Morocco Kasbahs & Desert
Day 1 Casablanca
You are welcome to arrive in Casablanca at any time, as today is a designated arrival day with no planned activities. Please note that there will be an important welcome meeting this evening at our joining hotel. Please check the hotel notice board for more information on the location of this meeting or ask at reception. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting, as you will be required to fill out some important pre-trip admin documents. After learning more about our tour and plans for the following day, you are welcome to join the CEO and your travelling companions for an optional dinner. Please note, this tour does not spend any time in Casablanca. You may wish to come a day early in order to explore Casablanca's small medina, beachfront and classic examples of Art Deco architecture. Be sure to visit the spectacular Hassan II mosque. Entrance is only permitted via guided tours which operate from Saturday to Thursday (closed Fridays) at 09h00, 10h00, 11h00, and 14h00. Please refer to optional activity section of these notes for prices. These times are subject to change (particularly around Ramadan) please double check these times with your hotel. Overnight in Casablanca. A general note about this tour. This is a very fast paced itinerary which covers lots of ground. While this is great as it allows us to see a great amount in the available time, it also means some early starts, some long drives in the mini van and less free time than many other G Adventures.
Day 2 Volubilis/Meknes/Fes (1B)
Today is a long and busy, but wonderful day as we begin our morning drive in private transport from Casablanca to Meknes, where we will enjoy a guided city walk. We start our guided tour in front of the impressive 18th century Bab Mansour, the ornamental gate to the imperial city of Meknes built by Sultan Moulay Ismail in honour of himself. The gate faces Place el-Hadim, where, after dark fills with many Moroccan families coming to be entertained by story-tellers, snake-charmers, horse rides & medicine men. To the left of the square you’ll find one of Morocco’s most colourful & friendliest fresh produce souks and home to the city’s famous confectionaries. Behind the square is the entrance to the rambling souks where you can discover the many artisans and their crafts. From here we enter what is left of the imperial city (Meknes was flattened by a huge earthquake in 1755) and visit the small but impressive Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. Then we will pass by the entrance of the Meknes Royal Palace and end up at Moulay Ismail’s massive Heri es Souani. This was his personal stable & granary for his 12,000 horses. Afterwards, we will make our way through the rolling hills for a guided visit of the impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis, the best preserved Roman ruins in this part of Northern Africa. Once an important Roman town, the site is situated near the westernmost border of the Roman Empire. In 1997 Volubilis was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wandering through the deserted streets where chariots once passed, you can envision the vibrance the town once had. Listen to your certified local guide explain about life in the Roman Empire as you peer into old bathhouses, marveling at the still-present mosaic floors and gazing up at the towering marble pillars. Overnight in Fes. We will be staying in the the new city of Fes, built by the French during their Protectorate of Morocco. This area has the feel of a French provincial town, with its cafés, restaurants and wide boulevards. Head off for a Moroccan feast at one of the many restaurants and finish off the night with some famous Moroccan mint tea. Overnight in Fes. Approx travel times: Casablanca to Meknes, 4 hrs, Meknes to Volubilis, 45mins, Volubilis to Fez, 2 hrs
Day 3 Fes (1B)
Today we have a half day medina walking tour, after which you will have some free time to explore on your own if you wish. The Fez medina is the world’s largest living medieval medina in the world & in the 11th century, was the largest city in the known world. We enter through one of the great gates into the chaotic, confusing & melee that is the Fez medina. We explore the medina’s many artisans’ quarters, such as the brass & copper souqs, the wedding souq & the carpenters plus its bakers, butchers & spice sellers, ending up at Fez’s famous Tannery, where we have great views from its panoramic viewpoints. We’ll also get to see its religious & historical heart when we visit Moulay Idriss II’s Mausoleum (the founder of Fez), the 14th century Bou Inania Medersa & the 9th century Al Karaouine University. This evening there may be the chance to partake in an optional dinner in a grand old Fez riad which has been converted into a spectacular restaurant. You would not only enjoy a delicious meal of local specialities, but also an evening of entertainment such as singing, music and belly dancing.
Day 4 Merzouga (1B,1D)
A very early start today (6am) as we have a full days drive today crossing the Middle Atlas Mountains to reach the edge of the Sahara. Keep your eyes open for a glimpse of Barbary apes en route. On our arrival, there will be a chance to repack and taking only our day packs with what we will need for this evening, in the late afternoon we set off on an hour's camel ride to our desert camp deep in the dunes. Your local guides will teach you how to mount and dismount and other handy camel-related safety tips. Be sure to get them to teach you the trick of tying your turban to keep the desert sun off your face and add a little flare to your photos. From your first cup of mint tea you'll enjoy a warm welcome at our desert camp. A traditional dinner under the stars, cooked by our hosts awaits. In the evening there will be time to hear stories about life in this region and perhaps, if we are lucky, we might be treated to some traditional music on the drums. Facilities are very basic - each tent Bedouin tent sleeps approximately 4 people but most people prefer to relax and enjoy the sounds of silence during a night under the starry desert skies. Mattresses and a sheet and blanket are provided. For those travelling in the winter months (Nov- April), we recommend a sleeping bag for additional warmth. It is back to nature as far as bathroom facilities go. There will be the chance to take a shower after breakfast on our return to our Merzouga auberge the following morning. Approx travel time: Fez to Merzouga,total travel time, 10 hrs Approx travel time: Merzouga to camp, 1 hr (by camel) Overnight in the Sahara Desert (Tented Camp)
Day 5 Todra Gorge (1B)
Today we rise before the sun and boarding our camels, watch the sunrise, casting different shadows and colours over the the sea of sand dunes, the highest in Morocco, before returning to our desert hotel. We continue through a stone desert to the stunning Todra Gorge followed by a visit to a valley palmery. Wedged between massive cliff walls, the gorge is filled with a green oasis of palm trees. This serene spot is great for hiking along, relaxing on the edge of the river or sampling some local Berber delicacies. We over night in Todra Gorge. Approx travel time: Desert Camp to Merzouga 1hr (by camel) Merzouga to Todra Gorge, 3.5hrs
Day 6 Aït Ben Haddou (1B)
We travel along the “Route of 1000 Kasbahs” to the thriving town of Ouarzazate where we will break for lunch. This town is home of Atlas Film studios, where many films have been shot over the years, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. We make our way to the fascinating and beautiful Aït Ben Haddou. Aït Ben Haddou is a wonderful example of a kasbah, a type of fortress or palace. Over the years it has been carefully restored and is now considered to be one of the best preserved kasbahs in the area. A few families still call the kasbah their home, but the majority of locals have gradually moved to the nearby settlement. During our visit to the Kasbah, lose yourself in the narrow, winding passageways and feel the magical atmosphere of this incredible structure. We overnight in Aït Ben Haddou Approx travel time: Todra Gorge to Aït Ben Haddou, 3.5hrs
Day 7 Marrakech (B)
Travel to Marrakech with breathtaking views through the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass (2260m). Arrive in Marrakech in time for lunch with the rest of the day free to wander the city. A great place to start is Djemaa el Fna square, the heart of Marrakech, that changes its offerings throughout the day. In the morning you’ll wander past the fresh orange juice stalls, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water bags and brass cups, and snake charmers reminiscent of an era past. As the day progresses the snake charmers are replaced by Chleuh dancing-boys, story-tellers, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As the sun sets, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls, packed with locals and the entertaining chefs and waiters. Grab a spot on a bench with the other diners and try the Tanjia (slow cooked lamb), Harira soup, grilled seafood, famous Moroccan couscous, tajine, snails or even sheep’s head for the truly adventurous, and wash it all down with some spiced tea. To really get a taste of everyday life in Marrakech, head into the maze of tiny streets and alleyways of the ancient medina. Tourists and locals alike will find everything they desire in the souks, whether it’s spices, traditional jalabas and slippers, or famous Moroccan lanterns, the selection here is exhaustive, and don’t forget to bargain, it's definitely part of the fun!!! For history and architecture buffs Marrakech is sure to dazzle. The Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Ben Youseff Medersa and Almovid Koubba are all easy to get to and well worth a visit. Once you’ve tired yourself out, relax at one of the tea houses around the square, indulging in the ubiquitous sweet mint tea, watching the hustle and bustle from your shady spot. We overnight in Marrakech. Approx travel time: Ait Benhaddou to Marrakech, 4 hrs
Day 8 Marrakech (B)
You are free to depart at any time today. Please note that check-out time from the hotel is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage facilities are available. We are able to organise extra post-trip accommodation if you wish to extend your stay for a few more days. Please ask at the time of booking.