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Please note that this tour has been extended by one more day in 2014. Please see trip code DCMH.
You are welcome to arrive in Casablanca at any time, as today is a designated arrival day with no planned activities. Please note that there will be an important welcome meeting this evening at our joining hotel. Please check the hotel notice board for more information on the location of this meeting or ask at reception. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting, as you will be required to fill out some important pre-trip admin documents. After learning more about our tour and plans for the following day, you are welcome to join the CEO and your travelling companions for an optional dinner.
Please note, this tour does not spend any time in Casablanca. You may wish to come a day early in order to explore Casablanca's small medina, beachfront and classic examples of Art Deco architecture. Be sure to visit the spectacular Hassan II mosque. Entrance is only permitted via guided tours which operate from Saturday to Thursday (closed Fridays) at 09h00, 10h00, 11h00, and 14h00. Please refer to optional activity section of these notes for prices. These times are subject to change (particularly around Ramadan) please double check these times with your hotel.
Overnight in Casablanca.
A general note about this tour. This is a very fast paced itinerary which covers lots of ground. While this is great as it allows us to see a huge amount in the available time, it also means some early starts, some long drives in the mini van and less free time than many other G Adventures.
This morning, we drive from Casablanca to Meknes. In the afternoon we enjoy a guided tour of Meknes.
We start our guided tour in front of the impressive 18th century Bab Mansour, the ornamental gate to the imperial city of Meknes built by Sultan Moulay Ismail in honour of himself. The gate faces Place el-Hadim, where, after dark fills with many Moroccan families coming to be entertained by story-tellers, snake-charmers, horse rides & medicine men. To the left of the square you’ll find one of Morocco’s most colourful & friendliest fresh produce souks and home to the city’s famous confectionaries. Behind the square is the entrance to the rambling souks where you can discover the many artisans and their crafts.
From here we enter what is left of the imperial city (Meknes was flattened by a huge earthquake in 1755) and visit the small but impressive Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. Then we will pass by the entrance of the Meknes Royal Palace and end up at Moulay Ismail’s massive Heri es Souani. This was his personal stable & granary for his 12,000 horses.
Overnight in Meknes.
Approx travel time: Casablanca to Meknes, 4 hrs excluding stops
This morning we'll make our way through the rolling hills for a guided visit of the impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis, the best preserved Roman ruins in this part of Northern Africa. Once an important Roman town, the site is situated near the westernmost border of the Roman Empire. In 1997 Volubilis was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wandering through the deserted streets where chariots once passed, you can envision the vibrance the town once had. Listen to your certified local guide explain about life in the Roman Empire as you peer into old bathhouses, marveling at the still-present mosaic floors and gazing up at the towering marble pillars.
We leave the Roman Empire to make our way to Fes. We will be staying in the the new city of Fes, built by the French during their Protectorate of Morocco. This area has the feel of a French provincial town, with its cafés, restaurants and wide boulevards.
The Fes medina is the world’s largest medina with over 9,000 winding streets lying within 365 hectares. Buildings within the medina date back to the 9th century, during the 11th century Fes was the largest city in the known world. There are 350 mosques in the medina where the locals can enter to pray, which devout Muslims do five times a day as part of the five pillars of Islam.
We enter through one of the great gates into the chaotic, confusing and melee that is the Fes medina. We explore the medina’s many artisans’ quarters, such as the brass, copper and wedding adornment souks. The carpenters, bakers, butchers & spice sellers also have their area of the medina that they call home. A highlight is a visit to the famous Fes tannery, where we have great views from a panoramic viewpoint over the men hard at work treating and dying the different hides.
We’ll also get to see its religious and historical heart when we visit Moulay Idriss II’s Mausoleum (the founder of Fes), the 9th century Al Karaouine University and one of the many Medersas (Koranic school).
This evening, why not head off for a Moroccan feast at one of the many restaurants and finish off the night with some famous Moroccan mint tea.
Day 4 is free for you to explore more of the Fes medina or the new town (Ville Nouvelle) at your leisure. Your CEO will provide you with options for your day, including transport options to get you from the hotel into Fes medina.
(Please note, only certified local guides are allowed to guide in the medina, so for the free day your CEO cannot accompany you here, but will be able to help you find a local guide if you wish. Of course you are also welcome to just wander at your own speed - just remember to find a map!
Overnight 2 nights in Fes.
Approx travel time: Meknes to Volubilis, 45 mins. Volubilis to Fes, 2 hrs excluding stops.
Today we have a full travel day through the diverse landscapes that make Morocco so unique. Pass through the cedar and pine forests, keeping an eye out for Barbary apes. Pass over the Middle Atlas Mountains through the pre-desert countryside with its deep gorges filled with splendid oasis of green palm groves, finally arriving at the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.
We spend the night in a desert auberge (simple hotel), located right on the edge of the dunes. Here we will have dinner local-style and spend the night. Please note, some rooms may have shared bathroom facilities at the desert auberge.
Day 6 is free until we head out on our camel safari in the late afternoon. Why not spend the cool of the morning exploring the undulating golden sands of the dunes. Or simply relax by the pool or read a book in the cool communal couch area.
We also offer an optional activity of a 4x4 safari into the sand dunes of the Sahara desert. Ask your CEO for more details and current price of this exciting adventure.
Taking only our day packs with what we will need for this evening, we set off on an hour's camel ride to our desert camp deep in the dunes. Your local guides will teach you how to mount and dismount and other handy camel-related safety tips. Be sure to get them to teach you the trick of tying your turban to keep the desert sun off your face and add a little flare to your photos. From your first cup of mint tea you'll enjoy a warm welcome at our desert camp. A traditional dinner under the stars, cooked by our hosts awaits. In the evening there will be time to hear stories about life in this region and perhaps, if we are lucky, we might be treated to some traditional music on the drums.
Facilities are very basic - each Bedouin tent sleeps approximately 4 people but most people prefer to relax and enjoy the sounds of silence during a night under the starry desert skies. Mattresses and a sheet and blanket are provided. For those travelling in the winter months (Nov- April), we highly recommend a sleeping bag for additional warmth. It is back to nature as far as bathroom facilities go. We will have breakfast upon our return to our Merzouga auberge.
Day 5: Overnight in Merzouga (Auberge); Approx travel time including stops: Fes to Merzouga, 10-11hrs
Day 6: Overnight in the Sahara Desert (Nomad Camp); Approx travel time: Merzouga to camp, 1hr (by camel)
We rise early for a morning departure by camel from the camp and return to our auberge where we have our breakfast. Continue by bus to Tinehrir and into the Todra Valley. Enjoy a walk in the lush palm groves and learn more about local life in this region, including which crops are grown and how the land is farmed. You may even be lucky to taste some of the fruit in season straight from the source.
Head to the stunning Todra Gorge, we spend the night in this beautiful and peaceful area. The Todra River has carved out cliff-sided canyons through the mountains with the final 300m of the gorge being the most spectacular as the canyon narrows to a flat stony track as little as 10m wide in places with sheer and smooth rock walls up to 160 m high on each side.
Today the Todra River looks more like a stream as it runs its way through the gorge, with hotels and restaurants huddled against the steep walls. It is easy to walk through the gorge, there is a well-maintained dirt road to walk along. The scenery is spectacular.
While staying in a hotel nestled in between the sheer cliffs of the gorge you will have the chance to enjoy a relaxing evening indulging in local Berber cuisine. Please note that due to location, the hotel power is run by a generator and the electricity is turned off every night at approximately 11pm. We recommend bringing a headlamp for getting around at night if necessary.
Overnight in Todra Gorge.
Approx travel time: Merzouga to Todra Gorge, 4-6 hrs with stops.
This morning we continue along the "Route of a 1000 Kasbahs" to Ouarzazate where we will take our lunch break.
We continue on to the village of Aït Ben Haddou. Aït Ben Haddou is a wonderful example of a collection of kasbahs (a type of fortress). Carefully restored over the years and now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered to be one of the best preserved kasbah villages in Morocco. A few families still call the kasbah their home, but the majority of locals have gradually moved to the nearby settlement. During our visit to the Kasbah, lose yourself in the narrow, winding passageways and feel the magical atmosphere of this incredible structure.
This evening there may be the chance for an optional cooking class. Learn the secrets of how to make the perfect tagine and then sample your skills for your dinner. Once at home you can impress your friends with your culinary skills!
Overnight in Ait Ben Haddou.
Approx travel time including stops: Todra Gorge to Ait Ben Haddou, 5-6 hrs.
We leave the pre-desert country for the magnificent High Atlas mountain landscape, crossing the Tizi n’Tichka pass at 2260m, before heading into the splendid Toubkal National Park, passing through small villages on winding mountain roads, arriving at the village of Imlil. Packing just what we need for one evening, our daypacks will be transported by mule as we embark on the walk from Imlil to the little village of Aremd (1 hour), arriving at our simple mountain gîte for the night.
While the walk to the gîte is uphill, we will take it at a slow pace and it is achievable by anyone of average fitness. Accommodation is multi-share, up to 6 beds in each room. Bedding is provided but you will need to bring a sleeping bag for additional warmth if travelling in the months Nov-April. You will also need to bring your own bath towel. Bathroom facilities are shared.
Tonight we enjoy a homemade dinner of local produce in the cozy salon. Settle in and enjoy the tranquility, fantastic views and clean mountain air of this magical region.
Overnight in the High Atlas mountains (Aremd).
Approx travel time: Ait Ben Haddou to Imlil, 5hrs
Approx walking time: Imlil to Aremd, 1 hour
After breakfast we'll walk back out to meet our transport in Imlil and head to the coastal town of Essaouira, arriving in the mid-afternoon. Upon arrival we take an orientation walk of the old Portuguese port area, the fortifications and the centuries old medina, enabling you to make the most of your explorations tomorrow.
Day 11 is free to browse the many shops for the many crafts on sale, watch the brightly painted ships bring their catch into the busy harbour or take a stroll along the long, sandy beach. It's a perfect place to enjoy some local seafood and unwind. You might even like to enjoy some of the wide variety of activities on offer such as wind surfing and horse riding. Your CEO can arrange camel riding on the beach in Essaouira for you, please ask them for more details if you are interested.
Overnight in Essaouira.
Approx travel time including stops: Imlil to Essaouira, 5hrs
Approx walking time: Aremd to Imlil, 1 hour
In the morning, we continue our journey to Marrakech. Once arriving in the red city join your certified city guide for a tour of the Marrakech medina. Visit the historical Koutoubia Minaret and gardens, Bahia Palace, the Mellah and the Saadian Tombs. Take note as your guide takes you through some of the local souks with their narrow, winding streets. Once the tour is finished you are free to discover the secrets of this amazing, ancient city at your leisure. Once you’ve tired yourself out, relax at one of the tea houses around the square, indulging in the ubiquitous sweet mint tea, watching the hustle and bustle from your shady spot.
Day 13 is a free day to explore. A great place to start your adventure is Djemaa el Fna square, in the heart of the medina. The square changes its offerings throughout the day. In the morning you can wander past the fresh orange juice stalls, water sellers in colourful costumes with traditional leather water bags, brass cups, and snake charmers reminiscent of an era past.
As the day progresses the snake charmers are replaced by Chleuh dancing-boys, story-tellers, magicians, and peddlers of traditional medicines. As the sun sets, the square fills with dozens of food-stalls, packed with locals and the entertaining chefs and waiters. Grab a spot on a bench with the other diners and try the Tanjia (slow cooked lamb), Harira soup, grilled seafood, famous Moroccan couscous, tajine, snails or even sheep’s head for the truly adventurous, and wash it all down with some spiced tea.
To really get a taste of everyday life in Marrakech, head into the maze of tiny streets and alleyways of the ancient medina. Tourists and locals alike will find everything they desire in the souks, whether it’s spices, traditional jalabas and slippers, or famous Moroccan lanterns, the selection here is exhaustive, and don’t forget to bargain, it's definitely part of the fun. Perhaps end the day like a local with an optional group dinner in the famous food stalls of Djemaa el Fna.
Overnight in Marrakech.
Approx travel time: Essaouira to Marrakech, 3-4 hrs
You are free to depart Marrakech at any time. Please note that hotel check out time is normally mid-morning, but luggage storage is available (possible extra charge to be paid locally). We are able to organise extra nights accommodation if you wish to extend your stay. Please enquire at the time of booking.