Morocco - Kasbahs, Berbers and the Sahara

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Day 1: Arrive in Casablanca

Arrive at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, where you are met and transferred to our hotel in the city. Our tour leader will greet you at a welcome meeting before our group dinner. Overnight in Casablanca.

 

Day 2: Casablanca and Meknes

Before departing Casablanca, we visit the Hassan II Mosque (one of the largest in the world). We drive from Casablanca to the imperial city and capital, Rabat. Here we visit the Royal Palace and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

We also visit the Roman ruins of Chellah Necropolis, which date back to the 1st century. We continue across the rich plains and cork forest to the city of Meknes. This was the capital of Moulay Ismail, the second Alawite sultan, which he endowed with an enormous palace complex and stables, surrounded by 25 miles of imposing walls adorned with monumental gates. Overnight in Meknes.

 

Day 3: King's Stables and Roman Ruins of Volubilis

We begin our day with a visit to the former stables and granary of Moulay Ismail (which once housed 12,000 horses). If it is possible at the time, we can visit one of the king's stables to admire his Arabian and Berber horses before stopping at Moulay Idriss, a beautiful hilltop town named after Morocco's most revered saint, and founder of the country's first real dynasty. For Moroccans, this is a place of pilgrimage.

Before lunch, we drive 20 miles from Meknes to the 1,700 year-old site of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best preserved complex of Roman ruins in Morocco. One of the Roman Empire's most remote outposts, Volubilis was actively inhabited until the 18th century. With its House of Orpheus, Basilica, Forum and Tri Arch, Volubilis it a splendid reminder of the vast impressive legacy left by the Romans.

We drive to Fez stopping at a local pottery factory before arriving at our hotel. Enjoy a sunset overlooking Fez with the haunting "calls to prayer" echoing from below. Overnight in Fez.

 

Day 4: Medieval City of Fez

Fez, the oldest of the imperial cities, is the symbolic heart of Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We explore the medieval Medina, where narrow winding alleys and covered bazaars offer every conceivable type of craft workshop, market, restaurant and mosque, all surrounded by magnificent old stone walls. Our stroll through this ancient labyrinth highlights the color and activity of Moroccan souks (markets).

In the afternoon we will visits the Bab Boujloud, Tannery, the Jewish Quarter and the Old Palace. Overnight in Fez.

 

Day 5: Traversing the Mountains to Erfoud

Our day begins with a morning trip across the Middle Atlas Mountains and the beautiful cedar trees that cover their slopes. In the afternoon, we reach the Ziz Valley with its magnificent gorges.

We continue past palm fringed towns and old fortresses to Erfoud, a small town on the edge of the Sahara. Overnight in Erfoud.

 

Day 6: Merzouga

This morning we explore an ancient ksar (a fortified village) and if he is home, we'll visit a local man who still lives there. This region is famous for the petrified remains of plants and animals. We visit a local workshop to learn about the fossils and watch them being made into everything from jewellery to furniture.

In the afternoon journey to the gateway to the desert, Merzouga. The rest of the afternoon is free to explore this city on your own or just relax and get ready for the desert adventure that awaits you tomorrow. Overnight in Merzouga.

 

Day 7: Berber Experience

In the morning explore the villages of Merzouga. Have lunch at a Nomad village before we board our jeeps for our journey into the desert. The ride is very scenic and if we're lucky we may be able to visit a nomadic family along the way. We then meet up with our camels for our safari through the desert to our campsite. (Those who do not wish to ride a camel may ride in jeeps.) Tonight we experience the desert in local fashion as we spend the night in a large traditional Berber tented camp. The camp has a large main tent for meals and the folklore show. Each of the sleeping tents has 2 beds, a table and candles for light. Shared bathroom facilities have toilets, sinks and showers.

Climb the dunes, watch the sun set over the Sahara and return to the camp to be entertained with Berber Folklore. Later we can gather around the fire to share stories under the shimmering night sky before we head off to bed. Overnight in the desert.

 

Day 8: Golden Saharan Sunrise, Todra Gorge

We wake up early to watch a spectacular golden sunrise over the Merzouga Dunes. Following breakfast, we travel in 4x4 jeeps across the desert landscape, and we meet up with our bus before our departure northwest towards Tinehir and the striking Todra Gorge. This gorge lies at the end of a lush valley filled with mud-brick villages and palm groves. Hemmed in by barren, craggy mountains, it is one of Morocco's most magnificent natural sights. The natural walls are 1,000 feet high and a river runs through the bottom of the gorge that narrows to a width of only 30 feet.

We have the opportunity to do some hiking in the afternoon to photograph and explore the gorge. Overnight in Tinghir.

 

Day 9: Ouarzazate

We travel west along the "Road of a Thousand Kasbahs", stopping to explore Kasbah Saad, which is 200 years old. After exploring, we join a local family for mint tea.

We then visit the spectacular Dades Gorge. The rock formations and different colors in the gorge are superb. Before arriving in Ouarzazate, we stop in the Rose Valley to smell the roses! Our overnight is in Ouarzazate, Morocco's premier movie-making center.

 

Day 10: Taroudant

This morning we visit the legendary kasbah of Ait Benhaddou (the location used in the filming of "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Last Temptation of Christ"). After an early lunch we depart from Ouarzazate. Leaving the rugged scenery of south central Morocco behind, we head west toward the Anti-Atlas region. En route we see our first Argan trees. We stop and sample saffron tea in Taliouine and drive through the fertile Sousse Valley, known for its orange groves.

Late afternoon we arrive in Taroudant, a relaxed and pleasant Moroccan city surrounded by magnificent and well-preserved red mud walls. Taroudant maintains its traditional feel due to the absence of a ville nouvelle (new city), which the French added to most Moroccan cities during their long colonial reign. Overnight in Taroudant.

 

Day 11: Taroudant - City Exploration, to Tafraout

In the morning, we explore the city of Taroudant, which is referred to as the "Small Marrakesh". Our first visit is to its charming souk. After coffee in the local square, we go to the small village of Tiout where we will sample the delicious local bread and famous goat tangine for lunch.

After lunch, we drive towards the village of Tafraout, nestled behind the enchanting Ameln Valley. On the way, we stop in Tiznit which is renowned for its silver and filigree jewelry. We arrive into Tafraout mid-afternoon and you are free to relax or take some of the trails that lead to local villages. Overnight near Tafraout.

 

Day 12: Anti-Atlas Mountains

A short drive this morning brings us to the small village of Adai. We explore the village on foot and then another short walk leads us to see two petroglyphs. We return to Tafraout to see the famous local slippers being made and then we have lunch under an ancient Argan tree. This afternoon is free to explore on your own. Overnight near Tafraout.

 

Day 13: Scenic Mountains and Coastal Drive

We depart from our mountain retreat taking a route that provides us with some of the most splendid views of ancient mountains, steep terraces and Berber villages. We set our sights on the Atlantic Ocean again, stopping for lunch on the beach at Agadir.

Following lunch, we head north along the dramatic coastal road to the small port town of Essaouira, where we spend two relaxing nights. Overnight in Essaouira.

 

Day 14: Essaouira, Fortress on the Sea

Essaouira is a quaint, historic town filled with interesting streets, a colorful harbor home to hundreds of fishing boats, Portuguese ramparts and fortifications, as well as miles of white sand beaches. Essaouira also offers some of the best seafood in all of Morocco, which may be why it was a favorite hideaway for Orson Welles.

Our morning includes a walking tour and visit to a local Thuya Wood (an exquisite wood endemic to the area) Cooperative. The afternoon is free to explore this charming town. Overnight in Essaouira.

 

Day 15: The Road to Marrakesh

This morning we visit a local woman's Argan Oil Cooperative to see how this precious oil is produced. We then travel to Marrakesh and stop at the city's famous landmark, the Koutoubia Mosque before checking into our hotel.

After lunch, we take a caleche ride (horse-drawn carriages) to visit the exotic Majorelle Gardens and Islamic Arts Museum, which are owned by Yves Saint Laurent. After time to explore, we head to Djemaa el-Fna, a huge square and focal point in Marrakesh, which turns into an incredible and fascinating spectacle every night. A massive food court is erected each evening, while storytellers, dancers, snake charmers, musicians, comedians and acrobats keep their audiences spellbound. After soaking up the atmosphere of this unique place, we will enjoy a home cooked meal with a local family. Overnight in Marrakesh.

 

Day 16: Marrakesh Sightseeing

In the morning we set out to discover the fabulous 11th century city of Marrakesh. We learn about the Menora (ancient water system) and then visit the Saadiens Tombs. From there we walk to the Bahia Palace and through the medina.

Of course, for those interested, there is plenty of opportunity for shopping in the souks during our free afternoon. Overnight in Marrakesh.

 

Day 17: Return To Casablanca

Today we will drive back to Morocco's largest city, Casablanca. Tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner reminiscing on all of the wonderful encounters and experiences during our Moroccan adventure. Overnight in Casablanca.

 

Day 18: Depart Casablanca

The trip concludes with a transfer to the airport for departing flights.

 
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