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Best To Have: 8 days
Best Time: all year around
Great For: couple, groups and families
Description: Explore ancient medinas and exciting markets, explore the glorious history of morocco, visit the imperial cities of Rabat, Meknes, Fes and Volubilis, explore UNESCO world heritage medinas
Pick up Casablanca airport by our driver and depending on arrival time, visit of Hassan II mosque Casablanca's landmark building designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is a extravagant symbol not only of the city, but also of Morocco itself. Hassan II Mosque II is one of the largest mosque in the world with a gigantic glass floor for over 24000 worshippers. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters. Its location looking out to the Atlantic gives it an exceptional beauty. Intricately carved marble pieces, vibrant mosaics and zellige tile details pay honor to traditional Islamic architecture, and yet still manage to feel contemporary.
After the visit drive to imperial Rabat. B&B accommodation in a boutique riad
After breakfast, start your visit and learn about the glorious history of Rabat dating to the 8th century. Explore the medina which takes its name from the Muslims who were expelled from Spain in 1609-1610 due to their religious beliefs. Wander through Andalusian wall and you find yourself in rue Souiks lined up with shops vending traditional craftwork. Visit Souk-es-Sebat, a district of dealers of fine leather goods, fabric sellers and bazaars. Continue to Rue des Consuls, the busiest in the medina, lined up with craftsmen’s workshops and fabric and carpet-seller’s stalls. Here each Thursday mornings, you can witness the Rbati carpet auction.
Rue des Consuls has a charming story to tell. From the 17th century up until 1912, all diplomats and representatives of foreign powers lived in this famous street, putting them just a stone’s throw from the slave market at its far end, where they could buy prisoners taken by pirates to be sold at auction. From the end of the 16th century, the city, under the name of Salé-le-Neuf, included Rabat and excelled at its main activity – piracy.
Captured sailors were sold as slaves to wealthy families in the region. Christians were luckier, as they could be brought back by their countries’ diplomats, who had a budget available to them for this very purpose. The taking of Christian ships was the main source of Salé’s income, and it became Morocco’s leading port, keeping on with its pirating activity and continuing to make foreign ships tremble for several centuries.
Continue your visit to The Oudaya Kasbah a haven of peacefulness, with its flower-filled little streets, Andalusian garden and Moorish café. The Oudaya gateway is built of dressed stone and is regarded as one of the jewels of Almohad art. Most of the remains still to be seen date back to the 12th century, and the Kasbah contains Rabat’s oldest mosque. Its minaret, adorned with small decorative arcades, is most probably the work of one of the first Alaouite sovereigns. From the ocean side of the old semaphore-station platform at the end of the main street, you can enjoy superb panoramic views over Salé and the Bouregreg Estuary. In the Kasbah’s main square, a warehouse built in the late 18th century now accommodates a cooperative where you can watch girls at work weaving carpets.
The Oudaya museum was renovated in 1995 and is housed in a residence built for Moulay Ismail between 1672 and 1694, and in which the sultan stayed during his visits to Rabat. The museum exhibits rich and varied collections of jewellery, testimony to the extraordinary expertise of Morocco’s craftsmen. The museum is located also in lush garden of an Andalusian style
Later, your driver will take you to visit Hassan Tower. The ruins of the Hassan Tower bear witness to the size of what was to have been one of the largest places of worship anywhere in the Muslim world. Its construction was abandoned upon the death of its founder in 1199, and the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 caused further damage. The mosque comprised a great courtyard laid out over deep, restored cisterns and reaching to the foot of the minaret, and an immense hypostyle room whose 312 columns and 42 marble pillars were arranged to form nineteen naves, not counting its lateral porticos. It was on this site that the Mohammed V Mausoleum was built, in fitting tribute to the Nation’s liberator.
Visit also The Mohammed V Mausoleum whose design and decoration take one’s breath away. This masterpiece of traditional Moroccan art, with its painted woodwork, sculpted plasterwork and marble, and carved bronze, required all the know-how of the Kingdom’s master craftsmen. Mohammed V’s tomb is carved from a block of white onyx and stands in the center of the edifice’s lower level. Today, his two sons, the late King Hassan II and Prince Moulay Abdallah, rest in peace alongside him.
After lunching in Rabat new town the “city of flowers”, as Marshal Lyautey liked to call it, drive to the Chellah Necropolis. It is located about 2 km from the city center and is made up of the necropolis itself and the ancient city of Sala. The ruins, with their omnipresent birdlife, nesting storks and wild vegetation is one of Rabat’s most attractive landscapes. Protected by an impressive surrounding wall and accessed through a enormous gateway, the necropolis is an oasis of tranquility, a peaceful flower- filled garden containing an ablutions room, a zaouia with an oratory, the zellij adorned Merinid minaret, and a series of burial rooms.
The wall that surrounds the old town is entered through 5 monumental stone gateways (Bab el Alou, Bab el Had, Bab Essoufara, Bab er-Rouah and Bab Zaërs). The largest of these Almohad creations is Bab er-Rouah, its monumental sculpted stone façade standing between two projecting towers. Its inner rooms have been restored and now serve as an exhibition gallery. It was here, in 1960, that the first collective exhibition by Moroccan painters was held, testimony to the burgeoning of artistic creation in the field of modern painting. 200 meters further on, the Ambassadors’ Gate (Bab Essoufara) gives access to the mechouar, a vast square where the major celebrations in honor of the King take place and where the royal palace also stands
B&B accommodation in a boutique Riad in Rabat
Breakfast at your Riad and drive to Meknes. Start your journey exploring Meknes rich history. Visit the magnificent gateway of Bab el-Mansour the main gate between Meknes' Medina and Imperial City districts. Bab el-Mansour is an enormous and highly picturesque edifice with intricate architectural style of zellige tiling and carving work. It is one of North Africa's best examples of persisting gateways. Continue to Place Hedim the main square in the old part of the city.
The Bab Mansour gate faces onto Place Hedim, the main square in the old part of the city. Place Hedim is much smaller than Marrakech’s Jemaa el Fna square and also much less interesting. However, there will likely be a few people selling things, charming snakes and running games
Visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail that is home to the tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made Meknes his imperial capital in the 17th century. The interiors are truly incredible. It shows the glorious exuberance of Moroccan religious ornament. The actual mosque is not open to non-Muslims, but you can enter the outer parts of the complex and enter the tomb hall itself, with its magnificent decorated interior.
Continue to Meknes Medina (Old Town) an exciting, busy place full of local products. For enthusiastic shoppers Souk Nejarine offers plenty of textile shops. Souk Sebbat is also home to many traditional Moroccan craft shops as well as clothing and Morocco's famous slippers.
The 12th-century Grand Mosque, with its distinctive green-tiled roof, sits right in the medina's center. The medina is still enclosed by its glorious walls built during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail.
Visit also The Imperial City area that has plenty of interesting old ruins to explore, most dating from the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail. The Koubat Al Khayatine is the city's old ambassador building and today, part of the building is open to the public, with a small photography exhibit on Meknes.
Visit the museum The Dar Jamai built in 1882 as the residence of the famous Jamai family and was converted into the Museum of Moroccan Art in 1920. The museum holds the rich traditional decoration of painted wood and sculpted plaster that were popular interior design of the 19th-century Moroccan higher-classes. The museum is dedicated to arts and crafts of the region.
Continue your visit to Bou Inania Medersa that was founded in the 14th century. It is located within the loops of Meknes' souk streets. The Madrasa is still gorgeously preserved with much of its rich zellige tile decoration. The rooftop of the Madrassa has excellent views across the whole Meknes Medina district and the Ville Nouvelle (new town).
Stop for lunch in the Nouvelle Ville of Meknes at a charming restaurant that offers Moroccan cuisine and a variety of local wines from the Meknes region.
Vendor a little bit out of the old town, past the Royal Gold Course (which is protected by a huge wall) and visit the Heri es-Souani granaries. The site is made up of two main areas. The first is the interior part which feels a bit like the Habs Qara prison except not as creepy. It was used to store huge amounts of grain. The exterior part of the complex also has rows of stone arches, but it was used to as a royal stable to keep horses and other animals.
Visit Sahrij Souani , built by Moulay Ismail, is located in the imperial city, northwest of the granaries. It is a hydraulic structure that measures 148.75 m by 319 m and has a maximum depth of 1.20 m. The lake was constructed to guarantee the supply of water, in times of siege or drought, to the palaces and mosques of the town, as well as to the public baths, homes, gardens and the orchards that surrounded the town and provided for its daily fruit and vegetable requirements.
Continue to Volubilis located in the foothills of the Zerhoun Massif. Volubilis takes its name from the Berber word Oualili, the name for the colorful flower of the convolvulus, a plant to be found in abundance in the region. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997, Volubilis is Morocco’s largest archaeological site, with a full 18 hectares open to the public. The site owes its fame to the countless mosaics that decorate its ancient dwellings including a basilica, temple and triumphal arch. Its prosperity, which was derived principally from olive growing, prompted the construction of many fine town-houses with large mosaic floors.
Volubilis is regarded as the ancient capital of the Roman-Berber kingdom of Mauretania. It developed from the 3rd century BC onward as a Berber and Phoenician-Carthaginian settlement before being the capital of the Berber kingdom of Mauretania.
Continue to Moulay Idriss, the oldest town in Morocco, founded by Moulay Idriss I in 789, having fled Mecca because of religious and tribal conflicts.
It is located at twenty kilometers north of Meknes, set on a rocky peak overlooking the Oued Erroumane Valley and the plain upon which the Ancient Romans built their city of Volubilis. This holy town holds a special place in the hearts of the Moroccan people. It was here that Moulay Idriss I arrived in 789, bringing with him the religion of Islam, and starting a new dynasty. In addition to founding the town named after him, he also initiated construction of Fez, continued later by his son, Moulay Idriss II.
After the drive to Fes. B&B accommodation in a boutique riad.
After your breakfast start your first part exploration journey of the magnificent Fez old medina. It is a real labyrinth left intact since the Middle Ages. It has been classified as a world heritage in 1981 by UNESCO. Fez medina is considered the largest medina in the Arab world and surrounded by 24 kilometers of walls. The medina encloses 9500 houses, 176 mosques, 83 mausoleums, 11 madrasas dating from the Merenids dynasty and 40 hammams. The medina also encloses magnificent palaces.
Enter the old medina of Fez, through the bleu gate known as Bab Boujloud dating to the 12th century. The name is a vernacular corruption of the expression "Bou Jnoud", meaning a parade ground or military square, referring to the large square known as Place Bou Jeloud just outside and to the west. It is also located near the site of what used to be one of the main citadels of Fes el-Bali, the Kasbah Bou Jeloud.
Stroll the Talaa Kebeera shortly after Bab Boujloud and continues on through the much of the medina. Many different shops, souks and sights are located just off this main road. Though often crowded by locals and tourists alike, it is a nice taste of old Fez.
Visit the Dar Batha Museum. Dar Batha Museum is located in the heart of the medina. Before becoming a museum in 1915, the building was a beautiful palace of Arab-Andalusian style, built by Moulay el Hassan in the late nineteenth century. This museum is full of treasures that reflect the traditional art of Fez and its region carved wood, embroidery, zellige, wrought iron, jewelry, coins, carpets … depicting the stunning wealth of Fassi craftsmanship.
Continue to The Madrasa Bou Inania founded in AD 1351–56 by Abu Inan Faris. It is widely acknowledged as an excellent example of Marinid architecture.
Visit Nejjarine Museum on your way. This well-restored former Fondouk – a place where traders took lodgings and stored and sold their goods during the 18th century – is now home to the Nejjarine Museum of Wood Arts and Crafts. Opened in 1998, the museum allows visitors to marvel at such artefacts as craftsmen’s tools, prayer beads, ancient chests, and musical instruments.
Visit (from outside) the Zaouia of Moulay Idriss II, a religious shrine containing the tomb of Idris II who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828. He is the main founder of the city of Fes and of the first Moroccan Islamic state. In this place your will encounter amazing shops selling candles and locals Fessi sweets altogether with various fragrances used for religious and special events.
Visit Kissaria Serrajine, where an irresistible range of silks, brocades, braided trimmings, embroidered slippers and kaftans awaits you coming. Along the streets you can see a fabulous expertise at work. Continue to Seffarine known for its Boilermakers, coppersmiths, glazed ceramic workshops marked by the famous cobalt blue of Fez. All is a fascinating world of craftsmanship
Visit the famous Quaraouiyine University, the oldest existing, constantly operating. It the first degree-awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records. Quaraouiyine University is referred to as the oldest university that was founded by Fatima al-Fihria in 859 with an associated madrasa, which next became one of the principal spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world. It was incorporated into Morocco's modern state university system in 1963.
Visit the Al-Attarine Madrasa close to the Al-Quaraouiyine. It was built by the Marinid sultan Uthman II Abu Said in 1323. The madrasa takes its name from the Souk al-Attarine, the spice and perfume market.
Visit the Glaoui palace and the Mokri Palace where to admire the fine work of the woodcarvers or the delicate lines of the wrought iron sculptured with surgical precision.
After enjoying your lunch continue your visit by visiting Fez tanneries referred to as the Chouwara tanneries. The tanneries, made of numerous ditches filled to the brim with a incredible variety of pigments, process skins for production of sleep, cow and goat leather in the traditional manner. Look down at the proceedings from a neighboring rooftop terrace-a giant artist’s palette in all its colorful splendors.
Visit the Pottery area and you will come across several scattered shops of ceramic around the medina, each with its own specialty. Some sell fountains, others tilework, etc
Continue to Fes Jdid starting by the Royal Palace, the main monument of Fez el-Jdid. It offers impressive views over its finely carved doors. The creation of Fez el-Jadid marks the full development of the city and the climax of Moorish art illustrated by the construction of magnificent buildings.
Next visit The Mellah, Jewish Quarter founded after the sixteenth century by the Sultan to protect the Jewish community in the city is crossed by the main street, a lively street gathering all kinds of businesses: jewels, upholstery, fabrics. The houses of the Mellah differ from Muslim houses by the windows looking on the outside and their wooden and wrought iron balconies.
Visit the Synagogue Ibn Danan a seventeenth-century Judeo Moroccan heritage masterpiece that is worth visiting.
Enter Fas El Jdid through its monumental gate Bab Semmarine and wander along the shops lined up on both sides.
Continue to Jnan Sbil garden formerly known as the Bou Jeloud gardens on the north-western edge of the medina. This garden has palms, eucalyptus, weeping willows, citrus trees and bamboo. It was opened to the public by Moulay Hassan in the 19th century. It covers 7.5 hectares. This garden is one of the oldest gardens in Fes. Because of its historical importance, great care was taken to restore the Jnan Sbil garden to its original design.
Later drive to Borj Nord from which you can have gorgeous views of Fes. At night, the old city’s walls and ramparts are lit up and you can enjoy panoramic views of the city. The Borj is a fort built in 1582 by the powerful Saadi sultan Ahmad al-Mansour to defend the city from external attacks. It was modeled after the Portuguese Forts in the 16th century. The Borj is considered the largest defense structures around the city of Fez. Today, the fort is open to public as the Museum of Arms.
Take a short hike to the remains of Merenids Tombs which are perched on the hill of Al qolla. this 14th century site was the royal necropolis. From 1361 to 1398, Abou El Hassan’s successors and others of royal linage were buried there. Now in ruins, little is left of the necropolis beyond the remains of three cupolas and mosque, and a few sections of wall. But from the top of this gentle hillside overlooking the city, the views are mesmerizing experience.
Before going back to your Riad, your driver will advise where to enjoy delicious Fassi food for dinner, B&B accommodation
Finally return to your boutique riad in the Old medina, B&B accommodation
After breakfast head the road to Marrakesh. On your way stop for lunch, then continue to Marrakesh. You will reach Marrakesh around after mid-day. Check in your hotel and after some refreshments start your visit with old Medina. Explore this charming area on foot. In Djemaa el Fna, you will visit the famous 12th century Koutoubia Mosque. The guide will take you through the intricate streets and alleys of the Djemaa el Fna. Enjoy the smells of food and explore the souks specializing in Berber carpets, silver jewelry, handmade shoes, and leather tanneries. B&B accommodation in a boutique riad
Enjoy a delicious breakfast at your riad. Set off to explore the El Bahia Palace which is a set of gardens located in Marrakesh. It was built in the late 19th century, planned to be the greatest palace of its time. The name means "brilliance". As in other buildings of the period in other countries, it was intended to capture the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan style. There is a 2-acre (8,000 m²) garden with rooms opening onto courtyards.
Visit the Saadian Tombs are mausolea in Marrakesh which date to time of the Saadian dynasty sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). The tombs were discovered in 1917 and were renovated by the Beaux-arts service. The mausoleum includes the burials of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River. Among the graves are those of Ahmad al-Mansur and his family.
Visit Marrakesh Museum. The museum is housed in the Dar M’Nebhi Palace, constructed in the late 19th century by Mehdi M’Nebhi. The palace was carefully renovated and converted into a museum in 1997. The house itself represents an example of classical Moorish architecture, with fountains in the central courtyard, traditional seating areas, a hammam and intricate tilework and carvings
Enjoy a lunch at one of most tasty restaurant in Marrakesh.
After launching a short drive to Gueliz or Nouvelle Ville of Marrakesh to explore Marrakesh modern areas. Continue to the magical Majorelle Gardens designed by Jacque Majorelle and preserved by Yves Saint Laurent. Its blue and yellow colored paths make of it a attractive garden with various ponds, cacti, and plants.
Take the traditional barouche for a tour around Marrakesh Palmeraie covering some 14.000 hectares and contains over 100.000 trees. It is irrigated by means of “khettaras”, an ingenious system of underground pipes supplied by ground water.
In the afternoon take a barouche tour around the old town’s adobe walls. The walls are 19km long and include a score of gateways (Bab in Arabic). It takes a good two hours to get all the way round them. The afternoon light guarantees splendid views. Some, such as Bab el Debbagh and Bab Agnaou still preserve their original architecture.
For dinner your private driver will be available to escort you to a variety of restaurants we recommend. B&B accommodation in a boutique Riad
Rise and take your breakfast and get ready for today’s trip to Lake Lalla Takerkoust in the Agafay desert. In the 18th century the Agafay desert was settled by Saharan nomads who changed the arid landscape blooming fields. The Atlas Mountains laying back provides water to the huge artificial Takerkoust lake. It is located at 40km from Marrakesh and makes an ideal refreshing outing. Explore the nearby countryside and savor the local cuisine at one of the inns along the lakeshore, while enjoying the superb views they afford.
Continue 20km further on to the Berber village of Amizmis, which is well worth visiting for its splendid setting at the feet of the High Atlas, its potteries and its Tuesday souk.
After lunching take the road to Ourika valley located at 30km south of Marrakesh. It lies in the first foothills of the High Atlas with its beautiful expanse of luxuriant green and its adobe villages clinging to the mountainsides. Visit the Jardin du Safran, a saffron farm in the village of Tnine Ourika. Continue to the Bio Aromatic Garden growing 45 varieties of aromatic and medicinal plants. Definitely you will be invited to taste and smell the organic aromatic and medicinal herbs. The terraced Timalizene garden also offers visitors its special Berber tea, scented with home grown herbs. The road stops at the valley, but the more adventurous can continue on foot to the seven waterfalls that await their discovery. Back to Marrakesh, B&B accommodation in a boutique riad.
Breakfast at your hotel. Depart Casablanca’s International Airport