Jeff - hope this helps. You are smart to spend the night in the desert - wish I had. My overall comments:
- Very very safe and friendly. (Statistically far safer than US)
- Very little english spoken but you get buy.
- With a guide no hassle.
- Food is safe and generally pretty good.
- Shopping - I didn't buy much - just at airport gift shop on departure. Pretty well stocked.
- Highways as good or better than US.
- Hotels and service is excellent.
- For me personally the memories and highlights were the medinas or marketplaces in Fez and Marrakesh. Huge, serpentine mazes - I would go and try to get lost. Go first time with guide but then explore on your own.
- The Medina in Marrakesh has a daytime and nighttime personality - see both.
- Lot of cafes and bars on rooftops - you can sit for hours and watch the crowds.
Flew into Casablanca. Stayed Four Seasons first and last nights of the trip. I would spend minimal time there. The Hassan II Mosque is impressive and worth a drive by. Ricks Cafe not. The markets are far better in Fez and Marrakesh.
Drove from Casablanca to Marrakesh but you could take the famous "Marrakesh Express". It was sold out when I wanted to go. I had a driver - english speakers are rare in drivers, rarely if ever in shops, etc... but you get by. Drives from city to city are long and generally like driving in west Texas. Not a lot to see. But the gas stations are excellent and generally have nice restaurants with outdoor grills etc...
This was one of my favorite towns. I found it to be very safe like all of Morocco. People are friendly and tourist are so commonplace you are hardly noticed. If you are traveling with a guide you are never hassled. A guide in the markets is very helpful. But I often went deep into markets solo. Stayed at the Four Seasons here - it was very nice. Overall Marrakesh is on the verge of becoming a fairly modern city - lot of new construction. So good you are going now before it loses its charm.
I added this stop to my trip last minute based on several recommendations from the locals. It was by far my favorite place in Morroco. Beautiful seaside village founded by the Phoenicians. Very relaxed. Has everything you want to see in Morocco but without any stress. Markets more open and better quality. Also it is an artist village and a very active seaport. The blue fishing boats are really nice.
Tamri - On the drive from Marrakesh to Essaouri - the goats climb the Argania trees to eat the nuts. They generally have one tree somewhat staged near the road for tourists. Interesting pic.
Fez is mostly known for their medina (market). This town is much more authentic than Marrakesh in my opinion. I would definitely stick a little closer to my guide here. But the marketplace is amazing and worth spending time exploring. I used my running app on my phone to follow my trail in these markets as you can easily get lost.
Shopping - I didnt buy much in the markets. Fortunately there is a pretty good souvenir shop at the airport before you get on the plane. You can buy lot of small items for gifts there. No bartering or hassles.