As a Travel Consultant I have the pleasure of working with many great travel companies and getting to know their Business Development Managers. On a regular basis Chloe O’Brien – a BDM with Intrepid Travel based in Toronto meets with me to discuss her recent travels with Intrepid and where she’s off to next. Not only does Chloe work with Intrepid but is also a food enthusiast and a photographer. Chloe expresses to me quite often that Morocco is one of her most favourite experiences with Intrepid.
In the last week of April in 2015, Chloe departed on her 15 day adventure starting in Casablanca travelling all around Morocco ending in Marrakech. The group was completely full at 16 passengers. There’s no surprise that the tour was full as this is one of Intrepid’s top selling itineraries which was another reason why she wanted to try this one in particular as she’d heard so many positive things about it from past travellers. Other reasons for her choice were that she was looking for an affordable destination that gave an experience of cultural interactions, diverse landscapes, lots of history to learn about, fast paced, loads of adventure, and try all the food she could eat. Here’s what Chloe says about this tour and Morocco.
The landscape changes from location to location. From starting in Casablanca on the Atlantic Ocean, and moving north-east towards ancient Roman ruins (that Chloe claimed look like Italy), to the fertile farmlands around Fes and the sheer size of the old Medina as a few examples.
The tour stopped spontaneously to have tea with a nomad family. Then moved towards the dry sandy desert and stayed overnight in the Sahara. The group then had a homestay at the base of Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas Mountains with a local family. They saw what Chloe said was the best sunset from Ait Ben Haddou. Then visited an Argon oil factory entirely run by women. There was relaxation time by the seaside town of Essouira.
Tour Leader: Chloe says that her Tour Leader Khalid L. was one of the most phenomenal leaders she’s ever experienced. “He can read and write multiple languages (Arabic, French, and English fluently to name a few) and is highly educated. He is so passionate about Morocco and so happy to share stories from his childhood, give his perspective on his country, and immersed the group into local markets and life.”
Food: From going to the Hammam, Chloe was coming back with her roommate to the hotel. When they walked into the hotel their Tour Leader Khalid was having lunch with the hotel staff, who had picked up some fresh fish from the iconic Essaouira fisherman on the way to work to cook a fish tajine. Chloe explained that it was a whole fish, that had been slow cooking in herbs, tomatoes and veggies all morning and they were so quick to invite her and her roommate in to eat with them – traditionally by dipping bread, using your thumb and first two fingers of your right hand.
Riding camels in the Sahara: The passengers in the group took day packs and rode camels into the desert for a spectacular overnight in the Sahara. There was a sand dune, 300’ tall and most of the group climbed for sunset. Chloe explained that running down the steep vertical side of the dune after was equal parts terrifying and one of the highlights of her life. After, they were cooked a local tajine dinner, shared some stories, and got to know their Tour Leader Khalid, and the fellow travellers better. The moon was full; so instead of sleeping in the traditional draped fabric tents they pulled the mattresses outside and slept outside under the stars on the edge of the dunes.
The locals: All words from Chloe – There is such a sense of community, of helping each other and lending a hand. Although Morocco is not rich in terms of wealth, the people are really looking out for those in need (people and animals), whether it is a neighbour, children, blind cats, or an elderly grandmother.
A surprising location: Volubilis – this Roman ruin and the hills around it felt exactly like Italy – right down to the Lombard trees and ancient olive groves. Although Chloe expected the architecture to be familiar, she wasn’t expecting the surrounding countryside to look like Italy too.
Souvenirs to bring home: Chloe brought home two goat leather poufs as well as a camel leather carry-on that she bargained for in Fes. All in a gorgeous buff natural leather – a traditional Berber wedding blanket (white canvas with silver tassels and tied on white wool yarn), and a camel leather iconic Moroccan ottoman from the souks in the Jemaa el-Fnaa Square. Besides taking hundreds of photos, she loved purchasing items that will be in her home every day to remind her of where she’s been.
What to bring on this trip: Cotton long-sleeved, one piece pantsuits – Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country and the attire for men and women is conservative. This allowed Chloe to be super comfortable in the heat while respecting their cultural dress. Take only a carry-on, laundry is ultra-affordable to outsource and was almost always around the corner from the hotel. She checked a bag on the return that had her Moroccan blanket and empty ottomans.
Travel tip for Morocco: Chloe says you should have an open mind, and be prepared for the fast pace of every market and twisting maze of the medinas. The landscapes change so quickly and are so different, it feels like you are traveling through four or five countries over two weeks – even though it is only one country.
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“By meeting people from different cultures and understanding how much we all have in common, travel has changed the way I see the world while making me a more independent woman.” -Chloe O’Brien