DAY 1 - CASABLANCA
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with the hotel reception or the hotels noticeboard for confirmation of where and when this meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your trip leader.
If arriving earlier, you will have a chance to explore Casablanca - the largest city in Morocco. Modelled after Marseille in France, this bustling port city is now also the undisputed economic capital of Morocco and one of Africa's largest ports. The architectural style of the city is eclectic, combining Art Deco French colonial buildings and Mauresque (Moorish) government institutions with an old medina and the city's modern-day landmark - the Hassan II Mosque.
A pleasant way to spend the day exploring Casablanca is to wander around the Old Medina and city walls, then jump in a taxi and visit the Quartiers des Habous - the new medina full of shaded squares, narrow streets and lined with arcades that lead from one souk to another. This is a great place to enjoy a Moroccan coffee and maybe start working on your bargaining skills. Finish the day with a walk along the Corniche and watch the locals enjoy games of football on the beach during sunset.
Hotel Transatlantique or similar
DAY 2 - MEKNES - MOULAY IDRISS
After breakfast we'll have a guided tour of the impressive Hassan II Mosque, built in 1993 by a team of over 6000 craftsmen. Located on the shores of the city it is an imposing edifice and one of the few mosques in Morocco that foreigners are allowed to enter. Please note that we join with other people for this tour. There is an option to upgrade to your own guide if this interests you. Please speak to your tour leader for more details.
Later we make our way to the station where we catch the local train to Meknes, a journey of about 2,5 hours. Meknes was once an imperial city of Morocco and the capital of one of its most colourful eras, when the Sultan Moulay Ismail (a contemporary of Louis XIV) set out to build his own version of Versailles, constructing walls, gates and over 50 palaces with an unstoppable labour force of over 25,000 slaves.
We'll jump into taxis and pop over to the whitewashed village of Moulay Idriss, one of Morocco's most important pilgrimage sites. Only in 2005 were non-Muslims permitted to stay overnight. We'll stay with a local family here this evening.
La Colombe Blanche or similar Breakfast
DAY 3-4 - FES
We'll take a drive through the beautiful rolling hills to Volubilis for a guided tour of these remarkable Roman ruins.
After Volubilis, we'll head back to Meknes where we'll meet our local guide for a tour. Prepare for an unusual lunchtime! Today you'll have the opportunity to eat camel burger for lunch. Now that's a burger bar with a difference! (Please note: The tour of Meknes may take place the previous day)
Travel by train from Meknes to Fes (40 min).
Descending into the labyrinthine alleyways of the medina is like taking a giant step back to the Middle Ages. Preserved by the French for its historical value, this preservation also led to the decline of the city's importance, as both government and financial centres were set up elsewhere in the country. With the Jewish population moving away in 1956, and too many rural poor moving in for it to handle, this ancient centre of learning is only a shell of what it used to be. Still, it remains a fascinating living museum where getting lost is half the fun.
An orientation walk of Fes around the medina uncovers a living monument to an ancient past and a place still very much alive with the many craftsmen, markets, tanneries, ceramics and mosques. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania, one of the city's most beautiful buildings which has recently been restored and is now open to visitors.
We'll also visit the famous tannery. We'll stop for that iconic view, overlooking the dye pits. We'll also visit a ceramic factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way.
Enjoy some free time and perhaps check out the exquisite carvings and magnificent tile work at the Medersa el Attarine, near the spice and perfume market. Alternatively, Fes is a shopping heaven for those who want to pick up a souvenir or two.
Hotel de la Paix or similar Breakfast
DAY 5 - MIDELT
Travelling south through a variety of terrain, we reach Ifrane, a mountain resort established by the French in 1929.
Further south, at Midelt, the landscape opens up and we enjoy expansive views to the west. Midelt is a fantastic place for an overnight stop. We rest here for the night, and enjoy an easy but spectacular walk of 1,5 to 2 hours. It's a fairly rocky path, so we'll need our walking shoes.
Auberge Jaafar or similar Breakfast
DAY 6 - MERGOUZA
En route to the desert, we stop at the spectacular narrow defile known as the Gorges du Ziz and then head to the large town of Er Rachidia.
Past the 500-year old ruins of the Ksar of Meski before descending into the Ziz Valley, a particularly fertile region producing figs, olives, dates and tamarisk – a fruit grown for its tannin and used in the curing of leather skins.
We reach Merzouga, where we drop our main bags off at a simple Auberge before taking our day pack filled with overnight essentials into the desert on camels for the magical sunset.
Spend the night at a simple desert camp. We will have a thin mattress, blankets and sheets. We'd advise you bring a sleeping sheet or even a sleeping bag for the winter months to sleep in.
Breakfast | Dinner
DAY 7-8 - TODRA GORGE - DADES VALLEY - AIT BENHADDOU
Rising early, we enjoy another fun camel ride through the sand dunes. Sunrise is a magical time of the day and we experience the amazing interplay of light as the Sahara slowly comes alive all around us.
Returning to the Auberge we collect the rest of our gear and then travel west to Todra.
Almost imperceptibly, a bright tablecloth of green appears before our eyes as we enter a lush valley packed with palm trees and mud-brick villages. At the top of the valley we reach our hotel and then take a short hike into the celebrated gorge where sheer cliffs rise over 1000 feet above us.
We spend the night at a local hotel in the gorge.
From Todra Gorge, we travel along the ‘road of 1000 kasbahs’ and enjoy views of the impressive Dades Gorge.
We also travel past town of Skoura, home to the beautiful mud-brick buildings, rising like a mirage beyond a dry riverbed, and continue to the fabulous medieval mud-brick town Ait Benhaddou, at its best in the late afternoon sun. We explore the many old streets and climb up to the fortress for a superb view over the old town. We can also – for a small fee – enter one of most interesting of the old houses, climbing up to the turrets for a view over the river. We spend the night just outside the walls.
Hotel Les Roches or similar Breakfast | Dinner
DAY 9-11 - HIGH ATLAS - MARRAKECH
We continue our journey west, passing numerous Berber villages and enjoying expansive views of the countryside. We wind our way up towards Tizi ‘n Tichka (2260m), the highest pass on the road to Marrakech and often covered with snow during the winter months. Leaving the Atlas behind we descend into the plains that surround Marrakech, which we reach in the late afternoon.
One of the main attractions of Marrakech is Jemaa el Fna, where we find fire-eaters, fortune-tellers, actors, musicians and all manner of hawkers. In the centre of this vast throng are hundreds of foodstalls selling hot tagine, spicy dips and numerous other tasty dishes.
Marrakech is lovely city, with palm-lined streets, earthy colours and the Atlas Mountains rising in the distance. There is much to see and do and we enjoy an orientation walk around the old medina. Our time is then free to explore the souks and alleyways that lead off to the north of Jemaa el Fna. Alternatively, some may wish to visit the 16th century ruins of the El Badi Palace, the famous Majorelle Garden or the adjacent Museum of Islamic Art. In the evening we will no doubt be drawn back to Jemaa el Fna for a final night out together.
Your trip ends on Day 11, after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time.
Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Marrakech.
Hotel Corail or similar Breakfast
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