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Go off the beaten track to Tetouan, Ceuta and Taroudant and discover medieval Moorish-Andalusian medinas and rich desert cultures. Enjoy the shopkeepers in the medinas of colorful ancient cities from Marrakech and Tangiers to of Ouarzazate and Zagora. This adventure offers you opportunities to learn how to cook Moroccan cuisine; take in the ground level view from the perspective of a vintage motorcycle sidecar. Walk the narrow alleys of the breath-taking ‘blue city’ of Chefchaouen, also known as the blue jewel of Morocco, beautifully perched beneath the raw peaks of the Rif mountains. Take in the Imperial City of Meknes with the monumental Bab Mansour Gateway, considered to be one of the finest of the great gates of Morocco, the Granaries and the Royal Stables, built to stable 12,000 horses. Venture into the world of Fez’ old medina, with its riot of colors, smells, sights and sounds and wander along the narrow alleyways, then step through a large, ornate wooden door and find yourself in an astonishingly different world. Spend a night in a tent in Southern Morocco’s sand dunes at a camp with just six tents, set far from the others to present you with an authentic Sahara Desert experience. This adventure into Northern Africa has abundant opportunities to learn about distinctive cultures.
Day 1: Tangiers, Morocco
Welcome to Morocco! Upon arrival in Tangiers, you will be met by your Big Five representative at the gate of your plane, who assisted with customs and immigration formalities before transferring you to your hotel. The boutique hotel Riad Mokhtar is an old-style home built in the Arabian and Andalousian styles with a central patio planted with orange trees and flowers. On the third and top floor, a large terrace that towers over the Kasbah offering spectacular views of the medina and the bay of Tangiers. Riad Mokhtar
Day 2: Tangiers
Today explore the historic “blue city” of Chefchaouen, also known as the blue jewel of Morocco, beautifully perched beneath the raw peaks of the Rif mountains. This city is rich in history, founded in 1471 by Mulay Alí Ben Rachid. It is set in an enclave difficult to access and served as a base to restrain the Portuguese of Ceuta between Tetouan and Fez.
Chefchaouen’s blue walls are a popular subject of interest. The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven and serve as a reminder of a spiritual life. To explore one of this peaceful city you begins with the old city (Medina) called Uta el Hammam, which boasts a beautiful fusion between Arab and Spanish influences. It remains one of the few places in Morocco that has an octagonal minaret next to the Grand Mosque.
Afterwards, take a short hike, up to the Spanish Mosque. It sits halfway up the hillside, you leave the medina through the old gate. It takes about twenty minutes and the path is shaded by cedars and cherry trees. It is called the Spanish Mosque because it is a converted church. Riad Mokhtar (B)
Day 3: Tangiers — Tetouan – Ceuta — Tangiers
Today, you head towards the beautiful city of Tetouan, built by the Merinides in the 14th century, destroyed by the Spanish in 1399 and reconstructed by the Moorish & Jewish refugees from Granada in 1492. Tetouan became the capital of the Spanish protectorate zone in north of Morocco in 1913.
Discover the large medieval Moorish-Andalusian medina and its architecture. The archeological museum has fascinating exhibits of Stone Age tools, Carthaginian ceramics and Roman statues and mosaics. In the Jewish quarter in the old town which is still surrounded by old and rustic walls, attractive plazas with ornate tiled fountains, colorful markets, and busy lanes where craftsman can be seen on their work process among them, carpenters, gold and silversmiths, cobblers, dyers and tailors. End at Bab Okla, Museum of Moroccan arts and crafts.
Continue to Ceuta, the Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa, separated by nine miles from Cadiz province on the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar and sharing a four-mile land border with the Kingdom of Morocco. It lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of nine populated Spanish territories in Africa and, along with Melilla, one of two populated territories on mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 1995 when both Ceuta and Melilla’s Statutes of Autonomy were passed, the latter having been part of Málaga province.
Ceuta, like Melilla and the Canary Islands, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. Its population consists of Christians, Muslims and small minorities of Sephardic Jews and ethnic Sindhi Hindus. Spanish is the official language, while Darija Arabic is also spoken by 50% of the population, which is of Moroccan origin. Riad Mokhtar (B)
Day 4: Tangiers / Meknes
Today you will be transferred to Meknes during a five-hour drive. En route, take in Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the largest and most well-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. With its triumphal arches, basilicas and capitals, the Volubilis skyline is peppered with examples of Roman architecture. However, the greatest treasures of Volubilis are the superb mosaic floors, which have been excellently preserved and left in situ. Three outstanding examples include Orpheus charming animals with his lyre, nine dolphins signifying good luck and a portrait of Amphitrite in a chariot drawn by a seahorse.
Then, travel to Meknes, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Its impressive monuments recall the splendor of a city first built in the 17th century by the powerful sultan Moulay Ismail to rival the court of his contemporary, Louis XIV of France.
During your visit, see the monumental Bab Mansour Gateway, considered to be one of the finest of the great gates of Morocco, the Granaries and the Royal Stables, which were built to accommodate some 12,000 horses. You will also see Moulay Ismail’s Mausoleum, one of the few shrines in Morocco that can be visited by non-Muslims. Located in the wine estate “Château Roslane”, this jewel of charm and sweetness is a delight. The majestic entrance porch made of stone with its huge Moroccan door and copper hanging lantern, welcome you before you even get to the lobby, where there is a huge wrought iron chandelier forming leaves and bunches of grapes. Deep leather sofas, wooden coffee tables and patinated iron as well as the double-hearth fireplace bring serenity and authenticity to the whole. Chateaux Roslane (B)
Day 5: Meknes / Fez
Today you travel an hour by road to Fez, the fourth largest city in Morocco. Also one of the ancient Imperial Cities, it had one of the largest Jewish populations. It is separated into three sections, Fès el Bali (the old, walled city), Fès -Jdid (new Fes, home of the Jewish Mellah), and the Ville Nouvelle (the newest, French-created section of Fez.) The Jewish community of Fez were leaders in trade and the garment industry as well as experts in agriculture and excellent jewelry designers.
Step through Bab Boujloud and step into the world of Fez’ old medina. Many call this a living museum with its riot of colors, smells, sights and sounds. Wander along the narrow alleyways, then step through a large, ornate wooden door and find yourself in an astonishingly different world.
Visit the Palace Gates of the King, and the Royal Palace, both 14th century. The palace is one of the oldest and largest in Morocco. Gardens Jinan Way was founded in the 18th century by Sultan Moulay Abdellah, and is saturated with history. It is characterized as the spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Next, discover the Jewish Mellah, the name of the Jewish quarter in Morocco. The Fez Mellah is the first in Morocco, originating in 1438 and built with walled with fortified getaway. It was once solely inhabited by Jews, who were confined to living in the walled Mellah for their protection and to the benefit of both royalty and the government. In the 17th century, Fez was with two well-known temples. The Ibn Danan Synagogue has been added to the World Monuments Watch List and Fund. Throughout the old city of Fez, there are traces of ancient Jewish life, including the home of Maimonides, who lived in the city from 1159- 1165.
Continue to the sacred site – the Jewish cemetery and the Tomb of Solica. The Jewish cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Lalla Solica, who was killed for refusing to convert to Islam. Solica was born in Tangier in 1817. At the age of 16, she was courted by a Muslim man, but refused to marry him. She was condemned to death for apostasy and killed in 1834.
This afternoon, walk to Dyers souk of silk, wool and cotton. Cross the local fruit and vegetable market where you discover the stalls of local traders and people buying their daily goods. The Tannery, a real tradition of Fez, is the liveliest and most picturesque souks in Fez. The tanneries are often located near watercourses like the Wadi Fès and at a distance from residential areas due to the strongly unpleasant smells they produce. The Weavers Cooperative specializes in weaving the finest jellaba fabric, made of silk and wool threads imported from Italy.
Also visit Zawiya of Sidi Ahmed al-Tijani that contains the tomb of an 18th century Sufi Shaykh, founder of the Tijaniyya order. Also, the Mausoleum (Zaouia Moulay Idriss), Azaouia (shrine) and the tomb of Moulay Idriss II, who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828, and founded the city of Fez for the second time in 810.
This evening enjoy a Moroccan set menu dinner with Dr. Fatima Rhorchi, a Moroccan Professor at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes. She obtained her PhD degree from Sidi Med Moroccan University and has been involved in women’s rights. Riad Karawan (B,D)
Day 6: Fez
Today you visit a local market to learn about the vegetables, fruits and spices used in Moroccan cuisine. Then, enjoy a cooking lesson at the hotel and sample your creations. In the evening enjoy dinner at the home of a local family. Riad Karawan (B,L,D)
Day 7: Fez / Casablanca / Marrakech
Today, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Casablanca and from there you drive to Marrakech (3.5 hours) – Pearl of the South, Jewel of the South, Red City – just a few of the nicknames Marrakech has acquired over the years. Enjoy sightseeing in Marrakech in the afternoon. Part Berber, part Arab, part African, Marrakech is the heartbeat of Morocco where palaces and monuments 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. The city is also home to luxury hotels, sophisticated bars and exotic restaurants. Riad La Joya (B)
Day 8: Marrakech
Today you will be transferred to the Atlas Mountains for some soft hiking with your guide. The hike will be at your own pace and level of difficulty. Stop at a Berber’s family home for mint tea and then continue to the Agafay desert. Upon arrival enjoy camel ride during sunset and then enjoy a private dinner under the stars. There will be traditional music, a fire eater, belly dancer, a henna tattoo lady. Return to Marrakech. Riad La Joya (B,D)
Day 9: Marrakech / Taroudant
This morning, enjoy a side car adventure in vintage motorcycles, driven by professional drivers through small alleys in the medina. Then, continue to Taroudant on a four-hour drive. Arrive at your hotel set out over 185 acres of land, a small paradise nestled in Taroudant in southern Morocco. Take time to appreciate the serenity of this palace: an orchard with orange, tangerine, grapefruit and lemon trees and an abundance of vegetables. It is the region of the mythical protected argan tree, from which argan oil cosmetic and exceptional culinary oil. At the other end of the estate are the stables, which house 23 Arabian thoroughbreds. Claudio Bravo Palace (B)
Day 10: Taroudant
Explore Taroudant, one of the oldest cities in Morocco. It rests in the Souss Valley, between the High and Anti Atlas Mountains. Taroudant had its golden age under the Saadi Dynasty, particularly during the reign of Mohammed ash-Sheikh, who, in 1528, oversaw the construction of the city walls and built the great mosque and minaret. 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. The city features beautiful orchards and gardens and interesting colorful markets. Taroudant is fondly called the “Little daughter of Marrakech” and it retains the feel of a small market town on a caravan route, resembling Marrakech with its surrounding ramparts. However, unlike Marrakech, Taroudant contains nearly the entire city within its walls. It is also known for its jewelry and carpets. Claudio Bravo Palace (B)
Day 11: Taroudant / Zagora
Today you transfer to Zagora on a six-hour. In the south, people do not speak in kilometers or miles but rather in travel time because it is true that the roads are tortuous but each turn reveals a new picture waiting for you to experience. Tichka Pass crosses the Atlas, the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cities of Ouarzazate, Zagora and the village of M’hamid el Ghizlan. The travel the fabulous valley of DRAA and finish at the dunes of Ch’gaga famous as being the most beautiful of Morocco. This is Southern Morocco and will lead you to the middle of sand dunes and Ghazala Camp, a very exclusive concept. Composed of six tents only, each set far from the others, the camp provides you with an authentic desert experience. The decor of Ghazala Camp’s tents is based on the journey of the great explorers, the natural luxury of the desert and the journey. Ghazala Camp (B,D)
Day 12: Zagora / Ouazarzate / Casablanca
Today discover the secrets of Ouarzazate, about a four-hour drive. Upon arrival enjoy an exploration of the city that was once a stopping point for African traders en route to the cities of Morocco and Europe. Ouarzazate was built as a French garrison in the 1920s and today is a regional trade center known for pottery and carpets. Visit to the Glaoui Kasbah of Taourirt. The Glaoui brothers were the most powerful tribal leaders at the turn of the century and the Kasbah of Taourirt is considered to be one of the most beautiful Kasbahs in all of Morocco. It consists of a network of luxury apartments, simple clay houses and crenelated towers, which are beautifully decorated with geometric motifs. In the late afternoon take a flight from Ouazarzate to Casablanca, where upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Le Doge Hotel (B)
Day 13: Casablanca / Depart
Today you are transferred to the airport to take your international homebound flight. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price from US$1,100 per person per day.