Because this is a “private” tour and you have your own vehicle & driver, you have the flexibility to travel at your own pace, linger at some sites, and have the option of detouring to others. The itinerary below is merely a suggestion of sites that we feel you may enjoy, but you are free to instruct the driver of your wishes during this Short Tour of Morocco and the atlas mountains.
Arrival in Marrakech. Your private transfer driver will meet you outside the luggage claim and drive you to your hotel. Known as the “Pearl of the South” because of its location at the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the desert, Marrakesh has a distinct personality and aura.
Overnight in Marrakesh
After breakfast, meet your personal English-speaking driver that will be at your disposal for your entire stay in Morocco. Enjoy a morning tour of the city with your driver and licensed local guide including Marrakech highlights. In Marrakech itself the “must sees” are the 167th century Saadian Tombs, Bahia Palace, and the famous and exciting Djma el Fna Square. Time for walking through – and shopping in the souks, located just behind Djma el Fna Square.
The Djema el Fnaa Square is best re-visited at around sunset where you can have a coffee at one of the cafes overlooking the action as the square becomes more alive when the sun goes down. You can see and then walk among snake charmers, fortune tellers, dentists (!), acrobats, dancers, and much more!
Overnight in Marrakech
Breakfast at the hotel. The driver is at your disposal to spend the day, as you like. We suggest the following excursion (you can do both Ourika Valley and Essaouira, but not in the same day. You can also switch the sequence if you like):
Ourika Valley – (approx. 1 1/2 hours from Marrakesh. This can be done in a half day) Drive through scenic roads and authentic Berber villages of the Atlas Mountain countryside where people still go to market by donkey. Light a candle at the tomb of Rabbi Shlomo bel Hans in the High Atlas. This tomb is the site of one of the largest pilgrimages in Morocco. Pilgrimages to the tombs of Jewish “saints” are unique to Judaism in Morocco (there are over 600 such sites). Once a year in the spring Jews of Moroccan descent come from all over the world for a weekend of festivities and celebration. The Muslims do the same thing; a tradition inherited – it is believed – from the pre-Islamic Berbers. Stop at Raymuntcho for a surprisingly sophisticated optional late lunch.
Alternatively if you wish to make a half-day excursion to another part the region you can stop instead in Asni at the Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson’s elegant small hotel) and then continue to the tiny village of Imlil, headquarters for those who wish to hike in and around Mt. Toubkal (Morocco’s highest peak).
You can walk up (or ride a mule) to the Kasbah du Toubkal for Optional lunch and a breathtaking view of the mountains. Guided hikes (short or long) can also be arranged through the Kasbah du Toubkal.
Return to Marrakesh. Tonight we take you for Optional dinner in a casual atmosphere at the Chez Ali Fantasia where you dine on a typical Moroccan meal, while being entertained by Berber folklore troupes. Then, about 10:00PM the real show begins! Belly dancers, synchronized horsemen with rifles, an incredible equestrian show, dancers, and much more…. It’s quite an experience! It can be a lot of fun if you’re in the right mood, but you need a sense of the absurd to really enjoy it!
Or Excursion to Essaouira
Full day excursion to Essaouira (approx. 2 H 1/2 from Marrakech.), during this Short Tour of Morocco, you will discover This Atlantic coastal town was formerly known as Mogador, and is a quaint fishing village with a Portuguese influence. Visit the bustling fish market, and the ramparts and bastions, which served as the location for the Orson Welles film version of Othello. The town has a somewhat laid back bohemian atmosphere that had appealed to some world known rock stars. Visit the fortifications, and the excellent factories, which sell locally, carved and polished thula wood products. Optional lunch in the town.
Today Essaouira is considered a resort area and is known for windsurfing. A generation ago there were thousands of Jewish inhabitants in the town, but today there are only a few families left. Visit the mellah where you can see the blue and white painted houses with the Stars of David above the
doorways of former Jewish homes. There is also a synagogue, on the upper floor of Rabbi Chaim Pinto’s former residence. If you can locate the caretaker, you might be admitted (it’s customary to leave a donation for the caretaker). Return to Marrakesh.
Overnight in Marrakesh
After breakfast at your hotel, meet your personal driver/guide at the hotel lobby for an early departure from Marrakesh. Drive via the palm groves to Beni Mellal.
Continue through small and charming Berber villages and the Bavarian-style ski resorts of Ifrane and Azrou to Fez for overnight.
Overnight in Fez
This morning we shall have your English-speaking driver greet you at approximately 9:00AM and you’ll have full day sightseeing with him and a local licensed guide.
Fez, founded in the 8th century, is arguably Morocco’s most fascinating city. This metropolis, sited in a valley, was Morocco’s first capital, and is today the kingdom’s intellectual, religious and cultural center. The university here is one of the oldest in the world, and the city’s handicrafts are admirable (look for handmade items like rugs, fabrics, ceramics, leather goods, as well as copper, brass, and silver pieces). Fez street life in the medina may be the most memorable you’ll ever experience.
The souks in the medina are an open-air department store, with the spice shops next to the carpet sellers, across from the fishmonger. This is the hub of Moroccan life, filled with vitality. Natives of Fez are known as “Fassi”, and have a reputation within Morocco as being excellent businessmen. Generally speaking their origins are divided into 4 distinct categories: descendents of the Moors of Spain, Arab Moslems, Berbers from the High Atlas or the South, Depart to the Imperial City of Meknes. Located in the center of a rich agricultural region where olives, grain, vegetables, and grapes are grown, the history goes back to the 8th century, when it was developed as a hilltop kasbah. But perhaps the most interesting part of its history started in 1666 when Sultan Moulay Rachid appointed his brother Moulay Ismail as the Pasha of Meknes. When Rachid died in 1672 Ismail succeeded to the throne and was determined to make Meknes the new capital. With slave labor of 50,000 workers, the city was rebuilt to contain dozens of palaces (for his 4 wives, 500 concubines, and some 800 of his most favored children) and gardens, parks, ponds, and pavilions. Often portrayed as a megalomaniac tyrant, during his rule he did achieve order between warring factions, rebuilt mosques, and encouraged trade. Unfortunately the grandeur of Meknes he created did not last long after his death.
Slave regiments deposed a succession of his sons. Then the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 shattered the palace compounds, and much government activity was shifted back to Fez.
Visit the Roman ruins at Volubilis. During the period between 45-285 AD Volubilis reached its peak of prosperity as the capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitania, but had in actuality been in existence centuries before the first Roman proconsul arrived. The Roman rule ended about 305 AD, when the empire was reorganized, but the city had one last flicker of fame when a refugee from Arabia, Moulay Idriss, arrived in 787 and was named Sultan. Special sites include the House of Orpheus, the Forum, the Capitol, Triumphal Arch, and the Gordian Palace, believed to have been the governor’s residence. (Entrance fee to be paid direct)
From Volubilis you overlook the Holy City of Moulay Idriss that you can also visit (time permitting). A national pilgrimage site, the town holds the tomb of Moulay Idriss – “el Akhbar” (the Great) – the great grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, and the founder of Islam in Morocco. When he escaped Arabia and came to Volubilis in 787 with his loyal slave Rashid, he was accepted as the 6th Caliph. Subsequently Moulay Idriss II, assumed rule at the age of 15, and reigned for many years. His tomb as well is in Moulay Idriss. The tombs were rediscovered in the 15th century and became a focus of pilgrimages from the Islamic world.
Overnight in Fez
After breakfast, transfer to Casablanca airport for departure
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