Day 1 – Casabanca arrival
Casablanca is rapidly developing into a modern industrial success story. The largest city in Morocco, its centre is impressive, with large boulevards and tall, white, well-kept buildings. Casablanca is the starting point for our Morocco luxury tour, visit The old city is more reminiscent of the Casablanca of Bergman and Bogart; a much smaller area with older houses and a good market. Certain landmarks are particularly beautiful, such as the Hassan II mosque which is well worth a visit. Central Casablanca houses Morocco’s biggest and busiest port and one of the largest on the African continent.
Transfer: You will be met and taken to your hotel.
Accommodation: Hotel Movenpick Casablanca for 1 night
The Art Deco-style Hotel Imperial Casablanca is situated in the heart of Casablanca and features 105 guest rooms, each with ensuite bathroom, flat screen television, air conditioning, minibar and free WiFi. The ‘Marius’ restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving a variety of cuisine from around the world, whilst the comfortable furnishings within the bar provide a relaxing spot in which to enjoy a variety of wines, beers and cocktails.
Meals: None other than those served on your flight
Day 2 – Drive from Casablanca to Rabat
Continue your Morocco luxury tour, by the Sightseeing of the economic capital, this morning will include viewing the exteriors of the Royal Palace and Hassan II mosque – the largest mosque in the world after those at Mecca and Medina (entrance not included) – Mohammed V Square, United Nations Square, the Central Market, the Habbous quarter, the affluent residential area of Anfa, and the fashionable Ain Diab corniche full of stylish hotels and beach resorts.
Road Journey: Drive from Casablanca to Rabat, a distance of approximately 90km and journey time of about 1.5 hours.
Area Information: Rabat
The capital of Morocco, modern Rabat is a planned city of wide boulevards and handsome public buildings and gardens. The Moroccan king lives in his palace here for part of the year. Rabat is situated on the Atlantic coastal plain at the mouth of the river BouRegreg. A highway and a railway connect the city with Casablanca about 97km to the south-west. Yearly rainfall in Rabat averages 53cm (21in), most of which falls in January and February and the year round climate is mild. A city of trees and flowers, Rabat combines peace, beauty and serenity, and is steeped in history. The origins of the city date back to the seventh century. A Mauritanian trading post was once built to the south-east of the present city in the Chellah area. The river port, later colonised first by the Carthaginians and then by the Romans, was a bridgehead for the Roman occupation.
Afternoon city tour of Rabat’s cultural highlights where sightseeing includes the 12th century Hassan Tower the nearby mausoleum dedicated to Mohamed V, the founder of modern Morocco. Continue to the Oudaya Kasbah with its Andalusian gardens and the Chellah Necropolis.
Accommodation: Hotel Rabat 5* for 1 night
Hotel Rabat is ideally located in the heart of the capital, close to ministries, embassies and the downtown area. The 114 rooms, of which 12 are suites, are all equipped with air conditioning, minibar, television, wireless internet access and a safe. There are several dining options serving Moroccan, eastern and classic French cuisine. There is also a bar and coffee shop.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 3 – Drive from Rabat to Fez via Meknes and Volubulis.
Continue your Morocco luxury tour, the journey from Rabat to Meknes is a distance of 140km and journey time of approximately 1.5 hours.
Often overshadowed by neighbouring Fez, the Imperial City of Meknes offers many striking sights of its own and is often used as a movie backdrop by film producers from all over the world. The city’s most glorious days were under Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), a contemporary of Louis X1V of France, whom he tried to emulate.
During his reign, the Sultan attempted to construct the “Versailles of Africa.” His admiration of the French king was such that he even asked for Louis’ daughter’s hand in marriage. The union never took place but the vestiges of Moulay Ismail’s grandiose plans dot the city.
Your first stop will be at the Imperial stables, built to accommodate the Sultan’s 12,000 horses. You will then be driven to Old Meknes where you will visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the Bab el-Mansour and souqs of Meknes.
Continue from Meknes to Volubilis, a distance of 30km and journey time of approximately 30 minutes.
Volubilis was one of the furthest flung outposts of the Roman Empire, and was the local provincial capital. As such it was the place where local Berber culture and Roman ways met – this can be seen in the Berber style of layout, alongside the Triumphal Arches, Basilicas and Capitols typical of Roman buildings. As well as these trappings of Empire, you can also see remains of some of the oil presses that helped generate the area’s wealth. That the town was wealthy can be seen in the mosaics. These are the greatest treasure of Volubilis, as they are extensive in number, and generally have been well-preserved and left in situ.
Continue to Fez, a distance of 70km and journey time of approximately 1.5 hours.
Being home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Fez is considered to be the intellectual capital and the most imperial of Morocco’s cities. The Medina is magnificently unchanged, and is famed for its rich architecture and handicrafts. It is also noted for its labyrinthine souks, where traditional craft techniques are still practised today.
Accommodation: Palais Medina Fez for 2 nights
The Ramada Fez is ideally located in the heart of the new town in Fez. All the 133 rooms, including five suites, are spacious and equipped with satellite television, high-speed Wi-Fi internet access and mini-fridge. The hotel has three restaurants and two bars. Leisure facilities include an outdoor swimming pool and spa with sauna and steam room.
Day 4 – Full-day tour of Fez including lunch at Palais Mnebhi
You will be met at the hotel this morning for your full-day tour of Fez. The city was founded by MoulayIdriss I, in the eighth century AD, and grew to be the capital of Imperial Morocco, one of the most holy cities in Islam, a renowned centre of medieval learning, and finally the heart of the Moroccan independence movement from the French.
Fez El Bali is the name given to the oldest part of the city, and at its heart lies the Kairaouine Mosque. Built by refugees from Kairaouine in Tunisia, the mosque grew to be the font of Moroccan religious scholarship and is still a functioning university, one of the oldest still in existence in the world. Pope Sylvester II studied here and is supposed to have returned to Europe with the Arab system of numerals and arithmetic that we use today. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside the mosque but can get a glimpse of the interior through one of the many gates.
Next door to the Kairaouine Mosque is the AttarineMedressa, or religious school. No longer in use, it is an excellent example of Moorish Islamic architecture, combining zellije (elaborate tile-work mosaic), wood carving and amazing alabaster reliefs. The overall effect is exquisite.
Also in Fez El Bali, you will find the Zaouia (religious centre) of MoulayIdriss II. Although non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, you can walk around the outside of the precinct and catch a glimpse of the saint’s shrine through one of the doorways. Although the city was founded by his father, MoulayIdriss II was responsible for much of the construction of Fez El Bali and hence he is held in some veneration by the Fassis.
The final stop within the oldest part of Fez is at the tanneries. Viewed from one of the shops which overlook the tannery quarter, this is quite a smelly experience. One of the most celebrated images of Fez is the row upon row of stone basins filled with hides being cured and dyed into leather. However, the principle ingredient in the curing part of the process is ammonia, obtained mainly from pigeon droppings, so the smell is very intense!
All of these sites of Fez El Bali lie within the truly labyrinthine souks of old Fez. The streets are a warren of stalls and ateliers; the effect is such that often it is impossible to discern one building, mosque, or medrasa from its neighbouring constructions, and it is only once one has entered or seen into a building that some sense of its size and shape can be understood.
Fez El Jedid (Fez the New) was built by the Merenid dynasty in the late 13th/early 14th centuries, and consists largely of a huge Royal Palace, which is closed to visitors. However, the mellah, or Jewish quarter, is still in existence and provides an interesting insight into the Jewish architecture and way of life in Morocco. Mellah means “salt” in Arabic, a name thought to refer to the Jewish trade of salting the heads of traitors before they were displayed over the main town gate.
During the day, you will be taken for lunch at the PalaisMnebhi, a beautiful 19th-century riad where a delicious selection of traditional Moroccan fare will be served.
Meals: Breakfast and lunch
Day 5 – Fez to Marrakech via Ifrane and Beni-Mellal.
Continue your Morocco luxury tour, drive from Fez to Marakech takes a full day, and passes through a remarkable range of landscapes. As you leave Fez, you climb into the Middle Atlas, travelling through Alpine-esque scenery, reaching the peak at Ifrane. Built as a summer hill station for French colonials from Fez and Marrakech, the twee tiled-roof houses evoke images of Switzerland and Austria. The middle of the day is spent crossing the barren Middle Atlas plateau, with a stop en route at BeniMellal, the capital of the rich Tadla plain, before continuing to Marrakech.
One of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities, Marrakech was founded in the 11th century at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu and it soon became a vibrant centre for trade. Set against the magnificent backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, its walled city is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with medieval buildings. The main square, the Djemma el Fna, is the heart of the city and a frenzy of colour and activity with entertainers, acrobats, snake-charmers, musicians and food stalls. The labyrinthine alleys and souks that surround the square feature hundreds of stalls offering all manner of goods including carpets, leather, jewellery, spices, pottery and ceramics.
It is worth leaving the charms of the old city occasionally to experience the bars, restaurants, art galleries and fixed-price boutique shopping in the ville nouvelle (new town). The stylish gardens of Yves St Laurent, Jardin Majorelle, also provide a tranquil contrast to the vibrance of the old city centre. Other important sites in Marrakesh include the Koutoubia Mosque, visible all over the city with its 77 metre minaret, the Saadian Tombs, the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace.
Accommodation: Atlas Medina & Spa for 3 nights
Located in the Hivernage district of Marrakech, close to a choice of restaurants and shops, the Atlas Medina & Spa is a 20 minute walk from the old medina. With 225 spacious rooms and set in large gardens, the hotel features two pools, spa, wellness centre, and a choice of bars and restaurants. The air conditioned rooms feature LCD televisions and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 6 – Excursion: Full-day tour of Marrakech
During your Morocco luxury tour, sightseeing of Marrakech, where most of the sites are inside the medina, or old walled section of the town, which is a maze of winding streets, alleys and souks.
Hidden away behind a high wall are the Saadian tombs. When Moulay Ismail, an Alaouite sultan, captured Marrakech he did not like the veneration that these tombs generated amongst the people so, rather than destroy the necropolis, he hid it behind this high wall. It lay forgotten and undiscovered until 1916. The tombs display a very high level of decoration, using the traditional stucco, zellije and carved wood construction typical of Moroccan architecture.
The El Badi Palace is a huge construction, of which little remains except the walls themselves. These are impressive enough in themselves to suggest that El Badi, which means “The Incomparable”, was an appropriate sobriquet. When it was sacked by Moulay Ismail, it took ten years to remove everything of value from the complex.
Two smaller palaces, now converted to museums, give a good idea of how the privileged lived in 19th and early 20th century Morocco. The El Bahia Palace is a maze of apartments which open on to courtyards filled with fountains and plants. Although much more modern than other classical Imperial Moroccan buildings, the same use of marble, stucco and zellije predominates.
Dar Si Said is built along similar, if less lavish, lines and is home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts. Inside you will find many examples of southern Moroccan arts, from woven carpets to the stunning and extensive silver jewellery traditionally worn by Berber women. The intricately decorated wooden door and windows of the palace are excellent examples of the sort of decoration found in many Moroccan homes.
The afternoon will be spent in the souks of Marrakech, which are home to a bewildering array of crafts. The souks are traditionally structured along craft lines: hence all the woodwork vendors would cluster around the same focal point, normally a small square with a fountain. As well as the actual selling of the goods, their manufacture often takes place alongside the stalls in small ateliers.
You will finish this day of the Morocco luxury tour at the Djemaa el Fna, the heart of Marrakech. One end of this square is dominated by the Koutoubia minaret, the landmark of the city’s skyline. Built in the 12th century, this was part of a large mosque complex, the remains of which can still be seen. It established the classical 1:5 ratio of width to height which became the core of Moroccan design. The story runs that the wife of Sultan Yacoub al Mansour, who built the mosque, broke the fast of Ramadan for three hours: as repentance she donated the three gold balls which now top the minaret.
No-one is really sure how the Djemaa el Fna came into being, but over the years it has come to function as much more than a market place, it is more like a travelling circus which never leaves. During the day, in addition to the market, there are a small numbers of performers, but come the early evening it comes alive with mime artists, story tellers, snake charmers, acrobats and musicians. Knots of people endlessly form and break up as acts begin and end. The whole effect is mesmerising, particularly if the Gnaoua drummers are playing their hypnotic trance-like sets.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 7 – Full-day excursion to the Ourika Valley
During your Morocco luxury tour, we include an amazing excursion From Marrakech to the Atlas mountains, travel approximately 30km to the Ourika valley, which spreads between the first foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Despite it being so close to the city, this beautiful lush green valley is one of the best preserved in Morocco. As you drive through the valley you will see numerous olive groves and citrus tree orchards, as well as prairies that are shaded by poplar trees and weeping willows, which is unusual at this latitude. Return to Marrakech in the late afternoon.
In the evening, dine at the Ksar El Hamra, a picturesque former riad situated in the heart of Marrakech’s medina.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 8 – High Atlas excursion
Road Journey: Travel by car from Marrakech to the High Atlas, a journey of 60 km and journey time of approximately 1.5 hours.
Area Information: Atlas Mountains
The High Atlas is the biggest mountain range in North Africa and covers some of the most beautiful regions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The area offers impressive mountain photography and a terrain which invites hikers of all abilities to explore the dramatic landscapes. The high peaks force the clouds to give high quantities of rainfall, and therefore the High Atlas has many fertile valleys surrounded by rivers and waterfalls, yielding a breathtaking sight that cannot be missed.
At the foothills of the High Atlas lies the small town of Ouirgane (pronounced ‘Weer-gan). Enjoying a gentle winter and moderate summer climate, this is the heart of Berber countryside, with picturesque villages and hamlets, forests, citrus trees (orange, lime, lemon and grapefruit), and rose gardens.
The terrain affords gentle walking opportunities, whilst a drive of just half an hour will take you into the heart of the High Atlas mountains.
Accommodation: Kasbah Du Toubkal for 2 nights
The mountain retreat of Kasbah du Toubkal is perched high in the Atlas Mountains on a great rock outcrop overlooking three valleys. Surrounded by magnificent views and peaks the Kasbah has 11 comfortable en suite bedrooms and is a wonderful place to stay whether you are looking for adventure or relaxation. Activities available range from mule trekking and walking, to exploring the surrounding villages and Hamlets. Facilities at the Kasbah include a restaurant, Hammam (steam bath) and large terrace. Kasbah du Toubkal is located 60 km from Marrakesh; the last quarter of a mile of the journey is up a steep path and must be made on foot or by mule.
Day 9 – Atlas mountains
Day at leisure
Day 10 – Road Journey: From the Atlas Mountains to Essaouira.
You will be taken by road from your Atlas mountains hotel to the coastal town of Essaouira. The distance is approximately 250 km, with a journey time just over 3 hours.
Area Information: Essaouira
Surrounded by Portuguese fortifications, Essaouira is a delightful fishing town with rich cultural heritage and fine sandy beaches. The small narrow streets of the medina are filled with artisans and craft shops, and in the mornings the harbour is a hive of activity, with fishing boats unloading their catches. The restaurants of Essaouira are known for fish and seafood, and you can also dine at an outdoor fish grill at the port end of Place Moulay Hassan. Just off the coast are the famed ÎlesPurpuraires, and private boat trips can be arranged to visit the sanctuary for Eleanora’s falcons here.
Accommodation: L’heure Bleue Palais for 2 nights (Classic Double Room)
A member of the Relais& Chateaux Group, L’HeureBleuePalais has been restored from an old mansion to become one of Essaouira’s finest properties. Located in the Medina, L’HeureBleue offers the luxury typical of Relais& Chateaux, while keeping with the traditional style of a Moroccan riad. The property features a roof top pool and private hamman. There is also a restaurant serving both international and traditional Moroccan cuisine.
Day 11 – Essaouira
Day at leisure
Day 12 – Road Journey: Drive from Essaouira to Marrakech
After breakfast, Transfer to Marrakech airport for the return flight, end of the Morocco luxury tour.
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