YOUR VACATION IN LIGHTS
Morocco: Here's Looking At You, Girlfriends
Amber Husbands of the District is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to share the dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip can be the next guy's day-maker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near-miss. To file your own trip report -- and become eligible to win a digital camera -- see the fine print below.
THE TRIP: Girlfriends' getaway to Morocco
WHEN: June 2006
WHO WENT: Amber Husbands, Kirsten Greene and Lilyanne Peyser, friends since our first year of college at U-Va.
GETTING THERE WAS . . . easy, on a direct flight from JFK to Casablanca.
BIGGEST SPLURGE: Using a tour operator. Not having to worry about getting from place to place and having a fantastic driver to answer all our questions and take us wherever we wanted to go made an enormous difference. We might never go back to do-it-yourself again.
BIGGEST CULTURE SHOCK: In the medina in Marrakech, everyone kept yelling "Fish and chips!" at us. Finally our guide explained that they thought we were British -- American tourists are apparently rare in Morocco. Once Moroccans found out we were American, though, they were remarkably welcoming.
WE FELT LIKE WE WERE IN PRISON WHEN . . . a Moroccan woman came into our hammam (bathhouse) and, with no warning, ripped off our bathing suits, dumped buckets of water over our heads and violently scrubbed us down with an exfoliating mitt. On the plus side, we have never been so clean.
I CAN'T BELIEVE I . . . was worried about the heat in Morocco. All the books warned against traveling to Morocco in the summer. But June in Morocco, while definitely warm, is nothing compared with summer in Washington.
FAVORITE SOUVENIR: The Moroccan carpet from Fes . . . or maybe it's the silver teapot and tray . . . or the hand-carved wooden tray from Essaouira . . .
IT MADE IT ALL WORTH IT WHEN . . . after a long, hot, sweaty ride through the desert, we took a sunset ride by camel through the Merzouga sand dunes, then spent the night in a tent under the star-filled desert sky.
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT: Attempting to use one of the roadside squat toilets. It is an acquired skill.
FAVORITE MEAL: We had a surprisingly authentic Italian dinner (down to the leering waiters) at the riad Casa Lalla, poolside at La Trattoria, and a sumptuous Morrocan feast at Stylia, a converted palace. But the everyday fare we had throughout the trip was fantastic, especially kefta (meatballs, sometimes with an egg on top) and tajine de poulet (chicken with lemons and olives).
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Although Morocco is a Muslim country where drinking alcohol is forbidden, we drank some surprisingly good local wines, which were readily available.
THIS WAS OUR FAVORITE VACATION BECAUSE . . . we talked to native Moroccans, learned a lot about Arabs and Islam, and were warmly welcomed as visitors to the country. And the mint tea was delicious!
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