Morocco

A note about accomodations in Morocco: Because my wife was there on business, we stayed in western hotels while in Rabat, Tangier, Marrakesh, and Casablanca; I don’t know anything about riads in those cities. But one advantage of western hotels for us is that they often have pools and a fitness center. If you have back issues like we do, those are great amenities. Riads sometimes have small unheated plunge pools, often no pool, and I don’t know of any with a fitness center.

Tangier

We stayed at the Royal Tulip and at the Hilton, both close to the beach at the east end of the Corniche. Both are very expensive and excellent hotels, but the Royal Tulip in particular is amazing- fantastic pool and fitness center, nice bar, and excellent rooms. What makes these hotels even better is that they are right across the street from the train station! There’s also a big shopping mall right next to the Hilton. I have heard that the Kenzi Solazur is also good for a western hotel, but I haven’t looked at it.

The Panorama Cafe, at the east end of the Corniche in view of the Hilton, has good food and great gelato made on site. If you go, ask to be served by Rashid, tip him well, and tell him Mike sent you!

The Restaurant Kasbah inside the medina seems to get mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, but I ate there 3 times and it was great every time. Supposedly smaller tour groups are brought here for lunch sometimes, and I think they get a special menu which perhaps isn’t as tasty. In particular, their bastillas are fantastic; my Moroccan lunch partner told me that the only better fish bastilla is the one her grandmother makes!

Just outside the medina near the Hotel Continental is Restaurant Rif Kebdani. It looks like a hole in the wall from the outside, but it’s cute inside and the food is excellent.

For a nice selection of tapas in a place that won’t kill you with cigarette smoke, try El Tangerino. It’s right across the street from the Corniche. We ate there twice!

The best fish restaurant EVER is Le Saveur du Poisson, located halfway down some steps near the Place Avril 9 (Grand Socco). The quirky owner has plenty of fun serving his customers fish cooked several different ways. There’s no menu because everyone gets the same dishes, all of which are “to die for.”

Casablanca

We stayed at the Kenzi Tower Hotel (often called the Kenzi Twin Center by the taxi drivers– be careful because there’s another Kenzi in Casablanca). There are plenty of restaurants in the area both casual and nice. If you stay here, ask for Abdul the concierge and tell him Mike and Yvonne send their greetings. He will take wonderful care of you.

If you’re craving a good hamburger, go to Blend Gourmet Burger a short walk from the Kenzi Hotel above. Lots of interesting menu options, and new specials all the time. I got the Ramen Burger. their fruit drinks are great too.

Delicious Moroccan food in a gorgeous setting can be had at La Sqala (Portugese for “cannon”), built right into the old fortress wall at the back of the medina. It’s a bit touristy, but lots of Moroccans eat here also and the prices are reasonable. It’s a short walk from the must-see Mosque of Hassan II.

And yes, you really have to see the mosque, which has the tallest minaret in the world and accomodates over 80,000 worshippers. Take one of the guided tours; it’s one of only 2 mosques in Morocco which allow non-Muslims inside.

Basically around the corner from La Sqala is Rick’s Cafe, which is also good if a bit overpriced. I had a really good negroni there. If you want to hear As Time Goes By on the piano, you will need to go for lunch; they have live jazz at dinner. You will need a reservation to eat at Rick’s, even for lunch.

Marrakesh

In my opinion the best neighborhood to stay in, if you don’t want to stay in the medina, is Gueliz. It’s too far to walk (but a short taxi ride) to the Jemaa el-Fnaa, but it’s a happening neighborhood with plenty of shops and restaurants. We stayed at Bab Hotel, which isn’t expensive, is on a quiet street, and has really nice, spacious rooms. What it doesn’t have is a heated pool and fitness center (it has an unheated plunge pool; I never saw anyone use it even though it was hot outside). For that in Gueliz, you have to stay at the Raddisson Blu, which has one the best fitness centers I’ve seen anywhere in Morocco, and a nice pool. But overall the Bab is a much more pleasant, laid-back retreat in crazy Marrakesh.

Another option if you don’t want a riad is to stay one of the huge resort hotels in eastern part of the Hivernage area. From there, it’s about a 20-minute walk to the square.

For fantastic pastries and café au lait, Patisserie Amandine is right across the street from Bab Hotel. La Trattoria serves delicious food in a gorgeous setting a few doors down from Amandine. And Bagatelle is a block away.

La Table Al Badia was one of the best dining experiences we had in all of Morocco. Slightly pricey but amazingly good, dinner is served on their gorgeous terrace; I guarantee that you will be thrilled. The chef buys food each day to accommodate the reservations that have been made through the morning, so don’t expect to walk in or get a late reservation. Also, follow their instructions for getting there! I thought I was smart and used Google Maps to walk there; I ended up in the wrong neighborhood, completely lost.

Don’t miss the free storytelling on Sunday nights at Cafe Clock (the food is good too, so have dinner and stick around). Experience one of the last classical storytellers in Marrakesh as he weaves a tale in Arabic– he speaks no English–and laughs, shouts, and pounds his cane on the floor to bring the characters to life. His apprentices will also regale you with the old stories, in excellent English.

If you want a good cooking class, I enjoyed mine at La Maison Arabe. Of course, I was the only student that afternoon, so I got a private lesson standing next to the dada. They can take at least 8 at a time, with high-tech screens in front of each student and a camera pointing at the teacher’s work. You will prepare your own complete meal and then sit down in their gorgeous dining area to eat what you cooked.