London to Fes
By Guest – Susan Vine from UK
Having decided to escape a traditional Xmas / New Year in the UK, we booked a Tiziri Tour of Morocco. We flew from London Gatwick Airport directly to Fes which has a beautiful modern airport. Arrival process was smooth and fast except for the queue for the sim cards. The taxi ride into the medina and our riad was only a distance of around 15km and so we arrived in no time at all.
Fes is a very ancient city and for me, therein lays its fascination. The medina is a maze of tiny streets (literally thousands of them), accessed through one of the ancient babs or gateways. It is traffic free and full of interest. Without a doubt the western tourist is advised to hire a guide and we were so fortunate with the medina guide Tiziri Camp booked for us. Very unusually, she is a registered female guide and took us into all sorts of places where we didn’t see any of the large tour groups that were trudging around. Our walking tour lasted around 3 hours but as the oldest (78) in our group I didn’t find it too tiring as I was so engaged by the history and knowledge our guide imparted.
Fes medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and as such is being sympathetically restored by
government and private investment. So, many artisans were at work and copper, leather and textiles all have their own souks. The medina is not just a tourist attraction, but a working city and I was told that some residents have NEVER left its environs.
Fes to Merzouga Desert
We drove from Fes to the next night stop on our Tiziri Tour which was their eco luxury camp, Tiziri Camp in Erg Chebbi (Sahara). It was a fascinating journey. We stopped for coffee in Ifrane, a town in the middle Atlas which is 1665m above sea level and the modern town was established nearly 100 years ago by the French administration. I’ve done many “road trips” in Africa and love them – constantly changing scenery and lots to look at. Yes this one can take around 8 hours but is absolutely worth it.
Impressions from the Fes to Merzouga drive:-
Snow streaked mountains, sunglasses & short sleeves, sheep & donkeys, coca cola signs, children & old men herding goats, green velvety folds of mountainside, lorries piled with bales of hay heading to desert to feed camels, date palm groves, wild monkeys.
Truly so much to see and absorb.
Tiziri Desert Camp
After watching an amazing sunset from a high dune which I found to be both an emotional and spiritual experience, we arrived at camp. Wow! The cleverly crafted crescent moon over the entrance is so iconic and is engraved with Berber symbols. Then a red carpet entices you towards a central area where tea and snacks were served. The tents are luxuriously furnished and dinner in the restaurant tent was worthy of 5 stars. SUPERB.
But, for me, the best part of the evening was sitting with layers of clothes on, around a glorious wood fire with the musical staff performing and inviting any guests who felt like it, to join in. The black star studded sky completed this idyllic evening. This was December and very cold at night, but the hot water bottles in the beds, and in some cases electric blankets, made sleeping in a tent so very comfortable.
Desert to Dades
We were all reluctant to leave the desert but the Tiziri Tour continued on and we were to head to Dades. We split up here and the young ones went hiking while we sat and enjoyed the fireside hospitality at Chez Pierre hotel. What a warm welcome we received. They knew our driver and treated us all like long lost family.
Then we were treated to the most enjoyable surprise. Our wonderful driver, Lhousayn, took us to his home where his mother had prepared lunch for us. I didn’t think I was a great fan of very traditional Moroccan food until that moment. So far Tiziri had arranged for us to have rather more fusion style meals everywhere which had been outstanding but this traditional and home cooked meal was without a shadow of a doubt the best I’ve ever tasted. What a treat to be able to be in the kitchen with Mama watching her and enjoying their warm family vibe. This was a huge privilege and big thanks to Lhousayn for arranging it.
Dades to Skoura
Then it was onto Skoura Oasis. This was also a real high spot and a memorable New Year’s Eve was spent there. The itinerary for our Tiziri Tour described our accommodation as “beldi-chic” and it was perfect in every respect, beautifully tended gardens, well appointed and stylish rooms, and the vegetation was lush, obvious really as it was an oasis but a huge contrast to some areas we’d passed through.
We explored the gardens and cracked open a bottle of wine on the rooftop overlooking the oasis with a backdrop of snow-capped Atlas mountains. Then we got ready for our evening and the New Year’s Eve dinner and entertainment was so much fun.
Skoura to High Atlas
On New Years day we left the oasis behind us and were driven towards our next night stop. As there is always so much to see on the road, you will want to keep your camera at the ready and be prepared to ask your driver to stop if you want a special shot. Our destination was Kasbah Angour – a stunning old Berber castle in the Atlas.
Thick walls, wooden shutters, stunning views of the gardens and swimming pool beyond which being January not even the younger members of the group were willing to try. I was able to imagine spending several days in this wonderful place. Our arrival had been a little later than anticipated but we were greeted courteously and offered an excellent dinner.
High Atlas to Essaouira
Like many people I love to use argan oil on my face and skin and it’s readily available in Morocco.
Goats up the trees, eating the fruits, are a common sight in parts of the country and make a great
photo. BUT I was very shocked to see that in some places the photo opportunity was being exploited by tethering the goats to the branches. PLEASE do not stop to photo these goats. Tiziri are an ethical company and our driver refused to stop, driving on a bit further and taking a turn away from the main route where we found the goats doing this acrobatic trick naturally and without human intervention.
Our last nights were in Essaouira. The medina in this seaside town is packed with artisan shops and we felt confident to wander, barter and buy. No hassle and lots of places to sit with a cold drink and watch the world go by. The younger ones enjoyed their freedom here too and tried many of the bars and restaurants. This whitewashed town had, for me anyway, a completely different vibe to other places I’ve visited in Morocco.
Essaouira to Airport – The End of our Tiziri Tour
After leaving Essaouira en-route for Marrakesh airport we had time for two quick stops. Lunch was at a stunning artist’s gardens on a rooftop terrace. These unique gardens were designed by the
talented multi disciplined artist, Andre Heller and are a fascinating mix of twisting paths, statues
Our final stop before heading to catch our plane was to Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Sanctuary. Susan and Charles with the help of an amazing team of local people, have established a real refuge for old and sick animals, most of whom have been relentlessly overworked by their owners. It is possible to get up close to the animals in the paddocks, to see the stable blocks and in fact receive a tour of the whole establishment. This is a charity where every penny goes to help the animals.
Tiziri Tour Summary
I was possibly the oldest tourist that I saw on this trip, but let me assure you all that age is no barrier to enjoying this amazing country. Yes you do need to be relatively mobile, as in able to walk short distances and climb stairs, but as long as you fulfil those conditions then there is no reason that at 60, 70 , 80 or 90 you can’t have a great holiday. There is a great respect for age in Morocco and particularly respect for older women.
This wonderful holiday lived up to all my expectations. It had been anticipated with excitement for
months and to me that is all part of the fun of a holiday. Our time went all too quickly, but when I
look at a map I can see how much of this wonderful country we visited. In addition to the places I’ve mentioned, we also did some great activities, sometimes splitting into age-groups to keep everyone happy and our driver ran around after us relentlessly and devotedly.
If you are considering a trip like this, don’t hesitate, just book a Tiziri Tour and let Aicha and the team do the rest.
Thank you Tiziri.