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Palais El Mokri–Hidden Palace of Fez

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I had read somewhere about a UNESCO World Heritage site, an old palace in Fez that could be visited, and I requested my guide take me there. But walking on the quiet edge of the Medina, on sun-drenched roads that lead up a hill overlooking a valley, I began to have my doubts: we appeared to be far afield of any popular tourist site. And indeed we were. Nearing the palace walls, a young man walking our way inquired our purpose. He turned out to be the grandson of the man who built this palace in 1906, Si Tayeb El Mokri. The young Mokri, Said, who would be my guide, told me about his...

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Riads of Fez

Posted in Africa, Blog, Morocco, Uncategorized | 0 comments

My first morning in Fez, I awoke in a room that seemed like something out of a dream. My tour operator in Morocco, an expert in the best riad hotels to be found in the country, had booked me into a suite at Riad Myra. I followed my instructions: from the train station I took a taxi to a hotel located just adjacent to an entrance to the medina, where only foot traffic and mules are allowed–no cars. I crossed the street to a tiny alleyway into the medina. I followed a few twists and turns, dragging my suitcase and searching the ancient walls and doors for signage…and there it was. I used...

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La Mamounia Hotel and Travel Exploration Morocco

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La Mamounia Hotel and Travel Exploration Morocco

La Mamounia is one of Morocco’s most beloved hotels, and an undeniable beauty. It was built in the 1920s on the site of the sultan’s palace within the ancient walls of the old city. Its style is a mix of Art Deco and traditional Moroccan. Its 16th century gardens include 32 acres of palms, bananas, roses and jasmine, and ancient walls covered with bougainvillea. I joined my friend, Alecia Cohen, on the open air terrace where we enjoyed a glass of wine and a light lunch, along with the sounds of fountains and birds and the scents of spring flowers. With many years experience in...

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Marrakech–Not To Be Missed

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Most of my time in Marrakech was taken up by convention activities, but I did manage to squeeze in a few sites and would recommend these to any visitor to Marrakech: Place Djemma El-Fna It’s the heart and soul of the city. It’s wild–like a medieval circus or a street theater with a hundred stages and thousands of attendees from parts unknown. You may find it hard to believe the mix of humanity in the great square, and the curious way that so many places in the world, and times both ancient and modern, seem to be meshed together in this public square. Majorelle Gardens and...

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Travel Convention in Marrakech

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Travel Convention in Marrakech

This year Marrakech was selected as the site of my annual American Society of Travel Agents international congress. The Tourism Office of Morocco had promised ASTA a great convention, and many of us signed up at last year’s congress in Merida. About 400 travel sellers traveled to Morocco from all over the US as well as Europe and other parts of Africa. At the trade show we met with Moroccan suppliers–tour operators, hotels and riads, destination management companies and tourism officials. Our opening night event was a spectacular one. We were bused outside of town to what I would...

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Essaouira, Morocco

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Essaouira, Morocco

First impressions upon arriving the Atlantic coastal port town of Essaouira at midday on an early spring day: clear, brilliant light; wind and crashing ocean waves and screaming gulls; whitewashed buildings that look inviting, familiar, European. And then you go through the walls that surround the medina, and there you are in Morocco, North Africa. The town is not a tourist town really–though it is a gem for tourists to discover. It has a unique atmosphere with narrow winding streets, small shops with well-crafted items to buy, and white-washed houses with the loveliest collection of...

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Chellah–Royal Kingdoms of the Past

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Chellah–Royal Kingdoms of the Past

The fertile plains inland from Rabat drew settlers as far back as the 8th Century B.C. The Phoenicians and the Romans set up trading posts in the estuary of the Bou Regreg River in Sala, today’s Chellah. The Roman settlement Sala Colonia lasted long after the fall of the Roman Empire, but was abandoned and fell into ruin–until in the 14th century the sultan Abou al-Hassan built a fortress on top of the Roman ruins. His necropolis, towers and wall stand today, alongside the excavated Roman town. Its a lovely, evocative place, with fruit trees, wildflowers, the ruined Roman...

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Royal Kingdom of Rabat

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Royal Kingdom of Rabat

Morocco is a kingdom and the Atlantic coastal city of Rabat has been its capital since independence in 1956. King Mohammed VI and his family are a well-loved monarchy. The king’s photo seems to be on display at every turn, and the royal residence is seen on a main boulevard. The city is lovely with its broad, palm-lined avenue and its grand monuments. Even the medina here was not mobbed and almost relaxed. It was alarming that three taxi drivers refused to take me to the address of my riad, located deep within the medina, but pleading to be taken near (no exactamon!) succeeded in...

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Wandering the Streets of Old Malaga

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Wandering the Streets of Old Malaga

Malaga is an old port city with some 3,000 history since the Phoenicians landed and used the harbor for salting fish. They were followed by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C., then the Romans who ruled for six centuries, and under which Malaga prospered as a trading post. Today it’s a city rich in historical references, but its also a lively city with a modern and artful edge to it. With layers of history and culture waiting to be discovered, or absorbed in a meandering way by the fortunate traveler with a bit of time, the old city center is a joy to explore on foot. There is the...

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Moscata–Malaga Wine–Cleopatra’s Wine

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Moscata–Malaga Wine–Cleopatra’s Wine

Moscata, Moscatel, Muscat of Alexandria, Malaga Wine — there are many names for it. Originating in North Africa, it is a white wine grape of the muscat family. It is an ancient wine — one of the oldest genetically unmodified wines still in existence. Cleopatra drank it, ancient Greeks and Egyptians cultivated it, and ancient poets and bards celebrated it. In the 17th and 18th centuries Malaga Wine had become a booming industry. In the 19th Century during prosperous times in Malaga, the sweet Malaga wine was the favorite of English Victorian ladies, and the wine export trade became big...

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