►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)
The mysterious music of the Gnaouas is celebrated each year in June at the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira. Essaouira is an Atlantic seaside resort town and has long been considered as one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast. The Medinaof Essaouira (formerly “Mogador”) is a UNESCOWorld Heritage listed city, as an example of a late 18th century fortified town. The Gnaoua Festival attracts acosmopolitan audience of 500,000 festival-goers annually and offers a rich program, reaffirming its goal to emphasize the Gnaoua heritage in all its variety and to invite the best world and jazz artists to come and perform in the unique and magical town of Essaouira. This popular four day festival features art exhibitions and Gnaoua style music. International musicians and groups from Tangier, Marrakesh,and Essaouira perform their Gnaoua sounds at the Place Moulay Hassan and other spaces in the medina and outside its city walls such as Bab Doukkala, Bab Marrakech, Dar Souiri, Chez Kebin, Zaouia Gnaoua, Place Khayma and theMarche Aux Grain. Great musicians who have performed at The Gnaoua Festivalsince its first edition in 1988 are: Trio Joubran with bluesman Justin Adams,Toumani Diabaté, Eric Legnini, KyMani Marley, Wayne Shorter, the National Orchestra of Barbès, Hassan Hakmoun, Will Calhonn, Adam Rudolf, Sussan Deyhim, Steve Shehan, Yéyé Kanté, Adam Rudolph, Mokhtar Samba, Yaya Ouattara, Jamey Haddad, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Randy Weston, Adam Rudolph, The Wailers,Pharoah Sanders, Keziah Jones, Omar Sosa, Doudou N’Diaye Rose, the Italiantrumpet player Paolo Fresu and Ramon Valle.
DAY 1: TOUR OF MARRAKESH
►Marrakesh, known as the “red city or Al Hamra,” is a city in southwestern Morocco in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Marrakesh is the second largest city and administrative center in Morocco. The heart of the Marrakesh, Djemma El Fna Square, offers an exciting experience with its souks, gardens, palaces, snake charmers, outdoor food stalls and fabulous shopping for Moroccan goods.
►Depart from your hotel. Your introduction to Marrakesh will begin in the Medina, the old quarter of the Marrakesh. 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 help you navigate through the labyrinth like streets and alleys of the Djemma. Enjoy the aromatic streets, taste the fresh squeeze orange juice and venture into the souks (shops) specializing in Berber carpets, silver jewelry, artisan workshops, handmade shoes, tanneries, etc.
►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 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 Marrakesh 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.
DAY 2: MARRAKESH – ESSAOUIRA
►After breakfast, drive to Essaouira. Essaouria is a fun-filled and relaxing day tripfrom Marrakesh and is the city that hosts the Gnaoua Music Festival. After breakfast at your hotel, depart for Essaouira. The journey to this former Portuguese fishing village offers up only a few roadside towns and the occasional Berber village. In the ’60s and ’70s, Essaouira was a pitstop on the hippie trek from Marrakesh. Jimi Hendrix made the pilgrimage, as did Bob Marley and Cat Stevens. Essaouira was the inspiration for Hendrix’s song “Castles Made of Sand”.
►Visit this sea-side medieval town that boasts lovely white-washed and blue-shuttered houses, colonnades, thuya wood workshops, art galleries and mouthwatering seafood. Once called Mogador by European sailors and traders,Essaouria is known for its annual Gnaoua Music Festival that attracts 300,000+ people in June. It also has an expansive beach for surfing called Plage de Safi.
►Take a stroll along the town’s sunlit pedestrian main square, Place Prince Moulayel Hassan and the Skala du Port, the fishing harbor, offers breathtaking views of thePortuguese ramparts. Explore the ramparts and the spice and jewelry souks of the medina. The medina of Essaouira (formerly “Mogador”) is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, as an example of a late-18th century fortified town.
►Have lunch at the fish-grill cafes, with wooden tables and benches laid out overlooking the sea that was once- in the 19th century- the only Moroccan portsouth of Tangier.
►After lunch visit Orson Welles’ Square and memorial, designed by Samir Mustapha, one of the towns artists, which pays homage to Orson Welles filming ofOthello in Essouaria. Essaouira’s history is a reminder of the times when Spain, Portugal and England fought to maintain control over its coasts. It has a typical Portuguese harbor that is a stunning example of Moorish and Portuguese architecture.
►Return to your hotel, relax and then attend the Gnaoua Festival late into the night.
DAY 3: ESSAOUIRA
►After breakfast explore Essaouira or take a swim on the beach. Referred to as the ‘windy city of Afrika’, the beaches of the 18th century French influencedEssaouria, are the most popular. The winds make it the ideal place to hostwindsurfing competitions and year round, you can spot people practicing the sport.
►Essaouria attracts diverse crowds because it offers a range of activities to do.Shop in the famous Thuya wood carving shops, take in the panoramic sights bySkala du Port, embrace the cafe scene, or visit the nearby islands. History and cultural lovers will also enjoy exploring the Mellah, where up to 9000 Jews livedbetween 1875-1900 exporting goods like salt and jewelry to London. You can also spend an afternoon climbing 15th century ramparts that were once sea bastions and fortifications. During the 19th century, Essaouira was the only part of port south of Tangier to trade with Europe.
►This beachside resort also has a fishing fleet and market. Essaouria offers a good range of cafes and restaurants near the ramparts with views of the sea. For lunchthe best place to eat is at one of line of grills down at the port, an Essaouria institution, offering the freshest of a variety of kinds of fishes.
►Essaouira is also renowned for its kitesurfing and windsurfing, with the powerful trade wind blowing almost constantly onto the protected, almost waveless, bay. Several world-class clubs rent top-notch material on a weekly basis. Parasols tend to be used on the beach as a protection against the wind and the blowing sand. Camel excursions are available on the beach and into the desert band in the interior.
►In the evening continue the second day of the evening festivities of the Gnaoua Festival.
DAY 4: ESSAOUIRA
►After breakfast, for a side-excursion within Essaouira, visit Ranch de Diabat, located in the small village Diabat. Ranch de Diabat arranges tours of high quality with camels or horses – and it can be for 2 hours or it can be for several days. Relax on the beach or enjoy one of the many water sports activities like kayaking, kite surfing, wind surfing, or just regular surfing.
►Enjoy lunch in the old medina and relax at your hotel before attending the Gnaoua Festival.
DAY 5: ESSAOUIRA
►After breakfast, relax on the beach then prepare for a visit to the hammam. The Moroccan bath house (Arabic hammām) is the North African variant of a steam bath. Hammams have played an important role in cultures of the Middle-East and North Africa serving as places of social gathering, ritual cleansing and with special customs attached to them. The majority of Moroccans visit a hammam at least once a week. The process involved in visiting a Hammam is similar to that of a sauna,but is more closely related to the ancient Roman bathing practices.
►Moroccans traditionally perform their own cleanses which involve locating a spot on the floor of a hot room (some people bring their own mats), filling a few buckets with water, and lying there until you sweat out all your impurities. This too is the same process that foreigners and tourists engage in when going to a hammam.
►If massage is available at the hammam, be prepared to be well scrubbed (in a hot room) on both sides of your body with a rough flat glove called a kiis. If you find this a little invasive, then you can bring your own kiis. Also, come prepared with your own soap, shampoo, punice stone, towel, and bathing suit- all bathers must display modesty.
►Enjoy a relaxing lunch near the beach then and in the afternoon enjoy one of the many art exhibits or events surrounding the Gnaoua Music Festival. In the evening continue watching the Festival performances.
DAY 6: ESSAOUIRA
►Eat breakfast, and then explore Essaouira at your leisure.
►Head back to your hotel for an afternoon rest and then take in the last evening of the Festival.
DAY 7: ESSAOUIRA – MARRAKESH
►Depart Morocco. Private transfer to Marrakesh airport.
MORE ABOUT THE GNAOUA MUSIC FESTIVAL
The festival recently honored the Gnaoua musicians with a new stage, which is dedicated to them at Bab Doukkala, allowing the ardent supporters of the Gnaoua rhythms to meet with the stars, from Hamid El Kasri to Abdelkébir Merchane. This stage was created for 100 % Gnaoua concerts, as well as the traditional lilas in the exceptional Gnaoua Zaouia (trance performances) every evening at midnight for the purists.
World and jazz musicians perform on the new stage Bab Sebaa and The Moulay Hassan stage is kept for the famous groups of very diverse styles. On the smaller stages in the medina, the new generation of maâlems performs, and fans of electronic fusion and contemporary Moroccan music now have two new dedicated areas: thePepsi stage and the Méditel stage.
The Gnaoua Festival offers 10 concert sites from which everyone can choose according to their taste, 10 different but complementary programs forming the details of a unique puzzle, that of a pioneering and cosmopolitan festival. The quality is excellent as ever.