Marrakech: The Red City
Marrakech, Morocco’s famous Red City, is the starting point for our Majestic Morocco Tour. It’s a lively city with colorful markets, red-washed buildings, handicraft-filled souqs, towering minarets and passionate chefs whipping up some of the country’s tastiest cuisine. This is where our group of bold travelers began their Moroccan adventure – led by our Tour Leader Chama Ouammi.
Our small group doze right into the sites and sounds of Marrakech – exploring the maze of colorful laneways of Marrakech’s historic medina, visiting impressive Koutoubia Mosque with its imposing minaret, going back in time at the opulent Bahia Palace, seeing the street performers at Marrakech’s Djemaa el Fna square, and learning about Moroccan culture and food on our fun and immersive Marrakech Food Tour. As part of our Marrakech Food Tour, our group explored Marrakech at night and dine on classic Moroccan food at local eateries while learning about local customs, tradition and history.
High Atlas: The Roof of Africa
From Marrakech we headed into the High Atlas Mountains enroute toward the famous Sahara desert. Termed the ‘Mountains of Mountains’ by Moroccan Berbers, the High Atlas mountains are the tallest mountain range in North Africa. A series of jagged, impressive peaks that split the country east to west; we travel through this impressive scenery. After lunch, our group explored the once powerful Telouet Kasbah, many of this impressive fortress’ rooms still retaining their gorgeous mosaic work. In the afternoon, Tour Leader Chama led the group on a walk through the fields around the village of Tamdakht, meeting the local women farming (she even gave the group a quick lesson on how to properly farm with a scith).From Tamdakht, we visited the stunning, ancient, excellently preserved Almoravid kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou. Climbing to the top of the fortress, our group was rewarded with sweeping views of the ancient kasbah, palm groves and rugged, flat-top mountains.
From Tamdakht, the next day our Morocco group continued through the High Atlas to Merzouga and the vast Sahara desert. We navigated the ‘Road of a Thousand Kasbahs’ – a twisting, turning mountain road that winds its way through the high desert, lined with crumbling ancient forts. For lunch we dined with a local family’s guesthouse and then walked through Todra Gorge. In the evening, we arrived at Merzouga and the massive Erg Chebbi dunes, where the rocky western desert meets the sand of the Sahara.
Sahara Desert and Erg Chebbi Dunes
After breakfast, we headed out on our camel trek and overnight in the Sahara dunes. Camels have been the primary mode of transport in the desert for a millennium. Our destination was first a small desert oasis for lunch an then onward to our desert camp for the night. Guiding our group on this journey were 3 Berber camel guides. These young men grew up with the traditional nomadic lifestyle, recently coming to Merzouga to work as camel guides in hopes of building a profession in tourism and a more stable future than the nomadic lifestyle of their families. As sunset drew near, our group climbed a small dune for sunset to watch the spectacular colors dance over the dunes.
We wake before dawn to watch the sunrise over the Sahara, trekking with the camels back to our cozy hotel on the duneline. After breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to the great sand sea of the Sahara and head north to Fez. As we drove through the Middle Atlas, our group was rewarded with dramatic views and vistas – a reminder of how diverse Morocco’s geography is. Along the way, Chama organized a visit to a local nomad family for group. We spent time with Mounia and Fatima, drinking tea and learning about what their lives are like as nomads. In the evening, we reached our destination – Fez. And enjoyed classic Fesi dishes for dinner at our lovely 14th century riad.
Fez: The Yellow City
Fez, Morocco’s Yellow city, is one of the oldest walled cities in world. We began our day in this incredible ancient quarter by exploring Fez’s ancient medina – getting lost in the maze of small lane-ways many of which date back 1200 years. We discovered daily life in this important cultural center, learned about Fez’ important Jewish quarter called the Mellah, learned why Fesi’s proudly say that their city is the culinary capital of Morocco, visited the famous tanneries, discovered Fez’ longstanding medersa traditions, and exploring a thousand yeas of history on the ancient streets of Fez. Our group then had free time to explore Fez. The following morning the group headed to Chefchaouen. As a historic working town, Fez has a strong craftsman tradition – whether it’s tanning, pottery making, brass work or one of the many other artisanship practice – Fez is a city of art.
Chefchaouen: The Blue City
From Fez, we drove to the Rif Mountains and the quaint village of Chefchaouen. Along the way our group enjoyed a wonderful picnic lunch. Located in a nook of the Rif Mountains, the tiny mountain town of Chefchaouen is Morocco’s Blue City. Our group explored this gem of a mountain town, watching the sunset from the Spanish Mosque, exploring it’s pastel blue streets and dining with a local family who are friends of our group’s Tour Leader Chama. Chefchaouen, with its picturesque pastel blue medina and quaint little mountain town, is a wonderful place to linger.
Casablanca: The White City
We wrapped up our time in Morocco with Casablanca, the White City, and the Hassan II Mosque. Departing Chefchaouen, we headed for the Atlantic coast and Morocco’s commercial center, Casablanca. Arriving in time for a tour of this famous mosque (it only opens once a day), our group marveled at the modern architectural wonder of the colossal Hassan II Mosque with the tallest minaret in the world. After checking into our hotel, it was time for our farewell dinner and reminisce about our amazing adventures on this 11 day exploration of the very best of Morocco.