Marrakesh Express

Susan's Unique Trips to Morocco    

Guides        Shops         Travel Links       



Please let me know at  if any of the contact information below doesn’t work, since numbers and addresses do change; that way I can keep things up to date.  Thanks


May 20-June 3, 2006


Several of you have written to me and said that it must be really interesting to work with Moroccan women the way I do - and you're right! I feet really lucky to lead tours like the one above, since they let me share some of my experiences and friends with people that usually would not have such an opportunity.  These trips are unique in that we meet urban and rural people, artisans, experts and social activists, visiting with them in their homes and offices. The tours are never exactly the same (others could even be tailored to include requests or for special groups), and reading through the linked descriptions will give you an idea of the things we will do this year.  I’m keeping a list of people who would like to be notified next time I do such a tour; if you’re one of them, send me an email at 

If this interests you - or you'd like to daydream a bit - click the link above for an overview of the tour and a detailed itinerary.  Since we plan to limit the group to 14, sign up soon to guarantee a place.  (Please note: I didn't write the parts about myself!)



 Occasionally people write and ask if I can suggest a guide, and in my travels I have met several who I think are excellent.  Their specialties and contact information are listed below.

General Guides and Driver

All the guides speak excellent English.

Houssein Chaal leads tours for university alumni groups and others like the Smithsonian Institution.  He takes groups of tourists around Morocco, is available to drive and lead individuals too, and has many contacts in each city.  His cell phone from the US is 011 212 61 16 07 30, his fax 011 212 44 43 15 10, and his email is

Ismail Bourrakadi works with alumni groups on educational tours and also on birding and photo tours, and is familiar with all of Morocco.  He does individual tours in which he drives a rental car on the route you choose.  His cell phone is 011 212 61 25 17 12 and his fax is 011 212 44 38 12 30. Ismail's email is but phone is more reliable.

Said Temsamani is a guide for the likes of Maupintour and university alumni groups.  He is very efficient and well organized, and manages to locate and stop at a “necessary”, no matter how rural the area.  His phone from the US is 011 212 88 95 49 81 and his cell phone is 011 212 61 17 80 10.

Hamid Idalihaddou is one of those rare entities: an excellent driver, and in addition he is a lovely, gentle man. He will pick you up at the Casablanca airport (or another) and take you to your hotel, or drive you around the country in his spacious Mercedes taxi. My husband and I use him a lot. The one drawback for some people is that he only speaks Arabic and basic French but no English.  However he has a son who speaks English and can accompany him for no extra charge. His cell phone from the US is 011 212 61 74 11 29.

City Guides

Fes:  Rashid met us at the Fes train station, and gave us a wonderful city tour that included wandering into the little streets that I feel intrusive going into on my own.  His tour was historical and cultural, with no forced or even suggested stops at shops (though you could probably request one).  We’ve recommended him to friends who have been very satisfied.  One said his calm, serious demeanor reflected their impression of the citizens and city of Fes.  His phone from the US is 011 212 55 63 68 04; inside Morocco you change the 55 to 055 and dial the numbers after that.

Mountain Guides

Mohamed Id Hammou is a Berber guide with extensive training and experience in the mountains.  He does hikes, including on skis, plus riding mountain bikes, or desert treks with camels.  My daughter and I took a 5-day trek in the High Atlas Mountains as chaperones for the Rabat American School, and it was wonderful, staying in mountain homes.  I hadn’t hiked in ages and was worried about my endurance, but it was fine.  Those mountains feature some of the world’s best remaining trails for unspoiled trekking, with impressive views and passages through cool irrigated valleys of walnut and fruit groves.  You can email him with what you’d like to do, and he’ll answer with a price.  He’s based out of Marrakesh but will meet you anywhere, including the main international airport in Casablanca.  He speaks English and French in addition to Berber and Arabic, and has guide certification from France and Morocco.  Mohammed's cell phone is 011 212 61 34 27 12, and his email is




In Rabat, my favorite shop is Palais D’artisanat Marocain, staffed by Abderrahim La Khlifi and his brother Mohammed.  It’s at 200 Rue des Consuls, the main tourist street in the Rabat medina or old town, and there’s a white birdcage over the door to help you recognize it.  In fact, some of the items you see on my web site are from this shop.  He is a charming man who speaks English and has a wide selection of rugs in his shop.  He also realizes that satisfied customers return and send their friends, so he charges a reasonable and modest profit instead of tripling the price like many merchants do.  If you go, tell him Susan says hello.

If you’d enjoy an adventure, you could go to the open-air rug souk (market) in Khemisset early on a Tuesday morning.  It’s a center for the red, black white and orange Zemmour pieces that I carry. It ‘s also one of the few places you can find woven reed mats embroidered with red wool.  It takes about an hour from Rabat by car on the autoroute, and you can also wander around the market and see how rural Moroccans shop for groceries, clothing and household items.  If you want to see more textiles, there is a “rug mini-mall” on the edge of town where the main street heads toward Meknes.

Meknes is right in the heart of the selling area for the flatwoven rugs that are my favorites.  Although it is rarely on tour itineraries, it is not too far from Fes, and you could probably pay the price of a rental taxi to get there and back with what you would save on the rug prices.  My favorite dealers there  [since the 1980s!] are the Bekkali family, at the Palais des Idrissides. 

In Marrakesh there are many huge shops, but I like to shop at a very small one just inside the entrance to the rug souk and on the left.  The address is #48 Souk des Tapis and the proprietor is Mohamed El Idrissi Dafali.  I usually deal with his assistant, Mehedi, who is very helpful, but may not speak English.  Although small, they have several types of rugs and can send out for others.  A Moroccan friend who lives in Marrakesh also shops here, which confirms my view that they have reasonable prices.  Go there in the afternoon, and around 5 you can see the daily [except Friday?] rug auction.  People bring in rugs to sell, and men carry them from shop to shop, taking bids.  If any appeal to you, you can have the shopkeeper bid for you and he’ll get a bonus of about 10%.

Tazenakht is southwest of Ouarzazate, which is across the High Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh.  Tazenakht is a center for the sale of High Atlas, Ait Ouzgite or Tazenakht rugs – many names for the same general style.  There is a rug market on Fridays, but you need to go early for the best selection. There is one very good shop in town for antique Moroccan items like rugs and jewelry, with its entrance on the back of the 'square' facing the main road and Hotel Taghdoute (which is very well run and clean with down home food: 011 212 44 84 13 93). The shop owner is Lahsen and he speaks Arabic and French, tells great stories about the old days, and has a network of family members in southern Morocco who can help you find almost any unusual item. He is another who charges reasonable prices to enourage you to come back.

Tiliouine is a small town on the road heading west out of Tazenakht.  It’s most famous as a center for the collection and sale of saffron, which grows wild in the area.  However, it is also the center where rugs are collected and sold by a non-profit group called Migration and Development.  This group helps local people with self-help projects like installing drinking water or electricity in a village.  The Tiliouine shop sells rugs and other textiles, like burnouses in gorgeous natural wool, made by local women; the prices are excellent. 


In Rabat, a few doors from the shop above, is the Maison d’argent or Silver House.  The address is 244 Rue des Consuls, and you can recognize it by the wooden meshrebiyya or carved wood work around the door.  If you need an English speaker, ask for Embarek - who speaks about 15 other languages too!  They specialize in silver jewelry; the man who owns the store has a shop with gold down the street a bit.  But this is much more affordable, and they have a huge variety of new, old, and ‘reproduced old’ pieces including earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces plus traditional Moroccan pieces like fibulas and daggers.  The front room has the newer pieces, but you can go through a curtain at the back to the older pieces, plus bowls of beads and semi-precious stones that you can use to design your own necklace.

Artistic Everything

On a small side street just around the corner from the Tour Hassan Hotel in Rabat is a tiny jewel of a shop called Alchimies.  (In Arabic, al-chimie means chemistry, and is the basis for our word alchemy.)  It has a few exquisite examples of several items, and the charming owner can have things made to your order.  She carries carved wooden screens, lamps and screens inlaid with silver, painted furniture and elegant mirrors, to mention just a few items.  The address is 5 Rue el Marj and the telephone/fax from the US is 011 212 37 20 17 56.

On the road tour buses often take in southern Morocco, between Erfoud (where you drive out to see the sand dunes) and Ouarzazate (in the mountains on the way to Marrakesh), is a unique shop called Galerie d’Art Chez Zaid.  It’s located in Tinejdad, and Zaid is the owner.  It may be his innate artistic nature, and/or his former work as a guide, that led him to develop a taste for items that appeal to many western tourists but few Moroccan shop owners.  Here you will find wooden pitchforks, antique pottery, and wooden shutters with the turquoise paint peeling off alongside exquisite old jewelry and sometimes a handwritten manuscript - and lots of other things.   You can bring a sandwich and buy a soft drink to have lunch in the garden during your stop, not to mention using the spotless ‘facilities’.  If you want to ask for directions, the telephone in Morocco is 055 78 67 98, but it’s right on the main street and has a large sign.



Some of these sites offer general travel information, while others describe specific tours. 

Morocco Bound is a travel site that provides information for the independent traveler to Morocco.  This includes lists of books, maps, travel services, and traveler’s and web resources.            

Joan Peterson, Ph.D., is the author of the Eat Smart series of guidebooks for travelers and cookbook lovers who want to get to the heart of a country’s culture through its cuisine.  Morocco is her newest interest and she plans to lead a culinary tour there.  

Kitty Morse was born in Morocco, and she writes extensively on North African and Moroccan cuisine.  She has written eight cookbooks (her newest Moroccan one is in my Books section), and leads annual cooking tours to Morocco.      

The Shoestring Company is based in Amsterdam and runs “adventure tours” to Morocco.  Shoestring organizes holidays for active, adventurous travelers, who want to fully experience faraway countries and want to explore places on their own. They enjoy exploring the local culture and nature. Humor and flexibility come in handy when something has to be improvised. They sometimes involve staying in rural people’s homes or tents, and are usually quite inexpensive.   However, these days the site seems to be only in Dutch.  If you’re a real bargain hunter you might want to look at it and email them for more information, since most people there speak excellent English.    

The Virginia Military Institute in partnership with the National Council on US-Arab Relations offers a cultural and linguistic immersion program in North Africa, based in Fez.  Although the deadline to sign up is March 2, 2001 I hope the web site continues to function, since it contains wonderful photos and informative text on the cities of Fez, Marrakesh and Essaouira. Click on the city name in the Overview paragraph near the top, and you’ll have many resources at your fingertips.  Check this out if you’re visiting any of them.         

The Riad Gyvo is a small hotel located in a two hundred year old traditional home located near the main gate of Essaouira’s old city or medina.  The owners are Belgian with impeccable taste in Moroccan antiques, evidenced by the fact that one of them curated the exhibit “Splendeurs du Maroc”, described under book links.  Some Moroccan antiques are used to furnish the Riad, and the owners can tell you where to shop for more.    

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