Category: Morocco, 2019

Homeward Bound, Reflections

March 19

Shuttle to the airport, then ride modern airport transit train to our terminal,

where we have a couple hours to breakfast and hang out in the VIP Lounge before our non-stop 9-hour flight home. For those of you who recall the opening posts of this trip in which photos of our luggage 51 years ago and on this trip were included, here’s a photo of the entire luggage Carol and I are toting right now.

So, when we planned this trip, I thought it would be interesting to compare our experience on this trip with our recollections of the trip we took fifty-one years ago. Of course, there are major differences in the way we traveled, hitch hiking, level of hotels, shopping, etc. That’s why you can go back to places you’ve been and experience them differently. There’s a bittersweet element to that, because it reminds you that you’re no longer the kid you think of yourself as. Of course other things remind you of that, as well. Climbing stairs, hiking and getting up from a chair are a few that pop readily to mind.

Truth is that it’s difficult to compare experiences, though, because I have virtually no recollection of those experiences back in 1968, except for Marrakech, which I recall as far and away the most exotic place we’d ever been. The markets, the snake charmers, it all felt like another world, authentic, but strange. Today, Marrakech feels much more touristy and contrived, more like a carnival. Certainly there were things we saw on this trip, places we went, that we had not seen before that were quite interesting and the main market area is still a spectacle, but, if I’m honest, the market area itself was disappointing. I guess you can’t go home again.

The Médina in Fes, by contrast, felt much more authentic, and I liked it much better. Our guide said that Fes has been discovered and is becoming more like Marrakech. In ten years, a visit to Fes may seem more like a visit to Marrakech today. Sad. But it’s one of the challenges you face, if you’re trying to travel to see things that expand your experience and give you a sense of a different time. That’s getting harder and harder to do. The image that sticks in my mind here is the beautiful new train station in Marrakech whose architecture blends the old and the new, in which a large McDonald’s is featured on the ground floor, clearly visible from the outside. I guess that there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it bothers me that this is the face we present to the world in the same way (but not as much) as Trump representing us to the world as the best we’ve got to offer. I never had this problem when we used to travel the world and see huge poster boards of Michael Jordan slam dunking.

My overall impression of Morocco is of a comfortable, rather prosperous and stabile country. There is some begging, but not a large amount, perhaps not more than in our country, and beggars are not aggressive. The infrastructure seems solid, especially very good roads throughout.

Morocco seems less “different” than many places we’ve traveled. Of course, the language is different and French, rather than English, is the second language, but it’s easy to navigate in English. People are friendly, and we had no sense of danger anyplace we went. Dress is different, though, especially among younger generations, Western dress is common. The King appears to be universally revered, which could not be farther from what we left behind. People seem to feel that the country is headed in the right direction. I’m ready to trade leaders, anytime.

It’s always good advice to watch where you are going. Morocco has taken this to a whole different level, though, with steps small and large everywhere, inside and outside, almost as if they’ve booby trapped the entire country.  I think that travelers should be warned strongly, probably a couple times, about this danger. It’s natural to want to look around, but if you’re going to do that, stop first. Or you’ll wind up on your head or, if you’re fortunate, on your ass.

One way to assess a trip is to break it down into its elements, and here our trip fares very well indeed. Our accommodations were generally excellent, and two of them, Dar Ahlam and Kasbah Tamadot, were truly outstanding. Interestingly, Carol and I had different views of which of the two was most outstanding. I’ll present her view, too, but not as convincingly, both because it’s misguided, and because it’s my damn blog. Let’s stipulate, and Carol would agree, that both of these places were special.

Carol preferred Kasbah Tamadot, which was elegant and luxurious in a more conventional way. She loved the view of the mountains surrounding the Kasbah. I preferred Dar Ahlam, because it created a unique experience in which you almost felt as if you were the only guests, being served meals alone in different areas in and outside of the residence area. Service was outstanding. Carol felt that the Dar Ahlam experience was a bit contrived. Maybe so, but I can definitely live with this kind of contrivance.

Our other accommodations were also generally excellent, especially in Casablanca and Marrakech. The service at our very nice riad in Fes, though, was decidedly subpar.

The food throughout was very good and sometimes excellent. We’re not real foodies, so I don’t keep track very well, but the restaurant in Casablanca the first night, Le Cabestan, was particularly good.

Guides and drivers were all very good, and reliable. Of course, this element is very important.

The overall plan for the trip was excellent. To the limited extent one can “do Morocco” in two weeks, we pretty much did it. High Atlas Mountains, the desert, visits to Fes and Marrakech and stops in Casablanca, Rabat and Chefchaouen. Two internal flights were a good idea to save time, fast track service at airports was definitely worthwhile and the vehicles we traveled in were excellent.

We saw some very good sights, the kind you “should see” as a tourist—for example, the Hassan II Mosque, Roman ruins of Volubilis, Bahia Palace In Marrakech and the Saadian Tombs. The more personal elements of the itinerary—the tasting tour, beauty tour and photo tour in Fes and the visit to The Voice Gallery were all very worthwhile.

And even better were the unexpected connections—the synagogue service in Fes, lunch with Rick Gaynor in Rabat (it was a special, unexpected pleasure to discover that one of Rick’s prior assignments, through the agency he worked for, had been to provide funding to foster pineapple farming in Ghana and to be able to connect him with our Ghanaian pineapple farmer friend, Daniel Kwarteng), tea with two young women from the travel industry, discovering a guide at the Roman ruins who had been in a life-changing film directed by Franco Zeffirelli at age fourteen, dinner with our friends, the Flannerys, in Marrakech and being invited in for tea on our walk through the almond grove. Maybe best of all was just wandering the streets, seeing people live their lives.

As usual, a few things did not go so well—the surprise hammam from hell, my falling in the mud on the almond walk and our trip to the desert. Though the desert stay had its moments, if we had it all to do over again, we’d have remained at Dar Ahlam. Basically, it’s eleven hours of driving for a couple of meals and sleeping in the desert, amid the dunes. Having been to Namibia and seen the dunes there, these dunes do not even remotely compare in grandeur.

In short, overall, this was another wonderful trip that reminded us again of how privileged we are to be able to do this, especially in the way we are able to travel comfortably, on our own, with drivers and guides, modifying our trail as we go.

It’s good to be back home, albeit temporarily.

Thanks for following, and for all of your comments, which help to make all of this blogging stuff worth it. For those of you who follow each trip, better rest up. We take off again on March 27. No, I won’t tell you; it’ll be a surprise as to where.

9 comments to Homeward Bound, Reflections


    Welcome home Arnie and Carol. We are always happy to know that most things went very well. We will look forward to talking to you when you return from the next trip….

  • Bob Heywood

    Hey Arnie! As always, I enjoyed every post, and jumped on the new ones as soon as they were posted. For once, you were traveling somewhere where I had been, so it was fun to read your posts about Fes, Rabat, and the Atlas Mountains, where my younger son and I spent a week about 12 years ago. The highlight for us was attendeding a traditional wedding, a two plus day affair. Many amazing memories! Thanks for sharing yours!
    Bob of GOAT.

  • Julie Heifetz


    Loved traveling with you. Kinda sorry the trip’s over, especially since I had none of the trouble you had with steps, or mud falls, or disappointment with the desert, all experienced from the comfort of our apartment in Rockville. In case we missed something—like sounds, smells, tastes, people, a lived experience rather than a vicarious one, we may have to consider a trip to Morocco ourselves the year after we go to Viet Nam. Morocco has always appealed to me.


  • leslie paul

    glad you enjoyed.. glad you are home safe!!!!! agree with your thoughts. loved it there. safe and progressive!!! would go back !!! Les

  • Micky

    Fun seeing you as improbable as it was considering the tumult we have never seen it so crowded
    We agree anout hoing back to places we had been in the 1960’s and 70’s

    So many changes and so many things we do not remember!
    And yes walking is more difficult ion uneven pathways!

  • Lauri Pollack

    Loved this trip. Thank you for a great and fascinating ride.

  • Paul W

    Looking forward to your next excursion! Thanks for these journeys and your blog Arnie.

  • kay osborne

    Enjoyed the journey. Welcome home, K

  • Fred gordon

    Welcome home Arnie and Carol
    Great postings and photos

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