The ancient world of medieval Islam lives on in the buildings, markets and craftsmanship on display in many of Morocco’s imperial cities. The world’s oldest university at Fez El Bali, the great gate of Bab El Mansour at Meknes and, of course, the palaces, squares and minarets of Marrakech.
Contrast the hectic bustle, the fragrances and sounds of city bazaars and souks with the eerie silence of sleeping in a Berber-style tent out in the Sahara Desert. Or with the inscrutable majesty of the mighty Atlas Mountains.
Fly to Casablanca. You’ll be met and taken to Rabat – a picturesque drive of around 90 minutes – and your hotel. Here you can relax and enjoy facilities like a heated pool, spa, steam bath and sauna, gym and a great restaurant serving local specialities on an outdoor terrace.
Stay: One night in a double room at Villa Mandarine.
Fez El Bali
Now it’s time to explore the ancient world, on your way to Fez. The drive there takes a whole day, but includes unforgettable sights, like Meknes. This ancient imperial city was rebuilt in the 17th century by Moulay Ismail and features the centuries-old stables, granaries, the huge reservoir for mountain water, the mosque and mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and the great gate of Bab El Mansour.
Your next stop is at Morocco’s holiest city – Moulay Idriss – the site of an annual pilgrimage attended by thousands of the faithful. Then it’s on to the Roman ruins at Volubilis with its superb mosaic floors and fabulous views of the foothills of the Rif Mountain.
In Fez El Bali you’ll take a half day tour through the medieval Islamic city to admire the Moorish architecture, the Koranic School dating back to the 14th century, the sanctuary of Idris II and Karaouin, the world’s oldest university. The ‘Alive Museum’ demonstrates traditional handicrafts that still survive, including carpet making, carpentry, tanning, dyeing and artisan metal work.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Riad Fez.
Today you take to the road again, exploring the route to Erfoud, a journey of seven hours that gives you plenty of time to admire and photograph the passing scenery and sights. Your hotel has pools and an excellent restaurant and American-style bar; perfect for relaxing. Tours of the surrounding area and events like Moroccan cuisine cookery classes are also available.
Stay: One night in a standard room at Palais Masandoia.
Now the desert waits to beguile you with its shifting sands, its unearthly scenery and its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. You can explore in a 4×4 or ride a camel into the dunes. You’ll stay in a Berber-style camp complete with open air carpeted lounges, camp fires and traditional Moroccan music. You sleep under the stars in an authentic camel skin tent.
Stay: One night in a standard tent at La Belle Etoile.
Journey from the desert to the foothills of the mighty Atlas Mountains – a drive of just five hours, taking in a procession of fascinating sights along the way. You’ll stay miles off the beaten track, in an oasis village set amidst fragrant gardens. You can trek in the nearby mountains, visit a ruined Kasbah or explore the area by donkey or bicycle. Or simply relax in your hotel’s luxurious facilities, pool included.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Les Jardins de Skoura OR at Dar Ahlam, gateway to the Dades and Draa Valleys.
Your tour culminates in Marrakech – an endlessly unfolding mystery with enchantments at every step along the way. The morning after your journey to this entrancing city you’ll take a half day historical tour that reveals ancient landmarks like the 12th century Koutoubia Minaret, the huge courtyard, Saadian Tombs and sunken gardens of the 16th century El Badi Palace. You’ll be staying in the heart of the ancient medina, close to sights like the Royal Palace, so on day three you’ll have boundless opportunities to wander through the tiny streets, past artisan workshops and tempting bazaars. You’ll be able to bargain for jewellery, carpets, frankincense, robes and souvenirs, as well as experiencing the bustle of the souks and the swirling life of Marrakech’s famous Jemaa el-Fnaa – reputedly the busiest square in Africa.
Stay: Three nights in a Colonnade Room at La Riad El Fenn.
Marrakech – Home
Time to depart Marrakech for London. You’ll be taken to the airport for your flight home.