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Mysteries of Morocco Itinerary


“On a morning from a Bogart movie, in a country where they turn back time, you go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime.”  That’s the first line from the song “Year of the Cat,” and it conjures up images of blue-tiled walls and market stalls, so much so that when I listen to that song I can almost smell the incense wafting on the breeze…

We’d love you to join us.

 

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day One: September 21 — WELCOME TO THE KINGDOM OF MOROCCO!

Upon your arrival at Casablanca airport, look for your friendly tour leader and head to your comfortable hotel in the capital city of Rabat!  Relax a bit and freshen up with some mint tea, but don’t go to sleep!  Staying awake helps you get in sync with the rhythm of Morocco.  This afternoon we set off on our first exploration of the fascinating cities of Morocco, and Rabat is a great place to start.  We will have an orientation and visit all the main sites, marveling at the mix of many cultures in one town which has had settlers since the 8th century BC!  That’s ancient!  Spain, France, Portugal and Italy have all shaped this city’s colorful history, and you will see influences from each and every one of them.  The Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V are just some of the sites we will visit before we gather with our fellow travelers for our Welcome Dinner.  Time to relax and get to know your fellow travelers who are joining you on this adventure of a lifetime! 

Arrival at Casablanca and Transfer to Rabat /// Roughly 1 ½ hour drive (D)

 

Day Two: September 22  — CHEFCHAOUEN, THE BLUEST CITY

Breakfast, then off we go!  Why is Chefchaouen so blue?  We have to delve deep into the history of this amazing city to find out, but before we do we will pass pastoral farmlands and charming villages.  When we arrive we will unpack and have lunch together, and then head out with a local guide to experience this unique city with it’s pastel blue medina!  This blue and white washed Berber town in the Rif Mountains of Morocco is one of the most majestic places to visit when travelling to Morocco. It was founded in 1471 by Ali ibn Rachid as a small fortress to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. The Morisco and Jewish people sought refuge in this mountainous city after the Medieval Spanish Inquisition. Its blue-glazed houses, painted streets and buildings are a tradition that comes from the town’s former Jewish refugees from Spain who believed in coloring things to reflect the divine.  After our tour we will find some time for yoga with reflections of blue!  Enjoy dinner on your own with plenty of local recommendations.  

Depart to Chefchaouen /// 4 ½ hours’ drive (B,L)

Day Three: September 23 — OVER THE MOUNTAINS and THROUGH THE RUINS, FEZ HERE WE COME! 

Breakfast and we’re off again!  Today we drive over the stunning Rif Mountains inhabited by Berbers since prehistoric times. On the way we find time for a stop at Walili to visit the Archaeological site of Volubilis built on a shallow slope below the Zerhoun mountain and inhabited some 5000 years ago. This westernmost outpost of the Roman Empire bears witness to continuous occupation from pre-historical times through to the early Islamic period by many different civilizations.  The triumphal arch, capitol building, and house of Bacchus all testify to the city’s splendor and its economic and political weight. We continue our journey to Fez, the most ancient of the Moroccan imperial capitals and the most completely preserved medieval city of the Arab world. We are here for 2 nights, so you can unpack a little more than usual, and then relax before we dine together in a local restaurant. 

Scenic drive to Fez through the Rif Mountains /// 3 ½ hours’ drive (B,D,L)

Day Four: September 24th  — ANCIENT STREETS and MEDIEVAL MEDINAS

Yoga then a delicious breakfast,, and we join our guide for a full day’s adventure into the amazing wonders of Fez, the oldest cultural and spiritual imperial city of Morocco, founded in the 8th Century AD.  We start with the medina, a trip back to medieval times, with traders leading their loaded mules through the twisting narrow streets – all 9000 of them!  Fez has played an important part in the country’s trade, culture, religion and politics, as well as being an important seat of scientific thought for centuries. The migration of 2000 Arab families expelled from a neighboring city after a rebellion in the early 9th century gave this ancient city its Arabic character. We’ll grab lunch midday and continue our discover of this enchanting city.  Later on we will stop and visit various craftsmen performing their work reminiscent of ancient techniques. Take some time for yourself and we dine together again tonight in a local restaurant.

Full day to visit Fez with a local guide /// No drive (B,L,D)

Day Five: September 25th — JOURNEY DEEP IN TO THE SANDS OF TIME

Thank you Fez, but we have to leave you early!  Breakfast and then we depart on a fascinating and long journey south into the Sahara desert toward the Middle Atlas Mountains.  We make time for a short but fascinating visit to Ifrane National Park, forested with Atlas cedar, Cork oak and well known as one of the few remaining habitats for the Barbary Macaque Monkeys in Morocco. Hopefully we will spot a few of them and even make some new friends!  You will notice the French influence becoming stronger as we climb higher into the cooler foothills with the pine and cedar trees along the roadside more reminiscent of Europe than Africa. Dotted throughout the meadows are small tented communities of nomads and Berber tribesmen adorned with traditional dress, seemingly untouched by modern influences, settled for the summer where the grass is plentiful for their herds of sheep and goats. We arrive at the town Midlet in time for lunch and afterwards we carry on across the Tizi-n-Talghoumet pass. There are many photo-ops just off on the roadside where we can grab a snapshot of the stunning palm groves, mud built villages and the emerald green river flowing through the landscape. We stop in the town of Arfoud on the edge of the Sahara, and continue on for 45-minutes across rough desert landscapes to reach the Erg Chebbi sand dunes and our tented camp set up right in the middle of them!  Settle in and then stretch out the day with some Yoga before we dine with the Berber people in our luxury desert camp, and enjoy their native music around the campfire.  The millions of bright stars of the magical Sahara desert bid you a good night as you close your eyes as the nomads do. 

Travel to Merzouga through the Middle Atlas Mountains /// 8 hours drive (B,L,D)

Day Six: September 26th  — GLAMPING WITH THE BERBERS AND CAMELS

Sunrise Yoga then a leisurely breakfast at our camp, and we then set off on 3-hour camel trek to explore the rolling sand dunes of Merzouga and Erg Chebbi where you can admire amazing views over a vast sea of shifting wind-swept dunes and mountains of sand. We have time for lunch and some desert relaxation, and then back on the horse, um, er, I mean camel!  In the afternoon, we ride again into the dunes to watch the sunset. Here you will discover the true majesty of the Sahara desert and another night of unparalleled serenity under canvas and beneath the blazing desert stars. We dine together and then you are invited once again to join the Berber camel whisperers playing traditional Sahara music around a campfire. With no light distractions, we can discover many constellations, the Milky Way, and numerous shooting stars, don’t forget to make a wish…or two! 

Camel Trek to Explore Erg Chebbi Sand dunes /// No drive today (B,L,D)

Day Seven: September 27th — SUNRISE OVER THE SAHARA

Let’s get up early to experience sunrise Yoga over one of the highest sand dunes in the Sahara.  We all have breakfast and then say goodbye to the desert and our new Berber friends. There will be time to nap on the road or enjoy the views. Our exploration takes us first to Tinghir, a Berber village with a very special charm.  It’s an oasis rich with various fruits, thousands of palm trees, olives and much more. We move on and through the Grand Canyon of Morocco, the famous Todra Gorges, hemmed in on all sides by vertical limestone cliffs.  After lunch together we follow a stunning mountain road leading us to see the spectacular Dades valley and its impressive natural formation of rocks known by locals as “the Atlas Brain or Monkey footprints” where wind and water over millions of years led to natural erosion shaping some of Morocco’s most spectacular landscapes. You won’t believe your eyes!  We finally reach the quaint riverside town of Boumalene Dades with it’s adobe buildings and quiet charm where we spend the night.  Grab dinner on your own and get a good night’s sleep.

 

Merzouga – Todra Gorges – Dades Valley /// 4 ½ hours’ drive (B,L)

Day Eight: September 28th  — THE REAL MOROCCO with THE BERBERS and an OASIS

Time to feel the real heart of Morocco as we join a Berber family in the village of Ait Table in the Dades valley. We will be greeted warmly by our hosts upon arrival and offered a welcoming glass of mint tea and some Moroccan home-made pastries. We spend the whole day with the our new family to discover the culture and customs of native Moroccan life and get a deep insight into the everyday life of the Berbers. We are introduced to the inner-workings of their world and are invited to take part in day-to-day tasks including fetching water from a well, learning how to cook flatbread, help preparing meals, feeding animals, and even having our feet and hands decorated with henna if we choose!   We will also discover small fields where corn, wheat and some fruit trees grow. Alongside our hosting family, we will prepare and enjoy a traditional lunch of tasty tagines, couscous and freshly baked bread from a traditional clay oven. Why not have a try at eating in true Berber style with no knives and no forks? It is the custom here and really a lot of fun! The way of life of these friendly and hardworking people has changed little over the centuries and we will come as close to a day of cultural immersion as we have ever experienced.  As we bid farewell to our new Berber family I think we will realize this will be one of the most enriching days on our adventure.  We drive on to the oasis town of Skoura where you can have dinner on your own and talk about our new friends in Morocco. 

Berber Family and Skoura/// 1 ½ hour drive morning and 1 ½ hour drive afternoon (B,L)

Day Nine: September 29th — MOUNTAINS AND MARRAKESH 

After breakfast, we leave Southern Morocco and its stunning landscapes behind and set off on a wonderful driving journey to Marrakesh through the High Atlas Mountains and over the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, 2260 meters. Along the way we will stretch out on the bus, and meditate on the every changing view. Our drive takes us through the Berber town of Ouarzazate that was once a crossing point for African traders on their way to northern Morocco and Europe, and today it is a centre of the burgeoning Moroccan film industry. We stop in the village of Ait Ben Haddou, grab some lunch together, and do some sightseeing of this UNESCO World Heritage site, considered to be one of Morocco’s most picturesque settings. Movie buffs will love learning that the village’s kasbahs have provided the backdrop for a number of films including Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia. After lunch we drive over the stunning High Atlas Mountains certainly one of Morocco’s most scenic routes. Tonight…Marrakesh! We arrive mid-afternoon in time to check in and freshen up.  We have a full guided tour of this magical city tomorrow, but tonight you can explore a little bit on your own, with expert activity and restaurant suggestions from our guide.  This evening why not discover the ambience of Djemaa el Fna, Morocco’s most famous square that attracts travelers from around the world where fortune tellers, henna artists, fire eaters, snake charmers, dancing wild costumed monkeys, story tellers, hypnotic medicine men, cross dressers, tooth pullers, musicians including real Gnaoua, and acrobats transform this city centre into a medieval magical circus! 

Ait Ben Haddou – High Atlas – Marrakesh /// 4 ½ hours’ drive (B,L)

Day Ten: September 30th  — BLUE TILED WALLS and MARKET STALLS

Eat a hearty breakfast, we are off on a full day sightseeing tour of Marrakech, one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco!  Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravid’s Berber dynasty, Marrakesh has numerous historical structures of interest and retains a medieval atmosphere. Our whole day is devoted to the sightseeing of “the Pearl of the South,” and we will visit the most interesting sights of this mysterious city and its surroundings. We will grab lunch together and keep on exploring.  The old town called the Medina is a labyrinth of tiny alleyways, teeming with street life like few other places in the world, and it is just as you never imagined it to be! Some of the more famous sites we will visit include the Koutoubia Minaret, the Saadian Tombs, the Medrassa Ben Youssef, and the magnificent Bahia Palace with its extraordinary tiles, opulent courtyards and fountains. Tonight we get together for a fabulous Farewell Dinner Moroccan style and reminisce about our time together.

Guided Tour of Marrakesh /// No drive Today (B,L,D)

Day Eleven: October 1st — FAREWELL not GOODBYE

Our tour officially tour ends after breakfast. Depending on the schedule of your flights you will be transferred to the airport by your guide, who will also assist you with the paperwork formalities before you board your homeward flight. If your flight departure is scheduled in the afternoon, there will likely more time to explore the bustling souks and pick up a few last-minute souvenirs before you fly back to your destination with sweet memories of Morocco that last for a long time.  For those of you who are continuing on with us to Essaouria, we will catch our ride after breakfast and head to the beach!

Airport Transport to Marrakesh or Casablanca (B)

 

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