Imperial Cities, Berber villages, Erg Chebbi desert (10 days)

 

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Overview:

Experience authentic Moroccan culture during this 10-day Morocco tour from Casablanca, that combines the Sahara Desert and the 4 imperial cities including Marrakesh, Rabat, Fes, and Meknes.

Begin your holiday in Morocco with a memorial visit to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, and explore the main attractions of Rabat, such as the Hassan Tower, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the Medina.

Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour in Fes: the medina, the Royal Palace, madrassahs, the leather tanneries, and more. Go for a walking tour in Marrakesh to discover its vibrant souks, colourful gardens, madrassahs, beautiful palaces, and Djemaa El Fna.

Ride camels in the golden dunes of Erg Chebbi, take photos of your party wearing turbans the nomad way, practice sand-boarding, and walk barefoot in the dunes.  Dance to Berber music rhythms and relax in your own private comfortable tent in a luxury desert camp near the big dunes.

Go on a full-day camel trekking in the highest Sahara Desert dunes in Morocco, take a half-day 4×4 tour around the dunes, and to Khamlia village, or simply relax in the camp reading your favourite book.

Meet local people, explore the most famous Kasbahs in Morocco, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, Telouet, and Amredhil, cross the Dades Valleys and hike in the Toudgha Gorges. Enjoy scenic views driving along the Atlas Mountains and spend nights in beautiful riads and authentic guest-houses.

 

Main Highlights:

  • Visit the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca and photograph its tourist spots
  • Explore Rabat and its main attractions, including the Hassan Tower, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the Medina
  • See the UNESCO Heritage Sites: the Roman ruins at Volubilis and the holy city of Moulay Idriss
  • Photograph the ancient walled medina of Meknes and the beautiful old gates
  • Full-day walking tour in Fes, stopping at souks, leather tanneries, madrassahs, and mosques
  • Ride camels in the Sahara Desert in an unforgettable experience and enjoy the spectacular sunset and sunrise from the top of the dunes
  • Spend an exceptional night in your private tent in a luxury desert camp
  • Stay in beautiful riads and authentic guest-houses
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Kasbahs Ait Ben Haddou and Kasbah Telouet
  • Discover the Berber culture and the lifestyle of the Nomads
  • Tour Marrakesh attractions with a local guide: vibrant souks, colourful gardens, madrassahs, beautiful palaces, and Djemaa El Fna
  • Enjoy the stunning views of valleys, villages and palm groves during the drive to the desert and over the mountains

 

What is included:

  • Transport in a private air-conditioned 4×4; Toyota Prado Tx or deluxe van and fuel
  • Pick-up from and drop-off at your hotel or riad and transfer from and to the airport
  • Experienced local English/French/Spanish/Italian-speaking Berber and nomad driver/guide
  • Accommodation in air-conditioned rooms/suites with private bathroom
  • Overnights in a luxury camp in Erg Chebbi with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space, and pleasanter furnishings
  • All meals; (except lunch, dinner in Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Marrakesh, and the journeys in between) – with vegetarian and vegan options available
  • Camel rides of about an hour – an hour & a half with a guide, and free sandboarding, if desired – just ask the camp staff
  • Option to go to and return from the camp by 4×4
  • Luggage service to the camp and all accommodation
  • Berber drumming and music
  • Free time to explore the sites such as Ait Ben Haddou, the Ounila Valley, for walks, photos, and tea/coffee breaks
  • The opportunity to ask the driver to stop when and where you wish
  • Entrance fees (except in Casablanca, Rabat, Fes and Marrakesh)
  • Local guides in the relevant places
  • Tea, coffee and mineral water in the desert

 

What is not included:

  • Lunch and dinner in Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, and Marrakesh, or the journeys between the cities
  • Entrance fees in Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, and Marrakesh, or the journeys between the cities
  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Extras

 

Know before you go:

  • Visiting the Hassan II mosque is not possible on Friday or religious holidays
  • Additional activities, such as quad-biking, day trips, cooking classes in Fes or Marrakech, can be added to this tour
  • You can choose to go to the camp either on camelback or by 4×4 (then you go for a camel ride)
  • This Moroccan tour from Casablanca can be tailed to fit your points of interest
  • You can always consult your driver about skipping some places to spend more time elsewhere
  • You can ask us if others are interested in sharing the tour
  • We require a 30% deposit of the total price to book the car, while the balance is payable to us in the office in Ouarzazate
  • There is a 25% reduction for children under 12 years old, whilst we do not charge children under 5
  • These prices are liable to fluctuation according to the current exchange rate

 

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Itinerary:

1st day: Casablanca – Rabat
Meet at the airport and travel into the city of Casablanca with the first views of the Moroccan country-side. Visit Hassan II mosque (not possible on Fridays or religious holidays), the largest mosque in Africa and decorated with beautiful tiling of the utmost craftsmanship. You may need to queue a while for tickets and the tour takes about an hour.

Continue to the capital city, Rabat, to spend the night in a riad. You may have time to wander around the medina and get a feel of this city.

2nd day: Rabat – Fes
After breakfast in the riad, we visit the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, built in homage to the king, who passed away in 1961. His son and successor, Hassan II, who died in 1999, is also entombed here. The tile work inside the mausoleum is simply amazing, with every tiny tile cut and then set in place by hand. The guards’ uniforms are really splendid, too.

North of Meknes, we stop to visit Volubilis and the Roman ruins there, which are expansive and spread over a wide area. It is well worth hiring a local knowledgeable guide here. From the plain, there are beautiful views over the valley and hills. Continue to Fes for dinner and the night in a riad.

3rd day: Fes Sightseeing
Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour in Fes which is the oldest of Morocco’s four “Imperial Cities”. The medieval city of Fes El Bali, or “Old Fes” remains complete and is unspoiled. During your tour of this part of the town, you can visit the exotic Bou Inania Medersa, the Medina and the Kairaouine Mosque, where you may take photos of the wonderful courtyard from the main gate.  You can also visit the mize-maze of souks.

In the afternoon you could visit Fes El Jdid, or “New Fes” and the Museum of Moroccan Arts. The night is spent in the riad.

4th day: Fes – Merzouga
Departure from Fes at 8 o’clock, travelling past Ifrane, where the houses have sloping roofs, remarkable and unusual in Morocco.  This is to cope with the yearly snowfall.  Near Azrou, 1250m, with the geomorphologic Berber name meaning “rock”, you can see Barbary apes in the oak and cedar forests of the Middle Atlas.

From here we drive along the N13 south over the Middle Atlas, passing through Timahdite. This is another Berber name, and as the word begins and ends with the letter “t”, it signifies it is feminine.

We reach Midelt, 1508M, which is called “the apple capital” of Morocco and lies at the foot of the Ayachi Mountain. The town serves as the commercial agricultural centre for the surrounding area. It is also one of Morocco’s principle cities for the mining of several minerals, such as fluorite, vanadinite, quartz, and cerussite.  This is where we will stop for lunch.

We continue south travelling over the Tizi-n-Talghemt pass, known as the “she-camel” pass.  We descend through the Ziz Valley, which is particularly well-known for its palm trees and the length of the oasis. All along the road, there are innumerable “ksars”, small villages of individual houses. From here, we reach the mining town of Er Rachidia (e.g copper and malachite) and then Erfoud, famous for its date festival and fossils. It is fascinating to see how these millions of fossils have been worked into artifacts.  There is no obligation to buy anything in these shops!

You continue to Rissani and finally the famous red Erg Chebbi dunes in Merzouga. You take a camel ride of an hour to an hour & a half, either setting out from the camp or to it. There is also the possibility to take the 4×4 to the camp.

You have dinner and spend the night at a luxury camp with private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.

5th day: Merzouga
After breakfast, you take the camels, either riding or walking behind, as they carry everything needed to cook your lunch, which will be prepared out in the dunes by your camel man. You’ll walk about three hours in the morning, followed by another three in the afternoon.  You return to the bivouac for dinner and the night.

Alternatively, after breakfast, you will explore the desert area more fully. First of all, you will be visit the Gnawa people in the village of Khamlia. They specialize in Gnawa music brought from sub-Saharan Africa with the slave trade. They will play some typical music for you.

Afterwards, you will visit the old city of Rissani. This small town was the foundation of the Alaouite dynasty – the current ruling royal family in Morocco. It is surrounded by 360 ksars (a ksar is a fortified village with many towers) and has a large souk (an open market) held three times a week. Here you’ll walk through the souk, which sells spices, vegetables, household goods and handicrafts. Rissani has been built on the site of Sijilmassa, which was the meeting place for the salt caravans, coming from Timbuktu in Mali.

And then in the afternoon, you will mount your camel, and be led by an experienced camel man through the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi at Merzouga for an hour to an hour and a half to watch the sunset.

6th day: Merzouga – Dades
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the colour of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight.  After breakfast at the camp, we leave for Tinghir and the Toudgha gorges.

On the way, you pass the water channels – “khettarat”.  You can descend into them to appreciate the architecture and genius behind this form of irrigation which prevents evaporation in the summer heat. The channels start at a higher gradient at one end until they finally emerge at the surface of the soil. You can find out more about these channels by reading Andrew Wilson’s work.

In the gorge and the valley, there are opportunities to walk beyond the gorge itself or by the village gardens and fields before you reach it. Later the itinerary continues to the Dades Valley. The area, which now forms the Dades Gorges, lay at the bottom of the sea millions of years ago. Great quantities of sediment were deposited around giant coral reefs. Over time this material became compacted into a variety of sedimentary rocks such as sandstone and limestone. Eventually, the movement of the earth’s crust caused the region to rise above the sea, forming the Atlas Mountains and surrounding landscape. The night is spent in a hotel or kasbah.

7th day: Dades – Ouarzazate
After breakfast, a visit to the Dades gorges and a short walk there is scheduled. Later we go off-road along the Boutarar piste to visit Berber nomads in their caves and have tea with them. This visit makes it clear to the visitor just how hard nomadic existence is, trying to feed their goats and bring up their children.

From here we continue through the Valley of the Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Cosmetics and toiletry items are produced and valued throughout the country.  In Skoura and the oasis there, Kasbah Amredhil waits for a very worth-while visit.  The kasbah has been beautifully restored and gives a clear idea of life within such housing.  It is made entirely of adobe, an excellent building material; warm in winter and cool in summer, due to the thickness of the walls.

45 minutes later you reach Ouarzazate, where you spend the night in a guest house.

8th day: Ouarzazate – Marrakesh
After breakfast, the route goes on to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco’s seven World Heritage sites, and the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters. It is the most famous Kasbah in Morocco and some of the buildings date back to the 17th century.  From here you drive along the beautiful and awe-inspiring, winding Ounila Valley, full of surprises at the colours of the rock and soil and Berber villages and gardens.

We continue to Telouet set right in the midst of the mountains. It was once the seat of the last Pasha of Marrakesh, El Glaoui, from where the highest pass in Africa, Tizi-n-Tichka was controlled. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain after it was abandoned and plundered when Thami El Glaoui, fled the country following the departure of the French in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah.

At the end of the afternoon, having crossed the Tichka pass, we arrive in Marrakesh.

9th day: Marrakesh Sightseeing
Marrakech is probably best known for central Djemma El Fna with its juice stalls, dried fruit and nut stalls, women applying henna, snake charmers, storytellers and the myriad of nightly food stalls.

You will visit the following places according to time and inclination: the Majorelle Gardens which belonged to Yves St Laurent and is famous for its special shade of blue, the Koutoubia Mosque, the El Bahia Palace which means “the palace of the beautiful”, (don’t miss out the lovely garden right at the back), the Qoranic School – the Ben Youssef Medersa which used to house some 80 Qoranic students,the Saadian Tombs, the Jewish souk in the Mellah, and the paradise garden of le Jardin Secret. You spend another night in your riad.

Instead of the walking tour of Marrakesh, we could organise a cooking class for Moroccan cuisine. This would add an extra fee.

10th day: Marrakesh to Casablanca
Transfer from your riad to Casablanca airport in time for the check-in before your flight.

Prices per person

No Days Meals
10 All inclusive
Total price
2 persons
1495 € *
2990 € *
3 persons
1195 € *
3585 € *
4 persons
1045 € *
4180 € *
5 persons
955 € *
4775 € *
6 persons
895 € *
5370 € *
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