Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Escape the Heat in Fez - Head to the Hills


If you have been sweltering in Fez there are a growing number of places up in the foothills of the Middle Atlas where you can chill out. The View From Fez team recently visited Dar El Mandar, just 35 minutes from Fez

This beautifully designed Amazigh dwelling is nestled in the hills overlooking the Fez-Sais plain with a view of Fez.  It is an ideal place for families or groups to stay overnight or visit with a day pass that includes use of the pristine pool and a delicious lunch.

Dar El Mandar was created by Jaoued Saidi and his wife Samira who have put years of thought and planning into creating a place of beauty that combines both contemporary and traditional Amazigh (Berber) styles.


For cooler times, the main house has a roaring fire in the large open-plan lounge and dining area. There is choice of a large dining table or a less formal table on the terrace outside.


The food is traditional, beautifully prepared and ranges from simple tagines to more elaborate menus if arranged in advance.

The bread and cakes are all cooked on-site in a traditional Amazigh oven. For those interested, a traditional bread making course is available.

Traditional Amazigh bread-making with Khadija

What is remarkable about the Dar El Mandar experience is the variety of areas, each with a totally different ambiance. Sitting beside the pool sipping a cool rosé, or with a group of friends eating lunch in the outdoor dining room, or (our favourite) chilling out in one of the the traditional Amazigh tents.

Room with a view - outdoor dining

The Amazigh tents are ideal for simply relaxing, reading a book or having a siesta. Looking out over the landscape it is easy to see why Game of Thrones used the tents as a template for the Dothraki tents. Khal Drogo slumping on a banquette would not look out of place.

The perfect chill out spot

At the end of the day the bedrooms are inviting, tastefully decorated and with very comfortable beds. If you want to stay overnight it is important to book well ahead as Dar El Mandar has only three (air-conditioned) bedrooms.


Photo credits: Sandy McCutcheon, Suzanna Clarke - Click on images to enlarge

DETAILS

Douar Lahricha Bni Mellala, Kandar Sidi Khiar Caïdat Aït Youssi, Sefrou, Morocco.
00 212 676 141 335
darelmandarfes.com

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fez Turns Up The Heat

The run of hot weather in Fez is set to continue for at least the next week

From tomorrow, Wednesday, temperatures are set to rise to 41 Celsius. Thursday and Friday 42 and 43 degrees. Saturday and Sunday will have highs of 43, before dropping to 42 on Monday and 41 on Tuesday.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Chinese Tourists in Morocco - Update

Following the decision in May 2016 by King Mohammed VI to exempted Chinese nationals from visa to visit the Kingdom, the Chinese began to arrive. At the time some tourism operators suggested that Morocco was not well prepared for mass Chinese tourists

In the last half of 2016 more than 40,000 Chinese tourists arrived, 300% more than in 2015. In the first half of this year, nearly 50,000 Chinese nationals visited China Kingdom, traveling mainly to Casablanca, their destination city, then to Fez and (surprisingly)  Ouarzazate.

Chinese tourists in Ouarzazate

The arrival of mass Chinese tourists is not without its problems and the country has to adapt to the demands of Chinese tourists who require, for example, Mandarin-speaking guides - a rarity in the Kingdom.

A number of travel agencies say that Morocco is not sufficiently ready to welcome these tourists in the best conditions. It is not just the lack of Mandarin speaking guides, says Hayat Jabrane, founder of Goal Voyages, and former general secretary of the National Confederation of Tourism (CNT). "Hotels need to offer Chinese menus, have Mandarin speaking staff. Even signage in the airport, and integrate Mandarin on the entry cards in Morocco and police cards in hotels."

Marketing-China claims that the Chinese "they like to discover the foreign kitchen, but prefer to eat Chinese in the morning and the evening ".

Chinese travellers have a preference for rooms equipped with wifi and a system of reception for iPod or iPhone. The quality of the food and drink also counts for the Chinese travellers who, despite their worries, are often tempted by the flavours of the countries they visit.

A hotel operator in Fes, who also asked for anonymity, told Telquel recently, " Chinese tourists are more suspicious than European tourists,  they come from so far away that it is normal that they are more anxious. We are also suspicious when traveling in Asia. They do not eat at the restaurant, sometimes they bring their own sheets, most of the time their program is organised long before they arrive. However, the most important thing is that at the end of their stay, they have the confidence to talk about it and in turn attract other Chinese tourists".

The Great Wall Chinese restaurant in Fez

Chinese businesses quickly saw opportunities and have already opened a genuine Chinese restaurant in Fez.

To identify the needs of the Chinese consumer, it is important for tour operators to understand the expectations of the visitors.  Hayat Jabrane says that " the Chinese tourist is looking for discovery, adventure, promoting heritage, culture, nature and shopping ." The lack of infrastructure around the tourist sites as well as the lack of diversity of Chinese restaurants are also problems that must be remedied. These are small details that are nevertheless very important" .

Morocco's intentions are clear: to welcome the largest number of Chinese tourists in the years to come. Asked by the 2M channel at the beginning of June 2016, Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said that " the Chinese market is an important market, it is a market of 130 million tourists. We want, in the long term, 5 to 10 years, to capture a million ".

From June 6 to 16, 2016, a Chinese delegation of senior Chinese travel agency officials and media from Beijing, Shanghai and Guanghzou visited the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Tangiers, Chefchaouen and Fez, Along with senior officials of the ONMT.

The Chinese channel CCTV, followed by more than 700 million Chinese, has made several documentaries  featuring Morocco. In addition the Chinese news agency Xinhua, contributed greatly to the influence of the city of Ouarzazate by running several reports on the Chinese channel CCTV.

According to Hayat Jabrane, although the promotion of Morocco's destination in China by the ONMT has produced good results, it " remains insufficient compared to the number of provinces in China in which Morocco is not known at all.  Moreover, " a direct airline would be ideal, accompanied by promotions in the form of cultural events in China with significant presence of the local press.

The numbers

For the city of Casablanca, there were nearly 25,000 Chinese arrivals in the first half of 2017, for nearly 35,000 overnight stays. Fez gained more than 6,500 arrivals for more than 10,000 overnight stays, while the city of Ouarzazate totalled more than 15,000 overnight stays for arrivals exceeding 10,000 over the same period.

According to the Observatory of Morocco, 28% of Chinese tourists visit Morocco on the recommendation of relatives, while 56% trust the media.  Of these, 35% travel as a couple, 20% as a group, and 26% as a whole family. 74% of Chinese visitors say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their experience in Morocco.


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Friday, August 11, 2017

British Workshop Poster Causes Scandal in Casablanca



An advertising poster which first appeared on Wednesday this week has created controversy in Casablanca

Citizens were astonished at the sight of a new poster along major arteries of their city. The advertiser, British Workshop, is a centre offering English courses.

This poster depicts a character pointing a pistol at his head with the following slogan: "If you still don't speak English, and underneath the message in Moroccan Darija, "sir t'moute" "kill yourself"

Locals were shocked by the bad taste and mediocrity of this advertising, but Thami Benboujida, general manager of the British Workshop, says it is simply "offbeat and creative".

Thami Benboujida, is obviously a believer in the old adage "there is no such thing as bad publicity". He is forthright in his explanation.  "We want to shock, and this is the purpose of this publicity. English is the language of the future. It is essential for children to be interested in this language from an early age and this is the message we want to convey ".

To the point of suggesting suicide? The boss of the training establishment is justified by giving his poster a sarcastic character, yet it is necessary to perceive it. "We want to encourage young people to learn English," tempers Thami Benboujida.

Many Moroccans remain unconvinced and point out that the incitement to suicide should be illegal as suicide itself is in Morocco.

The British Embassy Tweeted that it found the poster "unpleasant".

Management of the GAM (Groupement des Annoncesurs du Maroc). Mounir Jazouli, reportedly says he was scandalised by the advert, but said that GAM "has no authority to control the content of billboards". The sector "is not subject to any control of any entity whatsoever".

In order for a poster to be withdrawn, "there must first be a civil society complaint or a complaint filed with the authorities. The control is therefore a posteriori", says Mounir Jazouli. "This kind of slippage, although very rare in Morocco, emanates from irregular small advertisers. The GAM advertisers are also subject to a charter of ethics and content of advertising messages and which GAM ensures the follow-up and the correct application. "

When the GAM intervenes, with non-members for similar incidents, it is informally. Its role is therefore purely preventive and awareness-raising.


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