This exciting 14 – night Morocco itinerary includes culture, UNESCO sites, Islamic and Jewish sites, adventure and culinary delights. You will see wonderful cities along with villages, the countryside, mountains, gorges, the desert and the sea.
Meet and greet at the airport. Tour Casablanca. Casablanca is a modern city and the trade capital of Morocco. Your tour in Casablanca includes Hassan II Mosque which is located by the sea and features a 200 – meter minaret that dominates the city’s landscape. Visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism. Head to the Jewish club, ‘Cercle d’Alliance’, for lunch. Visit Temple Beth-El. Beth-El that is considered the centerpiece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its stained – glass windows and other artistic elements is what attracts tourists to this synagogue. You have an option to visit Temple Em Habanim and Neve Chalom if time allows. Head to the hotel and check in. Welcome dinner at Rick’s.
After breakfast, transfer to Rabat and tour the Royal Palace and Hassan tower which stands on a hill overlooking the Wadi Bou Regreg. It is a gigantic mosque famous for its unfinished minaret. Next door, visit the beautiful Mausoleum of Mohammed V decorated with stained glass windows, white marble and a wrought iron entryway with a stairway leading to an impressive dome. Visit the Jewish Mellah which today is the home of very few Jewish families. You have an option to visit the seaside community in Sale, which is the birthplace of Rabbi Hayyim Ben Moses Attar. Attar was an 18th century Kabbalist born in Morocco in 1696.
Continue to Chefchaouen for overnight.
After breakfast, enjoy sightseeing of Chefchaouen which is a charming village in Morocco. Their Kasbah built in the 15th century is worth a detour. Chefchaouen is about losing yourself in its streets without any precise goal. Inside the ancient gated medina nearly every building is painted a shade of cerulean or azure. Twisting cobblestone paths lead up and up around the ocher colored Kasbah to a landscape of green hills and mountaintops with an uninterrupted sky extending beyond.
After breakfast, drive to Ouazzane, the holy city for Moroccan Jews who still make pilgrimages there to venerate the tomb of several marabouts (Moroccan saints) particularly Moul-Anrhaz, the local name for Rabbi Amram ben Diwan, an eighteenth-century rabbi. He lived in the city and his burial site is associated with a number of miracles. It is also known in Morocco and throughout the Islamic world as a spiritual capital for it was home for many of the pillars of Sufism.
Drive to Volubilis to explore the UNESCO Roman ruins. Only about half of the 40 – hectare site at Volubilis has been excavated.
After the tour of Volubilus, enjoy lunch at a vineyard. The vineyard has beautiful manicured gardens and traditional fountains. Linger for a wine tasting of their white and red wines.
Drive to Meknes. This city has winding narrow medina streets and grand buildings. Remnants of no less than three sets of fortifications ingeniously incorporated into the city’s road networks make it clear how important this city once was. The king’s tomb sits at the heart of what remains of the original Imperial city flanked by an almighty royal granary, the magnificent Bab el-Mansour.
After a tour of Meknes, continue to Fez for overnight.
After breakfast, a half-day is dedicated to the city tour of Fez. The medina of Fez el-Bali (Old Fez) is the city’s great draw. It’s an assault on the senses, a warren of narrow lanes and covered bazaars fit to bursting with aromatic food stands, craft workshops, mosques and an endless parade of people. Old and new constantly collide. The man driving the donkeys and mules is likely to be chatting on his mobile phone while the ancient skyline is punctuated equally with satellite dishes and minarets.
The tour will include Bab Boujloud and Jamaa Al-Karaouine, the world’s first established university. It is one of Africa’s largest mosques and possibly the oldest university in the world. This complex is the spiritual heart of Fez and Morocco. Visit the Chaouwara tanneries. This is one of the city’s most iconic sights, offering a unique window into the pungent, natural process of producing world class leather using methods that have changed little since medieval times.
Visit the Dar Batha Museum.
Explore the Mellah (Jewish district) of Fez founded in 1438. It was once home to tens of thousands of Jews, 40 synagogues, the Beth Din, communal ovens, ritual baths and schools. Visit the recently restored Ibn Danan synagogue, the oldest extant synagogue in Fez. Until very recently abandoned and decaying, its restoration was part of a comprehensive UNESCO project to preserve the monuments and fabric of medieval Fez. Its rededication in February 1999 was attended by over 400 people from all over the world. Visit the vast Jewish cemetery opposite the gates of the Royal Palace and the nascent Jewish museum at the Em Habanim Synagogue.
In the afternoon, head into the souks for a culinary tour. You will visit three different food souks allowing the chance to try traditional Moroccan street food including dried meats, milawi, harsha, briwats, soups, olives and more. At the honey souk, you’ll be able to taste an array of delicious wild honeys, discuss their flavors and health. Find out why honey is so important in the Moroccan cooking culture. You will visit a furnatchi where the water for the communal bathhouse ‘hammam’ is also heated, a 400-year-old ‘furan’ or communal oven and bakery.
In the evening, head to a traditional Riad in the medina to enjoy your dinner over a discussion of Moroccan history and culture with a prominent Moroccan academic. She is currently carrying out multi – disciplinary work focused on the reigns of female sovereigns in the kingdom of Morocco from the medieval period through the early modern era.
Leaving Fez, drive through the Middle Atlas into the south with a break in the quiet French built alpine resort town of Ifrane.
Continue your journey while you enjoy the views of verdant cedar forests, volcanic mountains, wind-swept plains, spectacular gorges and stony desert. Travel along the marvelous oasis of the Ziz Valley before arriving Erfoud, the port of entry to the Saharan dunes. Known by the name of “the Gate of the Sahara Desert”, it was built by the French around the 1920’s as a French administrative outpost and foreign legion stronghold. This frontier town on the Algerian border has a definite wild west feel (in this case, wild south) to it. Fossilized bathtubs and moist, sweet dates are its current claims to fame, though it was once the end of the road.
Continue on to Merzouga, the heart of the desert. Surf the sandy sea on a powerful 4 WD Land Rover. Ride a camel to enjoy the sunset on the dunes. Dinner and overnight in a Berber tent.
This day is all about exploring the desert. You will start with an ATV / Quad tour of the dunes. Driving over the peaks and valleys of the dunes is the best way to experience its expansiveness. Your ATV guide will help you discover the best views and most exciting trails. Later, head to a small oasis right in the middle of the dunes. This is where you will spend time with a nomad family. It will be a magical moment when you chat with them about their way of living. Enjoy your lunch with the nomads.
Afterwards, if weather (not too hot) and time permits, enjoy sometime at the swimming pool in Merzouga village. Transfer for sand sliding (snowboarding but on the desert’s slopes). Finally, as the sun starts to set, enjoy a camel ride into the desert to experience the changing colors of the sand, the sky and the first twinkling of stars surrounded by dunes with no sounds other than the wind. A rewarding dinner under the tent or outside is waiting for you.
After breakfast, head to Tinghir via Tinjdad. Start the tour of Tinghir where a good number of Jews used to live during the 20th century. You will visit the Jewish quarter, the area where Jews used to live in coexistence with the local Berbers and the Jewish cemetery. In the north of Tinghir, you will visit the Jewish village of Asfalou.
Enjoy time in the famous Toudgha Gorges, a 300m cut deep wall into the mountains of the High Atlas. There will be an optional lunch in Toudgha Gorges. Transfer to Kelaat M’Gouna along the Dades Valley. Kelaat M’Gouna is a large village famous for cultivating roses.
Continue to the valley of Skoura for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, head to explore Ouarzazate. For centuries, people from the Atlas, Draa and Dades Valleys converged to do business at Ouarzazate’s sprawling Taourirt Kasbah. The movie business gradually took off in Ouarzazate after the French protectorate left in the 1950s.
On to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains with some great views, stop for a break en route to see the Kasbah at Ouarzazate, the African center of saffron. If time allows and fifteen kilometers west of Taliouine, visit the Mellah of Ighil N’Oghou (Primitive road). On the way, taste tea with saffron and lunch with a local Berber family.
Continue to Taroudant. On the way, stop at Arazan village to visit an extraordinary synagogue built entirely of clay and bricks. One of the only Adobe synagogues in the world. This Adobe synagogue has Hebrew prayers painted on its earthen walls and its ark is adorned with Amazigh (Berber) alphabets letters and decorations. It’s one of the best kept secrets of Morocco.
Taroudant is a large walled Berber market town. Its souks are reputed to be the best in the south with some excellent local crafts on sale. As you are off the main tourist trail here, you’ll have a more authentic glimpse of everyday life, as well as finding better value in the markets than in Marrakech. The town walls are some of the longest and best preserved in Morocco with their mud construction changing color atmospherically as the day progresses.
Head to the coast and stop at Morocco’s main resort town of Agadir. Take a short tour of the harbor and the famous High Kasbah destroyed by the earthquake of 1960.
Enjoy lunch before continuing along the coast towards the North Atlantic coastal town of Essaouira. Well regarded as one of Morocco’s most beautiful areas, Essaouira has always attracted and inspired artists, drawn by its good light and tranquil, relaxed way of life. Wander around the old Medina with its fascinating streets dotted with art galleries. Essaouira has a wide sandy beach, though the prevailing winds and currents mean this is more of a mecca for kite surfers than for swimming.
Enjoy a full guided tour of Essaouira, a charming and exotic seaside town on the Atlantic coast. Essaouira, with its beautiful fortified walls and busy fishing harbor, is known as the “Windy City of Africa” and has preserved a truly Moroccan charm. Walk along the city walls north of Moulay Hassan Square and then continue on to Skala de la Ville where you will enjoy an unmatched view of the city’s port and its beautiful collection of bright blue fishing boats. Explore a few Jewish sites including the Slat Lkahal synagogue, Synagogue of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, Bait Dakira and the Jewish cemetery. Head to the Medina, where artists continue to hone their crafts just as they have for centuries and merchants in the many souks (or markets) will have plenty to offer including spices and jewelry. Return to your hotel for overnight.
After breakfast, depart Essaouira for Marrakesh. On the way, you cross many Argon oil fields and Women Argan Cooperatives that produce all Argan products from cooking oil to beauty items. Visit an Argan Cooperative where you’ll observe the extraction of Argan oil. Continue to Marrakech.
An exciting day awaits you as Marrakesh’s heady sights and sounds will dazzle, frazzle and enchant. Your morning city tour will include: Bahia Palace, the Dar Si Said, the Saadian Tombs, the Museum of Mouassine and the Museum of Marrakech. Marrakesh is a city steeped in ancient artistry that continues to thrive kept alive by the modern craftspeople of the souks and the contemporary art and design scene of the new town. Your visit will include the Koutoubia, Dar El Bacha, the old Jewish district of the mellah, Lazama Synagogue and the Miaâra Jewish Cemetery.
After lunch, stroll through the labyrinth of narrow streets in the medina and visit the famous souks, selling everything from leather to clothing to spices. Late in the evening, head to la Maison Arabe to enjoy your dinner.
Day at leisure or take a cooking class with the executive chef, Azzeddine Bennouna, at the farm. Make it a retreat day at the farm with various activities.
Depending upon your flight time, transfer to the airport.