Enjoy an early Breakfast at the hotel.
Your guided sightseeing tour of Rabat, the political capital of Morocco and the fourth of the Imperial cities begins at the old Medina, the picturesque Kasbah (forth) of the Oudayas, and the Oudaya Gate (at the estuary facing the Barbary coast Corsair port of Sallee) with its Museums, built during the Almohads dynasty. Legend has it that jews came to sala colonia 5.C. before Carthage. In the day of Solomon, to purchse Gold. The Merinids built the well-preserved Hassan Tower and the Chellah in the 12th and 13th centuries. Walk into the mohamed V Mausoleum, the burial place of the present King’s father, in front of the Royal Palace.
Have free time for lunch in Rabat.(not included)
Drive to the nearby private museum Dar Belghazi for a look at Moroccan crafts through the centuries. Leave Rabat and take the road to Meknes, driving through forests of cork trees (la MAAMORA).
Meknes, third of the Imperial Cities, built by the 17th century Sultan Moulay Ismael, contemporary of Louis XIV of France, whose grandiose building schemes he imitated. Visit, the old medina, the Mellah ( Jew Quartier) the monumental Bab El Mansour gateway, the Place Lalla Adoua, the prison of the Christian slaves, the palace-tomb of Moulay Ismael (The only mosque in Morocco, after the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca which non-Muslims are allowed to enter), the ruins of the Agoudal Busin that was used to water the royal gardens and amuse the favorite concubines, the Moulay Ismail royal stables, granaries and House of Water (Dar El Ma) which were built in the 17th and 18th centuries to house, feed and water the sultan’s twelve thousand horses.
Continue via Moulay Idriss, Holly City, founded in the 8th century by Moulay Idriss I, who brought the Islamic religion to Morocco, centre of pilgrimage, no foreigner or non-believer is permitted to spend the night in the holy city, then on to Volubilis, imposing Roman ruins, capital of Roman Province of Mauritania and home of Sylene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra who married the Berber King Juba II, visit the Olive press, the House of Orpheus, the Basilica, the Baths of Gallienus, the Forum, the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla, the House of Venus. Leave Volubilis and drive through the Col of Zagota to arrive Fes and overnight at your hotel.
Is it Fes or Fez? It is both, and neither. The Western name for the city is drawn from the Arabic Fasand, as there is no one correct way to translate Arabic words into Western characters. In French, the city is referred to as Fés, while Americans tend to use Fez. Fassin or Fassis, as the residents call themselves, use the pronunciation of Fas, derived from three Arabic letters fa (f), alif (a) and sin (s). So everyone wins.
After today you will explore this exciting, fascinating, two-thousand year old Imperial City of Fes. Surrounded by 9 miles of ramparts in a narrow valley, it is strategically positioned on the old caravan crossroads which once connected the Saharan empires with the Atlantic and Mediterranean trading routes to Europe. Fes was known as one of the holiest cities in the Islamic world besides Mecca and Medina. Moroccans say that Marrakech, Rabat and Casablanca live in the present, but that Fes certainly lives in the past. European chroniclers of the middle Ages wrote that for several centuries Fes was the most civilized Western outpost of the Semitic world. Its scholars introduced astronomy and medicine to the West via Spain. Historians of the time said that the writings of both Plato and Aristotle first reached Western Europe in Arabic translations – again from Fes.
One hundred and fifty years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed Bin Abdullah Banu Hashim, his grandson set foot in Morocco. This man was Idriss Ibn Abdallah, destined to become Moulay Idriss, patron saint of Morocco and founder of Fes. Implicated in a failed rebellion against the Arabian Abbasids, he fled Baghdad with his bedraggled army to this ‘Land of the Setting Sun’, as one could travel no further
by land. Here, on the eastern bank he started to build what was to become the first Islamic settlement in Morocco.
Fes is quite reminiscent of a Jerusalem 1000 years ago. With its two hundred mosques and holy shrines, Fes contains more places of worship than any other city in Morocco. At its peak early in the thirteenth century, Fes boasted almost eight hundred mosques and mausoleums for its 125,000 inhabitants. By the seventeenth century however, the Scottish traveler William Lithgow reported that places of worship were far outstripped by some twelve thousand licensed brothels. As the traveler Budgett Meakin remarked: “Fes is at once the most religious and the most wicked city in Morocco…the saints and sinner being for the most part, identical…”
Today you will see the The Kairaouine Mosque (Djemaa el Kairaouine the second-largest mosque in Morocco (outside as non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque). Admire the ancient gate of Bab Boujeloud. See the impressive Dar el Makhzen and a 15 minute stop at the Royal Palace with its magnificent seven bronze gates. From here we walk to and through the Mellah with its intense atmosphere and fine examples of Mauro-Hispanic architecture. We drive to the Borj Sud to take in the panoramic view of the Medina. Then a Walking Tour of the labyrinth of the ancient and amazing Fes Medina and Mellah (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). See the Bou Inania Mosque, the colorful es Sabbaghine with its Street of the Dyers; the impressive al Quarawiyyin Mosque and University (exterior only) and the el Atterine Medersa (exterior only). Your guide will take you through the bustling maze of alleyways of the fascinating medina and souks. Offered here is every possible combination of beautiful pottery, Berber carpets, Fassi brassware, Jewish silverware, traditional and modern jewelry, and beautiful leather goods. Amidst all this you will find the pungent aromas of spices, herbs and oils.
Next pass the delightful el Nejjarine Square and fountain, stopping perhaps nearby for a light lunch. Then on to the renowned Tanneries of Chouara on the bank of the Oued Fes. Leaving the Medina we make our way to the 16th century Saâdien watchtower at the North Borj and the Dar Batha Museum. Return to your hotel.
Breakfast at your hotel.
Morning drive to Bhalil which was reputedly built by Irish captives of Moulay Ismael over 300 years ago. Morocco’s cherry capital, is one of the oldest Berber villages in the area. Beautiful drive into the hills. In other hand, Safrou is an interesting town, with an ancient, well-stocked medina and ochre walls dating from Moulay Ismaïl’s day. Its Mellah is extensive, although most Jews left in 1967. The town is famous for its cherry festival in June.
Climb the cedar covered slopes of the Middle Atlas Mountains to Imouzzer, dominating the plain of the river Sebou, through the hill station of Ifrane, in the lake district, the town of Azrou with its old Kasbah and handicraft center, over the pass of Zad (2178 meters), descending to Midelt, center of the lead mining center, over Tizi N’Talghemt (1907 meters) trough the gorges of Ziz river to Errachidia. Continue on to arrive at the picturesque oasis of Erfoud situated amongst the impressive sand dunes of the sahara desert where you check-in for dinner & overnight at your hotel.
Take your 4×4 to continue on to the Saharan village of Merzouga. We shall see, in a dramatic line almost perfectly from north to south, the incredible panorama of the sea of sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi, the highest and longest stretch of dunes in the Moroccan Sahara. Once we’ve arrived at Merzouga, you will enjoy a traditional welcoming glass or two of mint tea. Around 4pm we depart across this sea of golden dunes into the only ‘true’ desert area of the kingdom of Morocco. In this area, meteorites continue to be found, as well as crocodile teeth, shark, pterosaur and spinosaurus fossils. We stop in the middle of nowhere to marvel on the high dunes to enjoy a fascinating sunset.
Check in & dinner at your private camp.
Back to Erfoud for breakfast at your hotel .
Leave Erfoud via Tinejdad, Tinerhir, with its huge Kasbah belonging to the ex-Glaoui, former Pasha of Marrakech, side excursion to the imposing Todra Gorges, along the famous “Route of 1000 Kasbah” to Boumalne, the center of the scent industry at El Kelaa des M’gouna, and along the valley of the river Dades with its many decorated Kasbah to arrive Ouarzazate for the overnight at your hotel.
After breakfast and check-out, you will meet your driver for your 3 hour transfer to Casablanca’s airport for your flight.
After breakfast we set forth to visit the 18th century Kasbah of Taourirt in Ouarzazate, another of the Pacha’s fortresses. We continue on towards the north along the Oued Ouarzazate via the AssifOunilaValley to the Kasbah at Tiffoultoute. Here we see the magnificently exotic Kasbah and Ksour of Aït Ben Haddou, a World Heritage Site. We will visit these various kasbahs, so closely ¬knit that they appear to be one complete building up against the looming mountains. One of the more spectacular sights in the Atlas ranges is a kasbah once home to the Pasha’s employees. This kasbah controlled the route to Marrakech until the French blasted a road through the Tizi ’Tichka in the late 1920s.
From here we have a few photo stops at the top of the Tizi n’Tichka (2260m) and Aït Ourir Taddert (1650m). We continue down across the Glaoua Plains and into Marrakech.
After check in to your hotel and lunch on your own, you may wish to go for a ride in a calèche for a pleasant introduction to the Pink City. This afternoon you may wish to visis Jamaa el Fn or continue via the dramatic Koutoubia Minaret and mosque (no entry for non¬believers) and into the Medina and the famous Djmaâ el Fnaâ Square, famous for its stalls of goods. Here you find everything from exotic fruit to alarm clocks; snake charmers and water sellers; fortune tellers and public scribes; tumblers and -soothsayers, and gnaoua musicians. Remainder of the evening at leisure.
Breakfast at the hotel
Marrakech : There’s only one world to define it: magical… There are a thousand legends which describe its history, which began in 1070 when the Saharan Almoravid Abu Baker, the leader of a powerful army, encamped in the plain of Haouz, at the base of the upper Atlas mountains. Marrakech, the capital of the south, has a mysterious and seductive air. Marrakech, a name with a magical sound that evokes palm groves and caravans, oriental markets and international spies, and duels to the death in an oasis of peace. Many are the roads which lead to Marrakech which make it a cross road from north to south and from east to west.
The Ramparts ( City Walls ) : The city walls of Marrakech, built in the XII century and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt, is about 15 kilometres long, reddish in colour and two meters thick. It has powerful ancient ramparts, various styles and many monumental doors, among which the Bab Aguenaou stands out for its magnificence. It dates back to the era of the Almoravids and leads to the quarter of the Kasbah.
The Koutoubia Mosque: The Koutoubia is one of the biggest mosques in the Western Muslim world. Its Hispano-Moorish style is of an apparent simplicity combined with discreet luxury. This masterpiece was built by the Almohads in one of its imperial cities. Today, it’s a starting point that’s not to be missed before heading out to explore the medina.
The minaret of the Koutoubia : It’s a square tower made of rose-colored sandstone ( 67.50 meters high, 12.50 meters wide ) adorned with a delicate sculptured decoration that seems just like lacework on stone. The minaret is topped by a lantern, decorated and square, as well as a ribbed cupola. The close proportion between the width and height of the minaret of the mosque bestows a perfect harmony to this masterpiece of Hispano-Moorish art which was taken as a model for the Giralda in Seville. According to a legend, the three orbs of golden copper which crown the cupola were made from the melted down jewellery of Yacoub-el-Mansour’s wife. Yacoub-el-Mansour completed the construction of the tower began by the sultan Abdel-Moumen. Another legend about the orbs says that they are guarded by genies (jin) and that terrible misfortunes will plague those who try to steal them. Koutoubia in Arabic means “the mosque of booksellers” because once, the surrounding shops were mostly dedicated to the sale of books and antique manuscripts ( XII -XIII centuries.). The first mosque, erected after 1147, was later destroyed because its orientation towards Mecca wasn’t correct. The foundation of the first mosque is still visible today. The construction of the current mosque, built according to the instructions of Abd el-Moumen, was completed in the same year construction started, in 1158, and ordered by Yacoub el-Mansour. This splendid work of art is subdivided into 16 naves and a wider middle nave. Here, the luxurious almoravide ornamentation and the décor of Andalusian inspiration exalt the simplicity and pureness of its lines. The 11 stalactite cupolas, capitals and molded structures make the Koutoubia one of the finest examples of Almohade art.
Break for lunch. (Optional)
This tour includes a visit to the aristocratic Bahia Palace (former home of a 19th century grand Vizir), The 14th century Medersa Ben Youssef and finally, a stroll through the souks of the Medina.
The Souks (Bazaars)…: The souk of Marrakech is the vital heart of the medina, the old part of the city which dates back to the XII century. It is the place where age-old customs and traditions have been coming together since ancient times. Originally, souks were divided into various specific sectors with defined boundaries and with names that reflected the activities which took place there, but over time these boundaries gradually disappeared. The souk is a magical and fascinating place where it is customary to accept the tea that the vendor offers, just as how bargaining the price of any item for sale is all part of the game; a place where losing your way is a fun, yet never dangerous experience.
After breakfast and check-out, you will meet your driver for your 3 hour transfer to Casablanca’s airport for your flight.
Included services are: