ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL KINGDOMS
ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL KINGDOMS
Exploring the Sahara at Merzouga
Travelling - it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller
This 2-week B.C. Archaeology study tour explores the most famous historical sites of Morocco. We fly to Casablanca where we explore the old city (medina) and enormous Mosque of Hassan II, dramatically located on the Atlantic shore. We then head to the nearby town of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Here we wander around the old medina and kasbah (fortified residence), visit the National Archaeological Museum and see the chellah, a 14th Century enclosure incorporating ruins from the Roman period and mediaeval royal tombs of the Merenid Period.
We then head to the beautiful hill town of Chefchouan, famous for its blue painted houses. We then drive to Volubilis, a stunning Roman city with well-preserved forum, basilica and numerous house mosaics. In Meknes we explore the imperial remains of the royal city of Moulay Ishmael, visit a mediaeval medersa and see the Dar Jamai, a wonderful 19th Century house with a collection of Moroccan artefacts.
Our tour then heads to Fes where we stay 3 nights. We take a walking tour through the old city to explore the superb monuments including two ancient medersas. The suqs (covered markets) evoke a previous era and lead us to the tanneries where leather is still treated in the traditional way.
Our road then heads south over the Middle Atlas where we visit the cedar forests and see wild macaques. We go for a walk near Midelt, exploring a spectacular desert gorge and traditional Berber village. We cross the High Atlas and descend along the beautiful Zis Valley, dotted with scenic villages and palm gardens. Our journey then takes us to Merzouga famous for its enormous dunes reaching up to 150m high. We take a camel ride in spectacular desert country.
We head west, stopping to see the Museum of the Oasis in Khorbat and visit the spectacular Todra and Dades Gorges. We then visit Ait Ben Hadou, a spectacular desert village used as a location set in many films including Lawrence of Arabia and more recently Game of Thrones.
We cross the High Atlas and head for Marrakesh. Here we explore the suqs (covered markets) of the medina, visit the Museum of Marrakesh with its collection of artefacts and see a wonderful 14th Century medersa. We enjoy the traditional activities in Marrakesh's main square, Jmaa el Fna, including snake charmers and story tellers. The following day we see the ruins of the 17th Century Badi Palace, explore the tombs of the Saadian kings and wander the cool pathways of the Marjorelle Garden, recently restored by Yves Saint Laurent. Our tour ends back in Casabalanca.
A stunning 14th Century medersa
ITINERARY*Day 1: Arrive Casablanca
Participants should arrive in Casablanca. In the afternoon we go for a walk in the medina and have dinner at the evocative 'Rick's Café' based on the movie set. Overnight Casablanca.
Day 2: Hassan II Mosque - depart Casablanca
In the morning we visit the Hassan II Mosque which was inaugurated in 1993. One of the largest mosques in the world it can house 25,000 worshippers. We then drive to Rabat where we visit the Kasbah of the Oudias where we visit the delightful Andalusian Garden and small Palace of Moulay Ismail which now houses a Jewellery Museum. We also take a walk through the suq along Rue de Consuls and see the mediaeval gates of Rabat. Overnight Rabat.
The art deco quarter of Casablanca
The streets of Chefchaoun
Day 3: Rabat - Archaeology Museum - Mosque of Hassan - Chellah
The day is dedicated to exploring the historical sites of Rabat. We visit the National Archaeology Museum which showcases a selection of objects from Morocco's history including a series of famous bronzes from Volubilis. A short drive takes us to the ruins of the 12th Century Hassan Mosque and the mausoleum of Mohamed V. After lunch we visit the Chellah, a walled compound which contains Phoenician and Roman ruins and 13th Century ruined tombs of Merenid Sultans. Overnight Rabat.
Day 4: Chefchouan - walk in the medina
In the morning we drive to the beautiful hill town of Chefchouan located in the Riff Mountains. This is a pleasant place to wander the blue painted streets of this charming mountain town dating from the 15th Century. In the afternoon there is some free time to rest or further explore the shopping opportunities in the streets of the medina. Overnight Chefchouan.
Day 5: Volubilis Roman ruins - Moulay Idris - drive to Fes
We head southwards from Chefchouan through green farmland. In the late morning we explore the extensive Roman ruins at Volubilis. The site is remarkably well preserved and includes many houses with mosaics, a forum area with temples and basilica, and bath complexes. We also visit the nearby town of Moulay Idris with its famous Saint's tomb. In the afternoon there is a short drive to the medieval walled city of Fes. Overnight Fes.
Exploring the medieval heritage of Fes
The Dar Jamai in Meknes
Day 6: Fes - walk through the medina
The day is devoted to the remarkable medieval medina of Fes. We walk from the Bab Boujeloud to the beautiful 14th Century Mederssa Bou Inania and then wind our way through the suqs to the famous Kairouine Mosque. Here we explore the medieval heart of the city including the atmospheric tanneries which are still used for treating leather. Overnight Fes.
Day 7: Meknes
Today is set aside to explore the fascinating remains of Meknes beginning with a walk through the medina and a visit to a 14th Century Medersa (a richly decorated college). We also visit the Dar Jamai, a wonderful 19th Century palace belonging to the Vizier. The house has been converted into a Museum and has a beautiful courtyard garden. In the afternoon we see the 17th Century Royal Granaries and Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. In the late afternoon we return to Fes. Overnight Fes.
Day 8: Middle Atlas - Midelt
We head southwards from Fes crossing the Middle Atlas Mountain range. We stop to see the native cedar trees and the wild Barbary Macaques and then cross a broad desert plain towards the High Atlas. We take a walk in the foothills of the Jebel Ayachi along a spectacular desert gorge and visit a traditional Berber village. Overnight Midelt.
Day 9: Zis Valley - Merzouga desert
Today we head south through the Zis Valley, a scenic river valley dotted with villages and date palms. We stop to see a fossil museum. Our journey then takes us to Merzouga on the edge of the Erg Chebbi Desert. We take a camel ride into the Sand Sea where some of the dunes are over 150m high. Overnight Merzouga.
The beautiful Zis Valley
Exploring Dades Gorge
Day 10: Khorbat Museum of the Oasis - Todra Gorge
We leave the desert dunes and head west to Khorbat where we see the Museum of the Oasis, housed in three restored Berber houses. This Museum contains an interesting collection of Berber artefacts. We then take a walk through the spectacular Todra Gorge where the desert cliffs come down close to the Todra River. In the afternoon we continue to Boumanle de Dades where we check into our hotel. Overnight Boumanle de Dades.
Day 11: Dades Valley and Gorge
In the morning we head up the spectacular Dades Valley which is dotted with small villages and fortified kasbahs. We visit the Dades Gorge and have a short walk to see two ruined kasbahs. In the afternoon we return to our hotel in Boumanle de Dades. Overnight Boumanle de Dades.
Day 12: Ait Ben Haddou - drive to Marrakesh
In the morning we see the pise (rammed earth) village of Ait Ben Haddou, famous for its appearance in many Hollywood films (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Game of Thrones). Stunning located at the foothills of the High Atlas, the village grew wealthy on its dominance of the Trans-Saharan trade with Mali. In the afternoon we head over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n'Tichka pass to Marrakesh. Overnight Marrakesh.
The kasbahs of Ait Ben Hadou
In the markets of Marrakesh
Day 13: Marrakesh - walking tour of the medina
Today will be spent on a walking tour through the medina of Marrakesh. We start by seeing the impressive 18th Century Dar Si Said Palace before walking around the outside of the Koutubiya Mosque. We take a walk through the suqs and see the Museum of Marrakesh and explore the splendid 14th Century Ben Youssef Medersa. In the afternoon we explore the fascinating sights and sounds in the city's main square; the Jemaa el Fna. Overnight Marrakesh.
Day 14: Marrakesh - Badi Palace, Saadian tombs, Marjorelle Gardens
In the morning we explore the ruins of the monumental Badi palace and see the splendid 16th Century Saadian Tombs. We also enjoy a walk around the early 20th Century Majorelle Gardens, restored by Yves Saint Laurent and now housing an excellent Museum of Berber artefacts. In the afternoon there is free time to further explore the suqs. Overnight Marrakesh.
Day 15: Drive to Casablanca Airport
In the morning we drive to Casablanca International Airport to connect with our international flight.
* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.