After leaving my Moroccan friends from England in Fez on my first trip to Morocco and headed off independently on my own I arrived in Risanni and ended up letting faux guide Rachid Refaff take me on a tour of the souk and old kasbah and as i wanted to get out to the dunes in time for the sunset i let him talk me into driving my car out to his 'family' auberge at the Lahmada auberge - it was by pretty bad piste road - and he was a TERRIBLE driver !! - i have since of course discovered that the road is all tarseal to Merzouga with loads of auberges to get myself to.
I stayed at the Lahmada auberge where they were all very friendly and hospitable - the next day i was encouraged to visit the Risanni big souk day and the carpet exhibition at the carpet shop owned by the guy who owns the Lahmada - Rachid took me here and i later found the carpets i bought were commercial carpets and for the price i could have got better and old traditional ones plus of course that Rachid would have got a very good (big)commission. when i got my bill - the 2 hour sunrise camel trip was 250 dirham which i thought was a bit expensive but what the hec they were friendly and gave good service!! until i later found that this is the price of an overnight trip with the bedouin tent, cooked meal etc plus Rachid would have got a commission on this too.and over the 3 nights i was there it did seem that all the faux guides there had paired up with different tourists each night. He offered to show me the real morocco so he guided me around - expenses paid and commissions too of course - but the worst was at Tafroute buyin another carpet - excellent one i thought - stupidly finally agreed to pay 30000!! for it - by instalments - and stopped at 22,000. found out it was worth only 14,000 max and he would have got huge commission on that too - have since seen the same at Libertys for £2000/30000 dirham.
Unique Suggestions: dont go to the Lahmada auberge. dont listen much to the faux guides! they are great for the tours around the Risanni souk and kasbah and local sights but they say whatever without much scruples. They dont have much academic education and its hard to scrape an income so i encourage giving them work but dont bother letting them take you to any of the auberges around Merzouga - you can find them yourself very easily - and they say anything if it will get them something they want . Its tar seal to Merzouga and then fairly easy dirt roads from there up to auberges at hassi labied or on further to the Yasmina etc.
also Rachid Refaff who was married with a baby at the time paired up at the Sable D'or with a french mistress.
Fun Alternatives: Be prepared and aware, that faux guides are looking for an income so will say anything - with a charming smile - but dont put yourself in the position where you rely on them but use them in a safe situation such as guiding around the souks and carpet shops but get your own education - from others experiences etc.
There are some excellent carpets and carpet shops around - the Maison nomade berbere chain are fairly well regarded and i have since had good rapport and deals with the one at Telouet.
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Avoid Restaurant/Hotel Panorama
We were on the 8PM CTM bus leaving Rissani when traffic came to a halt on the outskirts of Rissani due to a road block caused by floods. A man named Mohamed Massimo had boarded the bus from Rissani, knowing that we were going to have to turn back. When this happened, he announced to the entire bus that we could not leave Rissani that night and he was going to take us to a very good and cheap place, which of course, was his family business, the Hotel Panorama right in the middle of town right by the CTM office. A couple of Canadians who were travelling with us, told us that the place was quite shabby and so I told Massimo that we needed some place better than would cost around Dh300.
Massimo took us to Kasbah Ennasra which only room that was available cost Dh 1000. That was all the Dirham we had on us! We reluctantly took the room since we were very tired from the ordeal we had in the desert the night before. I then changed 10 euros at the reception so that we could buy dinner and Sumo had his eyes on our money. He then suggested we go to his restaurant Panorama. We accepted the offer since we did not have enough dirham for a meal at the hotel. To food took 1 hr to prepare and was not good.
After dinner, Massimo asked us if we were going to pay him for his services. We told him he knew we had no more money since we spent it all on the expensive room. There was no doubt that ‘Sumo’ got his big commission for taking us to Kasbah Ennasra that night but obviously it wasn’t enough for him. He asked us for EU10 and when we told him we could spare none, he asked for £10. When we refused, his friends got quite rude. We told him we would give him some money the next day when the banks open.
The next day however, we got on the CTM bus and left. 20 minutes out of Rissani, he rang the bus driver and asked to speak to me. Massimo told me to give the bus driver the money and the driver would then pass it on to him. I told Massimo alright to get him off my back but when we got to Meknes, we left without giving him a penny.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go to Hotel Restaurant Panorama. Don't accept help from Mohamed Massimo.
Fun Alternatives: Leave Rissani asap. There is nothing nice in this place and the sooner you leave the better.
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