Moroccan Imperial Cities and Sahara Desert (9 Days)
Day 1: Transfer from Marrakech airport
We will pick you up fromthe airport at Marrakech, and transfer to your hotel or Riad, where you will have dinner and spend the night.
Day 2: Marrakech – Casablanca
We leave our hotel after breakfast and travel to Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city and economic capital, steeped in history and full of famous landmarks like the splendid Hassan II Mosque, the largest in Africa and 7th largest in the world, with its towering minaret, which at 210 metres is the world’s tallest. We will experience Casablanca old and new, visiting both the old medina and Place Mohammed V, a busy shopping street lined by residential blocks dating back to the 1930’s, the United Nations Square and the league of Arab States Park with its palm trees.
We will have dinner here and spend the night in a hotel.
Day 3: Casablanca – Rabat – Meknes – Fez
We have an early breakfast then set off at 8.00am to Rabat, Morocco’s second largest city, situated on the Atlantic coast. This is the capital city and residence of the King of Morocco.Here we will have time to visit the city’s many attractions, including the beautiful Mausoleum of Mohamed V, the imposing Hassan Tower (all that remains of a once-splendid ancient mosque), Chellah Gardens and Necropolis, and the Oudayas Kasbah.
We have lunch in Rabat, then continue on our journey. We visit the holy Islamic town of Moulay Idriss, followed by UNESCO World Heritage site, Meknes. This was the 16th century capital whose ruler, Moulay Ismail, modelled himself on Louis XIV of France, the ‘Sun King’. After, plundering his country he opened his spectacular palace decorated with colourful and intricate stucco work, huge and beautifully detailed bronze doors and many stunning mosaics.
Next we visit the magnificent Roman ruins of Volubils, the Mauritanian capital founded in the 3rd century B.C., once the westernmost outpost of the Roman Empire and now another UNESCO World Heritage site.
We then continue our journey to Fez,the oldest city in Morocco and home to the world’s oldest university, where we have dinner and spend the night in a hotel.
Day 4: Fez
We spend our fourth day visiting the city of Fez, where the strolling through the old town or Medina is like stepping back in time. This beautifully preserved medieval city is one of the most complete medieval cities in existence, and yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, with its magical maze of alleyways and bustling markets or souks, all surrounded by high wall.
But this is more than a well-preserved ruin, it is a living city, filled with noisy hawkers selling everything from colourful vegetables, to delicious middle eastern pastries flavoured with cinnamon and honey. Mind your back for the passing of the only transport – mules or donkeys! The haunting sound of the call to prayer resonates over the rooftops whilst artisans noisily beat metal into pans and intricate metal-ware using the same techniques they have used for centuries.
Also worth visiting are: the Medersa(or religious schools) of el-Attarine and BouInania, with their fine examples of Merenid craftsmanship and fabulous views of the old city from the rooftop of el-Attarine; the Nejjarine fountainwith its beautiful mosaics; the El Karaouyine mosque, and the spectacular main gate of Baba Jloud.
Day 5: Fez – Midelt –Eroud–Merzouga Dunes
We leave our hotel after breakfast and travel through the beautiful Ziz valley, the town of Errachida and Midelt, with its breath-taking views of the High Atlas mountains in the distance, seeming to rise from nowhere.
We stop for lunch then drive to Merzouga, where we can have a quick swim in the hotel pool, before it’s time to mount our camels and ride to our desert campin the Erg Chebbi dunes. We ride for around two hours to the oasis where we will camp overnight. We have dinner and spend an unforgettable night around the campfire, sleeping in tents or under the stars.
Day 6: Merzouga Dunes – Toudra Gorges – Tinghir – Dades Gorges.
We wake you up half an hour before sunrise so you can see the magical spectacle of the light changing gradually before the sun appears over the dunes. Then we ride our camels back to the hotel at Merzouga, where we can have a shower and breakfast.
After breakfast, we re-join our driver and vehicle, and travel to the Dades Gorges. We stop at the magnificent Todra Gorge, which in places measures just 10m across huge with cliffs on either side. We will go for a short trek through the canyons, which are very popular with mountain climbers, with cliffs rising to around 300m high in places.
Next we have lunch, before continuing to the Dades Gorges, where we will have dinner and spend night in a hotel.
Day 7: Dades Gorges – Valley of Roses – Skoura Palm – Ouarzazate
We leave our hotel at 8.00am after a typical Moroccan breakfast, andtravel through the Dades Gorge along the “Road of a thousand Kasbahs”, a spectacular drive winding through stunning desert landscapes. We pass through a part of the Dades Valley known as the “Valley of Roses”, famous for the cultivation of roses, and the rose festival held there each year.
We stop for lunch before continuing to Ouarzazate,sometimes known as ‘the Hollywood of Africa’ because it is home to Atlas Studios, where films such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gladiator” were made.
You will have free time to explore Ouazazate and see the many sights on offer: such as the beautiful medina built of the same red clay, which is so typical of the region; and Taourirt Kasbah. This sumptuous 19th century palace, comprising some 300 rooms, was home to some of the family of T’hami El Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakech until 1956, who, supported by the Colonial French government, controlled all the caravan trade routes to West Africa and ruthlessly suppressed local rebellions.
Later we have dinner and spend the night in a hotel.
Day 8: Ouarzazate– Ait Benhaddou Kasbah – Marrakech
We leave the hotel after breakfast and first go to visit the famous Atlas Film Studios. Next we travel to Kasbah Ait BenHaddou, a beautiful fortified city of terraced kasbahs, the largest of its kind in Morocco. The site is amongst the best examples of earthen construction in existence, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It may also look familiar, as it was the location where many of the films made in Atlas Studios were shot, such as “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Alexander” and “Gladiator”.
We have lunch nearby, then cross back over the High Atlas mountains to Marrakech, via the Tizi n’ Tichka Pass, or ‘Gateway to the Sahara’, which at 2260m is the highest pass in North Africa, with stunning panoramic views.
We arrive in Marrakech around 5:00pm and drop you off at your hotel, where you will have dinner and spend the night.
Day 9: Transfer to Marrakech airport
We pick you up from your hotel and take you to the airport at the right time for you to check in for your return flight.