Hello! - Salam - I'm delighted that you're considering a journey to Morocco ... here's how our small group tour will unfold - we'll talk about the other details at the other end ... by the way, all of the images below are by Anna, taken over many years and journeys in Morocco - if photography is your passion too, this small, intriguing kingdom will not disappoint you.
14 April 2024
WE BEGIN in CASABLANCA
Facing the Atlantic, a city of many centuries (1 night)
Does any city conjure as many visions as Casablanca?
Sure, it's seen better days, but with so many cultural threads, this is a great introduction to the complex history of Morocco, preparing us for the journey ahead.
You'll be picked up at the airport for your transfer to our 5-star luxury hotel with sweeping views across the city towards the sea.
Take time out for a hammam or swim at your hotel and rest if you wish before our gala dinner this evening at the fabulous Rick's Cafe in the port - it's the second sitting (so we have the live jazz too), so there's time to relax if you've just arrived today.
Get a good night's rest before a brisk start tomorrow morning as we head off to Rabat.
HOTEL: Kenzi Towers
15 April 2024
TANGIER via RABAT
Northern most tip of Africa - the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean (3 nights)
Today you'll leave CASABLANCA after a brief visit to the Hassan II mosque (we're not going to go inside ... it's really most beautiful aspects are appreciated from the exterior, and the mosaics - all of which were made in Fes).
Our destination is RABAT, Morocco's capital city.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage zone, and we'll wander through the gleaming white kasbah of the Umayas, overlooking the pirate town of Sale, and take lunch, before we board our fast train to TANGIER at Kenitra.
The bus is a long rather unremarkable journey which would otherwise take the rest of today, but the new highspeed train will get us to the 5th oldest port in the Mediterranean within 90 minutes!
Tangier, the legendary port city. Worth the journey. The city Matisse immortalised ...the city of Paul Bowles - author of 'The Sheltering Sky' ... yes, tangier has so many tales to tell and we're going to discover some of their haunts over the next couple of days.
In Tangier ,you'll stay for 3 nights in a luxury Heritage Hotel perched high above the historic medinas, with fine views towards the kasbah. You're within easy walking distance of the English Church, the socco grande and the socco chiko.
We'll arrive late this afternoon in time for pre-dinner cocktails on the terrace, before enjoying fine dining in our hotel.
HOTEL: GRAND HOTEL VILLA DU FRANCE (1/3 nights)
16 April 2024
5th oldest port in the Mediterranean - lets' explore the kasbah
Tangier is the quintessential city where 'high and low culture rubbed shoulders and both sides of the tracks ventured into the other for exotic adventures. If ever a city had tales to tell, it is this one!
I've chosen to spend three nights in the city that most visitors to Morocco omit - yes, it's a little out of the way, but the new high-speed train takes care if that, and once there, the corner of Africa where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic easily repays the journey,
Writers and artists have known this for centuries - Matisse's seductive scenes immortalised the city for C.19th Europeans, whilst Paul Bowles created his most famous works here - "the Sheltering Sky", "the Spider's House" ...There's a reading list I'll send you as you prepare for this discovery tour.
This morning, lets' head to the shining white kasbah on the promontory. it was from here that one of the world's greatest explorers, Ibn Battuta, set our 600 years ago, at a time when its dark, narrow alleys were the hideout of corsair and barbary pirates. Today you'll find the lovely museum and quirky artisinal ateliers to browse, before taking lunch in a wonderful Italian restaurant whose terrace views sweep across the sparkling bay of Tangier.
Walk further as we hear from our specialist guide what it was that made Woolworth's heiress Barbara Hutton alight from her yacht one afternoon and declare that she'd like to buy "those 5 houses" ... the properties coalescing into a single magnificent palace where she reigned over legendary parties. ... so many personalities, including Yves St Laurent made home here in this secretive, stunning town.
Before departing the kasbah, lets' find those scenes that Matisse immortalised - bring your sketchbook - before a relaxing afternoon enjoying the pool, or hammam of your hotel, or exploring on your own before we set off for cocktails and dinner on "the Old Hill".
HOTEL: HOTEL VILLE DU FRANCE (2/3 nights)
MEALS: Lunch, Dinner
17 April 2024
Socco Grande and Socco Chiko
Shopping in Tangier is pleasant, because its not overwhelming, so this is a great place to start to get you're 'eye in ' with rugs, especially, as Tangier is close to some of the most important Rif Mountain villages where distinctive rugs are hand woven.
In the Socco Grande , and its little sister, the Socco Chiko, you'll find traders whose families have traded in the same wares for generations, With our guide, we'll walk these areas slowly, learning how the city was divided through WWII into national zones - you'll see where the real 'Ricks cafe' is, take coffee in a cafe famed for it literati heritage, peep down the street to see where William Burrough's created his famous 'routines' for "The Naked Lunch' - its still seedy - and spend time in the American Legation museum with its nostalgic homage to Paul Bowles.
The English Church is a repository of so much Tangerine history - interwoven, as it is, with that of Europe - and it's just across the road from our hotel, so you have time to relax, to wander, to sit on the terrace and paint the same view that fascinated Matisse ... savour this city for tomorrow we leave the coast for the mysterious Rif Mountains!
HOTEL: HOTEL VILLE DU FRANCE (3/3 nights)
MEALS: Lunch, Dinner
18 April 2024
TANGIER TO CHEFCHAOUEN and MEKNES
From one imperial capital to another - with the 'kif ' capital in-between
Leaving Tangier, we travel along the coastal highway toward TETOUAN before turning southwards. The road takes us to the frontier of the zone occupied by the Spanish - you'll sense subtle changes, as we edge into the Rif mountains, infamous for their secretive cultivation of kif - hashish - an open secret in Morocco but still, actually, illegal!
Chefchaouen must be Morocco's most recognisable town, and it's here that you'll enjoy lunch at the famous 'Cafe Clock' before having the afternoon to yourself to discover the picturesque alleys, indigo archways and the tiny shops that line them.
Take time to sip mint tea from a terrace, enjoy the views, and appreciate that in times gone by, the hidden village of Chefchaouen was the sanctuary for many renowned sufis and teachers whose tiny madrasas exist, often attached to hammam which seem innumerable!
Later this afternoon we drive to send the night at a traditional Moroccan riad in MEKNES, with a free night to enjoy an early rest, dine at your riad, or step into the median of Meknes to explore a little.
HOTEL: Traditional Riad
19 April 2024
MEKNES via VOLUBILIS and MOULAY IDRISS to FES
From a C.17th Sultan's visionary city to the C.7th foundations of Islam in Morocco
What a fascinating day ahead, as we spend the morning in MEKNES, today a small town whose medina is friendly and navigable - full on historical resonances of the time when the Sultan ruled from here:
'Potions' shops that will mix a magic brew- for there was always magic in the palaces (of the poisoning kind ), and great blocks of white salt at the back of the medina, reminding us of that 'white gold' which was traded from as far as Timbouctou in the days when the sultan would send Barbary pirated to the shores of Britain and Scandanavia to snatch fisherfolk from the shores, only to enslave them in this gigantic palace from which there was rarely escape.
Having done a little shopping together - yes! you're going to be learning a bit of Moroccan Arabic - or 'Darija' - we'll have a coffee and
from Meknes, we head towards VOLUBILIS, a thriving cosmopolitan Roman outpost - the most westerly of the Empire at its zenith in the AD 1st.
The excellent museum here is well worth spending time in before we lunch - it's a surprise today !
Our specialist guide will show us around the highlights of Volubilis, for its mosaics, both black and white, and colourful salon scenes are of excellent quality.
From here it's a short drive to MOULAY IDRISS, the birthplace of Islam in Morocco- and the start of a very long story which will find its continuation in FES tomorrow. Moulay Idriss was, until just a few years ago, forbidden to visit by non- believers, and even today, a sense of gravitas pervades the tiny hilltop township perched like icing sugar on a rocky promontory.
And now, its onto FES ! we'll arrive by evening into the sanctuary of our wonderfully calm, peaceful and beautifully restored riads which will be home for the next two nights - and the next 8 nights if you choose to stay on and join Este MacLeod and me for the Fes Fantasy Art Retreat.
MEALS: Lunch, Dinner
20 April 2024
Morocco's most beguiling medina
Fes - or 'Fez' - a magnificent C.7th UNESCO World Heritage medina city where medieval Arabic culture still thrives.
Today, from your hotel terrace we'll begin with an introduction this city with our guide, before stepping into the maze that is 9400 alleyways, some no wider than a man, and some so small you must stoop to pass beneath ancient archways.
We'll survey the perimeters too, so that you can see how the city nestles in the valley river whose gushing mountain waters were invaluable to the wool and tanning artisans, whose descendants we'll witness today in a scene which has remained essentially unchanged for more than a millenium.
Meet the last remaining tapestry weaver in Fes - there were hundreds, see artisans at work in tiny ateliers, on the streets, where life is lived. Indoors, behind those imposing doorways, family life remains intensely private.
Madrasas - the historical schools of medieval times when Fes was an intellectual capital of the Islamic world inform s of their era by intricate artistry, whilst mosaics, for which Fes is famous, are created, piece by piece, in potteries just outside the gates.
Today will be an overview of Fes, for those who stay on for the retreat, we will discover each part of the medina, little by little each day with our guide, using what we see as inspiration in our artmaking with Este.
We will bring the tour to a close this evening with a memorable meal before returning to our Riads.
MEALS: Lunch, Dinne
all photos by Anna. copyright 2022
NORTH TOUR : Casablanca (1) - Tangier (3) - Meknes (1) - Fes (2) - ART RETREAT: ' Fes Fantasy' with Este MacLeod starts on 21st and is for 6 full days (21- 26 April, inclusive) - SOUTH TOUR : Merzouga (Sahara desert) (3) - Skoura Oasis (1) - Marrakech (3) - Essaouira (2)
FITNESS LEVEL and TIME TO YOURSELF
You've come all this way. Let's not rush it.
A good average level of fitness is required for this tour, as we spend most of our time exploring the medinas- the original walled cities - but there are always options.
Along with myself, we have a full-time guide, so should you need to get back to your hotel earlier than planned, we can organise that.
Each day has a guided tour, and we share lunch or dinner together - all included - each day, but our hotels are located so that you can take time out to explore on your own
7 Nights accommodation with YOUR OWN ROOM
5 dinners in 4/5-star restaurants and boutique hotels
4 lunches throughout our touring in the medinas
bottled water provided with all meals
Complimentary cocktails on 2 evenings
The services of a full-time national guide
The services of specialist guides in Tangier, Volubilis, Meknes, Fes
All entrances to monuments and museums on the itinerary
A/C Coach with reclining seats throughout the tour
Train ticket Rabat to Tangier - High Speed Train
taxi transfers where necessary
ALL TIPS and GRAUTUITIES
See You There!
Please note that the links on the pricelist below are not live - you can download the PDF by hitting the button below and can access live links from that.
Accommodation details for the last 2 days in FES HERE