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Stephen Scott

Chicago, Illinois Travel Agent

The Culture of Morocco

The Moroccan culture is so rich and the people were so warm and friendly that this is a destination that you need to come back to again and again.  There are so many things to experience; the more I learn, the more I want to know.

I visited for the first time on a familiarization tour arranged in cooperation with Experience Morocco, a luxury tour operator. It’s important to go with a trusted tour operator because even the best planned trip may have things that need to be adjusted. The average traveler wouldn’t have noticed, but as travel agents, we could see they were always checking on our next stops and occasionally making adjustments while we were relaxing. 

One of the things I liked most was the hotels we stayed in. They were each original, creative and authentic to Morocco that they felt an extension of the city. Located in the Atlas Mountains, the 28-room Kasbah Tamadot was built by an antique and art dealer, who housed his collection here. The property was bought by Sir Richard Branson during one of his famous ballooning expeditions and each room is individually decorated with museum-quality antiques and furnishings. It was an experience just to stay in a room where each piece of furnishings and décor was worthy of attention. As part of the hotel’s giving back, it offers English classes to anyone in the local community who wants them and 90% of the staff is local. They also offer wonderful excursions, like a mule trek to a local village and into the nearby national park, guided hikes and cooking classes.

Marrakesh draws millennials its high energy urban vibe and exotic beauty. It also feels clean and safe. I sampled two luxury hotels while there: the Fairmont Royal Palm, looking out at the Atlas Mountains, and the new Mandarin Oriental properties, which affords spectacular views of the city. 

Throughout Morocco, the souks, typical open markets, are astounding. Here, there are rows and rows of colorful and aromatic spices, handcrafted clothing and rugs. They are not cheap, but the value for your dollar is amazing. One couple in my group bought three and four rugs at a time, saying they were going to replace all their factory-made “Target-puchased” rugs with these handmade treasures. They’d done research and understood the value and quality. I purchased a lot of jewelry and purses for friends, who were thrilled!

One morning we took a hot air balloon trip, setting out at sunrise from the desert just outside Marrakesh. The sight of multiple balloons rising up above the mountains with the soft colors of the sunrise in the background and the peaceful, calm feeling is unforgettable.

Another great experience was in Essaouira, on the Atlantic Coast. It’s easy to see why Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and the hippies of the 60s and 70s frequented this small town by the sea. We rode four-wheelers on beach and in town, we bought fish directly from the fishermen, who would wrap them and send them to the hotel or restaurant of our choice to be cooked on the spot. 

One of the nice things about Morocco is its proximity to Spain, Paris and the Mediterranean. That makes it easy to visit for a long weekend. But be forewarned, if you’re like me, one trip won’t be enough.

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