Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tim Cullis - A Great Contribution to Moroccan Tourism

Tourism is of major importance to Morocco and there are many people advertising services, accommodation and tours. But when someone decides to come to Morocco for the first time, they usually do a lot of research. Finding answers to hundreds of common questions is not always easy. How long should I spend in Marrakech compared to Fez? What is the best way to get to the sand dunes? Will my hotel room have a hair dryer? Can I hire a motorbike? What is the best way to drive to Tangier? What should I wear? The questions are seemingly endless. The View from Fez discovers a man who knows the answers.

One man who has spent a huge amount of time answering these questions is Tim Cullis. With a huge knowledge, gained over forty years, Tim is active on a number of major forums such as TripAdvisor, giving sensible, trustworthy advice. For Moroccan tourism, he is a national treasure.

The View from Fez has been an admirer of his work for some years and we decided to catch up with Tim and give him the opportunity to explain in his own words why he has spent so much of his time advising others.

For the last few days Tim Cullis has been taking a deserved break, sitting in sunny Sidi Ifni watching the sea come in and out. He is probably also working on a book he has been writing for the last three or so years which is intended primarily for motorbikers visiting Morocco, but much of the book will also be of interest to any adventurous independent traveller as quite a few of the routes he describes will be tarmac.

Irene and Tim Cullis

In his own words - Tim Cullis

“The earth is a peacock and its glorious tail Morocco”  (Ancient Moorish Proverb)

Over the last forty plus years I have visited Morocco more than forty times. Some of these trips have been lengthy affairs lasting more than two months per visit, with the net result that I have spent more than three years in the country—in fact I definitely feel I know Morocco better than the UK. No matter how many times I visit, however, Morocco never fails to amaze me and I am always finding something new, some places that I haven’t visited before.

My first trip in 1972 was in a short wheelbase Series I Land Rover, an admirable vehicle for the trip given that the Tizi n’Test pass over the High Atlas was still an unsurfaced track. This was followed soon after by two visits on a totally unsuitable TriBSA 750cc café‚ racer motorbike, then a 1974 honeymoon trip off-roading in a Triumph Vitesse, memorable for the number of times the rocks tore off the car’s low slung silencer.

 Since then I have toured the country by car, 4x4, and of course many times by motorbike, most of these riding overland from the UK, but on some shorter trips flying in and renting a local bike. One memorable visit I spent two weeks trekking with mules in the High Atlas, on another extended visit I spent eight weeks in Fez studying Moroccan Arabic.

Then and now. Irene in 1974 and Tim in 2010

I love exploring the more remote areas, typically using ‘pistes’ (local dirt roads) where necessary. In the last five years the government has made massive investments in road building with more than 15,000km of new tarmac roads, so if you would like to visit remote areas, but wish to stick to tarmac, you can now do so.
"Morocco - Safe, Exciting and Inexpensive" - Tim Cullis
By now you might understand Morocco is truly in my blood. I have avidly read many of the ancient accounts of travelling in Morocco, I am a member of the British Moroccan Society and have given many talks on Morocco at Horizons Unlimited travellers meetings in Spain, Germany and the UK with the theme "Safe, Exciting and Inexpensive", a phrase that sums up Morocco well. I hope my enthusiasm for Morocco rubs off upon you, and that you are inspired to take the opportunity to visit this wonderful country before everything changes.

Tim Cullis is one of the most trusted Morocco experts on Trip Advisor, and he gets some interesting questions. 

As for weird questions on TripAdvisor, the ones I try to avoid answering are those to do with hair dryers in rooms, and whether the mini bar has optics! I guess the most frequent questions are to do with trips to the sand dunes, or Sahara desert as some would have, but then as I've ridden through Western Sahara and Mauritania I do feel a bit miffed that the small drops of sand are described such.

My overriding advice for people visiting the country is to slow down, have lots of coffee stops and people watching, get out of the main towns and see the countryside, preferably on side roads. One of my favourite areas is around Azrou with its mountains, volcanos, volcanic vents, cedar forests, limestone karst scenery, springs, lakes, wild flowers, wild apes, and so on. Morocco is a fantastic country for walking and trekking and I would love the government to do more to promote this.

Hidden treasures - the waterfalls of Zouia Ifrane to the south of Ain Leuh
(photo: Tim Cullis)

Tim also finds time to run the Morocco Knowledge Base Forum. To get an idea of Tim's extensive travels do take a look. 

The View from Fez salutes Tim Cullis for his great contribution to making Morocco an easier place to visit.

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Stephen Somers said...

As far as I am concerned Tim Is the " Main Man " if you need some data on motorcycling in Maroc. I look forward to his book and am sure it will become a permanent fixture in my tank bag .

Anonymous said...

Tim's advice on the Lonely Planet thorntree was really helpful when I was planning a solo trip there last November - I took his advice and spent some time in the mountains that was unforgettable. thanks Tim! Sara from Chicago

Paul G (BHT) said...

Well done Tim, I have no doubt that your endless research, help and advice is greatly appreciated by many.


Russell and Win said...

We are a mature aged couple from Australia. Whilst planning a trip to Morocco last August, we followed Tim's comments extensively on The Thorn Tree. We cannot thank you enough Tim - your practical and commonsense advice gave us the confidence to hire a car and spend 12 days driving all over Morocco, frequently getting off the beaten track. This experience along with our trek in the Atlas Mtns, gave us an incredibly wonderful and rewarding insight into this amazing country and it's people.
Thank you Tim!