Morocco Tour from Casablanca, May 2013
"We did enjoy our time in Morocco. First time on the continent so everything was new to us. Lahsen and Ali were both very nice and helpful. The schedule was comfortable and allowed us plenty of time to explore on our own, which we like to do.
Some highlights - the guide who spent about 5 1/2 hours with us in Fez. He was fantastic. We were having a lot of typical tourist superficial conversations with people we met, and knew that things like politics and religion were usually best left alone. But after the guide and ourselves got comfortable with each other we were able to delve deeper into some interesting topics which was very enjoyable. We see now that a guide on the first day in one of the big cities is well worth it. We met many Moroccans and were quite impressed with their very friendly nature. That is, aside from a merchant being nice to try to sell us something, we met many Moroccans who seemed genuinely interested to say hello. We saw very little of the guarded nature often found in westerners.
The Riads in Essaouira, Marrakech and Fez were excellent. The one in Ouzoud was good too, though there were some minor problems - no hot water, some confusion about our reservation. Really minor things - we had a great time there.
Lahsen and Ali both taught us how to survive in the medinas. We learned to say "No, shukran" and must have done so 1,000 times during our stay. Enjoyed our time with each of them.
Your suggestion to get 2,000 Dirham at a time from an ATM during our trip worked very well. We did not spend a whole lot of money in Morocco - we bought some jewelry, clothing, spices, Argan products and some musical instruments - but did not purchase anything expensive.
We will highly recommend Authentic Morocco to any of our friends interested in seeing Morocco, and will hopefully be in touch with you again ourselves about a trip to the Sahara with our son.
Thank you for all your help."
Private Morocco Tour, May 2013
"My wife and I just returned from a comprehensive 16-day tour of Morocco -- hitting all the major sights plus some minor ones. It was an unbelievably fantastic trip -- a trip of a lifetime. Planning and executing such a trip, particularly when you want to independent touring vice large bus tourist groups can be daunting. Authentic Morocco was a joy to work with, from initial planning to execution. The riads and kasbahs we stayed in were charming, full of character, with great hosts and superb food. The driver/guides were excellent, speaking English well, well versed and knowledgeable, and never got frustrated at our barrage of questions. The vehicles were not new but were comfortable and well maintained -- and the drivers were safe (no mean feat in Morocco's chaotic cities and highways). All our contacts with Authentic Morocco were conducted professionally and with a sense of urgency. Another benefit is that they are part of the Travel Trust association -- which means any funds you send to them go into an escrow account until the trip is successfully completed. A nice sense of security when depositing large fund amounts -- and an alternative course of action if unresolved problems occur. But frankly after this trip I have absolute confidence that Authentic Morocco delivers on their promises. Highly recommend them -- and their rates, while not cheap, are reasonable and better than most other agencies I had contacted.
If you have read enough -- great. But if you want more information about the details of my evaluation see the sections below. The following remarks address how I found Authentic Morocco and why I selected them, and also details on the quality services they provided.
PLANNING: I began by searching the internet (Trip Advisor, Fodor, Frommers, etc.) for travel agencies in Morocco that had superb reviews. I had prepared a desired itinerary (draft) and sent it to 5 agencies to see what they could offer, in the way of proposed changes and price. Comparing the responses for thoroughness and cost (I should say that Authentic Morocco was the most responsive) I narrowed the list to two agencies -- and after a second round of itineraries concluded Authentic Morocco (read, Liz Williams) was the most helpful, responsive and flexible. Liz was fantastic in helping establish our final itinerary, making good recommendations on alternative sights. Even after we paid and confirmed our trip, I continued to pepper Liz with questions -- all of which she quickly and thoroughly answered.
ITINERARY: Just for your information, during this tour we covered the following locations: Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis, Moulay Idress, Fes, Sefrou, Irfane (the Morocco Switzerland), Erfoud, Rissani, Merzouga (desert safari), Todga Gorge, Dades Valley, Ait Ben Haddou, Telouet, Marrakech, Tin Mal, Imlil, Essaouira and El Jadida. All are wonderful, but the partially restored kasbah at Telouet coupled with the trip over the Tizi-N-Telouet pass was well worth it -- a place that some tours don’t recommend but we found incredible. If pressed for time El Jadida could be dropped but it serves as a great last night before flying home from Casablana. It is virtually unspoiled by tourists and is an example of the Moorish-Portuguese influence in Morocco. Thanks to Liz for recommending Telouet!!!! The stay in Imli l(Samra) -- in the heart of the Occidental High Atlas mountains (with gorgeous views) in the local Berber guesthouse was also a highlight recommended by Liz.
ACCOMMODATIONS: My wife and I like smaller, local hotels that are full of charm rather than large, impersonal hotels. We asked Liz to select 3-star riads and kasbahs for us to stay in -- which she did. During the planning process I reviewed the suggested places on Trip Advisor and requested she make tecwo changes, one in Marrakech (to reduce cost) and one in Imlil (to include a traditional Berber guest house). All the places we stayed exceeded our expectations. The riads in Rabat, Fes, Essaouira and El Jadida exuded charm -- some with incredible center courtyards and Moroccan plaster carvings and wood doors, some with tropical “rain forest” in the courtyard. The kasbahs were traditional mudbrick places, newly renovated and were delightful. And the Berber guest house in Imlil was amazing -- situated down a hill (luggage taken on donkeys) in a traditional village -- no electricity, candle lit with family style dinner and visiting with other guests -- amazing. Liz nailed it when it came to the accommodations.
DRIVER/GUIDES Because we had a long trip we had two sets of Driver/Guides -- changing midway in the trip. Our fist guide, Omar, was absolutely a treasure, speaking good English, a sense of humor, clearly focused on showing us the best of his country, and tolerating our steady stream of questions. He is probably the best driver/guide we have had in any country in which we have traveled. He was more friend than driver/guide -- and made our first week throughly enjoyable. Highly recommend him: A+. For our second week we had a driver AND guide (no additional cost) -- and though we were concerned about losing Omar, our worries were unfounded. Adil (driver) and Mustapha (guide) were both terrific. Adil was a safe driver and very helpful and punctual -- though he spoke little English. Mustapha spoke beautiful English and -- like Omar -- very knowledgeable, friendly , client oriented and helpful. All these folks are employees of Authentic Morocco and obviously are well trained on their responsibilities. Highly recommend both.
CITY GUIDES: I should note here that city guides are not Authentic Morocco employees, but rather contractors who work for either other firms or independently in the city where they are located. We had a total of 6 guides -- of which 2 were okay but not fabulous; 2 were above average (did their job but didn’t have the same personality as the top two); and 2 who were excellent (in Rabat and Meknes). Since they are not employees of Authentic Morocco to some degree you take your chances on who you get, based on availability in each city. Overall though we were satisfied.
AFTER ACTION REPORT: At the end of the trip Authentic Morocco provides a questionnaire about the services they provided, covering things such as accommodations, drives, guides, city guides, sights seen, problem encountered, whether there was any pressure to stop at shops or purchase items, etc. Which brings up the point on shopping pressure -- although we stopped at a number of factories and/or shops to see how things were made, no Authentic Morocco person ever pushed us to buy -- and in most cases we didn’t. We found the stops informative, but especially appreciated that there was no pressure to buy.
BOTTOM LINE: Authentic Morocco is a great agency that takes their job very seriously constantly strives to improve. Their planning was helpful and responsive -- great kudos to Liz who handles the front end of the trip (and payments). And Abdullah in Morocco (Marrakech) runs a tight ship on the execution -- which was flawless. Their prices are highly competitive and the peace of mind by using the Travel Trust account demonstrates their commitment to service"
Off the Beaten Track Desert Tour, May 2013
"I had the most amazing time! I'll definitely be recommending your tours whenever I get the chance. I wish you did tours in other countries, too!
Abdullah was extremely helpful getting me from the airport to my riad. I'm not sure I would've figured it out on my own. Also, both Abdullah and Zine (spelling?) were extremely helpful when it came to finding my luggage the airport lost. I was able to pick it up the first morning of the tour without a problem. Thankfully…!
Zine was amazing, start to finish. Not only was he an alert and safe driver, but he also helped us out (outside of the vehicle) whenever he could. He also made sure to check on us at dinner too, and give us a rough itinerary for the next day. He really went above and beyond the call of duty.
I thought each and every inn/riad/hotel we stayed out was much more than acceptable. The graciousness of the employees/families is unparalleled with any I've ever seen. And each inn seemed to have it's own special novelty that made staying there a truly remarkable experience. Every day was a pleasant surprise.
I found your communication prior to the trip extremely responsive and helpful. And price-wise, I think we got a truly great deal.
Thank you SO much, it was the trip of a lifetime. "
Alicia and Julia