Tea in the Sahara


DAY 1: CASABLANCA – RABAT
►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.
►View the French architecture complemented with Moorish design in Place Mohammed V, the protectorate square. Pass by the prefecture, law courts, central post office and cultural centers. Enjoy music played by the attractive monumental fountain. Next enter Place des Nationes Unies. Now lined with impressive 1930’s apartments, shops and restaurants, the square was no more than an entertaining market place at the beginning of the 20th century.
►Make sure you have a camera in hand to take pictures of the famous clock tower,art deco hotels, the eleven story Moretti apartment block and the high rise art deco buildings covered with loggias, columns, zellij tiles and geometric carvings onBoulevard Mohmmed V.
►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, move easily through the labyrinth of narrow streets lined with jewelersbarbers andartisans. See the squala, a fortified 18th century bastion. Visit the nearby shrine containing the tomb of Sidi Allal el-Kairouant, Casa’s first patron saint.
►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 apromontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers.A further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque’s courtyard. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters. Work on the mosque was started in 1980, and was intended to be completed for the 60th birthday of the former Moroccan king, Hassan II, in 1989. However, the building was not inaugurated until 1993. Authorities spent an estimated $800 million in the construction of the building. It is an enormous architectural masterpiece and the second largest religious building in the world. Tour its famous minaret, dome, royal doors made of marble. 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. After touring the Mosque, head over to the New Town of Casablanca also designed by the French architect Henri Prostfor 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. The New Town you past in your morning journey is possibly the most impressive in Morocco. Former administrative buildings and modern hotels populate the area. Their style is a combination of Hispano-Mauresqueand Art Deco styles.
►Take the road from Casablanca in mid afternoon and drive to the Imperial City ofRabat.
►Check into your hotel, located just across from Parliament and then enjoy dinner in Sale.
DAY 2: RABAT – FES
►After breakfast depart Rabat and drive to Fes, Morocco’s spiritual capital.
►Arrive in Fes and settle in at your riad. Have dinner in a traditional Fassis restaurant of a tajine or couscous.
DAY 3: FES
►After a breakfast of Semolina break, fruit, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice, your day will begin at the Merenid Tombs of Fès. Standing among olive trees and blue agaves, the sixteenth century elegant ruins of marble and epitaphs face a breathtaking view of the Fès. Continue along the old curtain wall of the medina and make a 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.
Next, 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.
►Moving along, stop to admire Ech Cherabliyine Mosque (Mosque of the Slipper makers) then browse the surrounding lines of souks selling henna, slippers, caftans, silks, jewelry and spices crowded around the kissaria. Next visit the UNESCO recognized site, Fondouk el- Najjarine. Within the foundouk’s three floors is theMusée 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 DateTagine, 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.
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 4: FES – ZIZ VALLEY –  MERZOUGA
►Breakfast at your hotel then depart Fes to begin a scenic drive through the MiddleAtlas Mountainswhich are characterized by a varied landscape where the eastern part receives hardly any rainfall yet the western part enjoys the highest rainfall and arable areas where valleys and plateaus are covered by forests of cedar, cork, oak and maritime pine.
►Leaving Fes is Sefrou, an impressive town that can be a quick stopover on the way to the Sahara or an overnight trip. Sefrou’s name was taken from a Berber tribe that converted to Judaism 2,000 years ago but then Islamized by Idriss I in the eighth century. The town is bisected by the Wadi Aggaï and is encircled by crenellated ramparts pierced by nine gates. Sefrou has many interesting places to explore including old medina where souks center around the Grand Mosque, the zaouia of Sidi Lahchen Lyoussi, a crafts center selling leather goods, pottery and wrought iron items. Other favorites include the natural Kef-el-Moumen Caves which contain tombs venerated by Muslims and Jews, the Wadi Aggaï Falls are refreshing and a great site to photograph and the green-roofed Koubba of Sidi bou Ali Serghine offers a scenic view over Sefrou. You may also want to visit the mystical spring of Lalla Bhalil which is rumored to cure madness. Leaving the Sefrou region, you will drive by Dayet Aoua, the first of three attractive lakes. If you wish, you can choose to take a detour off the main road and go on a lakes tour.
►The first lake Dayet Aoua sits in a natural depression surrounded by hills and is surrounded by orchards. When the lakes are full, the area becomes a natural reserve for many species of birds like kites and kestrels, and waders such as avocets, cattle, egrets, and grey herons. You will also see Dayet Ifrah, one of the largest lakes in the area. Here shepherds set up their own tents on the lake-shore. The third lake isDayet el Hachlaf which sits behind a forestry hut leading to outcrops of eroded limestone and caves that provide a home to bats.
►Lunch in Midelt, an agricultural area home to many Amazigh extending from the Moulouya River to Jbel Ayachi, bounded on the east and west by dry plains.
►After lunch we will drive directly to the Sahara, we will pass by the Ziz Gorgewhere the Wadi Ziz springs from and great quantities of dates are dried during the autumn harvest. Along this road, look for signs “Er-Rachidia”. Here the palm groves of the Ziz and Tafilalt begin and you can catch a glimpse of the Er-Rachidia’s administrative and military center built by the French in the early twentieth century.
►Arrive in the evening to Merzouga and spend the night in a Berber biouvac tent near the Erg Chebbi dunes.
DAY 5:  MERZOUGA – N’KOB
►Wake up early and head out to an Oasis by camel to trek across the Erg Chebbi Dunes before dawn. Watch the sunrise over the dunes and then head back to your tent.
►Enjoy breakfast on fresh fruits, natural squeezed orange juice and bread.
►After breakfast spend the next few hours riding through the desert then drive in Travel Exploration’s 4×4 to the Dayet Srji.
►Depart Merzouga and stop in the center of Rissani to purchase Berber jewelry with iconic designs of the desert. Stock up on dried fruits and other snacks at the local souk to enjoy a relaxing ride back to Ouarzazate.
►Enjoy a late lunch in the Berber village of N’kob. Have a tajine on the terrace of a renovated kasbah hotel overlooking the valley in N’Kob. Try a tasty kalia, a spicy stew of mutton or kid, flavored with over forty spices and served in a tajine with vegetables, egg and parsley.
►Spend the night at a local riad, Ksar Jenna in N’kob village.
►N’kob is a village in the Middle Atlas Mountains which boasts prehistoric rock-carvings to explore. If geology is your passion then stopping in Tazzarine, Alnif and Rissani to explore the rocks, fossils and minerals found in shops along the roadside is a priority. Trilobites are the areas main export. Besides fossils, you will also have a chance to see a circuit of ksour- Asserehine, Zaouiet el Maati, Irara, Gaouz, Tabassant, Tinrheras and Ouirhalne.
DAY 6: N’KOB – OUARZAZATE
►Enjoy breakfast at Ksar Jenna and then walk to the village of Ait Ouzzine for a traditional Berber experience. Just 5 kilometers after N’kob is Aït Ouzzine (the nice village). Aït Ouzzine is a Berber village inhabited by over 300 families who live in beautifully painted crenulated kasbahs, with their own henna fields, water wells, livestock and gardens. This peaceful village is tucked away along an impressive desert route connecting the Draa Valley (Tansikht) and Rissani.
Meet a local Berber family, partake in a cooking lesson of how to maketraditional bread and a tajine. Then explore and tour the village by foot. Walk in the green fields and see how the traditional Berbers live with their gardens of herbslive stock, and henna plants.
►Lunch will be served to you in Aït Ouzzine by a traditional Berber family. The menu will include a traditional meal of fresh baked bread with spices and a chickenand vegetable tajine and fresh local fruits for desert. After lunch, you can have your hands and feet painted with henna by a local village artist and relax. End the afternoon with mint tea and almonds.
►Depart Aït Ouzzine and drive back to Ouarzazate where you will spend the night.
DAY 7: OUARZAZATE – MARRAKECH
►After breakfast at your hotel, we will depart Ouarzazate and take the pise (windy road) towards the Oasis of Fint passing the “Plateau de pierres“. On this road you will find a shining Oasis of palms.
►Visit the Oasis of Fint that hovers under the Atlas Mountains. Journey on a one-hour walk inside the Oasis where you will have a cup of tea with the headmastersfamily Azziz Ouaziz and tour the surrounding area where date palm oases anddramatic desert scenery are king.
►After visiting the Oasis of Fint we will take the road to Kasbah Tifoultoute which stands majestically on the banks of Oued Tifoultoute. From a distance this old Kasbah is impressive with its castle-like architecture. In the 1960’s the Kasbah was converted into a hotel for the cast ofLawrence of Arabia. Tour the Kasbah and have lunch at its restaurant which is known for delicious mint and herb teas. Seepanoramic views from the rooftop.
►After lunch, visit the Atlas Film Studios. The studios are flanked by Holly-wood style Egyptian figures and cover 30,000 sq m of desert. David Lean filmed Lawrenceof Arabiaat The Atlas Film Studios in the early 1960’s. Since then many famous directors have followed in his footsteps to exploit the magnificent scenery. International blockbusters shot here in recent years include: the French version ofCleopatra, Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky, Scorsese’s Kundun, Gillies MacKannon’sHideous Kinky, Ridley Scott’s GladiatorBlack Hawke Down, Oliver Stone’sAlexander The Great, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’sSahara. Most of the filming takes place in the desert in the south however you can view the Tibetan monastery featured in Scorese’s Kundan and an Egyptian temple from Cleopatra.
►Next we will return to your hotel for you to retrieve your things and we will take the road to Marrakesh.
►For a late lunch stop in the village of Tadart where you will dine in a local restaurant with incredible views and enjoy a tajine made with fresh local olive oil or grilled sheep. After lunch we will continue the road towards Marrakech passing by breathtaking views of the Tichka Pass in High Atlas, a French built road that is among the largest mountain chain in North Africa.
►Arrive at Marrakech. Have dinner and pend the evening exploring Djemma el Fna Square.
DAY 8: MARRAKECH
►Rise early, have breakfast and begin your tour of Marrakech.
►Your introduction to Marrakech will begin in the Medina, the old quarter of Marrakech. From here we will explore this historically charming area by foot. InDjemma el Fna, you will visit the famous 12th century Koutouba Mosque and its influential minaret.
►Marrakesh 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 Marrakech’s secrets: El Mansour mosque, the sixteenth centurySaadian 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’s 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 and 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).
►For dinner, dine in the Djemma el Fna, a UNESCO recognized site. Afterwards, stroll Djemma’s labyrinth like streets and enjoy squares where snake charmers fiddle flirtatiously with their cobras, fire swallowers eat fire, storytellers entertain big crowds, fortune tellers mesmerize tourists with stories and the rhythms of African and Arabic sounds hypnotize the crowds.
►Return to your hotel to rest and prepare for next day’s journey to Casablanca.
 
DAY 9: MARRAKECH – CASABLANCA
►Breakfast at your hotel then departure return to Casablanca.

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