This week, we interviewed a few of our amazing local tour guides in Morocco. They shared with us a little more about themselves and what they love to show guests in their special country. In this period where we aren’t traveling internationally just yet, we have taken advantage of the “down” time and asked our colleagues to share what makes this country worth a visit. If you haven’t already been to Morocco, these stories, tips and advice from experts are just the thing to convince you to add it to your travel list!
1. What do you love about being a guide/why did you decide to become a guide?
Leila (below is her photo): I decided I wanted to be a tour guide in Morocco when I was a teenager. I was studying in a high school situated just at the main gate of one of the oldest cities in Morocco (Fes). Everyday, I would watch tours pass by, following a tour guide. He was a very elegant, distinguished man, wearing nice traditional outfit and speaking different languages. I was fascinated by these images!
By the school there is an old public garden, we used to go there for lunch break. I would always find couples of foreigners enjoying the site. And I started engaging in conversation with them or helping them to find their way in the medina. This is how I found my passion. Then when I joined the higher institute of tourism in Tangier, I picked the tour guides in Morocco section. I became a guide in 1984, when there were very few women guides in my country still.
There are many things I love about being a tour guide in Morocco. But I’ll tell you the most important for me, the people. Being with people from different countries is a blessing. I have learned so much about people and about life! Tour guiding has educated my mind. It has opened it to different cultures and taught me that the most important moral is humanity and love. I especially love to see the brightening satisfaction in the eyes of our guests every day discovering the beauty of the country. But above all, I love being with people. It’s like the “university” of life.
2. What is a destination or site that you most enjoy taking guests?
Zouhair (pictured below): I love taking guests to the mountains, as I am a Berber and my parents are from the mountains, and because there they can get a glimpse of the real Morocco, the Morocco of rural areas and isolated villages which is where authentic Moroccan traditions and lifestyle are still prevalent. I like taking them for tea in a local house as I feel proud of the sense of hospitality of my folk. I love watching guests interacting with locals. It’s something beautiful to see, that people so different are able to get on with one another as soon as they meet, and that smiling is a universal language. As for sites, my favorite are the Medersa Bou Inania in Fes that was built on 1351, I love the architecture, the use of the plaster, Cedarwood and the Arabic Calligraphy.
Also, the Dar El Bacha in Marrakech Confluences Museum, that has exhibition space for different collections representing America, Africa, Europe, and Asia, and also a nice Coffee that contains all the coffees of the world. And finally, the Kasbah Telouet, a nice palace in the mountains that can take you back in the history of Morocco at the end of 1800 and the beginning of 1900.
3. What is your best moment with clients that you can remember?
Ali (pictured below): In 1990, I guided a group of people (grandparents) along with 12 UTA alumni. In 1996, the adult children of one couple came with their 4 year old daughter, Anika, and her two brothers. In 2015, I went to Austin, TX, in a church attending the wedding of this beautiful lady, Anika (now age 23)! Besides those who sadly passed away, we are still close friends and regularly in touch.
4.Your recommendation for the best time of year to visit your country/city/town and why ?
Zouhair: I prefer low season – roughly the summer, January, February and November – as sites or restaurants are not so crowded, and everything feels more relaxed and easy-going.
Leila (pictured below): The best time to visit Morocco depends where you want to be! Definitely for the beach area and mountain hiking is summer. The hike during summer between mid-May til July is the best because there is no risk of storms on the mountains. October til mid December is excellent for the colors and temperatures, maybe not as green and flowering as late winter and spring but still temperatures are perfect.
Ali: November & April. That’s when it is neither extremely hot nor very cold. Landscape contrasts are much better in April, though. The first 10 days of February are outstanding in the High & Anti Atlas Mountains as that’s when the almond trees are in full bloom.
5. What you find most exciting or inspiring about your area?
Leila: Morocco’s huge contrast and it’s historical background . Multi religious, multiethnic country…and the light of the Morocco which attracted many painters! Jacque Majorel, Eugene delacrois, Sorolla and many others!
Zouhair (pictured below): I think our culture has managed to attain through history a very delicate and balanced combination of being open and elusive at the same time. We are a melting pot of many traditions, sometimes traditions that have had problematic relations in history, such as the West and the East, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Europe and Africa; we have managed to absorb all of these influences so they are a substantial part of our heritage, and at the same time we preserve that ‘something else’ which is purely Moroccan. Also our varied geography, full of contrasts, is quite unique. Nature feels very intense and sometimes even mind-blowing in Morocco, as soon as one leaves the cities. i love showing all of this as a tour guide in Morocco.
Ali: DIVERSITY – cultural ( this encompasses architecture, cuisine, craftsmanship), natural (different climates, geological eras, geographic zones). Traveling throughout Morocco is like visiting several countries in one trip.
6. Which place do you love to visit in their country?
Ali (pictured below – he’s on the left- with clients): The Anti Atlas area.
Leila: My favorite place to visit in Morocco is definitely the north of Morocco ( Rif and region) and southern Morocco.
Zouhair: I feel relaxed in the Sahara desert and Marrakech.
7. If you could give a tour to anyone (from the past or present), who would it be?
Zouhair: I would choose Winston Churchill as I read a lot about him, charismatic leader, brave and good writer.
8. Personal favorite restaurant?
Ali: Le Pilotis in Casablanca.
Zouhair: Actually not just one, like Maison Blanch, and Palais Faraj restaurant in Fes.
La Maison Arab restaurant and Le comptoir Darna in Marrakech.
In conclusion, Morocco is an experience in every sense of the word. It’s a country full of colors, contrasts, scents and sites that leave visitors entranced. Breathtaking beaches, mountain ranges, historic cities and even a desert. Morocco is a destination that can make some of your wildest travel dreams come true. The more that we discover about this country, the more we fall in love with it. And our clients feel the same way. It’s also a great choice for a holiday in the winter to avoid the sweltering summer heat. For our more active and adventurous guests, there are seemingly endless options for excursions and activities.
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