We stayed in five hotels during our entire trip, returning to the first hotel in Marrakesh for the last four nights of the holiday. These were:
This hotel was lovely and we stayed for one night at the beginning of the trip and for four nights at the end. It felt like the best one of all of them, but that was because it was a city hotel and had plenty of facilities for weary travellers. There may have also been something in the fact we had a bit more time to spend there.
During our final few days at the Della Rosa we were able to enjoy the roof top garden and I took advantage of the spa and indulged in the Hammam experience
We did not have very long to enjoy this small hotel. We arrived early evening and were on our way again quite quickly the next morning.
On arriving at this hotel, you are greeted by the door by three men banging drums and three girls singing. Inside the hotel the sink is made of copper - which is great to a point but it was corroding a bit by the plug hole which meant it leaked a bit when I used it.
Two nights here allowed us to enjoy the facilities. The swimming pool felt quite cold but the outdoor jacuzzi was nice and warm. The views were amazing from the rooftop balcony. The hotel was obviously very popular as it was quite full when we were there - plenty of Spanish young people enjoying themselves.
Two nights here and again we had time to enjoy the facilities. The hotel is situated right next to the dunes - the downside is you hear the quad bikes running until quite late at night. The pool was not as cold as the previous hotel and you needed to take your own towel with you.
It looks very impressive as you arrive. The hotel is large and when we arrived obviously catering for many groups. There were areas of it that were shabby however, perhaps a sign of overworked staff. Our experience of both the bar and the restaurant would also support that hypothesis.
One of our party told of being bitten in the night by something, and bitten to the extent that it drew blood. There was blood on his pillow and neck.
This holiday was predominantly a travelling holiday. Our guide took us to a good number of different places in order to see different species of birds. These are noted elsewhere. This section describes our experiences whilst travelling, offering observations on our experiences.
We flew to Marrakesh airport starting off from Cardiff and changing at Amsterdam. Our first flight was KLM Cardiff to Amsterdam. Cardiff has a 10 minute waiting allowance for dropping off, however it was a quick and easy drop off. On the way back however, if you end up in the wrong lane you pay £1 to exit from the passenger pick up area.
Cardiff is a quiet regional airport in comparison to the main London ones (as you would expect). There is not much to choose from in terms of getting something to eat, but we had a good fry up breakfast each.
Amsterdam airport however was as you would expect a major city airport to be. Busy! We were taken from the plane by bus to another part of the airport to be let in but we did not have to go through any other security. The way back however was different - see below! We noted the self-service transfer machines and were a little confused to start with if we needed to use them. However, we had been checked through all the way and so didn't need to use them. We did use them on the way back for printing out our boarding passes for the flight back to Cardiff.
Once we arrived in Marrakesh airport however it took quite some time to get out. We took about an hour to get through the passport queue. The border guard asked us for our boarding passes. One of the party later related a story about how she had left hers on the airplane and was nearly not allowed in! Luckily we had been given the boarding card to fill out on the aircraft - so that piece of paper was complete.
In Morocco you have to get your currency on arrival. There were plenty of places to get money. Rob was given a pre-paid card and cash instead of all his cash in one go. Apparently it was a cheaper way of doing it, but I couldn't see that myself. Rob later managed to find some information about how the card is not entirely the best method as many places will not accept it and generally you cannot get the last small amount of money off the card, so you lose out.
We were collected by a driver provided by Spainbirds. I noticed that he drove quite sedately. The hotel was about 15 minutes away from the airport. Marrakesh airport is not a huge long way out of town like some other places.
Flying back from Marrakesh we had to put our bags through scanners immediately at the front doors. From there on to bag drop was ok. We noticed we had to complete another boarding/leaving card - same card, different purpose. Then another security screening to which you get to passport control. Here they scan and stamp your passport with a leaving stamp, which is then checked a bit further down the corridor. Once you've done that you're through.
On arriving at Amsterdam we only had 1 hr and 20 mins before our flight. On arriving from Marrakesh, we were disembarked via an airbridge, but were channeled down some stairs, onto the tarmac and onto a bus. I couldn't quite work it out to start with, but when we were delivered to an arrivals point whereby the transfers had to go through another batch of security, I realised that coming from outside the EU meant additional screening!
We used the self-service desks to print out the boarding passes, but it did not allocate a seat for us. I was quite worried that my ticket said "standby" on it! We checked with the desk, who said we would get a boarding pass at the gate. Hearing announcements for a Bradford flight where they asked for somebody to volunteer not to get on because of overbooking only served to raise my anxiety. Thankfully we were given boarding passes at the gate, with seats but the issue was we were not sat together.
Our first full day involved a long journey over the Atlas mountains to Ouarzazate. We traveled over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass. Glad I didn't know beforehand that it is listed on a site called "Dangerous roads"!
The place we stopped at for lunch was next to an Argan oil cooperative. There were a number of ladies sat in a row showing you how they process the argan oil. A painstakingly laborious process in their case. Inside you could be parted from quite a lot of your money for a small bottle of the stuff. You can read more about the cooperatives here.
Having stopped for our first lunch stop, we continued travelling down the other side of the Atlas mountains. The landscapes changed getting more and more barren as we went on.
Along the pass we encountered a lot of road building - I mean a LOT. They appeared to be doing the whole length of the road in one go, without shutting it. It was concerning what they were doing with the spoil from the roadworks. I saw in a number of places they were just tipping it down the side of the valley. This meant it would go into the river and spoil the water flow.
Not looking after the water supply did seem to be a bit of a recurring theme. We had been warned not to drink the water, to only drink bottled water and to avoid salads that might have been washed in tap water. Seeing them tip things down the mountain, and to also go for a walk where an open sewer appeared to run into a reservoir bought it home how lucky we are in the UK.
As we travelled to Ouarzazate I caught sight of a gleam in the distance. This is a solar power tower and is also called "Noor Power Station" and you can read more about it on Wikipedia - or as I did, check out the references and look up the authoritative ones!
I had read about these towers before but not been near one. There is not much call for them in the UK! The idea is that half a million mirrors focus on the tower and the heat from the sun helps produce electricity.
I thought it interesting the following day when I caught sight of it that they had focused the mirrors to one side - see the photo with the beams coalescing to the side. I wondered if it was done like that for maintenance purposes, but one suggestion was that they were producing too much electricity and it could not be stored.
Our second stop for the holiday was in a town called Boumalne. The Lonely planet website does not say much about the town and indeed we didn't get to see it. However, we did travel up through the nearby Dades Gorge which was pretty amazing.
During the holiday we got to see a number of amazing gorges. Our first one was the Dades Gorge. We travelled out of Boumalne along the twisting roads where our first stop was what was locally referred to as the Monkey Fingers.
On from the Monkey fingers, we travelled to the top of the Dades Gorge. The following day on leaving Boumalne we stopped at the Todra Gorge. We were dropped off at the top and walked down through the Gorge to meet the bus at the bottom. There were many stalls and people trying to sell you things - as well as beggars.
On our return from the desert area of Merzouga we stopped to admire the final gorge. Barren as anything, and I didn't record where it was.
The furthest point we travelled to across Morocco was Mergouza in the Sahara desert. We were advised that as weather forecast was to be very windy for the next few days we should wear scarves to protect our faces from the wind. We stopped at a scarf shop on the way and even though I had bought a couple of scarves, we had to support the local economy!
I watched the lady do Rob's scarf and did manage to repeat the endeavour the following day when we travelled through the desert on the Jeeps (see below).
As we travelled along there were signs of the water canals. The mounds are earth works around the ventilation shafts. You can see more here at Thomas Stanley's personal website or read an academic paper on them here .
One of the picture sections below shows one stop we made where you could see "dust-devils" forming in the distance. At one point one appeared to be heading for us. I had taken refuge from the heat at this time in the bus, but there were others in our party outside. Luckily the dust-devil sped past at a distance on the right. We were also treated to a visit from a local!
Our day out in the desert meant we transferred from the safe hands of our bus driver for the week into the hands of a tour company that provided 4 x 4 trips around the Erg Chebbi dunes. The ride was erm... interesting.
During our trip I saw what was advertised as Bedouin tents to sleep in the desert under http://www.desertcampbouchedor.com/web/en/bedouin-tents/ . We also were taken to a Beduoin village where we were treated to mint tea and peanuts. What surprised me the most (and I don't know why I should have been surprised) was that underneath the tent it was quite cool.
The whole area is criss-crossed by roads with 4 x 4 vehicles flying past at great speeds. One place we stopped was incredibly busy - busier than my village at home.
We walked up around the outside and onto the top rather than climbing up all the stairs. It was very popular and I saw one tourist group loose their drone as it crashed down through the flat roofs smashing up bits of itself as it went down.
One of our last trips was up to Oukaimeden, a mountain village 2650m up in the Atlas mountains. As a Ski resort there are not that many reviews online. I managed to find one from 2016 here and one from the Telegraph in 2008
Getting up to the resort made me feel slightly travel sick. The roads were quite winding. We frequented the Hotel JuJu which was lovely and warm inside. It was quite cold outside! A little bit of snow but not enough for anybody to ski on.
Predominantly in this section I comment on the Hammam and toilets!