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Morroco I need Rick's help

Having done three successful trips through out Europe with my RS books, RS DVDs and ofcourse the help from helpline, it is very different planning for a trip without those resources. I came to trust and rely on the information which was exactly what we needed and wanted. Now we have our sights set on Morroco and I wish there was a magical book he had lying around somewhere to tell me how to do it, which places to stay overnight, where the most authentic riads are etc... written by Rick Steves ofcourse. We can't decide between Fez and Marrakesh and want to do both if we can. Not sure we can include both due to time constraints. We have no issues with driving a rental car. May be we could do a train to shorten that distance? We want a night in the Sahara and we don't need to visit the ocean parts. I have read Lonely Planet and others but I miss my RS format. Isn't it a whole different experience planning without him. Has anyone done a great trip and can share information on the itinerary and hits and misses? I can't seem to find the threads of other people writing about this and am not used to the new format here.

Thanks
Caroline -Boston

Posted by
16764 posts

This Morocco article from Rick was what inspired my first trip there and laid out a basic plan, but the details came from Lonely Planet. The current LP includes places that my local guide took me in 1996 and 1998 when they were not yet in the book, so consider it pretty complete. Fes would be my first priority. I spent more time in Fes and it felt more rich and authentic to me than Marrakesh.

Trains (www.oncf.ma) are easy to use between the cities, so you would only need a car if you get out of the range of trains, such as to the Sahara. Driving from Fes to Merzouga takes 6 hours each way according to Google Maps (or 8 from Marrakech to Merzouga), but leave very early and plan for it to take longer. The closer you get to the desert, the narrower the road, so watch out for truck and bus drivers who take "their half" out of the middle; you will have to avoid them. You need a local guide to drive with you on the off-road section from Rissani to Merzouga. You'll want to explore the dunes in the morning, when it's cooler, then head out again. If you don't have time to get to the dessert, you can get tastes of smaller village life as bus or taxi daytrips, not far from either big city.

Posted by
9110 posts

Kind of a broad question.

You can link Fez and Marrakech by car in five or six hours, but you wouldn't want a car in either one. You can rent in either and drop in the other but it doesn't make much sense to do it. If you'd did, the route would dip out to the coast at Casablanca until Rabat. If you try to use the inland routes, be careful, the roads aren't that well marked.

The Sahara and High Atlas can best be done from Marrakech. You'd need a tour the first time probably and it's going to take a couple or three days, ideally more. From what I've heard of the one-nighters, they're a contrived tourist gimmick.

How much time do you have to toss at the project and why have you nixed the coast?

Posted by
446 posts

Like you I've had success using RS books to plan European trips and was uncertain when we went to Marrakesh for three days. I bought the Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook and it worked well for us. The RS Spain guidebook does have a section on Tangier. We flew from Madrid to Marrakesh and then took the night train back to Tangier before crossing the straight by ferry to get back into Spain.

Posted by
5019 posts

Well, you say you want to do Fes and Marrakech but you're not sure if you can due to time constraints. How about telling us how much time you have? Without knowing that, nobody can give you any meaningful advice.

That said, I would recommend that you try to find a couple days each for both cities if you can, they are both worthwhile and different (from each other, and from anyplace else you've been in Europe!).

I would not drive between them (and I have driven a little in Morocco). Take the train. Easy, relaxing, although it will consume most of a day - the cities are not near each other and the route wanders a bit. Still, I'd rather take the train than drive.

Getting out to the Sahara may be more time consuming and involved than you think. If you want the real grand erg experience, you're going to need to spend a day driving south from Fes, and another day driving back, plus whatever time you want to spend out on the sand sea. Driving in Morocco - outside of the cities - is easy and safe. Driving out of and back in to Marrakech was somewhat stressful; I would not recommend a car in any of the cities.

As for a book, in the absence of a Rick book, I used the Cadogan guide and would recommend it (I do not like the Lonely Planet books, for a long list of reasons).

You didn't say what time of year you were planning to go - I hope it's not during the summer. Good luck and have fun.