhaddou and it was stunning! The whole area is beautiful and has been so well restored. You won’t see many exposed power lines or lights, because they want to keep it looking as authentic as possible for the film industry.

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That night five of us took a tagine cooking class! There were no real measurements for the spices. The lady showed us the approximate amount on the spoon and expected us to remember! Ha! When it was my turn, I made her approve all of my spice measurements. I also only put potatoes as my vegetables, and Said laughed at me. BUT it ended up being the best tagine I had the entire trip! I was incredibly proud of myself. After dinner, the entire group spent hours playing Mafia. Even Aziz joined us! It was such a fun way to spend the evening together. I was drinking calimocho (red wine and coke) and everything thought I was crazy. Some things never change, no matter what country you are in!!

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After Ait Behaddou, it was time to head to Marrakech, which means our wonderful adventure was unfortunately coming to an end. On the way to Marrakech, we stopped for a noos noos break in the High Atlas Mountains and there was a co-op of women who were making Argan oil! They demonstrated the process used to make the oil, and then there were a million products that had Argan oil in them. I didn’t know that you can only find Argan trees in Morocco!

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Once we got to Marrakech, a local guide showed us the ins and outs of the medina. I personally think Marrakech was the most overwhelming of all the places we visited, and I was glad it was last. It is so incredibly touristy, that the prices are so much higher that you definitely need to bargain for items in the souks and the owners were a lot pushier than the rest of the places. BUT it was still a beautiful city to visit! Said took us to a terrace to view the Djemaa el Fna Square from above. We agreed we were all going to meet later that evening to have a last dinner together inside the square, and we ventured off on our own until then.

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My Aussie friend, Tammy, and I were wandering around the souks looking for different things when this guy stopped us because my shoes intrigued him. (My Chacos). He asked if he could get a photo of my shoes, so I said yes. Little did I know he meant he wanted to DRAW my shoes. He wanted to draw them so he could then make them later in leather! That wasn’t anything I was expecting at all! He drew a very detailed photo of my Chacos and then showed us some of these beautiful bracelets his family in the desert makes. Tammy and I ended up trading him some over the counter medicine, the drawing of my shoes, and some Dirhams for two very beautiful bracelets. I will never forget that!

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We all met up for our farewell dinner in the food stalls, and enjoyed the view of street performers and musicians. That mint tea was the best tea of the entire trip, and I was happy to end on that one!

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After dinner, a few of us went to do some last minute shopping in the souks (after all, I still needed to find my maracas!) We were in a jalaba shop, and the worker asked what I was looking for. I explained the best way possible that I was looking for something that made noise when you moved it. I saw something earlier that was the equivalent of maracas, but the Moroccan version and that’s what I was after. He immediately knew what I was talking about, and ran to another souk to find them. He told me the price of 150 Dirhams and I was set on 100. He gave me a hard time but then I started dancing and singing with the little clappers saying “one hundred one hundred!” He laughed and finally agreed on 100 Dirhams. It was probably my favorite moment of bartering during the trip!

We all made it back to the hotel to say our final goodbyes. Said and Aziz thanked us for choosing G Adventures, explaining our love for travel supports them and their country. Being my first solo tour experience, I was so incredibly happy I had Said and Aziz as my Moroccan guides. They were so supportive, knowledgeable and fun. I hope that the next G Adventures tour I take has guides similar to those two!

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I cannot recommend traveling with a tour company enough. Especially if you want to go someone on your own, but still want to be inside a safe circle. Everything is planned for you, so you can relax and enjoy the experience! I am still so sad that my time in Morocco couldn’t last longer, but I am so thankful for the friends and memories I made along the way!

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“You never really travel alone. The world is full of friends waiting to get to know you.”

Love,

lil b

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