8 Day Imperial Cities MoroccoTour
Duration: 8 Days
Morocco Travel: In Luxury 4×4
English, French Speaking Driver, Guide
Starting & Finishing Point: Airport in Casablanca
Travel to Morocco’s Imperial Cities- a fascinating and adventurous tour for first time travelers to Morocco. Private Travel to Morocco. (Book a Tour or call (800) 787-8806. Let us be your guide to Morocco Travel.
DAY 1: CASABLANCA
►Pick up at the Casablanca airport and transfer to your hotel.
►Start your morning off with coffee and baguettes at one of the cafes at Parc de La Ligue Arabe, a huge garden with avenues lined with tall palm trees, ficus, arcades, pergolas and flower beds. Moving north, work your way up to the old medina as you move through Place Mohammed V and the Place des Nations Uniones, the main focal points of Ville Novelle, Casa’s new town. See French architecture complemented with Moorish design in Place Mohammed V, the protectorate square.
►Visit the New Town of Casablanca designed by the French architect Henri Prost for an hour of shopping. The main streets of the New Town (Ville Nouvelle in French) radiate south and east from Place des Nations Unies, where the main market of Anfa had been. Former administrative buildings and modern hotels populate the area. Their style is a combination of Hispano-Mauresque and Art Deco styles.
►Next visit the famous residential blocks: the Glaoui, the Bessonneau and the Asayag. The Boulevard links Place des Nationes with the railway station and is the gateway to the central market. Continue a short way to the Avenue des Forces Royal, a commercial area that leads into the old medina. With the help of your guide, travel the labyrinth of narrow streets lined with jewelers, barbers and artisans. See the squala, a fortified 18th century bastion.
►Enjoy lunch at one of the international restaurants by Casa’s port, the Corniche. After lunch visit the Mosque of Hassan II. Casablanca is home to the Hassan II Mosque, designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers.Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters. It is an enormous architectural masterpiece and the second largest religious building in the world. On Fridays, the Mosque of Hassan II is open to non-Muslims.The Mosque of Hassan II’s promontory offers lovely views overlooking Casa in the residential Afna quarter.
►End the day with a visit to The Parc de la Ligue Arabe (formally called Lyautey) which is the city’s largest public park. On its edge is situated the Cathedrale du Sacré Coeur, which is disused, but is a splendid example of Mauresque architecture.
►Dinner at an elegant restaurant on Casa’s Port, The Corniche.
DAY 2: CASABALANCA – RABAT
►After breakfast depart to Rabat. Rabat has a population 2 million, is a main university town and the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River.
►During your one-day tour you will learn Rabat’s history and enjoy its beautiful domes, minarets, wide avenues and green spaces. Your guide will escort you on a walk around the picturesque Almohad northern walls of the Oudaïa Kasbah. The kasbah was built by Moulay Ismaïl from 1672-1727 to protect the city and is enclosed by ramparts dating from the Almohad period. Visit Bab Oudaïa, a monumental gate and example of Almohad military architecture. See the Musée de Oudaïa, Moulay Ismaïl’s palace exhibiting collections of Moroccan folk art. Before moving on to city medina, relax in the Moorish style Andalusian garden.
►In the medina, your guide will take you through the labyrinth of souks and artisan shops. Visit Place Souk el- Ghezel (the Wool Market Square) where Christian prisoners were once sold as slaves. Walk the famous and lively Rue des Consuls where foreign consuls were once obliged to live. Browse shops selling clothes, shoes, food and other crafts. South of the Rue Souk visit the Mellah, the Jewish quarter.
►For lunch, have traditional Moroccan food in one of the restaurants within the medina.
►Next, continue to the Hassan tower, which stands on the hill overlooking the Wadi Bou Regreg. It is a gigantic mosque, emblematic of Rabat and famous for its unfinished minaret where storks nest. Next door, visit the beautiful Mausoleum of Mohammed V decorated with stained glass windows, white marble and a wrought-iron entryway with a stairway leading to an impressive dome. Also on the list is Ville Nouvelle. The new town has wide boulevards, open green spaces and avenues lined with residential blocks, a railroad, the Bank of Morocco, Musée de la Poste and the cathédrale Saint -Pierre.
►Visit the Musée Archéologie, which houses the most extensive collection of archeological artifacts and the unbelievably beautiful Necropolis at Chellah. In the necropolis are vestiges of the Roman town of Sale.
►Spend the night in a hotel in Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
(Book a Tour or call (800) 787-8806)
DAY 3: RABAT – MEKNES– FES
►After a breakfast of fresh fruits, jams, bread and mint tea, drive to Meknes.
►We will take the road from Fès to Meknès. Arrive in Meknes and begin your tour of Meknes at Bab Mansour. First we will pass through the triumphal arch. Standing at sixteen meters high with an eight meter long arch, the intricately patterned triumphal arch is argued to be the most beautiful in Morocco. Enter Place El-Hedime (Square of Ruins) which links the medina and the kasbah. The square is lined with modern residential buildings and a covered food souk (market).
►We will stop and visit the Musée Dar Jamaï, a museum showing modern Moroccan arts, woodwork, ceramics, carpets, costumes, jewelry and metalwork. The sophisticated building was once a palace incorporating a mosque, menzah (pavilion), courtyard, kitchen and hammam.
►Next we will visit the Bou Inania Medersa to explore the beautiful Koranic school established by the Merinids in the 14th century. Opposite of the Medersa, see the Grand Mosque.
►Browse Rue de Souks, a street filled with hardware merchants (akarir), corn chandlers (bezzazine) and metalsmiths (haddadin). Next visit the En-Nejjarine Mosque, a 12th century Almohad built structure. Before moving on to see the square towers and zellij tilework of the Bab el-Berdaïne gateway, catch the action of Ed-Dlala Kissaria.
►Among the most impressive elements of this imperial city is the grand gate named after the architect, El-Mansour, a Christian renegade who converted to Islam. The design of the gate plays with Almohad patterns. It has zellij mosaics of excellent quality. The marble columns were taken from the Roman ruins of Volubilis.
►Drive to Fès where you will settle in at your traditional riad hotel and then have a late night dinner at Le Maison Bleu.
DAY 4: FES – MOULAY IDRISS – VOUBILIS
►After a traditional Moroccan breakfast travel on a two hour excursion outside of Fès to explore the breathtaking archaeological site of Volubilis (Walili). Once occupied by the Romans, Volubilis has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site and gained international acclaim when Martin Scorsese made it a feature location for his film, The Last Temptation of Christ.
►Begin your visit by discovering the fascinating Roman ruins adorned with beautiful mosaics and colorful tiles depicting Roman mythology. The ruins are spread out across several acres and what remains visible is several fragments of wall, parts of massive columns, the capitol, the basilica and a triumphal arch. The ruins reveal how the Roman Empire transformed the original Carthaginian settlement into a typical Roman city complete with mansions, a town center, a triumphal arc and temples devoted to the Roman gods.
►Enjoy light fare for lunch at the small café that sits just below the Volubilis ruins. Next explore the open air museum with remains of altars, sculptural fragments and colorful mosaics.
►Upon returning to Fès, your driver will take you briefly through the city of Moulay Idriss. You can stand on one of the twin hills of Moulay Idriss. From there you see a panoramic view and appreciate the green plateau upon which Volubilis is situated.
►Return to your hotel in Fès and then head to the Nouvelle (new city) for dinner at a modern Moroccan restaurant.
DAY 5: FES
►After a breakfast your day will begin at the Merenid Tombs of Fès.
►Next, stop at the Musée des Armes, a fortress that once protected Fès. Today it is possible to see a display of 8,000 pieces of artillery from Makina, the arsenal built by Moulay Hassan I.
►Enter the Fès el- Bali through the symmetrical horse shoe arches at Bab Boujeloud (The Blue Gate). Fès -el Bali, best characterized as a sea of rooftops embellished with minarets and domes, is too narrow for cars. Aside from walking, donkeys and mules are still the best way to travel within the cities old walls.
►Upon entering Rue Talaa Kebira, the main street in the medina, you will see lines of shops covered by canopies. Make your way to the Karaouiyine Mosque. Located in the Karaouiyine quarter, the Mosque is one of the oldest in the world and functioned as the first university in Morocco. After your visit, continue along the streets which will lead you to some of Fes’ most important buildings including Dar el- Magana, a fourteenth century water clock and Zaouia el Tijaniya, containing the tomb of Ahmed el Tijani, who spread his infamous doctrine Tariqq el- Tijaniya (The Way) throughout Morocco.
►We will also stop to visit the Ech Cherabliyine Mosque (Mosque of the Slipper makers) then browse the souks selling henna, slippers, caftans, silks, jewelry and spices.
►Next onto the UNESCO recognized site, Fondouk el- Najjarine. Within the foundouk’s three floors is the Musée de Bois, which displays carved doors from the Bou Inania Medersa.
►Stop for lunch within the medina at one of the fine Moroccan palace-restaurants that serves an extravaganza of mezas (small plates of food) common among Fassis tradition. The mezas that are often brought to your table prior to the large mid-day meal will be several of these: Choukchouka salad, Zaalouk salad, Carrots with Cumin Seed, raisin and orange salad, Cold radish, orange, and Fennel Salad. The mezas are traditionally followed by the main meal which will include the option of a: Lamb, Prune, and Date Tagine, a Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons or a Vegetable Tagine. For desert you will be served with fruit/ or local Moroccan pastries along with Mint Tea.
►After lunch we will visit the Musée Dar el- Batha to view the great collection of pottery, leather-work, wood, books and manuscripts from the nineteenth century.
►Next, enter Bab el Ftouh, the “Gateway of the Aperture” to explore the Andalusian quarter, a residential part of the medina laced with monuments. Our last part of the tour will take you into the Fès el Jedid, a kasbah which functioned as Morocco’s administrative center until 1912. Explore the royal palace and many interesting quarters including the Moulay Abdalllah Quarter, the Mellah (Jewish Quarter) and a little farther down south lies Ville Nouvelle (The New Quarter).
(Book a Tour or call (800) 787-8806)
Within the medina, we will the following historical sites:
►Medersa Bou Inania: An (Islamic school) founded by Abu Inan Faris that is highly decorated from floor to ceiling. The medersa is one of the few religious places in Morocco that is accessible to non-Islamic tourists.
►Kairaouine Mosque: Morocco’s second largest mosque was built by Fatima in 857. The Kairaouine Mosque became the home of the West’s first university and the world’s foremost center of learning at the beginning of the second millennium.
►University of Al-Karaouine: Founded in 859, this university is one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world and is considered the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in the world.
►Medersa el Attarin: A (Koranic school) that was named for local spice merchants known as attar. Founded by Sultan Abou Saïd in the 14th century as a students’ dormitory, it is attached to the Kairaouine Mosque.
►Zaouia Moulay Idriss II: A zaouia (shrine) dedicated to and the tomb of Moulay Idriss II, who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828 and founded the city of Fès for the second time in 810.
►Dar Batha: A Hispano-Moorish palace dating from the end of the 19th century that houses admirable collections of traditional art from Fès.
DAY 6: BENI MELLAL – MARRAKECH
►After breakfast depart Fès to head for Beni Mellal, a modern town surrounded by orange and olive groves. The nearby Bin-el-Ouidane Dam keeps the groves and other cultivated crops like Beetroot and sugarcane well watered.
►Enjoy a traditional Berber lunch in Beni Mellal. Located at the foot of the Middle Atlas Moutains, Beni Mellal is on the edge of the great Tadla Plain where cereals are cultivated. The town has an interesting history of also being called Day and Kasba Belkouche and was inhabited by the Berbers and Jews before the arrival of Islam. In the 13th century Beni Mellal stood on the border between the kingdoms of Fes and Marrakech, which were the objects of dispute between the Merinid and Almohad dynasties. In 1680 Moulay Idriss built a kasbah in Beni Mellal.
►In Beni Mellal we will have the option of trekking around waterfalls, springs, caves, and wooded gorges populated by monkeys. Moving on we can stop at the Kasba Tadla, the focal point of a garrison town built by Moulay Ismaïl in the 17th century.
►Continue to Marrakech where you will stay the night.
DAY 7: MARRAKECH
►Depart from your hotel.
►Your introduction to Marrakech will begin in the Medina, the old quarter of the Marrakech. From here we will explore this historically charming area by foot. In Djemma el Fna, you will visit the famous 12th century Koutouba Mosque and its influential minaret.
►Your guide will lead you through the labyrinth streets and alleys of the Djemma. Enjoy aromatic smells, taste fresh squeezed orange juice and venture into the souks specializing in Berber carpets, silver jewelry, artisan workshops, handmade shoes and tanneries.
►Marrakech is a city of underground channels built by the architects from Cordoba, Spain to provide water for the town and Palmery. We will drive to the Lower Medina to explore more of Marrakesh’s secrets: El Mansour mosque, the sixteenth century Saadian Tombs with its stark towers, the ruined 16th century El Badhi palace, and the Mellah and the Jewish quarter.
►Enjoy a three- course lunch consisting of fresh salad, tajine and fruit at one of Marrakech most delectable restaurants.
►After lunch we will head north of the Mellah to visit the 19th century Bahia palace, originally built for Si Moussa, a former slave who became King Moulay Hassan’s chamberlain. The palace holds a courtyard and riads decorated with beautiful carved stucco, Arabic architecture.
►Next we will visit the contemporary Moroccan Art Museum or Tiskiwin, a private museum dedicated to popular arts & crafts, styled as a beautiful Spanish-Moroccan house, next door to Dar Si Said palace, a smaller version of the Bahia. Now onward to the new city, we will navigate our way to French, Gueliz and head to the Majorelle Gardens, a magical and lush small garden estate designed by Jacque Majorelle and maintained by Yves Saint Laurent. The Majorelle Garden is filled with colorful walkways, ponds, cactus and plants as well as a beautiful shop with hand-made goods. On our return to your hotel, we will pass by the La Mammounia Hotel Garden (where Alfred Hitchcock wrote the famous film The Birds).
►Attend the Chez Allez Fantasia and music show. Dinner served on site. Return to your riad for the evening.
DAY 8: MARRAKECH – CASABLANCA
►Depart from your hotel and take the road back to Casablanca. This ends your Morocco Travel experience.