Your journey begins as you board your flight, en route to Casablanca. Upon arrival, you are greeted by your expert guide and driven to the Imperial city of Rabat, the capital of Morocco and the residence of the King. An ancient walled city of trees and flowers, Rabat combines beauty and serenity, and it is steeped in history. The city itself is built on ancient Roman ruins. The main gate of the kasbah des Oudaias, the Bab Oudaia, is a beautiful example of true Moorish design. Within the walls of the Kasbah you’ll explore a delightful craft museum and an Andalusian garden, complete with a fountain and the sweet fragrance of orange trees. Following a seafood lunch, you’ll visit a Kasbah constructed by the Almohads in the 12th century. Rabat was later occupied by Muslims evicted from Spain in the 17th century and declared the capital of the region by the occupying French in the 20th. Even earlier waves of immigration are reflected in the exhibits of Roman, Carthaginian, and Phoenician artifacts on display at the Archaeology Museum.
Your home for the next two nights is the Hotel le Diwan MGallery by Sofitel. Centrally located in the heart of the imperial city, your hotel is within walking distance of many of the main sights in Rabat. Amenities include Wi-Fi internet access and spacious guest rooms combining noble materials and refined style. Overnight at HOTEL LE DIWAN MGALLERY. http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-2820-hotel-le-diwan-mgallery-bysofitel/index.shtml
Begin your exploration of Rabat with a visit to the private museum of the Dar Belghazi family, where you’ll see rare antiquities, such as manuscripts, embroidery, ceramics and jewels. After the tour, you’ll join them in their home on the top floor of the museum for a delicious traditional lunch. This afternoon is devoted to a further exploration of Rabat, with time to stroll through its colorful maze of streets. In the heart of the city stands the Tour Hassan, the last vestige of an unfinished mosque. Behind its marble columns, the Mohammed V Mausoleum is a place of exquisite contemplation. Overnight at HOTEL LE DIWAN MGALLERY.
A short drive this morning takes you to the Royal City of Meknes, the megalomaniacal creation of the cruelest and most tyrannical of all Morocco’s sultans, Moulay Ismail, who reigned for 55 years around 1700. A city whose splendor still attracts architects, engineers, and artists, Meknes and its surroundings have remained largely unchanged for centuries. The city once had over fifty palaces, with almost eighteen miles of walls and twenty gates. The most impressive of these gates is Bab Mansour, renowned for its vivid green tiles. Within the ruins of the sultan’s palace, you can visit the extensive granaries, the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, and a few horrifying examples of the Sultan’s dungeons.
Continue to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. It was here nearly 2,000 years ago that Berber tribes finally halted the advance of the Roman legions and ended Rome’s conquest of northwestern Africa. However, instead of abandoning the region, Rome built the city of Volubilis, which survived as a Roman outpost for two centuries before the Romans abandoned it in A.D. 284. Yet, even after their departure, Rome’s legacy endured. Even for antiquarians, the extensive ruins at Volubilis are particularly compelling. Visitors can see not only the major public monuments but also examples of residential quarters and how the city actually functioned.
Arrive in Fez this evening, the most ancient of the Imperial cities and the most complete medieval city of the Arab world. Fez was the capital of Morocco for more than 400 years. It is now home to Morocco’s oldest university and serves as the country’s leading cultural and religious center. A unique and remarkable place, Fez will stimulate all of your senses with a rich tapestry of sights, intriguing sounds, and tantalizing fragrances that seem suspended in time between the medieval world and today. Fez is divided into three distinct districts. In the center and lowest section lies the medieval town or medina of Fez el Bali, built around the imposing Kairouyine Mosque. Next to it is Fez el-Jdid, built in the 13th century around the new Royal Palace which later housed the Mellah (the Jewish quarter). The Ville Nouvelle, the new town, is a completely separate area created by the French at the turn of the 20th century as a means of preserving the integrity of the Medina.
Located in the heart of Fez, the Riad Myra is the perfect spot to take in the city, complete with a large terrace with a stunning view of the medina. Rooms are furnished with traditional Moroccan pieces and English antiques, romantic drapery and blue tiles. The hotel is fully air conditioned and amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite TVs, mini refrigerators and a hamman, a traditional Moroccan bath. Overnight at RIAD MYRA
Built as a capital by Idriss I, founder of Morocco’s first imperial dynasty, Fez was created in 789 AD and grew with the influx of Arabs from Kairouan towards the end of the ninth century. These refugees built the beautiful Kairaouine Mosque and its University, the first one of the world’s important universities, thus contributing to the making of Fez into a cultural and spiritual centre. At the end of the 15th century they were joined by eight thousand Arab families from Andalusia, fleeing Granada after its conquest by the Catholic Kings of Spain. These Moslem Spaniards brought with them the fine cultural and artistic tradition of Al-Andaluz, at the same time an important number of Jewish families and Berbers from neighboring tribes of the Middle Atlas added to Fez’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
Fez is divided into three distinct areas with very different characters. In the center and lowest part, lies the medieval town or Medina of Fez-el-Bali, built around the imposing Kairouyine Mosque. Next to it is Fez-el-Jdid, which was built in the thirteenth century around the new Royal Palace and later housed the Mellah (the Jewish quarter). The Ville Nouvelle, the new town, is a completely separate area created by the French at the turn of the twentieth century as a means of preserving the integrity of the Medina.
Entering one of Fez-el-Bali’s fourteen gates is like stepping back centuries, into a world untouched by time. Here you will see no cars and very few signs of western civilization, only the constant cry of muleteers – balek! – trying to open their way through the crowded streets, often only wide enough for two people to pass each other. Its maze of sloping, winding streets and alleyways are lined with the tiny workshops of thirty thousand craftsmen. Amidst a constant swirl of activity, a multitude of colors and smells mesmerize the visitor: the exotic fragrance of spices and perfumes to the stench of tanneries, from the vibrant colors of piled up saffron and cumin to the delicate hue of hundreds of tiled fountains.
At almost every street corner one is reminded of its rich heritage: ancient libraries, Koranic schools, mosques and palaces. Visit the large Kairaouine mosque, one of the oldest universities in the world, and the 14th century Medersa Bou Inania noted for its stucco Koranic scripture, intricately carved wood and colorful tiles. Fez-elBali is a thousand-year-old labyrinth of 300 mosques and 9,400 winding streets and alleyways. At Dar Batha museum you’ll see the finest examples of local art and craft, including carpets, wood carving, tile work, calligraphy and embroidery. Then leave the old city to visit Merinides tombs which offer an excellent overview of the old city, Fez-el-Jedid and the Mellah. Overnight at RIAD MYRA
Drive to Casablanca where you will enjoy a short visit to the awesome Hassan II Mosque, one of the few mosques open to non-Muslim visitors. Built on a rocky outcrop, reclaimed from the sea, this religious monument is the result of over five years work by 10,000 devoted craftsmen. After Angkor Wat and Mecca, it is the largest religious monument in the world and certainly one of the most impressive. It was finished in 1993, in time for the then King Hassan II’s 60th birthday. Designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau and his vast team of Moroccan craftsmen, the mosque can hold an astonishing 25,000 worshippers at prayer inside and 80,000 more can be accommodated in the esplanades around it. Although of traditional style, the structure takes every advantage of the benefits of technology, including the use of a laser beam from the minaret, which beams toward Mecca every night.
Without losing the essence of Moroccan service and cuisine, the Barcelo Casablanca has become one of the most important modern hotels in Casablanca. Its location on the central Boulevard d’Anfa is ideal for visiting the old town or the impressive Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco. Your perfect stay in Casablanca begins between the soft sheets of your hotel room, fully equipped with air conditioning and satellite TV.
Overnight at the BARCELO CASABLANCA. https://www.barcelo.com/enus/hotels/morocco/casablanca/barcelo-casablanca/
Today’s drive is to the renowned city of Marrakesh. Arrive into the “Red City” just in time to enjoy the main square, called Djemmâ El Fna “Square of the Dead.” Enjoy Moroccan mint tea on one of the terraces and explore the labyrinthine streets off the square. A menagerie of entertainers, including storytellers, fire eaters, snake charmers, acrobats, and jugglers can be enjoyed at the square, while at the souk there is everything to be found, from spices and food, to carpets, ceramics and many Moroccan artifacts.
Located in the heart of the Medina, the Riad Palais Sebban is just a short walk from the main square and famous mosque in the city. The rooms are perfumed with Orange Blossom and offer a quiet escape from the busy life of Marrakech. Overnight at RIAD PALAIS SEBBAN https://www.riad-palaissebban.com/en/
Marrakech has always been a crossroads for many cultures. It is not only a fantastic city, it is also a symbol of the Morocco that once was and the Morocco that endures. Following a morning at leisure, you’ll visit the twelfth century Koutoubia Mosque, one of the largest in Africa. First built in 1147 but then demolished since it did not correctly align with Mecca, the “mosque of the booksellers” was rebuilt in 1199. From the “Square of the Dead,” DJemaa El Fna Square, one can see the city’s landmark, the minaret of the venerable Koutoubia Mosque. The hall-type mosque can accommodate over 20,000 worshippers. It has 17 aisles and 112 columns covering a total floor area of 58,000 square feet. At the end of the prayer hall is an ornately carved minbar (pulpit), a remnant of the Almoravid Mosque destroyed by the Almohad builders of the present edifice. The pulpit is said to have come from Cordoba.
After lunch, enjoy a visit to the Majorelle Gardens. Recently owned by the late French couturier Yves Saint Laurent, these lush gardens provide a wonderful haven from the bustle of Marrakech. In the 1920s the French artist Jacques Majorelle fell in love with Morocco and built himself this splendid villa of deep blue surrounded by gardens, complete with pools, banana trees, bamboo groves, coconut palms, and bougainvilleas. Today the villa houses a museum.
Overnight at RIAD PALAIS SEBBAN
Transfer by 4X4 vehicles from the hotel to the High Atlas Mountains and the fabulous Kasbah Toubkal for lunch. This authentic Atlas mountain guesthouse overlooks the village of Imlil, and is situated on the hillside of the Toubkal Mountain, the highest peak in North Africa. Once a fortified summer house, the property was lovingly restored by local craftsmen using ancestral Berber techniques and proudly stands above walnut groves, opening onto wide open spaces, mountain peaks, waterfalls, a lake and deep gorges. Much more than a guest house, the Kasbah offers an extraordinary human experience, with friendly and genuine staff and breathtaking scenery. Enjoy a walk, with several levels of difficulty suited for beginners and more advanced trekkers, and elect to either reach the Kasbah by a mule ride or on foot for those who like a challenge.
Return to Marrakesh in the late afternoon and join your group for a farewell dinner. Overnight at RIAD PALAIS SEBBAN
Return to the airport for your flights home, via Casablanca. This journey might be over, but the memories of Morocco will remain forever.
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