A great introduction to the rich history and diverse culture of Morocco, featuring the spectacular, iconic cities of Fes and Marrakech.
On arrival at Casablanca Airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day so you may arrive at any time. Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The balance of the day is free to explore your surroundings and our tour leader may make contact in the evening.
In Casablanca we see the impressive Mosque of Hassan II, opened in 1993, and second only in size to the great mosque at Mecca. It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and is one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims. Later we drive to Rabat, the elegant capital of Morocco and our first Imperial city. It contains numerous fine Arab monuments, some dating to the Almohad and Merenid dynasties and others that are far older. The earliest known settlement is Sala, occupying an area now know as the Chellah, where we visit the remains of the citadel. We also see the vast minaret of the Hassan Mosque and explore the lovely walled quarter known as the Kasbah des Oudaias. In the late afternoon we continue to Meknes. (B)
Volubilis was once a provincial Roman capital, a distant outpost of the empire, and as we approach it we can see it prominently sited along the edge of a high plateau. Today it is the most impressive Roman site in Morocco and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. We explore the many public buildings and at the House of Orpheus we see several fine mosaic floors intact. Back in Meknes we discover the charming streets of the old medina - a perfect prelude to Fes. From the northern gate, Bab Berdaine, we walk to the shrine of Moulay Ismail who, in the 17th century, turned Meknes from a provincial town to a spectacular Imperial city. We visit the lovely Bou Inania Medresse (religious school) and after time to explore the old souk we drive to Fes for the night. (B)
Spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco, Fes is vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming - a visual and pungent assault on the senses. It is made up of three distinct cities, or quarters, and we are based in the elegant Nouveau Ville, or New City, which has a distinctly French/European character. Today we head into the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali, arguably the world's most fascinating and confounding old city. Medieval Fes was one of the world's great centres of education and culture: both Islamic and Jewish. Its religious institutions and its libraries are legendary. Its mosques are of great renown. And it was to Fes that many of the Muslims (and Jews) expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella came in 1492. As we walk through the streets and alleyways, passing historic khans, medresses and dye-pits, it is not hard to imagine ourselves back in the Middle Ages. We spend the day exploring the old city, visiting the Belghazi Museum, Medresse el Attarine, the tanneries and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn. We return to our hotel in the late afternoon. (B)
Fes el Jedid, meaning New City (but not to be confused with the Nouvelle Ville) is also well worth a visit. Unlike Fes el Bali, which grew organically over the years, Fes el Jedid was an entirely planned city, built by the Merenids in the 13th and 14th centuries. The imposing gateway of Bab Boujeloud leads us into broad streets, where public and private gardens add a splash of colour to the surroundings. Later, we drive to nearby spa village of Moulay Yacoub. Here you can enjoy a swim (separate areas for men and women) or descend to the old thermal baths for a traditional hot bath. We return to Fes in the late afternoon. PLEASE NOTE: Due to traveller feedback, our leaders have proposed changing this side to trip a small village called Sefrou, about 30k from Fes. It's a lovely little town, once home to one of Morocco's largest Jewish communities. Your leader will explain the 2 options and you'll have to make a group decision. Alternatively, you can spend the whole day in Fes. (B)
We bid farewell to our tour leader and board the train to Marrakech, via Casablanca. It's pretty much an all day affair, so ensure you have a good book with you. There's a food trolley service on board, offering a regular supply of snacks and drinks. Please note that sometimes we will use a minibus instead of the train (depending on the gorup size). There are pros and cons for both methods of travel. On arrival in Marrakech you will be met by our local representatives and transferred to your beautiful Riad hotel. This evening, why not head to Jemaa el Fna, the great square, one of the largest public spaces in the world and unique to Marrakech. Every night it comes alive with snake-charmers, musicians, story-tellers, fire-eaters and hundreds of small outdoor restaurants. (B)
After breakfast we meet our Marrakech guide and set off on a morning tour of the old medina. We visit the beautiful Bahia Palace, a splendid mansion built in 1866 for a former slave who had risen to a position of importance in the government of Moulay Hassan. We explore the tranquil inner courtyards, fragrant with orange blossom, and the many salons and chambers that make up this elegant home. We continue to the Marrakech Museum, itself a former palace, which houses a fine collection of Morrocan art and sculpture and we then walk through the streets of the old medina as we make our way back to the Jemaa el Fna. The rest of the day is free to explore further, or shop in the bazaar. (B)
Your trip ends today, after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Marrakech. (B)
While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner