Plan-It Morocco - Fez, Morocco
We were determined to venture to Fez as our first visit to Morocco, mostly thanks to Plan-It Morocco (formerly Plan-It Fez). The weight of itineraries and routes to take around the ancient city captured our attention much more than some of the more popular destinations in the country. There is a long list of tours that can be enjoyed within close proximity to Fez, in addition to the city´s Medina designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Plan-it Morocco has given us the privilege to learn the true Moroccan culture that is acclaimed as one of the most multi-ethnic societies in the world.
The two company founders, Michele Reeves and Gail Leonard combine for over 15 years of industry experience and more than 10 years of residency in Fez. They are both passionate individuals who want visitors to live the experience and get a true insight into the surroundings. These two working Mums have created experiences that will satisfy your sense of taste, smell, feel and sounds of Morocco rather than just skip along to picturesque sites.
We did the traditional Moroccan Patisserie Class in a local family's home, which is a family-friendly recommendation. We were hosted by Siham Lahmine and photographer Jamal Chaaoune. They escorted us from our pick up point at Café Clock and walked us into the family's home. After a lovely welcome with an exchange of cultural interest, the family walked us to the souk (market place) to buy ingredients for the pastries: honey, organic flour, dried nuts, herbs and olive oil. During the class everything was clearly instructed, with the hosts translating and making sure that we participated in every part of the process from padding to frying with utensils. We have learned so much about Moroccan culture through this baking class, as you get to interact with the family in a hospitable environment. This preparation demonstrated the techniques of the patisserie making process in addition to presenting to us the long standing traditions of sweets in the Moroccan culture, starting with the introduction of sugar from the Jewish community.
Whether you base your stay in Fez or not, it is a good idea to extend the tour for a few hours with a the tour company’s guide to take you around the city. The Medina is narrow at times and has a lot of alley ways that can lead you off the grid if you are not an expert map reader. It is also a good way to get to learn about the monuments and mosques as they define the city´s history, and a guide can help navigate you through ancient times.
We also signed up for the Beyond Fez Tour, which was stunningly exotic and unbelievably breathtaking. This consisted of a roadtrip to explore Roman ruins and ancient empires in the imperial cities of Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss. The chauffeur spoke fantastic English and happily took us to the off the beaten tracks of country sights and rural settings to allow us to stop off for photo sessions. The trip would not have been possible without a driver as the roads can be a little bit tricky if you are not accustomed to driving in this side of the world. We ate at a beautiful farm near the ancient ruins of Volubilis called Walila farm. It was relaxing, picturesque and an experience we'll never forget and lets not forget the geese, donkeys and Arab cats that we mingled with in the farm.
The arrangements made, including guides and drivers are reliable, helpful, professional and enthusiastic. Plan-It Morocco certainly possess the communication and organisational skills required to satisfy a magnitude of preferences. Dietary requirements are outlined from the beginning and they have great relationships with most hotels, riads and dars in the area making everything very familiar and smooth.
Visiting Morocco can be daunting for some, but it need not be. We definitely aren't saying that it is necessary to do a tour whilst in Fez, but you will most certainly gain a whole different insight by visiting some of the key sites at leisure and taking part in cultural activities whether this is making a drum kit with a local, dancing, cooking with a family or any other unique experience. The tour operators define boutique travel at its best as they encourage you to travel slow, engage with the locals and savour your surroundings. It's a huge thumbs up from us. Special thanks to Siham Lahmine and Jamal Chaaoune for looking after us!