MOROCCO TRAVEL ITINERARY
May 18 - June 1, 2013
This trip will be led by Study Leader Dr. Susan Schaefer Davis,
Joan Noble as Tour Manager and special Moroccan guide.
See their credentials on the Opening Doors Main Page.
DAY 01 MAY 18 JFK – CASABLANCA
Depart on overnight flight to Casablanca.
DAY 02 MAY 19 CASABLANCA – RABAT
We arrive early this morning in Casablanca, where we are met by our guide and board our deluxe, air-conditioned bus which takes us to breakfast. We then have 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, taught in a women's center with Susan Davis when she was in the Peace Corps in the 1960s. 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 and Susan will describe the activities of the next several days. We'll enjoy a tour of Rabat that includes the grounds of the royal palace, the Hassan Tower and colonnaded esplanade, and the magnificent tomb of Mohammed V, the sultan who enabled Morocco to achieve independence in 1956.
HOTEL CHELLAH BLD
DAY 03 MAY 20 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. A short walk through narrow streets lined with interesting shops will lead us to the 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, see examples of the classic horseshoe arch, and pass by the oldest mosque in Rabat, dating from 1150 AD.
Lunch will be in a typical restaurant. Susan has arranged for a friend from the Women's Action Union to join us and discuss some of their projects benefiting local women. We wll visit one of them this afternoon.
HOTEL CHELLAH BLD
DAY 04 MAY 21 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'll stop at a ceramic workshop to see tiles, bowls and mosaics being made using traditional techniques. We arrive at our charming classic riad (a beautifully renovated former private home) in the early evening.
HOTEL RIAD YACOUT BLD
DAY 05 MAY 22 FES
Today we enjoy a full day tour , including the massive city walls, 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.
HOTEL RIAD YACOUT BL
DAY 06 MAY 23 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 20 minute stroll through the beautiful countryside, past orchards and fields, wildflowers in bloom, sheep and goats watching us from a hill and arrive at the farmhouse of Susan's friend Habiba. 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. Susan has assisted them in their marketing efforts. Visit Susan's website www.marrakeshexpress.org and click on "Women Weavers Online" for more information and photos. You will see Habiba and other women we will meet.
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 charming hotel. You may choose to relax around the lovely pool or take an optional walk through the small medina to see local minerals, madder root for dying wool and other local products.
HOTEL KASBAH ASMAA BLD
DAY 07 MAY 24 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, with a walk through an oasis to learn of local farming techniques. Stopping in the desert town of Erfoud , we change to Land Rovers 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 foam rubber mats, with sheets, on carpets over the sand; full bathrooms are available in the adjoining small hotel (which can be hot, as there is no air conditioning) OR stay in the charming small hotel nearby. Our 2005 trip stayed at the desert hotel, some in tents and some in rooms, and it was so hot no one slept – but we laughed a lot, between dragging our mats around looking for a breeze and covering ourselves with sheets when a small sand storm came up. You must decide this tent option before we leave the US in order to secure the space. There is a small supplemental charge ($60 per person) for this option.
HOTEL AUBERGE DU SUD (in the dunes) BLD
DAY 08 MAY 25 MERZOUGA – TINERHIR – TODRA – SKOURA
Returning to Erfoud, we change to our bus, pick up those at the hotel, and drive on to Tinerhir, a town along the road of the Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs. We drive a short distance into the stunning Todra Gorge, where we'll walk along the riverbed to the gorge to have lunch beside a clear stream. Returning to Tinerhir, we'll visit a Berber carpet shop. Here we will have the time to learn about the carpets we've seen along the way; they have an exceptional collection of all types Susan 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!
Our drive will continue along the Valley of One Thousand Kasbahs toward the oasis town of Skoura. We spend tonight in a beautifully renovated Kasbah that originally housed many families and was fortified against raiders from the desert.
HOTEL BEN MORO BLD
DAY 09 MAY 26 SKOURA – MARRAKECH
Susan has prepared another enjoyable and informative experience for us at the nearby village of Zawiyat Tidrhest. 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 the 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 "Sahara" 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 TICHKA SALAM BLD
DAY 10 MAY 27 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 Islamic Museum within the gardens contains a choice collection of Moroccan artifacts.
We'll continue exploring this exciting city – the Koutoubia Mosque, 14th c Ben Youssef Medersa (an ancient university) and of course the fabulous souk, 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!
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. A highlight will be our visit of the Bert Flint museum, a private collection of the best of Moroccan and Saharan artifacts.
HOTEL TICHKA SALAM BL
DAY 11 MAY 28 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.
HOTEL TICHKA SALAM B
DAY 12 MAY 29 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. You can even see Bob Marley's room in our hotel!
We'll enjoy a delicious seafood lunch along the oceanfront. Essaouira is charming: a clear blue sky accents 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.
PALAIS DES REMPARTS BLD
DAY 13 MAY 30 ESSAOUIRA
The whole day is for your exploring pleasure, 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!
PALAIS DES REMPARTS B
DAY 14 MAY 31 ESSAOUIRA – CASABLANCA
Mid morning we leave this special place and drive north towards Casablanca, 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.
OUM HOTEL BLD
DAY 15 JUNE 1 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.
$3,785 in double room LAND ONLY, based on 10 travelers minimum
If fewer than 10 sign up, there will be a small supplement charged in order
not to cancel the trip. Clients will be advised.
$625 single supplement if you desire to room alone, if available.
AIRFARE is approximately $1,300 including taxes, round trip from JFK, New York, as of today's date July 1, 2012. Royal Air Maroc is the only airline flying direct to Casablanca from the US. The trip begins the morning of May 19 at 9:00 a.m. If you fly Royal Air Maroc from JFK, the only direct non stop flight from U.S., the plane arrives around 7 a.m. Other airlines fly to Casablanca via Europe, arriving the following day around noon or later, so you would need to arrive in Casablanca a day early. Many of our travelers come in a day or two early to beat jet lag, so this flight arrangement would work. Whenever you arrive, you will be met by our representative and join the group.
EARLY ARRIVAL: We can make hotel and transfer arrangements for you if you want to arrive early. The cost for this is $195 double, $165 single per night.
- All hotels as indicated
- All meals as indicated (B=14, L=11, D=9)
- Deluxe air-conditioned private bus/driver with assistant to aid in baggage handling
- Bottled water in bus
- 4 wheel drive vehicles for Sahara tour
- Special English-speaking guide
- Anthropologist Dr. Susan Schaefer Davis as Study Leader
- Joan Noble as Tour Manager
- All sightseeing and entrance fees
- Special visit to Bert Flint Museum
- Sunset camel ride in Sahara
- Specially-arranged home visit & meals in several villages
- Special meetings and talks with local women leaders
- Weaving demonstrations
- Private reading by renowned Moroccan woman author
- Baggage handling
- Taxes and services in restaurants and hotels
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
- International air fare
- Meals not included in itinerary
- Items of a personal nature (i.e. phone calls, alcoholic drinks, laundry, etc.)
- Tips for guide and drivers
- Additional meals are approximately $25.00 per person for a full dinner. The guide and your tour leaders are always available to make dinner recommendations and assist in every way to make your trip enjoyable.
- Tipping is recommended but optional to guide and driver. Suggested tips are $6 a day for the guide, $4 a day for the driver and $1 a day for his assistant.
A NOTE ABOUT HOTELS: We have chosen comfortable, centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels in the cities. The country hotels are the best available; we have included ones of architectural and cultural interest.
FITNESS AND HEALTH: The trip is not strenuous, and anyone who is reasonably fit and in good health should be able to participate. The international flight from JFK/New York City is six-and-a-half hours. 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.
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.
PRICES BASED ON CURRENCY EXCHANGE AS OF TODAY'S DATE