Traveling With The Ladies, No Men Allowed!
By Kristina Kulyabina
Ever since I caught the travel bug, Africa has been on my top destinations list. Although I have yet to visit any parts of the world’s second largest continent, many other women have traveled throughout the region with life-changing experiences.
Morocco, in particular, offers a range of sights, smells, and taste within its vivid seaside cities and mountainous Sahara Desert. Rich in Arabic culture and history with beautiful mosques and people, there is no reason not to tour this country.
Since 2004, Sightsandsoul.com has been offering luxury tours and vacations for women with destinations primarily in Europe, but also in South and North America and Africa. Yolanta Barnes, owner of Sights and Soul Travels, composes women-centered tours which embrace adventure and culture for those individuals seeking peer travel.
Just this past fall, October 2012, Barnes took a group of 12 to the enchanting North African region of Morocco for almost a two-week long tour.
Delora Ward, a retired 64- year-old from North Carolina, participated in a previous tour with Sights and Soul Travels in Zimbabwe and enjoyed the experience so much that she decided to take another trip with women’s company to Morocco.
“The allure of the Sahara was a strong motivation for me. I also wanted to visit an Islamic country and learn more about the Arab world. The adhān, or Islamic call to prayer, was something I wanted to experience,” says Ward.
She first heard about the website and travel company through a JourneyWoman email newsletter and gradually gained interest in the tours.
“Yolanta’s operation was apparently still fairly small. I watched her for a couple of years to gain confidence in her before committing to travel with her,” says Ward. “She would actually send me postcards from Poland, her homeland, and I believe where she began running tours. I loved the personal touch and the idea of possibly seeing Europe with a “real” European. Ironically both tours I took with her were not European!”
The tour began in Casablanca and each woman was responsible for booking her own flight to the city – which Ward says (traveling to Casablanca alone) was one of the most challenging aspects of the trip. She describes the scene of her memorable journeys yet.
“We primarily spent time in Casablanca, Fez, the Sahara area, and crossing the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech – with each area having its own unique quality. Overall it was, in many ways, a step back into Biblical times particularly in the medinas and Kasbahs. In Casablanca, I mostly enjoyed the visit to the Hassan II Mosque.
In Fez, I found the medina fascinating with the local mode of transportation being donkey or motor scooter along the narrow passageways. The souks, the sensory overload of smells and sights, people in traditional Arab attire, were all just amazing.”
Ward says the group participated in a cooking class in the medina at a small café where she learned to make the most delicious lentil soup that she still makes at home today.
“We also traveled a short distance out of Fez to visit Roman ruins from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD and highlighted the day with a private lunch at a villa where we relaxed in the comfortable living-room by the fire, drank Moroccan wine, and were served a delightful lunch. Then traveling through the Middle Atlas Mountains on toward the desert, I think the absolute highlight of the trip for me would have to be the camel trek out onto the Saharan dunes for the sunset celebration. We each rode our own camel and spent the night in a traditional Berber tent encampment. Exhilarating!”
Ward says that her least favorite part of the trip was a couple of really long days driving over the road and perhaps too many tours and lectures at historical sites.
Another participant of the tour, 57- year-old business analyst Paula Richer from Connecticut, had previously traveled to Naples and the Amalfi Coast with Sights and Soul Travel before she decided on joining the Morocco tour.
“I knew that I was going to be traveling alone that year. As a result, I felt that going with a group would be the best way to travel. I also wanted to ensure that it was a small group with less than 20 people and that it was just women, says Richer.
“I thought it would be an easier way to meet new people and a different dynamic than being a single person with a group that is mostly couples. It was the first group tour that I have ever taken in the years that I have traveled. The trip was fabulous.
Richer also says that driving in the Sahara Desert to catch the camels in order to watch the sunset was the most memorable evening part of the tour. The camel ride itself, however, was the most challenging aspect along with sleeping in a tent in the desert. At night, temperatures would drop drastically, but the weather during the day was warm and comfortable.
Both Richer and Ward try to keep in touch with a few of the women they met on the trip. Richer says that Sights and Soul Travel is an excellent gateway for women only travel.
“I enjoyed the company of several of the women and we are now Facebook friends,” says Ward. “I am also still in touch with our local guide/driver-on-the-ground there. I have stayed in contact with a few of the women on the South Africa/Zimbabwe tour and have, in fact, traveled with one of those woman to Costa Rica, to Sedona, Arizona, and have visited her in New England where she lives.”
SightsandSoul.com is very navigable and properly laid out for easy registration.
Women can check out the tours calendar for upcoming trips, some of which include mother-daughter tours. Prices are listed below each destination with brief descriptions and testimonials of the various regions.
Sights and Soul is an excellent way to start. It’s safe, organized, companionable and upscale for the price as long as someone is looking for a relatively busy pace,” says Delora Ward, a returning SightsandSoul participant.
Kristina Kulyabina is an editorial assistant at GoNOMAD.com. She also blogs for Let’s Go, a student travel guide. She is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Western Mass. Kristina attended UMass Amherst for a B.A. in journalism and an international relations certificate.
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