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Pickup time at leisure ( Preferably morning time )
Upon arrival to Casablanca, the largest city of the country, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. (Depending on your arrival time,) you would be able to go for a visit to the Great Mosque Hassan II where you will meet a fascinating example of the Moroccan architecture. It is the largest mosque in the kingdom and the fifth largest mosque in the world. It stands on a promontory looking out on the Atlantic, and has space for 25,000 worshippers.
Leaving Casablanca the economic capital of Morocco, to the political one Rabat where we will see the Oudaya Kasbah and its beautiful gardens, The Kasbah of the Oudaya is located at Abou Regreg River. It was built during the reign of the Almohad dynasty in 1150 AD. The Mausoleum of Mohamed V and Hassan II, Hassan Tower which is the minaret of an incomplete mosque in Rabat constructed in 1195 AD. The tower was intended to be the largest minaret in the world with the mosque. After we finish our sightseeing tour in Rabat we head to Fez on the express road. On the road you will get fascinated by the thousands and thousands of olive trees and farmlands on the two banks. Upon arrival to Fez, we check into the hotel for the night.
After visiting the economic capital Casablanca and the political one Rabat, here we go for another adventure through the intellectual capital of Fez which was considered Mecca of the west and Athena of Africa. It is the biggest city of the country after Casablanca with a population of approximately 1 million. This city is a former capital and one of the country’s four imperial cities. Fez comprises three distinct parts, Fez el Bali which is the oldest part surrounded by a big wall, with more than 9000 narrow streets and allies. Fez-Jdid or the new Fes, home of the Mellah the Jewish quarter and the Ville Nouvelle the newest section of Fez created during the French occupation. Fez el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its medina is the largest in the world.
On the way to Meknes we will go back in time to 3th century by visiting the most important archaeological site in Morocco, Volubilis, which features the best preserved Roman ruins in this part of Northern Africa. So it is not by chance this roman ruins in 1997 were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. From Volubilis we go on our way to Meknes that was named after a Berber tribe which was known as Miknasa in the medieval North African sources. Meknes was the capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismail (1672–1727). He built in the ingeniously designed granaries, really fascinating architecture of tiny windows, massive walls. We will stop as well to get pictures of Bab Al Mansour the Great gate built in the 11th century by King Al Mansour Adahbi.
On the way we will pass through the most modern and clean city in the country- Ifran. This Berber name of Ifran means caves and it is nicknamed in Morocco as the little Switzerland since it is a very green town and is the ski resort of the Middle Atlas region of Morocco because of its high altitude of 1665 meters. Ifran is very known as well by Al Akhawayn private university, an international university established in 1997 by the king of Morocco Hassan II and the king of Saudi Arabia Fahd. Where all classes are taught in English. Lunch will be scheduled in a Berber village called Midelt which is situated on the foothills of the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains. From vast plateau we start crossing up those tough mountains which are still settled by a big Berber community. The landscapes here includes palm tree oases at Jbel Ayachi (at 3747 m) before driving down the curves and join the pre-Saharan zone passing first by Errachidia and Erfoud, which is famous for its pottery and the interesting fossil quarries. Fossils are a major industry in Erfoud, some 350 million years ago the region around Erfoud was a part of the huge ocean. Heading up to the red colored sand sea dunes of Erg Chebbi at Merzouga via Rissani, the hometown of the Alaouite dynasty, where Moulay Ali sheriff started to unify Morocco under his red flag in the beginning of the 17th century. From a vast plateau you will get impressed by the huge sand dune of Merzouga appearing from the horizon. Night and dinner at our hotel.
Through the sand dunes we go for a drive on these fabulous landscapes on the edge of the Erg Chebbi, the largest sand dunes in Morocco. We will see plenty of nomadic black tents in the middle of nowhere. We shall stop by a nomadic family to have tea and see what a nomadic life looks like. We go on our drive to discover more of the nomadic life of Touareg people by visiting Alkhamliya, a village where nothing has been changed for centuries. Either we lunch here in Alkhamliya village or we go back to our hotel and lunch there. After a nap we go on a camel ride to meet one of the most fascinating sight you would ever have seen- the superb sunset in the middle of the high sand dunes of Merzouga. Tonight we stay in Berber tent desert camp and enjoy a wonderful stars view.
Visit Arrissani and the Mausoleum of the founder of the Alaouite Dynasty of Morocco, Moulay Ali Chrif in the 17th century. This silent town was the ancient capital of Tafilalet and its location as a crossroads between north and south brought the city to an important status of a former major caravan center. Up to now Rissani remains a major commercial center in the region, with a large souk, particularly lively today on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sunday. It was noted for its leather and goat skin trading in ancient ages. A 127 km from Errisani the great canyons of Morocco- Todgha Gorges are situated beyond the central high Atlas Mountains. Here, the contrasting landscapes remind visitors of the Colorado, with its high plateau, its gorges and great canyons, and its peaks sometimes splintered by erosion. Several peaks in this area exceed 4000 m, with Jbel Saghro 2500 m and Jbel Mgoun at 4068 m being the highest peak in this part of the High Atlas. The area is populated by Berbers. Here you can enjoy a hike among those fabulous canyons.
From the great canyons of Todgha we go along the road of 1000 Kasbahs, since there are enormous Kasbahs on both sides of the road. Some of those old fortified houses are restored but unfortunately a lot of them are ruins. A visit to one of those Kasbahs is scheduled by seeing Amrhidil Kasbah. We pass a town called Boumalen situated on the edge of Dades valley which rises in the High Atlas Mountains, giving life to a huge Berber community by its rich agriculture. Along this valley another valley called valley of roses appearing with the green colors of its Alfalfa plants, olive trees, fig trees and grapes. This valley gives birth to a rose from which locals produces different cosmetic products like soap, perfumes and skin creams. Locals here celebrate this rose by organizing a national festival each end of April. Getting to Ouarzazate (Hollywood of Africa, Noiselessly town, The door of the desert), is a city situated in the middle of a bare plateau, south of the High Atlas Mountains. It is mainly inhabited by Berbers, who constructed many of the prominent Kasbahs and buildings for which the area is known. One of those buildings is Taourirt Kasbah diverted in 17th century. Why this town is nicknamed as Hollywood of Africa? Simply because it has been noted as a film-making location, with Morocco’s biggest studios inviting many international film companies to shoot their movies like: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997) and Babel (2005).
35 km from Ouarzazate is the fortified Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou, built in the 11th century. Once up on a time this Kasbah was on the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It is situated on a hill along the Ounila River and has some beautiful examples of Kasbahs, which unfortunately sustain damage during each rainstorm and windstorms. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; however, around five families are still living within the Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou. The Kasbah has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 and several films have been shot there, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Time Bandits (1981), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), Kundun (1997), Gladiator (2000) and Alexander (2004). From this beautiful fortified Kasbah we head south west to the town of Taroudant. It is called the “Grandmother of Marrakesh” because it resembles Marrakesh with its surrounding ramparts. The ramparts of the town are nearly 6 kilometers long. It has the feel of a small fortified market town on some caravan route. It is also known for its local crafts like jewelry and carpets. Taroudant contains almost the whole city within its walls. However, a new area is being developed outside the city walls. Under the Saadi Dynasty Taroudant knew its golden age, especially under the reign of Mohammed ash-Sheikh, who constructed the city walls and built the great mosque and its beautiful minaret in 1528. The town became the capital of the Saadians. Taroudant has rich plain and farms of grapes, corn, grain and oranges, etc.Today the town is a notable marketing town and has a souk near each of its two main squares, Talmoklate. Not that far from Talmoklate square is the Arab souk that specializes in handicrafts such as pottery, leather, carpets, rugs and jewelries.
Almost 70 km from Taroudant is the city of Agadir. The capital of Berbers since it is the biggest Berber city all over the kingdom. Agadir is also a very modern city that is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, near the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It has the most important fishing and commercial port of Morocco; moreover it is the first sardine port in the world, (exporting cobalt, manganese, zinc and citrus). It is also a seaside resort with a long sandy beach. Because of its large buildings, wide roads, modern hotels, and European-style cafés, Agadir is not a typical city of traditional Morocco, but it is a modern, busy and dynamic town and very famous for its sea food. Along the ocean we drive north for almost 200 km towards Essaouira. On the Atlantic Ocean this is a waves-town, with its white painted houses and their blue windows and doors, a well-designed picture. Since the 16th century, Essaouira has also been known by its Portuguese name of Mogador. The Berber name means the wall, a reference to the fortress walls that originally enclosed the city.
A one day on your pace will be for sure wonderful, since there is no way to get bored. Due to the plentitude of activities you will be able to enjoy amazingly as Essaouira is well renowned for its kite surfing and windsurfing, with the powerful trade wind. Horse riding, camel riding along the beach and quad biking are activities that one can enjoy while staying in Essaouira. It is known by the delicious seafood too. Several small art galleries are found all over the town. Since 1998 Essaouira has become known for its Gnaoua Festival of World Music. Normally it is scheduled around the last week of June. It brings artists from all over the world. Although focused on Gnaoua music, it includes rock, jazz and reggae. In the early 1952 the film director and actor Orson Welles made his movie Othello here and now there is a square named after him.
Around half way between Essaouira and Marrakesh you will see enormous Argan tree on both sides of the road. These Argan trees are frequently climbed by goats. Argan oil is produced by several women’s cooperatives and it is used to prepare couscous, salads. Moreover it was traditionally used as a treatment for skin diseases before being founded as good enough for cosmetics by Europeans manufacturers. A stop by one of these cooperatives is worthy to see how Berber women squeezed the Argan fruits between hands to extract this precious oil. We arrive to our hotel in Marrakesh and if time permit we go out for a walk.
A Full guided tour will be scheduled to discover Marrakesh which is known as the “Red City”. Marrakesh is the most important former imperial city in Morocco’s history. It is situated near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountain. Like all the old cities, Marrakech comprises both an old fortified city, the Medina, and a very modern city called Gueliz built during the French occupation. Marrakesh has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna. The square is full of story-tellers, water sellers, dancers, snakes charmers and musicians. During the night the square turns into a huge open-air restaurant.
During our visit we will see The Koutoubia Mosque, built in the 12th century in the reign of Almoravid Dynasty. We will go through narrow streets and allies in the ancient city. We pass by “seven saints” during the reign of Moulay Ismail, the festival of the seven saints was founded to the request of the Sultan. The tombs of several renowned figures were moved to Marrakesh to attract pilgrims.
Marrakesh was dominated in the first half of the 20th century by T’hami El Glaoui, “Lord of the Atlas”, and Pasha of Marrakesh. Still there is a house called Dar Pacha El Glaoui from where he used to rule the whole southern part of Morocco.
After the full guided tour, you will be able to discover more of the Red City of Marrakesh on your own as you become familiarized with the alleyways of the medina. You may go on a shopping tour on your own in a local market and the scattered shops by the Square. This will be end of our private tour. Have a nice trip back home.