Imperial Cities, blue Chefchaouen, majestic Erg Chebbi dunes – 12 days

 

1st day: Casablanca – Rabat
Meet at the airport and travel into the city 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 the tickets, which cost about 100 per person, and the guided tour takes about an hour.

Continue to the capital city, Rabat, to visit the more of the medina, where you will be staying, the Oudaya gardens and Kasbah.  You will spend the night in a riad.

2nd day: Rabat to Chefchaouen
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.

Then we take the motorway north to Chefchaoeun, turning off to reach Ouazzane and later through the mountains to Chefchaouen. The evening can be spent wandering the lovely streets and up and down alleys and chilling in one of the many little cafés.

3rd day: Chefchaouen
Today can be spent relaxing in one of those many cafés, or wandering the streets some more, exploring the colourful shops, taking a myriad of photos of this exquisite, special little town, or walking in the hills on the other side of the river at the end of the town.

4th day: Chefchaouen – Fes
After breakfast, you leave to drive to Fes, which could take you via the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Roman remains of Volubilis, spread over a wide area and affording beautiful views over the valley and hills. Here you can employ a local guide for greater insight into the history of this fascinating and impressive site.

From here you can see and then visit the holy city of Moulay Idriss. Non-Moslems are not allowed entry into the mausoleum but the main square has lovely views and lovely little shops. Continue through the hills and past many farms to Fes for dinner and the night in a riad.

5th 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.

The university of the same name, founded by Fatima Al Fihri in 859 is said by Guinness World Records and by UNESCO to be the oldest university in the world.

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

6th 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, 1250 metres, with the geomorphologic Berber name meaning “stone” or “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.  Once again this is a Berber name, and as the word begins and ends with the letter “t”, it signifies it is feminine.

Then we reach Midelt, 1508m, which is called “the apple capital” of Morocco and lies at the foot of the Ayachi Mountain. This town serves as the commercial agricultural centre for the surrounding area, and 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 next travelling south 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 and so the shops are worth a visit. There is no obligation to buy anything!

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. Back at the camp, dinner is served, followed by an evening of music and the night in a nomad tent.

7th 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 returning to the bivouac for dinner and the night.

An alternative to this whole day is to spend another half day in the desert, and then to take the car round the back of the dunes.

Here at Khamlia, you will visit Berbers who perform Gnawa music brought to Morocco from sub-Saharan Africa during the slave trade. You could have a glass of tea with Berber nomads although communication is restricted to hands and feet as they only speak Berber and some Darija.

8th 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” – which you can descend into 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 where they are fed into the fields. 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, and 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.

9th day: Dades – Ouarzazate
After breakfast, a visit to the Dades gorges and a short walk there is scheduled. Back at the car, the trip to Ouarzazate continues, going off-road along the Boutarar piste to visit Berber nomads in their caves and partake of a glass of tea with them. This visit makes it clear to the visitor just how hard the existence is for these nomads in this very dry landscape, 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.  Further on 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.

10th day: Ouarzazate – Marrakesh
After breakfast, the route goes on to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO 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 Ounila Valley, full of bends in the roads and surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs.

We continue to Telouet set right in the midst of the mountains and 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, having been abandoned and plundered after 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.

11th 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, El Bahia Palace which means “the palace of the beautiful”, the Quranic School, the Ben Youssef Medersa which used to house some 80 Quranic students and the Saadian Tombs. You spend another night at your riad.

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

12th 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
12 Full-board
Total price
2 persons
1675 € *
3350 € *
3 persons
1585 € *
4755 € *
4 persons
1445 € *
5780 € *
5 persons
1355 € *
6775 € *
6 persons
1295 € *
7770 € *

We do not charge for children under 5 and there is a 25% reduction for children under 12.

– Transport in a private air-conditioned 4×4; Toyota PradoTx or Deluxe Van
– Fuel
– Experienced local English/French/Spanish/Italian-speaking Berber or nomad -driver/guide
– Accommodation in air-conditioned suites/rooms with a private bathroom
– Overnight in a standard or luxury camp in the desert according to preference          
All meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner (except in Casablanca, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech or Essaouira, where there are multiple restaurants and cafes to choose from)
– A vegetarian/vegan option
– A camel ride of about an hour – an hour & a half with a guide
– Sand-boarding, if desired
– 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 sites such as Ait Ben Haddou, Ounila Valley, for walks, photos, and tea/coffee breaks
– The choice of where to stop
– Entrance fees (except in Casablanca, Volubilis, Fes and Marrakech)
– Local guides
– Tea, coffee and mineral water in the desert
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