Morocco safaris/ Moroccan Serenade
Cultural tours & visits to imperial cities ……
Day 1 – Casablanca
On arrival at Casablanca Airport, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. This is simply an arrival day so you may arrive at any time.
Note that hotel rooms are generally only available after midday. The balance of the day is free to explore your surroundings and your tour leader may make contact in the evening.
Day 2 – Casablanca – Rabat – Meknes
In Casablanca you will see the impressive Mosque of Hassan II, opened in 1993, and second only in size to the great mosque at Mecca. It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers and is one of the only religious sites open to non-Muslims.
Later you will drive to Rabat, the elegant capital of Morocco and your first Imperial city. It contains numerous fine Arab monuments, some dating to the Almohad and Merenid dynasties and others that are far older.
The earliest known settlement is Sala, occupying an area now know as the Chellah, where you’ll visit the remains of the citadel. You will also see the vast minaret of the Hassan Mosque and explore the lovely walled quarter known as the Kasbah des Oudaias. In the late afternoon you will continue to Meknes.
Day 3 – Meknes – Volubilis – Fes
This morning in Meknes you will discover the charming streets of the old medina – a perfect prelude to Fes. From the northern gate, Bab Berdaine, you’ll walk to the shrine of Moulay Ismail who, in the 17th century, turned Meknes from a provincial town to a spectacular Imperial city.
You’ll visit the lovely Bou Inania Medresse (religious school) and there’s time to explore the old souk. Volubilis was once a provincial Roman capital, a distant outpost of the empire, and as you approach it, you will see it prominently sited along the edge of a high plateau. Today it is the most impressive Roman site in Morocco and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. You’ll explore the many public buildings and at the House of Orpheus you’ll see several fine mosaic floors intact, before continuing on to Fes.
Day 4 – Fes
Spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco, Fes is vibrant, noisy, fascinating and overwhelming – a visual and pungent assault on the senses. It is made up of three distinct ‘cities’, or quarters, and you will be based in the elegant ‘Nouveau Ville’, or New City, which has a distinctly French/European character.
Today you’ll head into the old city, known locally as Fes el Bali, arguably the world’s most fascinating and confounding old city. Medieval Fes was one of the world’s great centres of education and culture: both Islamic and Jewish. Its religious institutions and its libraries are legendary. Its mosques are of great renown. And it was to Fes that many of the Muslims (and Jews) expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella came in 1492.
As you walk through the streets and alleyways, passing historic khans, medresses and dye-pits, it is not hard to imagine being back in the Middle Ages. Spend the day exploring the old city, visiting the Belghazi Museum, Medresse el Attarine, the tanneries and the splendid Funduk Nejjarine, a beautifully restored 18th century inn.
You will return to your hotel in the late afternoon.
Day 5 – Fes
Fes el Jedid, meaning New City (but not to be confused with the Nouvelle Ville) is also well worth a visit. Unlike Fes el Bali, which grew organically over the years, Fes el Jedid was an entirely planned city, built by the Merenids in the 13th and 14th centuries.
The imposing gateway of Bab Boujeloud leads you into broad streets, where public and private gardens add a splash of colour to the surroundings. Later, you will drive to nearby spa village of Moulay Yacoub. Here you can enjoy a swim (separate areas for men and women) or descend to the old thermal baths for a traditional hot bath.
You will return to Fes in the late afternoon. PLEASE NOTE: Due to traveller feedback, our leaders have proposed changing this side to trip a small village called Sefrou, about 30k from Fes. It’s a lovely little town, once home to one of Morocco’s largest Jewish communities. Your leader will explain the two options and you’ll have to make a group decision. Alternatively, you can spend the whole day in Fes.
Day 6 – Fes – Marrakech
You will bid farewell to Fes and set off on a five to six-hour drive to the fabled city of Marrakech, where you stay in a traditional riad within the medina.
This evening, why not head to Jemaa el Fna, the great square, one of the largest public spaces in the world. It’s unique to Marrakech and an excellent introduction to the city.
Every night it will come alive with snake-charmers, musicians, story-tellers, fire-eaters and hundreds of small restaurants; it’s like a magical, mystical, outdoor circus.
Day 7 – Marrakech
After breakfast you will set off on a morning tour of the old medina. You’ll visit the beautiful Bahia Palace, a splendid mansion built in 1866 for a former slave who had risen to a position of importance in the government of Moulay Hassan. Explore the tranquil inner courtyards, fragrant with orange blossom, and the many salons and chambers that make up this elegant home.
You will continue to the Marrakech Museum, itself a former palace, which houses a fine collection of Morrocan art and sculpture and you will then walk through the streets of the old medina as you make your way back to the Jemaa el Fna. The rest of the day will be free to explore further, or shop in the bazaar.
Day 8 – 9 – Marrakech – Essaouira
You will leave after breakfast and drive to Essaouira, a three hour drive away. The narrow streets of this charming coastal town are ideal for casual exploration. Their size discourages cars, and as you walk through the town it feels as though little has changed since the days of sea pirates.It is one of North Africa’s most attractive settlements and soon you’ll find ourselves slipping into its easy-going rhythm. The fishing port is a serious commercial operation and it is fun to observe the daily catch and its subsequent auction. Elsewhere there are markets, numerous shops and several fine art galleries to distract the visitor, along with a wide variety of restaurants.Your tour leader will help guide you through the maze of options.
Day 10 – Essaouira – Marrakech
There will be time this morning for either further exploration or relaxation before it is time to return to Marrakech.After settling back in to your hotel you will likely be drawn back to the Djemaa el Fna, and the surrounding medina. Eating out at one of the many outdoor restaurants overlooking the square is a great way to finish your trip.
Day 11 – Marrakech
Your trip will come to an end today after breakfast. Check-out time is usually around 12.00 noon and you are free to leave at any time. If you have arranged a private airport transfer you will be advised of the pick-up time. Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring