Sample itinerary for you to consider...
DAY 01 USA – OVERNIGHT FLIGHT TO EUROPE
Overnight flight connecting in Europe for flight to Casablanca. Meals aloft.
DAY 02 CASABLANCA
Transfer to your flight to Casablanca. Upon arrival at Casablanca airport, you will be met by our representative and driven to your hotel. Meals on own.
HOTEL HYATT REGENCY CASABLANCA
DAY 03 CASABLANCA
And the journey begins! Meet your guide in the lobby at 9 a.m. and enjoy a guided tour of the renowned Hassan II mosque, one of only two mosques in Morocco which non Muslims may enter. Completed in 1994, with space for over 80,000 worshippers, this architectural marvel is the second-largest mosque in the world. Our guide will discuss Islam and the architecture associated with one of the world's great religions. The calligraphy, mosaics, carved cedar panels and sheer grandeur of this holy place will hold us in awe.
Driving into a typical middle class neighborhood in Casablanca, we meet our first Moroccan family and experience our first taste of Moroccan hospitality. Our hostess, Halima, and her family have prepared a delicious lunch for us, and will be pleased to answer our questions – and she may have a few of her own!
Bidding farewell to the family, we drive an hour north along the Atlantic coast, arriving in the capital city of Rabat. En route, our guide will describe the activities of the next several days. We'll enjoy a tour of Rabat, the Hassan Tower and colonnaded esplanade, and the magnificent tomb of Mohammed V, the sultan who enabled Morocco to achieve independence in 1956.
HOTEL DIWAN LD
DAY 04 RABAT
Joining us for breakfast is one of the most famous women writers of Morocco. She'll share her fascinating history with us, as a woman in a man's profession – in an Islamic country. After breakfast, we'll stroll through the medina (old city) of Rabat, lined with interesting shops. Our walk will lead us to discover the fascinating Kasbah des Oudaias, over 1000 years old. Kasbah means a fortified town and refers to the architecture of this place. Wonderful photo opportunities abound along the way – carved doors, flowers against white and blue walls, cats asleep on windowsills. During our stroll through the neighborhoods, we can observe the differences between the layout of buildings in Europe and North Africa, seeing examples of the classic horseshoe arch.
Lunch will be in a typical restaurant. We may arrange for a colleague working on various projects benefiting local women to join us for lunch, and perhaps visit one of the projects this afternoon.
HOTEL DIWAN BL
DAY 05 RABAT – KHEMISSET – FES
We drive east to Khemisset and visit the weekly open-air souk, a market where rural people still purchase most of their supplies. The vendors, who come in from the countryside, display their wares under canvas, sheltering themselves and their products from the sun; fruits, vegetables, herbs, clothing, tools, hand-woven rugs and many other items are on sale for the local people who come to shop.
Lunch en route as our drive continues through the fertile landscape to Fes, the quintessential Islamic city. Founded in 909 AD, Fes is the intellectual and spiritual capital of today's Morocco. We arrive at our charming classic riad (a beautifully renovated former private home) in the early evening.
HOTEL RIAD SALAM FES BLD
DAY 06 FES
We begin our day with a visit to a ceramic workshop to see classic tiles, bowls and mosaics being made using traditional techniques. Our full day tour will include the city walls, the dramatic bronze doors of the king’s palace, the Andalucian area, a Koranic school for young children and so much more. Lunch will be in a classic restaurant in the medina. Later we will explore the narrow streets where no cars or trucks may enter – only donkeys, which carry produce, materials, and any other items requiring transport in or out of the medina. We see coffee shops filled with men in their djellabas (classic hooded robes), deep in conversation, carts selling nougat and colorful prayer candles, mounds of fragrant mint and shops where woodcarvings, clothing and jewelry are sold. Entering the extraordinary world of the leather tanneries, we climb several flights of stairs for a dramatic view of the dye vats below, with men working in them as they have for centuries. The surrounding rooftops are spread with drying skins in a myriad of brilliant colors. This marvelous medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
HOTEL RIAD SALAM FES BL
DAY 07 FES – MIDELT
Our drive south, about 2 hours, takes us through the green countryside into the Middle Atlas Mountains. Our destination is the tiny village of Ben Smim. We enjoy a 30 minute stroll through the beautiful countryside, past orchards and fields, wildflowers in bloom, sheep and goats watching us from a hill and arrive at our friend's farmhouse. The women of the household have prepared a delicious lunch for us and we'll talk about their trials and successes in selling their traditional weavings.
After lunch, we continue south for a few hours, through several dramatic and ever-changing geological areas, from agricultural plains through forested mountains to the desert. We'll enter the lush cedar forests near Azrou, and can stop for a walk to look for the Barbary apes which often can be seen foraging on the ground or sitting in the trees – a sight unexpected in Morocco! Our bus climbs into the Middle Atlas Mountains, where the landscape changes yet again. Moorlands, granite outcroppings, brooding skies and sheep pastures are reminiscent of the British Isles. Arriving in the thriving town of Midelt, we go to our hotel, the best in town.
HOTEL TADDART BLD
DAY 08 MIDELT – ERFOUD – MERZOUGA
Heading further south, we witness yet another geological change as we enter the dramatic Ziz Valley, often called "The Grand Canyon of Morocco". The River Ziz has cut a deep gorge through the Atlas Mountains, creating magnificent scenery. We climb high into the mountains and descend into valleys of green oases. Lunch en route at the home of an anthropologist friend of Susan. Stopping in the desert town of Erfoud, we change to 4 wheel drive vehicles to make our way into the Sahara.
After an hour's drive, we arrive in Merzouga in time for a sunset camel ride into the towering, majestic dunes of the Sahara. This is the Erg Chebbi, the largest area of sand dunes in Morocco. The stars become bright in the darkening sky and huge masses of sand rise up before us as we ride into the dunes. As the sun sets, the desert around us is transformed: the light on the sand changes from beige to orange to ochre to purple – a stunning experience. Dinner under a Berber tent awaits us, complete with music and dance.
There are two choices for an overnight . You may choose to spend the night in a Berber tent, sleeping on comfortable cots, with sheets and blankets, on carpets laid over the sand; bathrooms are located near the tent OR stay in the charming small hotel nearby.
HOTEL AUBERGE DU SUD (in the dunes) BLD
DAY 09 MERZOUGA – TINERHIR – DADES GORGE – SKOURA
Returning to Erfoud, we change to our van and drive on to Tinerhir, a town along the road of the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. After lunch , we'll visit a Berber carpet shop, with the time to learn about the carpets we've seen along the way; they have an exceptional collection of all types. Your guide, and one of the blue-robed Berber men, will talk about the various styles, colors, designs and concepts as we are shown typical examples — while sipping the ubiquitous mint tea, the classic offering of hospitality in Morocco. Rugs can be purchased and either shipped home, or packed for carrying on the plane. Be sure to bring color swatches and measurements from home — you will find yourself irresistibly drawn to a carpet — or two!
We continue our drive and turn off to visit the stunning Dades Gorge, with dramatic rock formations. Returning to the main road, we drive toward the oasis town of Skoura. We spend tonight in a charming renovated small adobe kasbah and enjoy dinner prepared by their talented French chef.
HOTEL AIT BEN DAMIETTE BLD
DAY 10   SKOURA – MARRAKECH
Another enjoyable and informative experience awaits us at a tiny village, where we can visit the homes, the combined pre-school/Koranic school and the inspiring small museum they have created. The women here worked with a U.S. development organization, the Near East Foundation, which helped them set up cooperatives for weaving, raising chickens and other income-generating projects. They'll demonstrate their weaving techniques, which we can also try. Rugs, wall hangings, embroideries, charming and interesting small paintings can be purchased. We'll discuss economic development with the members of the local village association, made up of both men and women. Other villagers will prepare lunch for us.
Bidding farewell to these hospitable and enterprising people, we head for Marrakech. We drive through Ouarzazate, the administrative center for most of the south, and gateway to the southern oases, but better known for its film industry. "The Gladiator", "The Mummy" and "Babel" are some recently made here. We climb up and over the High Atlas Mountains through the Tiz-n-Tichka pass, at 7400 feet, through the ever-changing gorgeous landscapes into Marrakech.
With its red walls, the great souk, ancient monuments and blue backdrop of the often snow-covered High Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is one of the world's most distinctive cities. Compared with the European flavor of Casablanca, and the Arab character of Fes, Marrakech moves to the beat of an African drum. The exciting square of J'ma el Fna awaits us, taking us back 2000 years in time. Storytellers, clairvoyants, snake charmers, trance dancers and water sellers in traditional dress abound; enticing aromas add to the rich texture – the colors and pulse of Morocco.
HOTEL JARDIN DE L´AGDAL BLD
DAY 11 MARRAKECH
We begin the day with a visit to the beautiful Majorelle Gardens. Originally the home of French painter Jacques Majorelle, it was purchased and renovated by French couturier Yves St. Laurent, whose villa is adjacent. The Berber Museum, within the gardens, is not to be missed, with a superb collection of Moroccan garments, jewelry, household objects, crafts, etc.
We'll continue exploring this exciting city – the medina, filled with stalls and shops with olives and preserved lemons; dried figs and dates; workshops of handcrafted wood, leather and brass, both decorative and practical. An informative visit to a shop selling the very best of the crafts will educate us as to what we'll see in the other shops, and help us to judge the various qualities available. We'll visit a fascinating Berber pharmacy to learn of ancient and current curative practices, medicines, and spices. This is a great place to purchase gifts!. The Bahia Palace, for the personal use of a Grand Vizier, will show us private apartments, grand receiving rooms, lush courtyards, gorgeous cedar ceilings, mosaics and massive painted doors.
Our stroll continues through the narrow streets, giving us a sense of the pace of daily life. We may see a young boy taking his family's bread to the community bakery, veiled women in djellabas, children playing and people coming to and going from the many neighborhood mosques. All this accompanied by delicious smells wafting from open windows of living quarters hidden behind the walls, with perhaps a contented cat asleep on a window sill.
HOTEL JARDIN DE L´AGDAL BL
DAY 12 MARRAKECH
You have the entire day at leisure to spend relaxing at the hotel pool, or exploring the streets and markets on your own. Our guide is always available to suggest activities and restaurants for you.
An optional cooking class can be arranged with renowned Chef Tarik in his beautiful organic garden just outside Marrakech; this would include an afternoon class and dinner. Past travelers say it is a trip highlight!
HOTEL JARDIN DE L´AGDAL B
DAY 13 MARRAKECH – ESSAOUIRA
A three and a half hour drive takes us west to Essaouira, stopping to visit a women's argan oil coop, producing products from this indigenous nut. Long known as Mogador, from the Phoenician word migdal, or lookout tower, Essaouira has been home to Phoenicians, Romans, Portuguese, and a large Jewish population, including the father of Benjamin Disraeli. The Romans were interested in the purple dye extracted from local shellfish. Pliny the Elder wrote of the dye's power to pacify the gods, and describes its use with gold in ceremonial dress reserved for the use of royalty. Essaouira is also the location where Orson Welles' "Othello" was filmed, and has long been a destination for artists and musicians from all over the world.
We'll enjoy a delicious seafood lunch along the oceanfront. Essaouira is a charming, bustling fishing village, with the clear blue sky accenting the white shops and houses; motorized traffic in not permitted in most of the narrow streets. We'll stroll through town and along the colorful harbor, stopping to admire the plethora of crafts spilling out of tiny shops and the many art galleries.
HOTEL DAR L'OUSSIA BLD
DAY 14 ESSAOUIRA
Morning tour of silver workshop and unique thuya wood workshop. The rest of the day is free for you to explore, to have coffee or mint tea in the squares to watch the world pass by, shop in the many stalls and stores offering hand made slippers, antiques, jewelry, rugs – or perhaps stroll through the small souk and admire the beautiful displays of spices and fish fresh from the port. Photo opportunities abound!
HOTEL DAR L'OUSSIA B
DAY 15 ESSAOUIRA – CASABLANCA
Mid morning we leave this special place and drive north towards Casablanca, along the beautiful Atlantic coast, stopping for lunch at a delightful restaurant on the beach. The colorful garden is worth the stop! We arrive in Casablanca late afternoon, allowing us time for last minute organizing and packing. A farewell dinner is planned for this evening.
HOTEL HYATT REGENCY CASABLANCA BLD
DAY 16 CASABLANCA – USA
We leave the hotel this morning and transfer to the airport for our return flight to the U.S., taking with us memories and new friendships that will last a lifetime. B
Please note: Changes in content, pacing, hotels, etc., may occur due to circumstances beyond our control. Be assured we strive to make necessary changes equal or superior to original plans.
A NOTE ABOUT HOTELS: We have chosen comfortable, charming and well-located hotels in cities. The country hotels are the best available.
FITNESS AND HEALTH:
The trip is not strenuous, and anyone who is reasonably fit and in good health should be able to participate. Some days the group will spend several hours in a vehicle traveling between destinations. Rest stops and photo stops are planned approximately every two hours.
You may need to walk up to 3 miles some days, over cobblestone streets and uneven dirt paths; some hotels and the tanneries require climbing steep stairs. We rely on you to correctly assess and inform Noble Journeys of your health and physical abilities, and to confirm you have not recently been treated for, nor are aware of, any physical or other condition or disability that would create a hazard to yourself, or a hazard or inconvenience to other tour participants. The tour operator and/or tour leader has the right to decline any person as a member of the tour, and to require any participant to withdraw from the tour at any time. (See Assumption of Risk in the Conditions & Responsibilities attached to the Reservation Form.)
The maximum altitude you will reach on this trip is about 10,000 feet above sea level, while crossing over the mountains. If you have any questions about your ability to participate in this trip, please contact us for more information.
INSURANCE: You should also be aware that medical services or facilities may not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication. It is strongly recommended that each traveler be covered by trip cancellation, interruption, medical and emergency evacuation insurance. Noble Journeys recommends, but is not responsible for, insurance through Travel Insured International.