We're Riding on
The Marrakech Express

Trip Dates:
October 1st to 10th, 2023

Come, Be Enchanted by Marrakech

October 1 to 10, 2023

If Marrakech is not on your bucket list; it should be. But you can be forgiven if you didn’t already know it. We just found out ourselves last month when we made a visit and were swept away by the art, the architecture, the incredible cuisine and the genuine kindness of the people. The lesson we took away is that we should never adopt the opinion that we’ve seen and experienced almost everything there is to see and experience. There’s always so much more!
You are invited to join us for a week in Marrakech and then a few days in Essaouira, the small town on the coast that was the gateway for trade between Europe and Marrakech during 800 years of incredible wealth and culture. The fact that, for the last two hundred years, Morocco has not played a big part in world events or in the political strife of the region, has combined with the dry climate to leave this fabled city in a remarkable state of preservation.
Please read on to find out what we have learned and would like to share with you. First, where we will stay; a Riad. Today, these arab-styled B&B’s are found throughout the Islamic world. They emerged in the 1940’s and are created combining old villas and mansions within the walls of old medieval cities. The entrance to our Riad, La Maison Arabe, is pictured on the cover and in the upper right photo on this page. But our Riad is special; It was the first one. Please read on.

What’s to See and Do in Marrakesh?

A cooking classroom in La Maison Arabe, where we will learn the basics of Moroccan Cuisine
With Castles and Concerts, you can always expect that music will play a leading role in our activities. And there is a lively musical scene that we look forward to sharing with you. And, of course, the architecture, art and history are amazing. But, for us, maybe the most surprising and impressive discovery here is the cuisine. Throughout the Islamic world, if one thinks of fine dinning, one thinks first of Moroccan food. And at the Maison Arabe we will be in the Mecca of Moroccan Cuisine. You remember that the French sisters who started it all were able to borrow the Pasha’s chef? Well then, with what they learned, they not only opened the first restaurant inside the walls, they went on to publish the classic Moroccan cookbook. Today, their cookbook is still the largest selling cookbook in Morocco. (In French, Arabic, English and other languages)

But was that enough? Pas de tout! They bought another adjoining mansion and turned it into one of the most famous cooking schools in the Arab speaking world. They train chefs from around the world in French, English and Arabic, in two campuses. We’ve arranged that any of our guests will be able to take a private introductory course in Moroccan cooking. It’s for our group and is included in the trip; no extra charge. And these are not classes where a grandma gets you around the table to make pasta. Every student gets a workstation with a stove, tools, lots of ingredients and even a video monitor that allows you to see what the teacher is doing, up close and from multiple angles. After cooking, participants and their guests will then be invited to share the meal. The food and spice markets are fabulous and the restaurant scene offers everything from the basics to scenes created from Aladdin’s lamp.

Arrival in Marrakech

We will, by choice, stay within the walls of the old city. As we see in Churchill’s paintings, until 50 or 60 years ago, this was the entire city. In the time since, Marrakech has grown, but not explosively. It is still under one million inhabitants and about half live in the old town. Someone using a time machine and visiting from the past might not be so impressed by the amount of growth, but they‘d certainly be astounded by the kind of growth.
Like many countries in the Islamic world, Morocco does not have oil, but it is clear that the petro-riches don’t all stay in the Persian Gulf. The old-town is a world heritage site, but the new construction surrounding this bit of preserved history is fabulous in its modernity.
This tremendous juxtaposition of old and new will be ever so apparent as you land in their new airport and take a new Mercedes van through the new part of town and up to the old walls. Your van takes you through the gates and as if by magic, into a world from long, long ago. These are precious moments for many travelers. Enjoy them!
One of the most astounding stylistic expressions of the architecture is the plainness and austerity of the exterior facades (above), compared to the interior exuberance (below). This juxtaposition is unmatched anywhere in the world. Maybe it says “if you’ve got it, flaunt it, but only for friends & family”.

More Stuff to See and Do in Marrakech

The Old Walled City has areas of high density homes, markets, shops and Mosques, but it also has several large and beautiful parks. And it has the largest outdoor market in the Islamic world. Marrakech is a great place to wander during the day, but it really comes alive at night. You can shop until midnight, and the bars and cafes are open late.
A brief pause here to explain the length of this itinerary. Usually we use only five or six pages to outline one of our trips. But the visual richness and our unfamiliarity with the history and culture of Marrakech and Morocco have greatly expanded what we’d like to tell you.
Haggling with merchants is expected. It can be viewed as kind of a game that engages the customer with the shopkeeper. We were hesitant at first, and so our guide haggled for us until we got the hang of it. The shopkeepers are personable and love to talk. It became big fun and it was fine if we didn’t buy. We had passed the time meeting a new friend.


In our Riads and hotels, each bedroom or suite will have a complete Western style bath room with all the latest fixtures and attention given to all the necessary details. But each Riad, each hotel and each neighborhood we visit will also have a hammam. This will be a larger communal bath with separate facilities for men and women. These are the spas of the ancient world. Great care and expense goes into the design and creation of these wonderful indoor spaces, with hot and cold baths, steam rooms and massage tables. There’s an attendant to scrub the body, especially the back of the bather, and later a massage and the application of an amazing choice of fragrances from the spice market. Another travel experience to savor!

And Music, Music Everywhere!

In Morocco, everyone loves music, Even the local wildlife can’t resist its charms.  Matt Eakle claims he will teach a snake to do the twist or die trying. Enjoy the show as our happy band of musicians mixes it up with the locals. David Jackson, Liv Taylor, Dean Parks, The Elliott Sisters, Matt Montgomery, Matt Eakle, Chip Mallari and Tom Montgomery are all on board. More will join soon!

Before We Leave Marrakech

A Kasbah is simply a walled-in space. Out in the desert this would sometimes function as a fort to keep out unwanted visitors, but more often, to protect the inhabitants from sand storms. In Marrakech there are Kasbahs with an entirely different purpose. A standard caravan had around 1,000 camels. When they showed up in town these camels had to be housed and cared for. So Marrakech was crowded with the equivalent of more than a hundred Motel 6’s for camels. There are more than fifty of them left and they now serve a variety of urban needs, most often as shops, but also schools, cafés and riads. At right: a desert Kasbah, a place to top off your camel’s tank. Below: A Kasbah that is a former camel parking lot in central Marrakech.
During our week in Marakech, we will, as is our custom, divide our large group into smaller groups to go out and explore each day. Typically, we will have four or five groups. Marrakech is absolutely dense with things to see and do. This will mean that some people will want to attend the cooking school while others would rather visit the baths, ride a camel or visit a market, Mosque or museum. So with this trip we plan to hire about a dozen guides and make our groups much smaller (between six and twelve guests). We expect this to provide more flexibility and an enhanced experience for everyone.
Marrakech is pancake flat but it would take about an hour to walk across the whole town from wall to wall. This means that some tours will have quite a bit of walking. But there are little Tuk-Tuks everywhere and our guides can hail one anytime the walking gets to be too much.

Which Way to the Beach?
West to Essaouira

Essaouira has a tidy harbor protected by a medium sized island a half mile off the coast. The fishing here has always been, and is today, incredible. The Phoenicians settled here in about 500 BC. Later the Romans took over. The Arabs came in the 600’s. The native population was never absorbed into that of the conquerors, and remains today distinctly Berber. The locals will be quick to remind you that they are not Arabs and that Morocco has preserved the culture founded by the first peoples to arrive here thousands of years ago. Notably, they are the only people of North Africa who were not absorbed into the Ottoman Turkish Empire.

It is a constitutional monarchy, like England, and with a ruling dynasty still going strong after 400 years on the throne. We talked with many people about politics. The opinions we heard were that, while everyone has something to complain about, the government is doing a pretty decent job, politicians aren’t all crooks, and that any big changes would probably make things worse, not better. The country is notably not bifurcated into left and right politically. It was the first nation to recognize the USA, in 1777. And its friendship treaty with the states is the oldest one we have, from 1786.

It’s a particularly scenic place. Orson Wells in the 40’s, Alfred Hitchcock in the 60’s and many others, including recently, The Game of Thrones used this walled mediaeval town as a film location.

But how about this? Jimi Hendrix lived here for a while and called it the coolest place on earth. The Beatles came here, Crosby, Stills and Nash came. A long list of notable artists and musicians came, as well as thousands of hippies whose trust funds made it possible to show up. To understand this strange phenomenon, consider:

  1. Under the Romans the Atlas Mountains were an important wine region.
  2. When Mohammed came in the 600’s wine was out but hashish was in.
  3. When the hippie counter culture adopted cannabis, Morocco had been making the best hash for 1200 years. (It still does today.)

Ironically, today they make wine in the mountains again and there are no longer restrictions on alcohol consumption but the use of recreational cannabis is illegal (but rarely enforced).

Essaouira is seventy miles west of Marrakech, on the Atlantic coast. We make our move on October 7.

Our Riad is pictured right. Today, Essaouira is known for its laid-back vibe, for having the best metal workers, wood crafts people and the best fish restaurants in the country. It has a lively street-music scene. It will be the perfect place to unwind for three days after the hustle of Marrakech.

Stuff You Should Know If You’d like to Join Us

Traveling to Marrakech-- Arrival: We will kick off the festivities on Sunday, October 1, 2023. If you want to arrive a day or two early, let us know and we’ll arrange it. You will fly into Marrakech’s new airport. We will meet you there. You can arrive from the U.S. with only one stop using any major hub in Europe. You do not need a visa with a U.S. passport.

Departure: If you choose not to come to Essaouira, you can depart from Marrakech on October 7 at any time. If you join us in Essaouira we will have breakfast on Tuesday, October 10 and then transport you back to Marrakech. It’s about two and a half hours, so if we pull out at 9:30, you are at the airport at noon. This means that if you want your departure to be stress-free, you probably don’t want to book a departure before 3PM. If you want to spend a last night in Marrakech, let us know and we’ll reserve you a room, join you for dinner and fly out on Wed. the 11th. If you have an early flight on Oct.10, we’ll certainly help to arrange a private car.

Weather: You wouldn’t want to come in July and August, but by October the days will be warm (mid to upper 80’s) and the nights are spectacular. The air seems to become soft and fragrant and the night always seem to be at just the perfect temperature. Rain is very unlikely but not unheard of. San Francisco gets about 30” of rain a year with Marrakech getting about 11”.

Dress: Moroccan people dress well. You should dress for comfort, but typically, the worst-dressed people in town are the tourists. It’s warm and young European women are seen in short-shorts and crop-tops that seemed to scandalize us more than it does the locals. They seem unconcerned.

Alcohol: You’d never know you weren’t in a western country. It’s drier in Kansas.

Money: Everybody can handle this conversion. The Durham is 10 to 1 with the dollar. Just lose the last digit, 250dh=$25. Credit cards are accepted everywhere.

Water: This is a very fastidious and clean culture, Like anywhere else in the world these days, bottled water is everywhere and is constantly being offered. And drink lots of it - It’s hot and dry. We ate all over town eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with no problem.

Deposits and Cancellations: Your $1,000/person deposit is fully refundable until you’ve made your next payment. Until we travel, your deposit and payments are fully transferable to someone who takes your place, and if you cancel for any reason, we will refund all of your money if the trip is full and we can fill your spot. After you make your deposit and, months later, a first payment, if you cancel, for any reason and at any time, we will credit you with the full amount you’ve paid for any future trip with us, or we will immediately refund all of your payments except the original $1,000/person deposit.

Accommodations and Costs: As outlined earlier, we will stay in two adjacent properties in Marrakech. Our Riad is an important and famous historical property with loads of character. But every room has a different size and charm and it is a bit of a maze with some rooms close in and others needing stairs to get there. The other is a brand new luxury hotel, probably built with oil money. It is spacious and has every convenience we could think of and some we hadn’t imagined. We are proud of every room we’ve reserved in both properties, and we think you will love them too. But we recognize that some folks want to pay a bit more to know they’ve got the best.

We’ve reserved thirty rooms in the Riad and twenty in the new hotel. We’ll offer ten upgraded rooms in each property. In the new hotel it’s simple, we’ll upgrade you to one of their big junior suites with balconies, walk-in closets and a bathroom from heaven. In the Riad, if you go with an upgrade you’ll have to tell us what’s most important to you. This would include room size, location on a ground floor or near to the reception. Or maybe you’d like one that is decorated by Aladdin. We’ll do our best to accommodate you.

In Essaouira we’ve got fifteen with sea views and we can pick five others for their size and cool décor.. Again, we’ll do our best to honor your upgrade wishes. Because we really believe that there will not be a big difference in the level of the rooms, we are offering the upgrades at a lower price than is usual for our trips. That will be $1500/room total (not per person) for both legs of the trip.

The price for October 1-7 in Marrakech in $6,950/person, double occupancy. There’s a $1,000 single supplement We plan to pamper you. We will be there to meet you when you arrive. We plan to feed you some of the best meals of your life. We’ll have lots of guides to take small groups into special places and to special restaurants for lunch. And our evenings will be at various places where we will enjoy our musicians and the locals as well. If you want to attend the cooking school, ride the camels or take the plunge into the magic baths, it’s all included,

If your schedule doesn’t allow you to spend three extra days at the coast you can depart on Oct 7. If you take the three-day add-on to Essaouira, it will add $2,750/each, double occupancy with $500 for a private room single supplement.