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Colors of Morocco
Upon arrival you are met by your expert local guide and assisted through Moroccan customs and immigration. Before departing Casablanca for the hour drive to Rabat, visit the beautiful Hassan II Mosque, dramatically poised on the Atlantic coast. The second largest mosque in the Islamic world, this architectural masterpiece is larger than Saint Peter’s in Rome, and capable of holding 80,000 worshippers. After time to freshen up at your Rabat hotel, enjoy a tour of this Imperial city. Visit the labyrinthine Kasbah des Oudaias, and explore its lovely gardens. Tour the Mohamed V Mausoleum, the resting place of the late King Mohammed V and of his son. See the minaret of the Great Mosque, and the majestic 12th century Hassan Tower, whose construction was left unfinished at only half of its intended 260‐foot height.
Begin Day 2 with a visit to the ancient necropolis of Chellah, whose ruins date from the Roman to Islamic periods. Then drive inland to the ancient Imperial City of Fes, exploring some notable archaeological wonders en route. Tour Volubilis, an extensive UNESCO World Heritage Center, filled with ancient Roman mansions, monuments and mosaics. View the splendid Moulay Idriss Mausoleum, the holiest Muslim site in Morocco, and then stop in the Imperial city of Meknes, whose origins trace back to the Roman occupation in 3 B.C. There are 25 miles of ramparts, imposing monuments and babs (gates), a huge underground granary, and stables that housed the Sultan’s 20,000 horses.
Explore Fes with a visit the extensive museum at Foundouk Nejjarine, and the Souq el‐Atterine, a strikingly beautiful Medersa overflowing with stalls selling spices and savory delights. View the Dar Batha Museum with its impressive 16th century pottery collection, the stunning gates of the Royal Palace, and Bou Inania Medersa; allowing time to explore the countless souks and famous tanneries in the Fes medina.
Drive south, through the scenic cedar forests of the Middle Atlas Mountains and along the green Ziz River valley, into the Sahara desert. When the last paved road ends, (at the oasis town of Erfoud) change to a 4X4 vehicle for transfer to your private desert encampment. Spend the night by the legendary dunes of Erg Chebbi, perhaps the largest dunes in the Sahara. Take a dune walk to watch the glorious sunset, and then savor a traditional Berber dinner under the beauty of the Saharan night sky.
Arise early to take a short camel ride and witness the sun rising over the desert dunes, the perfect preamble to your 4x4 adventure in the Sahara desert. Explore the crumbling ruins of once grand kasbahs, now half buried by sand. For centuries, these fortified outposts were the first signs of civilization for caravans after months of hardship on the open desert. Return to Erfoud by jeep, and then drive west along a millennium‐old trading route, to the lush Todgha Gorges and Dades Gorges. Take a nature walk to explore the dramatic natural scenery, before continuing west to the oasis of Ouarzazate, a former outpost of the French Foreign Legion.
Spend this morning exploring Ouarzazate, site of countess movies from Lawrence of Arabia to Gladiator. Visit the Kasbah Taouirirt, and the UNESCO‐restored Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, an impressive 11th century structure with high, elaborately decorated pisé walls, crenulated ramparts, and arched babs. This afternoon, drive west into the High Atlas Mountains via roads with hairpin turns and dramatic passes. Arrive at famed Kasbah Tamadot for a two night stay. Nestled in the rolling foothills of the High Atlas, this is Richard Branson’s retreat, luxurious and alive with a unique blend of Moroccan colors and textures.
Today is yours at leisure to enjoy the retreat’s facilities – ride a horse, camel, or mule; swim in the pools; or take a Hammam (traditional Turkish steam bath) at the spa. Or perhaps enjoy a guided stroll to a local Berber village.
Today, drive to Marrakech, the second of the four Imperial Cities. Stroll this ancient pink‐walled medina and visit the 12th century tiled minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque, the defining landmark of Marrakech. Explore the frenetic Djmaâ el Fnaâ Square. Its ever‐ changing entertainment reaches its climax at sunset when the square is alive with storytellers, healers, snake charmers, acrobats, and countless food stalls.
Begin at the tropical Majorelle Gardens, and then visit the opulent Saadien Tombs. Dating back to the 1550s, this is the ancient cemetery of the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed. Explore the medieval Medersa ben Youssef; built in the 14th century of carved cedar wood, exquisite stuccowork, and colorful zellige tiles. And wander the colorful souks of Marrakech, where each trade ‐ spices, carpets, jewelry, enamel, copper, brass, and cedar, is positioned in its own unique quarter.
After a morning at leisure, you will be taken to the airport for your departing flight home or onto your next destination.
11 nights, 10 days.
Accomodation in Riad Fes, Private Desert Encampment, Berbere Palace, Kasbah Tamadot, Villa des Orangers
Casablanca, Meknes, Volubilis, Fes, Sahara Desert, Ourzazate, High Atlas Mountains, Marrakech