Morocco has a reputation both exciting and exotic, situated at the edge of Africa and of Europe. It is a place of wonder and mystery, yet has still had its moments in popular culture and history, from movies to WW2, football to film sets.
It is therefore not perhaps as overwhelming or apprehensive a destination as some places, but there is still enough uncertainty for many travellers to pause and carry some concern before committing to a trip.
Locals meanwhile might say there is little to nothing to worry about, but then they know what to expect and how to handle uncertainties and testy situations.
As a Moroccan himself but having lived in the United States for over 20 years, Azdean can sympathize with both perspectives and points of view. Travellers want to know they'll be safe and in good hands, while locals want to minimize the worries and stereotypes confronted by travellers.
Chantal Rosenthal, her husband and three young adult children travelled to Morocco over the Christmas holidays of 2022, with Destination Morocco. As Jewish tourists, they were in search of Jewish heritage and influence, in a place that had long been a desired destination for them.
On the Feb. 1 episode of Destination Morocco Podcast, Chantal and Azdean talk about trip planning for 5 people, each with their own priorities for sightseeing, activities, recreation and down time.
Fortunately, they had Ilyas as their tour guide, and Ahmed as their driver, who were both able to navigate the crowds, markets and touts to give Chantal and her family a very enjoyable trip, without any headaches.
Chantal talks about visiting Jewish heritage sights in Fès, such as the Quarter and the synagogues. How the Jews have balconies, while the Muslims have inner courtyards. She gives vivid descriptions of wandering the medina and souks, and how Fès, although oriented towards tourism, feels real and authentic.
We learn about shopping in Fès, taking guidance from Ilyas to find good, quality places, with trusted local artisans. Chantal describes looking for Moroccan couscous bowls, fired in burning olive pits, and visiting the tanneries: the dye pits, the hides hanging from everywhere, and yes the smell that may still be embedded weeks later.
Then there's hearing the call to prayer in Fès, and how the energy changes in the city each time. Staying in Fès for 3 days, they were fortunate to hear it frequently, each time with its own distinct character.
The family takes in a night at a desert camp, where one realizes how insignificant you feel under a carpet of brilliant desert stars. They discover djellabas, the full-length robe with sleeves that is perfect for the changing conditions.
Meanwhile, in Marrakech, walking along the streets and narrow lanes, Ilyas makes sure everyone squeezes against the wall to avoid the motorbikes. They go to a packed popular restaurant, where lamb is cooked in earthen stoves, but listen to how Ilyas does his thing: "Now I go to work!"
And to add a touch of seriousness, what happens during a medical emergency in Morocco? Chantal's daughter had an urgent need to find a dentist. The thought of finding one safe and reliable was daunting.
It was a trip that for the family may mark the end of an era, and Destination Morocco was happy to make it as memorable as possible.
Check out this episode to learn:
How Fès is the best place to get leathers in Morocco.
About getting meals outside the riad versus staying in to eat there.
You get so much food at the restaurants, and you can't possibly eat it all, but what happens to the rest afterwards?
What to wear in winter.
The differences between riads, each with their own personal style.
Comfortable and Safe Travel in Morocco, with Chantal & Family - Ep. 27