A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house that has been converted to a guest house, similar to a Bed and Breakfast in the US, and I opted for us to stay here to get the Moroccan experience, and because of the glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. Finding the house proved a challenge, as after arriving at the train station we jumped in a cab, who called the Riad to find out where it was in the walls of the Medina. The cabbie couldn't figure out exactly where it was, however, so when he let us out of the car he found us two kids to take us to the Riad. Bad mistake, as when we got to the Riad they demanded a huge tip - the smallest bill I had, 50 dirham (about $6)! I refused, and once the Riad opened asked the French proprietor what to do - he eventually helped by giving them 20 dirham, and I heard him arguing with them in French while we entered the Riad and situated ourselves.
The Riad was run by a Parisian couple who searched out Morocco for a change in life. The room was on the bottom floor and comfortable, and the included breakfast was served on the nice roof area which overlooked the city. The location of the Riad was a quick 10 minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the main square and the Souks (open air markets), so we spent the next full day in Marrakech exploring he city.
Essouaria - AirBnB (November 1-4)
We jumped on a bus a few days later and headed to the seaside town of Essouaria, where we stayed at a very nice AirBnB house in the Medina. The little flat was on the roof of a 3 floor building, and had a great view of the sea. The owners are Moroccan, but didn't speak much English so their friend, an Algerian, was visiting from from Paris and helped us check in and get situated.
The flat has great wifi, and very friendly owners who did laundry for us and even greeted us with little pastries on arrival! The location was perfect, a few minutes walk from the sea, markets, and restaurants, and a great jump off point for a morning run to the sea.
Marrakech - Le Méridien N'fis (November 4-5)
We stayed at this Starwood property for a night between our stay in Essaouria and our desert tour, which was a pretty fancy Western property a few miles and a 20 dirham cab ride from the Medina. The property had nice grounds, and while not quite as nice as an American Méridien, had a very nice bathroom and solid wifi. Nisha especially liked the western shower after a few days of Moroccan style showers (which were a bit unreliable with hot water).
The included breakfast was extensive and tasty.
Desert Tour (November 5-8)
After our trip to Essarouia we returned to Marrakech for a night, then were picked up from Le Méridien for a 3 day tour to the desert. We really enjoyed this tour - if you are interested check out my review on Tripadvisor.
Gorges du Dades - Dar Essyaha (November 5-6)
This Dar (Moroccan guesthouse - apparently Riad means garden in arabic, Dar means house) was set into a magnificent gorge, about 20 minutes outside the medieval-looking kasbah of Aït Benhaddou. Our driver, Ibrahim, stopped on the hill and we weren't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a really beautiful Moroccan guesthouse with a balcony with a view overlooking the gorge. We had dinner and breakfast at the Dar, and both were quite good with a Tagine for dinner and a Moroccan breakfast. The room was on the bottom floor but still had an excellent view, but the building was a bit cold so we huddled up at night to keep each other warm.
The Sahara Desert (November 6-7)
On our second day, after reaching a building on the edge of the Sahara we climbed aboard camels and rode over an hour in the desert to find a camp near the border of Algeria. The camp was pretty nice, with a number of large tents (we're not talking setup your own costco tent here) holding a comfortable mattress with a number of blankets to keep you warm (apparently you don't need them at all during summer - it's ostensibly so hot it's difficult to sleep). The night we slept here was a full moon and the moon was incredible, alighting my walk from our tent to the bathroom the camp had.
Orzazate - Riad Bouchedor (November 7-8)
On our way back from the desert we stayed in this Riad in Orzazate on the edge of town. This riad was really pretty, with beautiful decorations inside and a large classy room. The included food was good, and served on the patio at the back of the riad with both indoor and outdoor seating. My favorite part of this stay, however, was the location - it was across from a bit of a hill which you could walk up and see the entire city - I climbed up the hill and enjoyed the sunset while Nisha napped.
The only downside of this place was the wifi, which was spotty at best.
Imlil - Douar Samra (November 8-11)
We stayed in the Mountain town of Imlil for a few days after our desert tour, and picked a little Douar, which is a traditional Moroccan guesthouse. Half-board was standard, which means included breakfast and dinner, so we enjoyed those with the other people staying in the guesthouse. These other couples were the highlight of our trip, as we met several English couples who provided great stories and card playing.
The rooms in the guest house were very rustic - so much so that they didn't have electricity, which meant using candles for light. This was nice in some ways, but because the guest house was so rustic the insulation was poor so we were quite cold at times, huddling up in the provided robes in bed. They did light fires nightly in the dining area and in our room, and one night provided us a hot water bottle which Nisha loved. There was supposed to be included wifi, but it was broken, so fortunately our purchased Moroccan sim cards worked here. Cash was the only accepted form of payment here, but there was no ATM in town, so we had to take a cab 20 minutes to the next town to get money to settle up!
I look back on this place quite fondly despite being cold - it's nice sometimes to get away from it all - and we did!
Casablanca - Sheraton (November 11-12)
This was a decent Sheraton in Casablanca, a busy city we stayed at before flying out the next day, and was about what you'd expect for a western hotel in Morocco (ie not quite the levels of the US).
The most notable thing here is that the breakfast was not included (though it was in every other hotel in Morocco we stayed at), and when we went down for breakfast we thought it was and were not informed before sitting down at the buffet. When we got the bill we were in shock, as they charged 250 dirhams each (about $30) for it. It was incredible, and certainly not worth it.
Jordan (November 12-19)
Amman - Amman Pascha (November 12-14)
For some strange reason flights to Amman seem to land and leave in the middle of the night (perhaps because of the heat?), as we landed in Amman at 2AM or so, and a driver from the Amman Pascha hotel picked us up. We stayed 2 nights in the hotel, using it as a base to visit the Dead Sea and old biblical cities before heading down to Petra.
This was a very simple hotel, more a hostel than hotel as the rooms had a number of beds and the hotel had a communal bar area. The location was in the old part of the city, across from a Roman Colosseum that neglected to visit as we had just seen tons of ruins in Italy a few weeks before. While cheap I'm not sure I would visit this hotel again, though perhaps that's more how I feel about the city of Amman than just this hotel - Amman was very busy with mostly men on the street, and I mostly enjoyed being outside the city in our visit.
Petra - Rocky Mountain Hotel (November 14-17)
We spent 3 nights in Petra, heading down on a 6AM bus to Petra and arriving around 9:30 in the city of Wadi Musa. The woman who runs the hotel with her Jordanian husband was from New Zealand, and was very friendly. After checking us in she gave us good tips on a great walk in Petra, and we took her advice and really enjoyed our 3 days in the ancient city.
The hotel itself was at the top of Wadi Musa and featured fantastic views overlooking Petra in addition to being clean and comfortable. The hotel served and affordable and tasty dinner nightly, and also sold a nice packed lunch of a pita sandwich, boxed juice, and a few snacks. As the hotel was fairly far from Petra (a 15-20 minute walk up the hill) we took advantage of the morning and evening shuttles (the proprietress dropping us off in her 70's era Mercedes) to the park, and Nisha especially enjoyed the ice cream at the Mövenpick hotel.
The complimentary wifi worked well in the lobby and out in the hall, and even from the room itself from time to time.
Wadi Rum - Desert (November 17-18)
After 3 nights in Wadi Musa we took the early morning bus (the only daily bus) to the desert of Wadi Rum and did a day trip with one of the brothers from Rum Guides, and spent the evening in a tent in the desert. Wadi Rum is a vast desert in the South of Jordan, and has beautiful large rocks poking out of the sand which you can climb and explore.
As this was only a few weeks after our evening in the Sahara desert in Morocco we were able to compare our experience directly, and this one wasn't quite as nice - the tent was a bit colder, and the food night quite as good. Part of this might have been that it was a bit colder in Wadi Rum than in the Sahara on the evening we were there, though we were given blankets and huddled up by the fire before bed.
Aqaba - Al Qidra (November 18-19)
Our initial plan was to to return to Amman and spend the night there before heading to the airport the next evening for our in-the-middle-of-the-night flight, but after a night in the desert we decided we'd rather have a day on the beach on the Red Sea than spending it in the busy city. A quick TripAdvisor search turned up the solid Al Qidra hotel in a great location in Amman, just a few minutes walk from the beach in Aqaba and next to a few good restaurants and plenty of shops and stores.
The hotel was clean and had good free wifi access, and offered discounted tickets to a private beach area about 20 minutes south on the Red Sea. The breakfast was the standard basics of pita and hummus and cereal, and the staff was very friendly. I would definitely visit this affordable hotel again if we return to Aqaba.
Nepal (November 20-December 1)
Kathmandu - Travellers Inn (4 days over 3 blocks)
After a huge day of traveling (we took a 4-hour bus ride from Aqaba to Amman, took a cab to the airport, and waited from 7 or so to 3:40AM for our flight, which was several hours to Abu Dhabi for a layover prior to a few more hour hour flight to Kathmandu) we arrived in the late evening in Kathmandu, where our trekking guide Bhimsen greeted us and got us safely to the Travellers Inn in the touristy neighborhood of Thamul.
This hotel was very basic and a bit dirty, but since it was part of our package we spent 4 nights here in varying chunks. Additionally the hot water was spotty (but I think this is normal for Kathmandu), and Nisha was horrified to find the standard Nepalese/Indian shower of combined shower and toilet/sink area.
Wifi was spotty but sometimes worked well, which apparently is part of the Nepal experience (it doesn't really get better anywhere). The location of the hotel was great, with restaurants and stores right outside, and had really good food downstairs at the restaurant (which they were happy to send up as room service).
Everest Trek - Tea Houses (November 21-25)
During our 5 day trek in the Lukla area of Nepal (near Everest) we stayed in Tea Houses, which are the standard places to stay when trekking. These are very simple buildings without much insulation, but have simple beds with blankets, and had dining areas where you eat and drink. Most of the Tea houses we stayed at operated with the same sort of outlines: simple rooms with two single beds and shared bathrooms (without showers, these are offered for a separate fee but we didn't bother using them), a shared dining area with very similar menus: a Nepali Set menu of Dal Bhaat (lentils with rice, and a curry), some Chinese food (noodles, rice, and dumplings that are called Momos), and usually pizzas or some not-so-hot Western food. The Tea Houses generally offered wifi for 500 rupees (~$5) and power charging for 200 rupees (~$2).
During mealtimes the guides act as waiters, taking orders and serving their clients - they function kind of like extended Tea House staff.
The Tea Houses are fine for the tent substitutes that they are.
Nepal - Chitwan Unique Wild Resort (November 26-28)
After our Trek we took a bus down to Chitwan National Park to see animals and go for a jungle trek, and we stayed at a resort called Unique Wild Resort for 3 nights. The resort had nice verdant grounds and was a 5-10 minute walk from the main little town of Chitwan.
The package we had included transfers to the bus, our meals, and a couple tour activities which were the highlight of our trip: we took a canoe right where we saw crocodiles and birds, a jungle walk where we saw elephants and rhinos and a sloth bear, and an elephant ride for an hour and a half in the jundle where we spotted deer and more rhinos. One night we saw a cultural show with Thalu (these are the people of this area of Nepal) dance which we really enjoyed, especially a Peacock dance with outstanding costumes.
The food was mostly meh here as they served different types of food here (the western really bad, the Nepalese cuisine pretty good), the wifi again fairly spotty, but the biggest bummer with this place was the lack of hot water. We told the staff about the lack of the ability to shower, but they didn't do anything to solve the problem. The room itself was solid and comfortable, and being able to use the electricity to charge our devices without paying felt like a luxury after the Tea Houses.
If this place had hot water I'd recommend it wholeheartedly.