Marvelous Morocco Desert, Cities, Souks and Camels November 5-13th, 2020. 8 nights, 9 days $4495* Add-on Tours Available to the Sahara desert as well as the beach town of Essaouira
Minimum for the main tour is 12, max is 18. *Some savings are possible if you prefer to share with an old or a new friend, contact us for more info.
Extension Tour Minimums: Sahara, 4 ppl & Essaouira, 2 ppl
Thursday, November 5: Arrival & Welcome to Morocco!
Arrive at Casablanca airport where we will meet our guide and driver at the arrivals hall. They will be with us for the entire trip. We’ll head into the city and check-into our hotel where we’ll have time to rest and freshen up after a long day of travel.
Dinner tonight will be served at the iconic Rick’s Cafe created in authentic Moroccan style as an homage to the famous film, “Casablanca”. The rest of the evening will be at leisure. Bring a swimsuit, this hotel as many of ours will on this trip has a pool as well as an excellent hammam and spa which will help soothe your jet lag. NOTE: Outdoor temperatures range from 52 – 74 degrees Fahrenheit in November.
Overnight: Barcelo Anfa (a 5 Star hotel or its equivalent) Meals: D Driving: ~ 1 hour
Friday, November 6: Casablanca to Fes
Today we’ll start the day with a visit of the Hassan II Mosque. This is the largest mosque in Morocco and 5th largest in the world. It is also the only mosque in Morocco open to non-Muslims and we’ll do a short guided visit of the interior.
Then, we’ll get on the road heading north to the ancient town of Fes. We’ll have a lunch break en route at a local restaurant. After arriving in the city, we’ll drop our luggage at the riad and begin exploring the city. Founded in 781AD, Fes is now considered the world’s largest car-free urban zone. Instead of cars, mule-drawn carriages speed through the alleyways. Today we’ll check out a local pharmacy with its mysterious canisters of roots, flowers, and powders. The afternoon will include stops at the Medina’s Jewish quarter and the Medersas. In addition, we’ll also stop by the world’s oldest and longest operating learning institution, the University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in 859AD.
Dinner tonight at our hotel will be served at Eden in the Palais Amani, an excellent restaurant that combines Moroccan and French influences.
Overnight: Riad El Amine (An opulent 5 star hotel and spa or its equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: ~4 hours
Saturday, November 7: Exploring Fes
Today we’ll explore the souks and artisan quarters of Fes. We shall visit the legendary tanneries, where ancient techniques are still used to prepare Moroccan leather which is then used in a variety of goods from clothing to bags as well as other handicrafts. We’ll head behind the scenes to see the workshops of local potters, rug makers, and other artisans. Lunch will be included at a local restaurant in the Medina.
This afternoon enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to shop or explore on your own. Guests also have the option to book a special tasting tour of Fes for the early evening.
Optional Extra: $100 Tasting Trails of Fes. On this tasting tour, those who book will join an expert local culinary leader and story-teller for a truly unique look into the world of Fessi cuisine and culture. The tour will include stops at three different food souks allowing the chance to try traditional Moroccan street food including dried meats, milawi, harsha, briwats, spicy sardines, spicy potato cakes, soups, olives and more. At the honey souk we’re you’ll be able to taste an array of delicious wild honey, discuss their flavors and health-giving properties and find out why honey is so important in Moroccan cooking and Islamic culture. We’ll investigate traditional cooking methods by visiting a furnace where the water for the communal bath house ‘hammam’ is also heated, and a 400-year-old ‘furan’ or communal oven and bakery. The evening will conclude with a stop at a tea seller shop to discover the world of spices and secret to preparing Morocco’s signature drink.
Dinner tonight is not included, but recommendations will be provided for those who do not take the tasting tour, plus you can also enjoy the riad’s Moroccan restaurant.
Overnight: Riad El Amine (or equivalent) Meals: B, L Driving: ~4 hours
Sunday, November 8: Volubilis & Rabat
Today we will venture back in time to Morocco in the 1st century: an epoch of tumultuous transformation, where people from all over the Mediterranean and Northern Africa were migrating to the fertile Middle Atlas Mountains. Volubilis, located about 30 kilometers from Fes, is an ancient Berber and Roman city considered by many as not only the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania but also the administrative center of Roman Africa. This morning, you’ll wander among the dramatic ruins up-close-and-personal through homes, temples and public buildings of the Greek, Syrian, and Jewish city dwellers. Exceptionally well preserved, the ruins offer colorful mosaics adorning many of the floors where you can picture what it was like to wander the cypress-lined city in its Golden Age!
We’ll leave Volubilis and head to a nearby vineyard for lunch. While Morocco is not as famous for its wines as Italy or France, there are several excellent local vineyards here. We’ll savor lunch paired with a wine tasting. Then we’ll enjoy a short visit of the stunning imperial gates that dot the neighboring city of Meknes (45 minutes away from Volubilis).
We’ll then continue driving to Rabat, the capital city, and our home for the night. We’ll have dinner at our small charming riad dating back to 1815 located in one of the most picturesque parts of town and then the rest of the evening will be at leisure.
Overnight: Riad Kalaa (A 4-star hotel or its equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: ~3.5 hours
Monday, November 9: Onwards to the Agafay Desert
This morning we’ll begin with a short guided tour of Rabat. We’ll visit the Yacoub al-Mansour Esplanade, which is home to two must-see monuments: First, the King’s Mausoleum, which was built in 1971 and houses the remains of the late King Hassan II, Prince Abdallah, and their father King Mohamed V. In front of the Mausoleum, you will find the Hassan Tower, an incomplete red sandstone minaret which began construction in 1195 AD. You’ll then wrap up your visit of Rabat at the Kasbah des Oudayas, an Almohad fortress built in 1150 AD. From the Kasbah des Oudayas, we can take a stroll through the winding blue streets, and possibly enjoy a mint tea at the Cafe Maure overlooking the Bou Regreg River. Plus, we’ll have the chance to meet a lovely local artist, Wafae, who hand makes leather goods and is an expert at Moroccan Caligraphy. We shall visit her atelier and chat a bit about Moroccan art and design.
After lunch at the lovely Dar Naji in Rabat, we’ll get on the road to the Agafay desert. While Agafay is not the Sahara and there are no sand dunes, this rocky desert is still a fun place to go glamping for a night! We’ll arrive in time for a sunset camel ride and then a special tented dinner with some local music. Then we’ll enjoy a restful nights sleep in our luxury tents.
Overnight: Terres Des Etoiles (Luxury tented camp or equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: ~4 hours
Tuesday, November 10: Visiting Moroccan Artisans
After a leisurely morning at our camp, we’ll drive to the nearby village of Tamsloute. Here we’ll visit Maslouhi, a collection of artisans cooperatives that specialize in everything from rugs, blankets, pottery, leather, and mosaics. We’ll enjoy a tour of the village with stops into different artisan workshops and have the chance to observe how the blankets, rugs, pottery and other unique Moroccan wears sold in the souks are created. Try your hand at running a big blanket loop and discover how several women work together to create a single rug.
The town itself is an interesting stop with a fortress dating back to the founding of Islamic Morocco and today it is full of street murals and very friendly locals. We’ll enjoy lunch at a local family’s home before heading into Marrakech, something not often experienced on a standard tour.
We’ll have some free time upon arrival to Marrakech and for anyone who wishes to enjoy a Moroccan hammam spa treatment** – appointment slots will be arranged at La Maison Arabe.
**Optional Extra: Hammam Spa Treatment. Hammam means “spreader of warmth”. Walking into a hammam is like walking through time into a spacious and ornate wellness sanctuary, a quiet retreat in an atmosphere of half-lit silence, seclusion and heat. Silence is an integral part of the cleansing process and helps the body and spirit liberate itself from the excess and superfluous. The hammam traditional ritual involves several steps to cleanse, detoxify, and help you relax. This is one of the world’s most ancient traditions; a black-soap cleanse, followed by a cascading cold-water rinse. This prepares your skin for an invigorating scrub, which leaves you soft and free of accumulated toxins and impurities. After another rinse, a Ghassoul mask of Moroccan volcanic clay is applied to the body, face, and hair. The last step of this centuries-old practice of purification is a relaxing massage using pure oils, Morocco’s precious youth elixir!
PM Meet back up with the whole group to go for cocktails at La Mamounia, built in 1929, its one of the most beautiful hotels in the world with a magnificent garden. After imbibing we’ll head to Dar Cherifa for a gourmet Moroccan dinner in the oldest riad in Marrakech. After our repas, we’ll take a guided leisurely stroll through Djemma el Fna square at night when it is lit up with street performers and food vendors as we make our way back to our hotel for a restful night of sleep.
Wednesday, November 11: Sights, Souks & Tastes of Marrakech
After breakfast, we’ll have a guided tour of the Medina and souks. As you walk through the Medina, you will also see Medersas or religious schools and the Jewish quarter before delving into the myriad pathways of the Souk. The term Souk refers to the markets, and the markets of Marrakech are located in a serpentine set of alleyways with twists and turns that can confuse even frequent travelers to the city! Our expert guide will give us an overview of how the souk is laid out and where the different sections are located, each focused on a different set of goods (Clothes, spices, lamps, shoes, traditional crafts, etc). After the guided tour wraps up around lunchtime, you’ll be free to keep exploring on your own.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. There again should be a few time slots for the hammam spa at La Maison Arabe.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a visit to the market and a Moroccan Cooking Class in the Medina at a traditional home. After cooking we’ll sit down to a sumptuous dinner with our chef and teachers.
Overnight: Dellarosa Boutique Hotel (or equivalent) Meals: B, L Driving: < 30 mins
Thursday, November 12: Majorelle Gardens & Amal Association
Optional Extra: Hot Air Balloon Ride. If you want an exceptional start to the day, add a hot air balloon ride which begins before sunrise on the outskirts of Marrakech. Just as the sun is rising you will soar up above the Marrakech valley and experience the region from a whole new perspective. You’ll observe the countryside, dotted with Berber villages, palm groves, and farmlands as they meet the High Atlas Mountains. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience and the perfect start to the day. Consider doing this even if you have vertigo because normally its not frightening even for those who are afraid of heights.
After breakfast, together we’ll explore the historical palaces and monuments of Marrakech, including the Koutoubia Mosque (the iconic sight of Marrakech), the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace (stunning examples of traditional Moroccan architecture), and the Saadien Tombs (with their famous carvings and wood ceiling panels).
Then we’ll head into the modern section of the city to have lunch at the Amal Association. Amal is an NGO helping Moroccan women of disadvantaged backgrounds such as widows, divorced or single mothers, orphans, or those with little to no education, all of whom are often stigmatized by society. Their mission is to provide training in culinary and hospitality skills so the women can then find employment and become more self-sufficient. “Amal” means hope in Arabic and indeed it brings hope and empowerment to these women facing extremely challenging circumstances. We’ll have the chance to support their work as we dine at the restaurant and learn more about their inspiring work using food for good.
After lunch, we’ll visit the stunning Majorelle Gardens. Global fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent made his 2nd home in Marrakech for many decades, and his vision drove every detail behind the lush gardens. We’ll also visit the small must-see Berber Museum and the YSL Museum dedicated to his fashion designs. There will be some free time this afternoon to do some final shopping, our guide can be made available to negotiate pricing and shipping if necessary.
For our final farewell meal tonight, we’ll start with a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city as day turns to dusk. We’ll be dropped off at a special secret garden where we will enjoy our farewell dinner, a gourmet spread of Moroccan specialities set up at tables poolside in the center of the gardens. To top it all off, there will be surprise live entertainment making the evening even more memorable plus we’ll all receive a henna tattoo to remind us of Marvelous Magical Morocco! Traditional Moroccan dress provided for all.
Overnight: Overnight: Dellarosa Boutique Hotel (or equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: < 30 mins
Friday, November 13: Departure
Bid farewell to our driver and guide, who we will surely count as friends for life, along with all the sights and sounds of the past week’s adventures. Drive to Marrakech airport 2.5 hours ahead of your departing flight to ensure plenty of time for customs and security.
Please note: The timing for each day is very flexible and driving time listed is indicative only and subject to change depending on weather, traffic, etc. All itineraries are subject to slight changes based on availability and weather.
Note: This tour will be hosted by Girls’ Guide to Paris Founder, Doni Belau who has been to Morocco several times. Her co-host is Lenore Rattner founder of Next Page Tours, who is also a lover of Morocco. While your two hosts have previously toured Morocco, we’ve employed some of the best experts available as our on the ground partners. The outfit we are using was founded by two Moroccans who left their home county to study at Ivy League schools in the US. Later on they left lucrative jobs in consulting and tech to come home to their country to establish a world class tour company focused on the highest level of luxury travel with an eye towards bespoke intimate off-the-beaten path experiences. They receive rave reviews.
A registered country guide, driver and two hosts to look after your every need
All hotels, all meals except one lunch and one dinner. Wine or beer with dinner and cocktails at La Mamounia
All tours, entrance fees and transportation in country
Souk Cuisine cooking class
Meals and visits with artists, women at the cooperative as well as a Moroccan family
Everything to enjoy your magical last evening event with horse-drawn carriage + traditional Moroccan dress will be provided.
Hammam & Spa experiences which range from $100 and up
Hot Air Ballooning $200
Your international airfare
Souvenirs & shopping
—————————————————————————————————————- Tour Extensions:
Sahara Desert 3N Extension:
PRICE: $2295 or $1995 if sharing
Friday, November 13: Drive to Ouarzazate
Your day begins as you embark on an early morning scenic drive that will take you across the Atlas Mountains and down to Ouarzazate. The drive with have stops to enjoy panoramic views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and dry valleys dotted with Palm Groves. Enjoy lunch in a local Berber village along the route.
You’ll arrive in the late afternoon to your luxurious property that is built in the region’s traditional mud-brick architecture and named the Palace of 1001 nights. Dinner at our hotel which serves international cuisine will be something to remember as its listed as one of the best in all of Morocco. The rest of the evening will be at leisure on the property, perhaps you’ll have a nightcap at the bar, stroll around the gardens and pool in the moonlight or head to bed early. *Optional Spa Services are Available
After an impressive breakfast, we’ll start the day by visiting the iconic Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. A UNESCO world heritage site located in the foothills on the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains, and has been featured in the Game of Thrones as well as countless movies such as Gladiator and Sheltering Sky. The fort is a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. It is a collective group of dwellings with imposing defensive walls that are reinforced by angle towers and pierced with a battle gate. It’s an extraordinary ensemble of buildings offering a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques.
Next, you’ll begin the scenic drive to the dunes of Erg Lihoud in the Sahara Desert. You’ll make stops en route to visit palm oases and Berber towns. When you reach the very end of the paved roads, you’ll hop out from the vehicle and onto camels that will take you on a beautiful path through the sand dunes arriving at your luxury camp. Mint tea will be served as you arrive, after which you’ll have some time to enjoy the camp and contemplate the peaceful quiet of the Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world that spans an area roughly the size of the United States! An authentic dinner will be served at your convenience, followed by a campfire and some live tribal music performed live by the camp’s staff. You will enjoy the starlit sky before going to sleep in the comfort of your well-appointed tent.
Overnight: Luxury Camp Meals: B, L, D Driving: ~5 hours
Sunday, November 15: Return to Marrakech
Rise before the sun and head up to a nearby dune to watch the sunrise, which will surely be one of the most memorable in your life. Then enjoy breakfast and some time to try sand-boarding, yoga on the dunes or to simply revel in the magic of the Sahara. Mid-morning, you’ll start the drive to return to Marrakech. You’ll take time to visit some more kasbahs and scenic vistas along the way as you make your way through the Draa Valley and then on to Ouarzazate for a lunch stop. There is time for an optional visit to the movie studios to see where the likes of the Temptation of the Christ and Lawrence of Arabia were been filmed. Finally, cross the Atlas once more via the Tizi-n-Tichka pass with its incredible switchbacks.
Upon arrival in Marrakech, you’ll check into your hotel and have the rest of the night at leisure. Dinner tonight is included at beautiful La Maison Arabe.
Overnight: Dellarosa Boutique Hotel (or equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: ~8 hours
Monday, November 16: Departure
Bid farewell to your driver and guide and drive to Marrakech airport 2.5 hours ahead of your departing flight to ensure plenty of time for exit customs and security. Hopefully, we can welcome you back to Morocco again so goodby is only a “see you soon”!
Blue Beachside Escape 2N Extension: Cost $1595
Friday, November 13: Marrakech to Essaouira
While others depart, you’ll have the morning at leisure in Marrakech. Then you’ll pack up and head to Essaouira, the charming coastal town just a few hours west of Marrakech which also claims Unesco World Heritage status.
As you drive to Essaouira, you’ll make a lunch stop at a local vineyard. You’ll also visit an Argan Oil Cooperative and see how the famous health product is made by women and learn about its importance for the local economy. Finally, continue into the city to check-in at your sumptuous and chic Riad.
Dinner tonight is included at your Riad, by the fire if there is a slight chill in the air. Fresh fish will surely be a good choice because you’ll be dining close to the sea.
After a breakfast of Moroccan pancakes or Viennese pastries you’ll be treated to a half-day guided visit of Essaouira. You’ll visit the city’s old ramparts, the Medina, artisan cooperatives, and Jewish heritage sites. With its brilliant blue and white architecture, windswept beach, and easy-going charm, Essaouira is a lovely change from the hectic pace of Marrakech. On your guided visit, you’ll learn all about the city’s history and the influence left over the centuries by the Carthaginians, Romans, and Portuguese. Behind the 18th century sea walls are thuya wood workshops, artists’ enclaves and silent alleyways where cats sun themselves and veiled women emerge from studded doorways. The harbor is a photographer’s dream, with fishing nets laid out on the quayside, boats unloading their catches and the smell of freshly-grilled sardines and lobsters in the air.
Lunch is included near the beach for some fresh seafood. You’ll have free time then to explore and shop on your own. There is the option for a further tour of the Jewish history of the city too.
End the night with a delicious dinner at Gusto. This hidden gem serves homemade Italian food and you’ll find the Italian owners there to welcome you.
Overnight: Riad Chbnate (or equivalent) Meals: B, L, D Driving: < 30 mins
Sunday, November 15: Departure
Bid farewell to your driver and guide, and drive back to Marrakech airport about 3 hours away, and arrive 2.5 hours ahead of your departing flight to ensure plenty of time for exit customs and security. Please plan for your flights to be in the afternoon to ensure time to make it back to Marrakech.
Driving: ~ 3 hours
Please note: the timing for each day on the extensions is very flexible – you can set and adjust the exact times to start each day and to do many of the sightseeing stops as you wish by coordinating with your private guide and driver who will be with you throughout your trip! Please also note that the driving time listed below are indicative only and subject to change depending on weather, traffic, and the type of vehicle used. Doni Belau will be along on the Sahara extension. The guide we’ve used throughout will be with you for the beach extension.
Submit the details. We will contact you within 24 hours.
Hold your spot for any one of our tours for just $250 which is fully refundable up to the time of final confirmation and booking. As soon as you reserve with your credit card Girls’ Guide to Paris will reach out to you by phone to set up the next steps.
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