With a little of the "divine" thrown in. We have just returned from an 11-day tour. We chose to tour Morocco with Sun-Trails. There were three important reasons we chose Sun-Trails: 1) Christian's website is very helpful, providing sample tours, information on the accommodations, and most importantly, prices for private tours. Many agencies provide costs for group tours, but when searching for private tours, the only option is often to contact the agency. We didn't even know if the private tour was within our budget, and Christian's website immediately answered that question. We chose the "dreamer's" level, with the "divine" luxury Sahara tent overnight 2) The most excellent reviews on trip-advisor made us comfortable we were making the right choice, and 3) Christian was very responsive during the email process.
Once on the tour, we had a fantastic time, thanks to Oualid. We were greeted right on time by Oualid, who is now one of our facebook friends. He was always caring of our comfort, of our need for photography stops, and most importantly, keeping my insulin cold (as I am a diabetic). He was always on time each day, and always checked on our comfort at the riads each morning.
Sun-Trails combines drivers with local guides. There are several ways (around the world) to arrange guided travel - have a driver who drives only and may not speak the client's language well, having a driver plus a guide, and in the case of Sun-Trails, providing a driver who speaks English like a native and is generally knowledgeable of Morocco and its history combined with local tour guides at particular historic locations. The local guides engaged by Sun Trails were excellent - particularly Mohammed in the town of Sale, where we got the insider's trip on top of, and in, the city walls. This combination of driver plus local guide gave us a more cost effective trip while not skimping on guiding.
Our favorite locations were Sale, the Fes Medina, the Sahara and the backroads of the Ounila Valley.
I can highly recommend the Dreamer's level of accommodation - staying in a riad, similar to a B&B, was quite comfortable, very picturesque, with the personal touch of the owner.
One gotcha -- On one travel forum I read a woman's post which said "Tagine! Too much Tagine!" and a long discussion followed regarding the fact that tagine is a method of cooking, and not ingredients. I thought to myself at the time: I understand the difference, and wouldn't say such a statement in a forum. However, I must say "Tagine! Too much Tagine!" Tagine is a local favorite and each riad we visited was of course obliged to feed us traditional food. After all, a visitor wants to experience the local traditions. However, as we went from riad to riad, and it was arranged that the first night in a riad we would be provided dinner by the riad, we began to be overwhelmed. Tagines may be different, but a lot of the spices are the same, and it became much the same to us Oualid and Sun Trails did quickly understand our food preferences, and arranged with our last riad, Perle D'Eau in Essaouira (absolutely heavenly riad) to cook us a fish dinner instead. That dinner was 5-star restaurant worthy. Oualid also was helpful in finding alternate (eg Italian! :-) ) options in Marrakech. So my lesson learned is to pay attention to the times/places where dinner is provided by the accommodations and perhaps research if alternate restaurants are easily available, and perhaps dialog with Christian about variety ahead of time.
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