July 15, 2022

A Rockin’ Moroccan New Year’s Eve

“It turns out that teenage girls aren’t that different from each other regardless of their culture.”

Recently we had the privilege of speaking with a three-time Thomson Family Adventure guest, Jennifer Houston, about her exciting experience traveling to Morocco.

Why did you choose to travel to Morocco?

My 50th birthday was coming up. I was fascinated by the souks and general Moroccan culture. When I travel, I like to be out of my element and constantly learning and engaged. Morocco seemed to check all the boxes.

Who did you travel with?

I traveled with my immediate family, husband and teenage daughters, as well as close family friends who jumped on board as soon as they heard we were going to Morocco. They also have two teenage girls. Very interesting being in an Islamic culture with teenage girls. I will never forget walking through a tiny village in the Atlas Mountains very early in the morning on a hike and having women wearing burkas looking at our girls and our girls looking back at them. All women, but very different. 

Before you went on your trip what were you most excited about? Is that was ended up being the most fun experience?

Before the trip, I was most excited about seeing Marrakesh and going through the labyrinth of souks and markets there. In the end, one of the most fun experiences was being at the port in Essaouira, watching boats come in that have been out for several days fishing. It was New Year’s Day morning, and we were on the harbor, with the sun rising behind us, watching an already busy port unloading the daily catches.

Would you recommend this trip?

I would absolutely recommend this trip! Going from the city to the Atlas Mountains, to the other side of the Atlantic from the US was an amazing way to see a country. Since then, we have actually discussed doing a Morocco 2.0 visit to see more of the amazing country.

Why did you choose to travel with Thomson Family Adventures?

Morocco was our third trip with Thomson Family Adventures. We had taken a trip to Tanzania, doing a private Safari for my husband‘s 50th birthday. That trip had us sold on private, organized tours in complicated places. The following spring, we did Peru and then eight months later we were in Morocco.

What was the food like on your trip?

We loved any and all tagines! We definitely had lot of those with yummy vegetable salads. My daughter and I are vegans, and every place was accommodating. The friends with who we were traveling have gluten allergies, and our guides picked up a giant box of gluten-free bread before we headed to the Atlas Mountains as it would be hard to find gluten-free products there. They were so thoughtful!

Did you have a favorite meal?

There were tons of favorite meals. There was the tagine cooking class and lunch at an inn in the high Atlas Mountains that was memorable for both the food and spectacular view. There was a lunch on a rooftop in Marrakesh where ladies were baking fresh bread in the ovens right next to us. And we got to hear the call to prayer that day looking down at the city. It was pretty spectacular. And our last dinner at a restaurant across from the palace around a covered pool was spectacular. Dish after dish of Moroccan delicacies were brought out.

What was your favorite memory from your time in Morocco?

We were in Essaouira over New Year’s Eve. Our guides Mohammed and Hussein informed us that we would be having dinner at the hotel that night and when we checked in, it looked like a big party was being set up. Fantastic. It turns out that the king was supposed to attend the party. At the last minute, he had canceled but part of his cabinet had already arrived in the city and were attending the party. 

We took the elevator downstairs to the second level where fireworks were set off right in front of our hotel at 8:30 PM while champagne was being poured and a singer was singing. We went down to the first-floor lobby for dinner where an entire party venue had been set up, military guards lined the hallway leading to the ballroom/lobby, a stage was set and a series of entertainers were brought out: dancers, musicians.

For some reason, our table of 10 has a table right next to the cabinet. Everyone wondered who we were and why we were under dressed (we hadn’t thought to pack suits and gowns!), and it was one of the best nights of my life.

By the end of the evening, all of us were dancing, including our guides. Our guides couldn’t believe the evening they were having. Mohammed got his courage up to ask for a photograph with one of the cabinet members and we were taking a picture for him of that. He was so excited! It might’ve been the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had.  I am definitely looking forward to planning our next trip with Thomson Family Adventures. We’ve had probably three of the best trips of our lives with them