WOMEN ONLY TOUR – MAGICAL MOROCCO
11 days from Casablanca to Marrakech
DAY 1: CASABLANCA
Welcome to Casablanca, a sprawling metropolis that is the economic and cultural capital of Morocco. Upon arrival today at Mohamed V International Airport, you will be warmly greeted by our local staff, and swiftly escorted by private vehicle for the 30 minute drive to our hotel, the Art Palace & Spa In central Casablanca, our hotel offers an indoor swimming pool and spa centre with Hammam , its suites include free Wi-Fi and flat- screen TV, the décor of each air-conditioned suite at Art Palac & Spa is inspired by a celebrity or international icon, Art Palace’s restaurant serves international and local cuisine, guests can enjoy a cocktail at Le 4 Lounge bar or relax at the Living room, for a tea and coffee with a variety of pastries, there is also a permanent art gallery, the Art hall.
DAY 2: CASABLANCA – RABAT – MEKNES – FES
Although our stay in the capital of the Kingdom is brief, we will take in the city sights before departing. We’ll visit the splendid Hassan II Mosque, a breathtaking landmark of Casablanca with the tallest religious minaret in the world at 200 meters (over 656 feet), it is the only mosque that allows non-Muslims to enter its prayer hall, then we’ll take in the lively squares of Place des Nations Unites and Mohammed V, before continuing along to the Ain Diab Corniche for a brief stroll, just over an hour away is the imperial city and political capital of Rabat with its elegant tree-lined boulevards, we’ll view the entrance to King Hassan’s stately Royal Palace with its massive doors, well decorated buildings and lovely gardens.
Next to the palace is the impressive Mohammed V Mausoleum, the burial ground of the two late Alouite Kings, Mohammed V and Hassan II, we’ll visit the enormous Almohad gate to the Kasbah des Oudaias, situated on a bluff with magnificent views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, inside the gates we’ll discover artisan galleries, an ornate 17th century palace now part of the Musée des Oudaia (Museum of Moroccan Arts), and the beautiful Andalusian Gardens near the famous Hassan Tower, a 12th century landmark of Rabat. We continue on toward Fes, stopping en route in the second imperial city of Meknes for a brief orientation tour, attractions include the massive Bab El Mansour Gate, the Place El Hedim, the Royal Granaries and Stables, and a drive past the city ramparts. In the afternoon we will visit the 2,000-year-old ruins of the Roman City of Volubilis, a truly impressive setting selected by UNESCO as a cultural heritage site for humanity. An active and inhabited city until the 18th century, Volubilis once had a population estimated at 20,000.
A walk throughout the ruins offers a glimpse of what daily life must have been like, including olive oil presses, a bakery with the kneading equipment still in place, and the mechanisms of an ancient well. The passage of time has not erased the grandeur of Volubilis, and a number of intricate mosaic floors remain surprisingly well-preserved. The Triumphal Arch, Basilica, and enormous columns of the Capitol are particularly spectacular to see, as are the impressive houses of Dionysus, Ephesus, and Orpheus. Although its historical structures suffered damage in an earthquake in the 1700s, and some of its marble was taken for construction in Meknes, Volubilis is still the best preserved Roman ruins in all of Morocco from here, we’re less than 40 miles from the great city of Fes where we will settle in your Riad at Median or Hotel for the next three nights.
DAY 3: Historical Fes
The holy city of Fes – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is Morocco’s spiritual and intellectual capital, as well as home to the largest and oldest Medina in the world, the city’s numerous monuments have thousands of stories to tell every visitor, we’ll stop to see Jemaa Karaouyine, the first university established in the world, and then Madrasa Bou Inania, a beautiful 14th century school that is still a center for education and worship, the Madrasa features an open courtyard with exceptional handcrafted walls of tile, plaster work and arches, the workmanship of cedar and green stone motif is exquisite, as is the minaret towering above ,nearby is the gorgeous Bab Boujloud, or Blue Gate, the monumental entrance to the Old Medina.
Seeing the minarets and the houses through its arched opening makes an exciting introduction to Fes as you enter the gate, note that the color of the mosaics change: the outside blue reflects the color of Fes, while the inside green is the color of Islam, we’ll visit the Tanneries, where leather is seen soaking in the colorful vats of dye, and the artisan quarters where the craftsmen of the El Attarine Souks offer a non-stop spectacle, for hundreds of years such work has been regulated by traditional guilds, ensuring that its quality is worthy of the city,Each district has its own specialty: cobalt blue enameled pottery, carpets, wrought iron, etc. In the Medina – a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets – the alleyways are crammed full of stalls and workshops. This is the famed commercial center and shopper’s paradise, beautiful goods beckon from this incredible maze: cotton fabric, silk, brocade work, leather slippers, and much more. There will be time to browse and perhaps make a purchase or two!
DAY 4: traditional Fes (Foods)
By now we will have experienced several days of delicious Moroccan cuisine everyone always loves the tagines and the pastilles, Tagine is the succulent stew of meat, chicken, or fish, often accompanied with vegetables or fruit, the dish is slow-cooked inside a ceramic or clay vessel with a dome-shaped lid, also called a Tagine, Because the lid traps steam and returns the condensed liquid to the pot, a minimal amount of water is needed to cook the contents to buttery-tenderness, a pastille is the meeting of sweet and savory in a pie-like dish traditionally made of squab, along with many additional ingredients – such as spices (cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg, and ginger for example), plus almonds, dried fruits and meat – the mixture is then surrounded in layers of flaky dough and cooked to perfection. Yum! This morning we will be joined by an esteemed female chef who will share with us some of the secrets to making these tasty dishes back home, first we’ll visit the local souks with her to purchase the ingredients.
Notice how particular she is about her selections, everything must be fresh! Back in her kitchen she will show us how to prepare a number of classic dishes, including a Tagine and a pastille, plus several traditional Moroccan salads and a wonderful Dessert of course, we will then get to enjoy the fruits of our labor!
DAY 5: FES – MERZOUGA
Leaving the historical, spiritual and intellectual world of Fes behind, we travel to a totally unique and special part of Morocco.
Driving inland today, we will pass through some of the most stunning landscape in the region, eventually crossing the Middle Atlas mountain range. Our journey will cover 280 miles and will include multiple rest stops and points of interest, the first will be the cities of Ifrane and Azrou. Ifrane, a winter ski resort with charming European-style homes, could easily be mistaken for a town in Switzerland.
Azrou is a Berber village known for its cooperative of fine-looking handicraft. Continuing on we’ll come to Midelt, a colourful market town in the high plains where we can buy our lunch. we’ll see beautiful countryside and many Berber towns as we travel along the oasis-dotted valley of the Ziz River en route to Erfoud, you will know when we’ve reach Erfoud, a popular destination for filmmakers because of the extraordinary views, on one side of town, a million palm trees (making the date the symbol of Erfoud).
On the other side are billions and billions of grains of sand that make up the first rolling dunes of the Sahara, you will have some time to rest and relax at Hotel, from here we will switch into 4 x 4 jeeps and cross the desert, passing through the 8th century town of Rissani to reach Merzouga before sunset, here we will check into our deluxe dessert camp located on a site with the largest and most spectacular dunes in Morocco – with sand as far as you can see, a delicious dinner will be served under the stars by camp fire. Then we’ll settle in for the night, heading off to our deluxe Bedouin tents with private bath, where we’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep in the calm of the desert.
DAY 6: MERZOUGA – OUARZAZATE
A sight not to be missed is sunrise over the desert. It’s spectacular. Just before dawn we’ll mount camels and ride out onto the golden sand to watch the sun illuminating the dunes, casting magnificent colors of light all around. When we return to the hotel a hearty breakfast awaits us. Our destination today is Ouarzazate, a desert city framed by the distant snow-topped High Atlas Mountains. The day features one beautiful scene after another, including the village of Tinghir, a stunning mountain oasis rising on a series of riverside terraces lush with palm trees and olive groves. We’ll stop for a walk in the lush valley to soak up the incredible views. Just 31 miles north of Tinghir is the spectacular Todra Gorge, home to a variety of rare bird and plant species. Two sheer cliffs 985 feet high, separated by a narrow corridor only 65 feet wide, form the enormous gorge cut into the mountains of the High Atlas to create one of the rarest landscapes ever. In this setting we will stop to buy our lunch in a little restaurant near the entrance to the gorge, followed by time to enjoy a walk inside. It would not be unusual to see local women doing some traditional farming work, or washing clothes at the river bank. As we continue travelling through the Dades Valley notice the enormous blocks of limestone that create the gorges with mauve, red, tawny, and purple colored rocks. The canyons are breathtaking. Soon we are intoxicated by the perfumed scent of the most beautiful rose garden in the valley, at El Kelaa Mgouna, a large village famous for celebrating an annual rose festival that is attended by thousands of people from all over the world. From here it is a short distance to Morocco’s Hollywood, Ouarzazate, also known as the gateway to the Sahara, our hotel is a comfortable hotel in a privileged environment, inside Ouarzazate’s palm grove and with impressive sights of the mountains of the Atlas. guest rooms feature air-conditioning, WiFi access, additional amenities include a restaurant serving international cuisine and Moroccan specialties, a tea lounge, a bar, outdoor freshwater swimming pool.
DAY 7: OUARZAZATE – IMINTANOUTE
Ouarzazate is best known for 2 magnificent kasbahs that we will visit today Taourirt Kasbah, considered one of the most beautiful in Morocco, is located in the heart of the city, it was once the home and critical stronghold of the Pasha Glaoui, chief of a fearless Berber tribe, in the thirties, now mostly in ruins, what is left of the painted ceilings, arches, beautiful small windows with wrought iron works and woodwork have made it a UNESCO site worth saving. Tifoultout Kasbah, also named Glaoui Kasbah, is located on a strategic rock outcropping, thought to be over 300 years old, the present structure is largely 20th century. it was converted to a hotel in the 1960s for the cast of Lawrence of Arabia and remains a hotel today if you climb to the rooftop, you can take in amazing panoramic views over the countryside, as well as stork nests on the turrets.
After our visit, we leave Ait Ben Haddou behind, crossing the High Atlas Mountains via the spectacular Tiz-In Tichka Pass (over 7,400 feet high) to Imintanoute where an exceptional overnight experience awaits us at the Berber Cultural Center in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains the Berber Cultural Centre was conceived by Mohamed Elhansali, the owner and a cultural conservationist, as an innovative way to preserve, protect and demonstrate the rich heritage of Morocco-The Berber people are famous for their hospitality- Mohamed and his staff are renowned for treating guests with an insight into a way of life that has disappeared in many parts of the world – where family and community are not only important, but entwined in daily life. Although it resembles a Berber fortress, the Centre is a modern facility that was built using ancient methods of construction such as an authentic adobe exterior, the interior decor and furnishings are just as if you have stepped back in time 100 years- Inside is a courtyard with covered seating- the living and dining room is a carpeted area with comfortable pillows where delicious meals are served, there are just 9 bedrooms that offer a range of twin, triple and quad accommodations. Three of the four bathrooms are western style.
Our overnight here is certain to leave a lasting impression, one that will show us the heart and soul of the Berber way of life.
DAY 8: IMINTANOUTE – MARRAKECH
Today we awake to experience a day in the life of a Berber woman, we will be involved in the daily activities that support the local population . . . drawing water at the well on a donkey, kneading dough to make bread, cooking the food, helping with a harvest, milking goats, weaving a rug, and making tea. In fact, not only will we learn the correct way to make Moroccan mint tea, but we will all take part in a tea-making contest! In the afternoon, we’ll take a walk in the village and spend a little more time sharing in the lives of the locals. Later in the day we will depart for the remarkable “Red City” of Marrakech.
DAY 9: MARRAKECH SPIRIT
The imperial city of Marrakech it’s an alluring oasis with a temperate climate, distinct charm, and fascinating sights, our full day tour showcases the historical highlights, including the Menara Gardens, the Saadian Tombs, the Andalusian-style El Bahia Palace (part of which is still used by the royal family), and the 12th century Koutoubia, a beautifully proportioned mosque with a distinctive 282-foot minaret that is visible from miles away, in the afternoon we’ll take a walking tour of the Medina, ending at the famous Djemaa El Fna Square, an incredible sight to behold. This is the heart of Marrakech, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, crowded with snake charmers, entertainers, story tellers, fortune tellers, musicians, barbers, and sellers of fruit, water, and spices, the square is symbolic of Marrakech’s magical charm. Enjoy a few hours of walking and shopping time along the narrow alleys of the old medina, sip mint tea or fresh orange juice at a terrace overlooking the square and watch the action all around you. Mesmerizing!
DAY 10: Relaxing Time At MARRAKECH
(Tea & Henna & Music) Women have been dying their hands with intricate Henna designs for centuries, mostly in preparation for attending important social events, this is a tradition dating back over 9,000 years and practiced in over 60 countries around the world, not only will we have the opportunity to learn about henna, but we’ll visit the home of a professional painter who will show us the art of henna while chatting with her over mint tea and Moroccan sweets, we’ll enjoy having our own hands decoratively painted. This afternoon you’ll visit the magnificent Majorelle gardens then the rest of the afternoon will be dedicated to your personal interests. Perhaps you’d like to visit a hammam for a steaming bath and massage, or spend more time shopping in the medina, our guide will be delighted to assist with group or individual requests tonight we will celebrate our final evening together with a farewell dinner at a special restaurant with entertainment that overlooks the Djemaa El Fnaat night, the lively square transforms into another world – with music, lights, bonfires and incredible entertainment everywhere you look, as we dine on another delicious Moroccan meal, and prepare to return home, we will take with us the many inspiring images of our visit to this fascinating country.
DAY 11: MARRAKECH
Today you will be transferred to Marrakech Menara International Airport for your onward flight.