Morocco South Sahara Discovery

Icon | Big Five ToursExplore the medinas and souks of Marrakech, the heartbeat of Morocco and a fascinating blend that is part Berber, part Arab and, part African. Savor mint tea and a delightful Berber bread with a local family and learn something about their way of living. Take time for a hike and a special encounter into the Berber way of life. Travel through picturesque villages and visit the small town of Erfoud on the edge of the desert.  Enjoy miles of beaches between the waters of the Atlantic and the sands of the Sahara.

 

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Enrichment Series

COUNTRIES VISITED

Morocco

STARTING AT..

Price starts at $700 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.

TOUR LENGTH

15

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Explore the medinas and souks of Marrakech, the heartbeat of Morocco and a fascinating blend that is part Berber, part Arab and, part African
  • Savor mint tea and a delightful Berber bread with a local family and learn something about their way of living
  • Travel through picturesque villages, passing travelers going from one village to the next on foot or by mule
  • Visit the small town of Erfoud on the edge of the desert and discover its quarry, where fossils have been discovered.
  • Enjoy miles of beaches between the waters of the Atlantic and the sands of the Sahara, and the opportunity to relax and to participate in water sports

Day 1: Arrival to Marrakech, Morocco
Today, you will arrive to Menara Marrakech airport. Upon landing, you will exit from your plane, walk a few meters and start looking for your Meet and Greet agent who will walk you through customs and immigrations. From there, they will take you to the luggage belt (please note that for security reasons, the agent is not allowed to take any of your luggage). You can still ask for a porter to assist you and you can tip him directly. Then, the agent will escort you outside the airport and introduce you to your private guide or master driver.

Marrakech, Pearl of the South, Jewel of the South, The Red City – just a few of the nicknames Marrakech has acquired over the years. The pearl and the jewel symbolize its importance as the center of Morocco, ever since it was a trading and resting place on the crossroads of ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu. “Red City” refers to the distinctive hue of its many brick buildings. Part Berber, part Arab, part African, Marrakech is the heartbeat of Morocco, where palaces and sites of unrivalled refinement sit calmly alongside the snake charmers and Gnaouan drums pulsing constantly from Djemâa el Fna Square, the most exuberant marketplace in the world.

Virtually unchanged since the Middle Ages, Marrakech’s solid ramparts encircle and protect its mysterious medina, which hides sultans’ palaces, the ornate mansions of rich merchants and some of the most colorful bazaars in the Arab world. Late in the afternoon, locals and tourists crowd the Djemâa el Fna to hear storytellers and musicians perform, be wooed by herbalists and acrobats and watch smoke rise from the outdoor food stalls as vendors whip up a wide array of fried fish, meats, salads and Moroccan delicacies, such as lamb or beef stewed in an earthenware pot and left in hot ashes all day.

In the afternoon, you are met in your hotel lobby to begin an orientation tour in the old medina, stroll through the Souks to explore various shops of Djallaba, Spices, Moroccan suites, and antique items, followed by a sunset stop by UNESCO World Heritage Jamaa el Fna Square, then stop by a henna tattoo maker who will take care of your henna tattoo. Henna is a type of plant that grows in the Mediterranean area. The leaves of the henna plant are ground to form a fine powder, which is then mixed with water to create a thick mud-like paste. Artists use a brush, stick, or fine plastic nozzle to apply the paste to the skin, creating intricate patterns and designs on various parts of the body. It is common to drizzle a mixture of sugar with either lemon or lime juice over the completed design to help seal the pattern and enhance the color. Some people wrap plastic film around the design for a few hours to encourage longevity. The paste hardens and eventually cracks and falls away from the skin, leaving behind the colorful pattern on the skin. Henna designs can last for several weeks. In Morocco, it is most common for people to decorate their hands and feet with henna. Afterward on a terrace of a café where you can relax while sipping a glass of tea and overlooking the Mosque Koutoubia. La Sultana Marrakech – Prestige Deluxe Room

Day 2: Marrakech
Marrakech – Pearl of the South, Jewel of the South, The Red City, just a few of the nicknames Marrakech has acquired over the years – is a former imperial city and one of the most popular cities for tourists in the Maghreb.  With plenty of things to do and see in both the medieval and modern parts of town, Marrakech is the most captivating city of all Morocco.

Your sightseeing will include The Old Spice Market – The Rahba Kedima, which is a colorful market filled with a wide array of spices from Cumin, Cinnamon, Saffron, Dried Pepper and more. Then on to the ruined 16th century El Badii Palace, dating back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansour (1578-1603). Afterwards, visit the El Badii Palace in Marrakech, a beautiful building and an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century that represents trends and standards of the wealthy who lived at that time. It was built for Ahmed Ibn Moussa between 1894 and 1900 in the Alawi style that was popular at the time. Visit the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque and its influential minaret along with its gardens. The largest mosque in Marrakech, Morocco. Walk through the labyrinth like streets and alleys of Djemma El Fna Square, the city’s main square, home to a multitude of street-artists, stalls of dried fruit and freshly pressed orange juice. The numerous small restaurants that take over its center from the early evening contribute to the scent of its surroundings.

In 1960, Medersa Ben Youssef was transformed into a museum and, since its renovation in 1999, it is one of the most popular sites in Marrakech. The bronze doorway at the entrance of the college, adorned with beautiful cedar wood and mosaic carvings, is an impressive masterpiece of its time. Visit the Jewish Mellah – Founded in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah, the Mellah district was designated as the Jewish quarter in Marrakech. The sultan at that the time offered this little piece of security for Jews who were escaping to the country. Now the Mellah is almost completely Muslim but there are approximately 250 Jews still living in Marrakech, and most live outside the medina. La Sultana Marrakech – Prestige Deluxe Room (B)

Day 3: Marrakech
Today you will start your journey of discovering the Atlas Mountains. You are transferred to the breath-taking Atlas Mountains.  Along the way enjoy the stunning views of the countryside and experience traditional Berber culture along the way. Take a one-hour hike, then head for a special encounter, which offers a true insight into the Berber way of life.

Mohamed welcomes you to his humble house. You will meet his family and learn about their way of living. You will enjoy a mint tea break and a delightful Berber bread, and an enriching human exchange at the same time with Mohamed and the guide. Then you enjoy a lunch at the Richard Bronson’s house and return back to Marrakech. La Sultana Marrakech – Prestige Deluxe Room (B,L)

Day 4: Marrakech / Ouarzazate / Skoura
Today, you leave Marrakech and travel through picturesque villages, passing travelers going from one village to the next on foot or by mule. Admire the lush green of eucalyptus trees contrasting the red hue of rocky hills. You notice the exotic smell of “chwaya”, grilled meat or Berber tagine beautifully displayed with a tomato on the top.

As you drive over the Tizi n’Tichka Pass, the highest in the region at 2,260 meters/7,415 ft, you will stop to marvel at the views. Travel through the stunning Atlas Mountains to reach the edge of the desert and Ouarzazate, once a stopping point for African traders en route to the cities of Morocco and Europe. Drive over the Tizi n’Tichka Pass, the highest in the region at 2,260 meters/7,415 ft, and cross Ouarzazate and continue on to your secluded, unique property nestled in Skoura palm grove.

Skoura is the first stop on the Thousand Kasbahs road between Ouarzazate and Tafilalet. According to legend, it was founded in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty. The Skoura oasis consists of a group of small adobe villages and kasbahs connected by a patchwork of narrow paths and paths bordering the crops in the shade of numerous palm trees and fruit trees. The palm grove takes its name from the Berber tribe that lived there at that time, the Haskourene. Since then, several populations have followed, including the Arab tribes from the Tafilalet, making Skoura an Arab territory in the Berber country.  L’Ma Lodge – Suite Room (B)

Day 5: Skoura / Merzouga / Erfoud
You leave the Skoura palm grove to head to Erfoud, the capital of dates. You cross the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. On both sides, magnificent Kasbahs are decorated with bold geometric patterns and represents one of the Berber’s most beautiful heritages. From Skoura, you will drive eastwards towards Kelaa El Mgouna. The Valley of Roses boasts the largest cultivation of Persian roses. Local factories use these roses to produce eau de rose and scented creams used to soften the skin. You will reach the impressive Dades valley with its high cliffs of limestone, beautiful palm trees and a narrow river. Continue across Tinghir and venture into the Todra Gorges to admire its gigantic rock walls and impressive palm grove hiding a flowing river. Travel through small villages, paying attention to small details such as the women’s clothing, which are white or black depending on their tribe. After the Ziz valley you will reach Erfoud, a largely French-built administrative center known for delightful palm dates.

Afterwards you head into the south, travelling by 4x vehicle amongst the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi en route to your tented-camp site. The desert is rocky to begin with, like a drum roll preparing you for the upcoming Sahara dunes that you can distinguish in the distance. Then comes the sand, warm and mysterious, never knowing what is hidden behind a dune. One of the hills will reveal your magical tented camp, settled in the middle of an expansive sea of sand. Enjoy a sunset camel ride in the evening, and savor a mouth-watering dinner served around a campfire or in a tent with a warm and cozy atmosphere which will welcome you for the night, while the sounds of the Sahara lull you to sleep. Merzouge Luxury Desert Camp – Deluxe Tent (B)

Day 6: Erfoud / Erg Chebbi
Visit the small town of Erfoud on the edge of the desert and discover its quarry, where fossils have been discovered. More than 400 million years ago, the desert area of Morocco was a sea. When the sea receded, the marine life died later becoming fossilized. Today the mining of these fossilized rocks is a growing and popular industry in this part of Morocco. You will have the opportunity to admire how these Goniatitida and Trilobites are used to produce beautiful decorative objects ranging from a plate to a table.

The Gnawa lived as nomads until settling last century in a small village called Khamlia. Khamlia (or the Gnawa village as it is fondly known) lies 7km south of Merzouga at the door of the desert and despite only recently being added to maps, 390 Gnawa still live here. In 2004, a road was built through the village which has introduced tourism to the people here and on a desert tour of Morocco you can visit and meet the people while you listen to performances of Gnawa music in its home environment.

The Saharan regions of Morocco are home to ancient culinary practices that provide the means for the Amazigh (as known as Berber Pizza). Madfouna is a stuffed flatbread prepared using a handful of staple ingrédients. It is traditionally baked in a fire pit in the sand or a mud oven, and has long served as a wholesome meal for many families who live on the fringes of the Erg Chebbi dunes. Once baked, the bread so closely resembles a pizza that it is locally nicknamed ‘the Berber pizza’. Every family has their own version of madfouna. Some use more basic ingredients such as eggs, tomatoes and sunflower or poppy seeds, while others add almonds, cashews, olives, lamb, chicken, minced beef or slices of cooked steak. The options are virtually endless. Merzouge Luxury Desert Camp – Deluxe Tent (B)

Day 7: Erg Chebbi / Nkob
You depart from the Sahara Desert to continue your discovery of the Moroccan south. Drive through flat plains and dry, deserted areas; admire the occasional lush oasis with Kasbah in remote places. Cross dry riverbeds and visit some picturesque villages to admire the authentic daily life of the Moroccan people. The village of Alnif is a great example of the peaceful life in secluded areas of the Moroccan south. Take some time to stroll there, and if you are lucky, you will have the opportunity to visit a weekly market which is organized once per week. Kasbah Baha Baha – Deluxe Room  (B)

Day 8: Nkob / Ouarzazate
Today you travel west, admiring the change of sceneries from the flat rocky desert to green lush oasis overland to Ouarzazate. The city was once a stopping point for African traders en route to the cities of Morocco and Europe. Your journey will cross little Berber villages and impressive sceneries changing from dry plains to lush oasis. Ouarzazate was built as a French garrison in the 1920s. Today it is a regional trade center known for pottery and carpets.

Your road crosses the village of Tamnougalt, where you discover a gorgeous, well preserved 16th century ksour. Considered as the historical capital of the Berber tribe called “Mezguite”, the ksour had defensive and commercial purposes. Nowadays ksour offers to visitors an incredible place to visit with soaring buildings built of pisé, tunnels and kasbahs and a very large mellah.

Then continue to Agdz, a little town located on the old caravan route linking Marrakech to Timbuktu. There, take some time to admire the Jbel Kissane, meaning in Arabic “mountain of glasses”, as the mountains have a shape of Moroccan tea glasses. From here, continue north towards Ouarzazate where on route, you will admire gorgeous sceneries with oasis, palm trees plantations and hills of the Atlas Mountains on the backdrop. Berber Palace – Deluxe Room (B) 

Day 9: Ouarzazate
Today you depart for a day excursion to discover the surroundings gems nestled in the region of Ouarzazate. The oasis of Fint is one of the most gorgeous and lush oases in the south of Morocco. It boasts an impressive and dense palm grove, a scenic riverbed and gorgeous hundred-year-old Kasbahs.

You also pause at the fortified village of Ait Benhaddou, the most exotic and best-preserved Kasbah in the whole of the Atlas region. The village has starred in many masterpieces of the cinema such as “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Jesus of Nazareth”, “Gladiator” and “The Mummy”. Berber Palace – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 10: Ouarzazate / Taroudant
The landscapes change again after you pass the town of Taliouine, famous for its production of saffron, is one of the main exporters of this spice worldwide. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. The purple crocus sativus flower, from which the spice comes, grows only above 1200 m. It flowers between mid-October and mid-November, when you can see locals picking the flowers around villages 12 km east of Taliouine. The town celebrates the international festival of safran every year in winter, (usually November) which usually incorporates nightly concerts from some of Berber music’s biggest names, and massed ahouach (celebratory) dancing to the beat of bendirs, traditional hand drums.

You can also visit Telouet Kasbah, called glaoui kasbah, which was the seat of the El Glaoui, hence it’s other name the Palace of Glaoui, built in the 18th and 19th centuries. The palace can still be visited but it is steadily becoming more damaged and is slowly collapsing.  Discover Dar Aazaafran, a museum showcasing the red gold, the nickname for saffron. A small museum showcases a few saffron agricultural tools strewn about where you can also purchase saffron from local cooperatives. Another cultural spot will delight calligraphy lovers. An art center offers visitors a rendition of your name in Tamazight, crafted via a dramatic combination of saffron ink and a blowtorch. Continue on to Taroudant. Dar Al Hossoune – Junior Suite (B)

Day 11: Taroudant
Taroudant had its golden age under the Saadi Dynasty, particularly during the reign of Mohammed ash-Sheikh. He constructed the city walls and built the great mosque and its minaret in 1528. The town became the capital of the Saadians who used it as a base to attack the Portuguese in Agadir. Although they later made Marrakech their capital, they made the town prosper through the riches of the Sous plain, marketing goods such as sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo.

Today, Taroudant is fondly called the “Little daughter of Marrakech” and it retains the feel of a small market town on busy caravan routes. It is a small town that resembles Marrakech with its surrounding ramparts. However, unlike Marrakech, Taroudant contains almost the entire city within its walls. It is also known for its jewelry and carpets with a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy shopping. Dar Al Hossoune – Junior Suite (B)

Day 12: Taroudant / Marrakech / Dakhla
Enjoy your breakfast, check-out and be transferred to Marrakech-Menara airport, 2 hours prior to departure time to catch your flight to Dakhla. Upon Arrival, your driver will be waiting for you at the terminal and transfer you to your hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, check in and freshen up before you enjoy a seafood lunch. Then set out on a 4×4 excursion in the desert. It is a two-hour trip through the dunes, which offers varied landscapes and ends up in the water for a fish pedicure. Along the way, you will see many camels and part of the traditions specific to the Sahara Desert. Then savor sunset at a beach called “Portorico” that had been closed for many years. Recently it was opened to all visitors.

Dakhla region was inhabited by Berbers and Arabs since ancient times. Due its complex geopolitical situation, Dakhla was influenced by Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and even Saharawi nomads.  Established by the Spanish in 1844 and formerly called Villa Cisneros, Dakhla lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer on a sandy peninsula stretching 40 km from the main coastline. It is a very lonely 500km drive from Laayoune (more than 1000 km from Agadir) through endless desert.

Dakhla city is lost between the waters of the Atlantic and the sands of the Sahara. It is a place whose pleasures should be devoured. There are miles of beaches throughout the city that give you an opportunity to relax or to participate in a wide array of water sports.  These shores are among the most beautiful in Morocco. Sheltered from the world by the surrounding desert, they are a peaceful haven. An ideal spot for lounging under the sun at a constant, year-round temperature of 77°. La Crique Hotel – Sea View Bungalow (B)

Day 13: Dakhla
Drive to the White Dunes, a 13 km/eight mi kite surfing site, commonly called the paradise of kite surfing. Dakhla is one of the world’s best kite spots. Whether a beginner or an experienced kite surfer, you can try your hand at this unique sport. Enjoy your time here on the beach with safety boat and guide included. Afterwards, embark on your 4×4 vehicle drive back through the desert with a stop at the thermal Asna. The water temperature is around 38°C. Situated on a long peninsula with the Atlantic on one side for wave riding and a huge lagoon on the other with flat, shallow water, there is something for everyone within easy reach. La Crique Hotel – Sea View Bungalow (B)

Day 14: Dakhla
This morning you take a trip by boat to enjoy the magical Dragon Island for two hours, this excursion requires shoes as the island is completely unspoiled and full of shells. This afternoon, you relax and enjoy a spa treatment or continue on your discovery of the area. One favorite activity here is surfing as there are several good surf spots here with the main areas being La Sarga, Point d’Or, Arish and Foumbouir. Take some time to discover the wildlife in the region that is home to a diversity of marine animals, birds, reptiles and mammals, with some that are rare or threatened species. UNESCO has supported a project to create Dakhla National Park in order to preserve the natural biodiversity. All year round, you see dolphins or even orcas swimming in Dakhla Lagoon. Frequently seen are flocks of flamingos that gather in the lagoon, which are the most representative birds of Dakhla region. Take a boat to visit an oyster farm to taste seafood fresh from the peninsula shore of Dakhla. Enjoy a lunch. La Crique Hotel – Sea View Bungalow (B)

Day 15: Dakhla / Depart
Today you will be transferred from your hotel to Dakhla airport to take your two-hour domestic flight to reach Marrakech to connect with your onward flight home. (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from US$700 per person per day. 

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