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The tour starts at the Fez hotel. You will receive full details of exactly where to meet your Group Leader on the Joining Instructions which will be sent to you 2-3 weeks before your trip starts.
Hotel (AAA) - 3 nights
Fez, the cultural capital, is one of the most complete medieval Islamic cities in the world. Passing through the gates and walls into the alleyways beyond transports you back in time. The streets are just as they were when they were built in the 8th century, with high walls that protect the courtyards inside from the heat of the midday sun. Enormous theosophical colleges, beautiful mosques and fascinating souks spilling their goods onto the pavement are all part of the scene. You'll take a walking tour to some of the major points of interest as well as having free time to wander at leisure. You’ll meander through the medina, past the Royal Palace, and through the Jewish quarter. Continue with your guide after lunch or take time to explore at your own pace or relax. (B)
This morning you drive to Volubilis (approx. 2 hrs) to some of the most comprehensive and ancient ruins in the kingdom. Some 1900 years ago Volubilis was one of the farthest flung outposts of the Roman Empire. Archaeologists found remarkable mosaics forming the floors of several houses lining the Decumanus Maximus. You can see representations of the Labours of Hercules, the Chariot of Amphitrite, which is drawn by a seahorse as well as the famous 'Nymphs Bathing'. Wandering among the ruins of the basilica, the capitol, oil press and the great houses of Orpheus and Ephebus, it is easy to imagine what life was like 2000 years ago. In the afternoon you’ll visit the city of Meknes, a place full of history and intrigue (drive to Meknes approx. 1 hour). The focal point of the old medina is the Bab Mansour, the gate that leads to Moulay Ismail's old imperial city and the mosques, souks and palaces beyond. You’ll return to Fez for the night. (B)
A change of scenery today as you leave the crowded streets of old Fez behind and set out across the mountains to the desert. There is a long drive ahead (7 hours), but using a chartered bus enables us to make frequent stops along the way. The wilderness you cross is incredibly diverse and can vary from rocky, sun-baked plains, to cedar-clad mountains and deep canyons. In the hills south of Azrou you may be lucky to spot a troupe of Barbary Apes; in fact not a true ape but a species of Macaque monkey. Once over the mountains you head to the old garrison town of Erfoud, where hopefully you’ll arrive in time to see the sun setting over the vast expanse of rolling desert dunes. Hotel (AA) – 1 night - swimming pool (B)
After yesterday’s long journey you have the morning free to relax. After lunch the charter bus takes you to Merzouga. (approx. 1 ¼ hrs)
The great ‘sand sea’ of Merzouga, a beautiful area of fine, apricot-coloured sand, stretches as far as the eye can see. The best time to experience its beauty is at sunset or at dawn when sunrise over this incredible landscape is breathtaking. Soak up the peacefulness of the Sahara with a refreshing glass of mint tea in the small auberge where you are staying for the night.
Basic resthouse with a view (AA) with shared facilities – 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
The morning is free for you to further explore. If you can rouse yourself early in the morning you can be rewarded with stunning views of the dunes at sunrise. As the sun descends in the afternoon you commence your two-hour trek by camel to this evening’s camp in the desert (those who prefer may walk). You dine on traditional Moroccan fare under clear starry skies and sleep in large Bedouin-style tents. With luck, your camel drivers and camp staff may sing and play drums to round off the magical atmosphere of the evening. Camp (C) – 1 night (BD)
After breakfast you mount your camels once more and head back to Merzouga where you say goodbye to your four-legged friends and revert back to motorised transport. Retracing your steps through Erfoud you reach the main road and turn south-west to the dramatic Todra Gorge, a spectacular gash in the hills that surround Tinerhir. The region is dotted with deserted kasbahs, palmeries and mud-brick villages creating a photographer’s paradise. The cliffs loom above as you approach the mouth of Todra Gorge. Rising to 300m, the honey-coloured hues of the sheer face change constantly as the sun moves across the sky. Local Berber people can often be seen moving their herds through the gorge and are apt to greet you as you pass! This afternoon you have the chance to take a walk in this impressive gorge and possibly spot a rare Bonelli’s Eagle that nest on the cliffs. Total driving time today approx. 3 1/2 hours.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night (B)
The day begins with a drive from Todra via Boumalne to Dades gorge. You then drive to Boutaghrar, which will be your base for the next two nights to let you explore the Mgoun Valley and the Valley of the Roses on foot. (Driving time approx. 2 ½ hrs, some of it on gravel roads) The Berber house/gite in which you stay is a simple mud and brick affair, which blends almost imperceptibly into the landscape. There are a couple of large rooms for eating and sleeping, normally furnished with carpets. The flat roof serves as a terrace where you can sleep if it is warm. There is a toilet, washbasin and shower. You’ll eat and sleep communally in the rooms, so there is little place for false modesty. This afternoon you’ll head out into the surrounding countryside for a walk along one of many routes (approx 2 ½ hrs walking).
Gite (A) (multi-share) - 2 nights (BLD)
Today you’ll head out for a full day’s walk in the mountains following rough mule tracks with little to disturb the peace. After a few hours you’ll find some shade and stop for an informal picnic lunch. There’s no hurry, so it’s nice to relax in the midday heat and enjoy the timeless beauty of the landscape. There are no particularly steep climbs, although it can be rough underfoot and quite tiring in the summer heat. The route can vary depending on conditions and the group’s ability but will invariably take in some great views of the cultivated valleys and the chance to explore local villages. The area is very traditional and gives off an air of timeless tranquillity. (Approx. 5-6 hrs walking today). (BLD)
You drive along the Route des Kasbahs as you head for Ouarzazate and beyond to Ait Ben Haddou. This is probably the best preserved fortified ksour (a collection of kasbahs) in the country. With its dramatic walls of red earth, slit windows and crumbling towers, it is a magnificent example of a traditional stronghold. Chosen as a location for Hollywood films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Jewel in the Nile and more recently Gladiator, Ait Benhaddou sits upon a lofty pinnacle of rock overlooking a river. Dating from around the 15th century, its importance as a trading post gradually waned and today's inhabitants eke a living from farming … and as film extras! Driving time approx. 3 hours.
Hotel (AAA) – 1 night - Swimming Pool (B)
This morning there is time to visit the Kasbah before making the drive across Tizi-n-Tichka pass. As you drive across Tizi-n-Tichka (2260m), the highest of the three mountain passes which cross the dramatic High Atlas, you witness an extraordinary transition: the barren slopes of shattered rock on the southern side give way to green valleys as you descend from the treeless summit. Having crossed the plains you come to the evocative city of Marrakech. Even today, the name conjures up images of scenes from the Arabian Nights: alleyways, souks, stalls and markets. This remarkable city dating from the 11th century never fails to satisfy the curiosity of adventurous travellers. It has everything from the graceful architecture of the renowned Koutoubia Minaret, which dominates the skyline, to the wonderful throbbing atmosphere of a medieval fair in the great open square, the Djemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the medina. Driving time approx. 5 hours.
Hotel (AAA) - 1 night - Swimming pool (B)
The hotel is located just outside the city walls around the old Medina. It is about a 25 minute walk to the main square Djemaa el Fna but close to local shops and restaurants
This morning you start with a walking tour of the city centre to get your bearings and make your way into the sprawling souk. As is usual in a souk, individual trades and crafts are concentrated in one street or area, so the shoemakers are all next to each other, as are the jewellers, the potters, weavers etc. This must be the best place in Morocco to hone one’s haggling skills and you are sure to be tempted by some of the wonderful variety of merchandise on display, even if it's only a packet of exotic spices or a trinket. In the afternoon you leave Marrakech and head west to the Atlantic coast and the former pirate’s lair of Essaouira, one of Morocco’s most attractive coastal cities (approx. 3 1/2 hrs driving).
Hotel (AAA) – 2 nights (B)
You have all day to explore this old pirate’s hideout. The maze of narrow lanes with tiny cafes looking out onto small squares is encircled by Portuguese, Berber and French battlements. Two fortresses look out over the ocean and on an offshore island stands another, even larger castle. As befits a seaport and large swathe of sandy beach, the pace of life is more relaxed here and the whitewashed streets lend a truly Mediterranean air to the city. (B)
You leave Essaouira in the morning to drive back to Marrakech. The rest of the day is free for you to fully explore Marrakech and the delights it has to offer. You could take in the Palais de la Bahia, built at the end of the 19th century for Si’ Ahmed ben Musa, the Grand Vizier of Soultan Moulay al Hassan. Only part of the palace is open, as the royal family still makes use of a fair proportion of the building. The beautiful courtyards and splendid living quarters provide a picture of a grand bygone lifestyle. Another possibility is the Dar Si Said, housing the Museum of Moroccan Arts. This former royal townhouse now contains beautiful art and craftwork from all corners of the country. If you prefer you can simply return to the souk and search for bargains, or sit at one of the many cafes on the Djemaa el- Fna and watch Marrakech life go by.
Hotel (AAA) – 1 night - Swimming pool (B)
The trip ends after breakfast. (B)
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner
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