Tea, Sea & Tagines
Like the name says, when you've had your fill of mint tea and tagines, it's time to head for the sea for some well-earned R'n'R. Culture-vultures can absorb as much as they like in Fes and Marrakech, but it's the last few days chilling out in Essaouira that will leave you hankering for more Morocco.
Day 1 - Casablanca
Salaam Aleikum! Welcome to Morocco.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please check with the hotel reception or the hotels noticeboard for confirmation of where and when this meeting will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early, so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please contact the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your trip leader.
If arriving earlier, you will have a chance to explore Casablanca - the largest city in Morocco. Modelled after Marseille in France, this bustling port city is now also the undisputed economic capital of Morocco and one of Africa's largest ports. The architectural style of the city is eclectic, combining Art Deco French colonial buildings and Mauresque (Moorish) government institutions with an old medina and the city's modern-day landmark - the Hassan II Mosque.
A pleasant way to spend the day exploring Casablanca is to wander around the Old Medina and city walls, then jump in a taxi and visit the Quartiers des Habous - the new medina full of shaded squares, narrow streets and lined with arcades that lead from one souk to another. This is a great place to enjoy a Moroccan coffee and maybe start working on your bargaining skills. Finish the day with a walk along the Corniche and watch the locals enjoy games of football on the beach during sunset.Hotel Transatlantique or similar
Day 2 - Casablanca - Moulay Idriss
After breakfast we'll have a guided tour of the impressive Hassan II Mosque, built in 1993 by a team of over 6000 craftsmen. Located on the shores of the city it is an imposing edifice and one of the few mosques in Morocco that foreigners are allowed to enter. Please note that we join with other people for this tour. There is an option to upgrade to your own guide if this interests you. Please speak to your tour leader for more details.
Later we make our way to the station where we catch the local train to Meknes, a journey of about 2,5 hours. Meknes was once an imperial city of Morocco and the capital of one of its most colourful eras, when the Sultan Moulay Ismail (a contemporary of Louis XIV) set out to build his own version of Versailles, constructing walls, gates and over 50 palaces with an unstoppable labour force of over 25,000 slaves.
We'll jump into taxis and pop over to the whitewashed village of Moulay Idriss, one of Morocco's most important pilgrimage sites. Only in 2005 were non-Muslims permitted to stay overnight. We'll stay with a local family here this evening.La Colombe Blanche or similarBreakfast
Day 3-4 - Fes
We'll take a drive through the beautiful rolling hills to Volubilis for a guided tour of these remarkable Roman ruins.
After Volubilis, we'll head back to Meknes where we'll meet our local guide for a tour. Prepare for an unusual lunchtime! Today you'll have the opportunity to eat camel burger for lunch. Now that's a burger bar with a difference! (Please note: The tour of Meknes may take place the previous day)
Travel by train from Meknes to Fes (40 min).
Descending into the labyrinthine alleyways of the medina is like taking a giant step back to the Middle Ages. Preserved by the French for its historical value, this preservation also led to the decline of the city's importance, as both government and financial centres were set up elsewhere in the country. With the Jewish population moving away in 1956, and too many rural poor moving in for it to handle, this ancient centre of learning is only a shell of what it used to be. Still, it remains a fascinating living museum where getting lost is half the fun.
An orientation walk of Fes around the medina uncovers a living monument to an ancient past and a place still very much alive with the many craftsmen, markets, tanneries, ceramics and mosques. Look out for the Medersa Bou Inania, one of the city's most beautiful buildings which has recently been restored and is now open to visitors.
We'll also visit the famous tannery. We'll stop for that iconic view, overlooking the dye pits. We'll also visit a ceramic factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way.
Enjoy some free time and perhaps check out the exquisite carvings and magnificent tile work at the Medersa el Attarine, near the spice and perfume market. Alternatively, Fes is a shopping heaven for those who want to pick up a souvenir or two.Hotel de la Paix or similarBreakfast
Day 5 - Fes - Marrakech
Train from Fes to Marrakech via Casablanca. We like trains. Hopefully you do too. If you're travelling during Ramadan don't forget to bring your own snack cos the snack cart will be non-existent. All other times, feel free to order to your heart's content.
One of the main attractions of Marrakech is Jemaa el Fna, where we find fire-eaters, fortune-tellers, actors, musicians and all manner of hawkers. In the centre of this vast throng are hundreds of foodstalls selling hot tagine, spicy dips and numerous other tasty dishes.Hotel Corail or similarBreakfast
Day 6 - Marrakech
Stroll the streets of the old medina, Djemaa el Fna. It's been named a world heritage site, which is due to a combination of its age, its cultural significance and the fact that it's continually in use. In other words, it's the architectural equivalent of Morgan Freeman.
Explore Marrakech with a local guide who will show you the Bahia Palace, medersas and museums and the Djemaa el Fna. Marrakech is lovely city, with palm-lined streets, earthy colours and the Atlas Mountains rising in the distance. There is much to see and do and after our orientation walk, we are then free to explore the souks and alleyways that lead off to the north of Jemaa el Fna.
Marrakech is a feast for the senses. Be enticed by the alluring scents and brilliant colours of the spice markets, the sounds of the musicians, the rich folds of carpets, delectable foods, acrobats and perfumed gardens.
The other monuments of Marrakech are numerous and range from the well-known Koutoubia Mosque and its superb minaret - famous throughout the Islamic world and the 'sister' to the Giralda in far-away Seville, to the lesser-known tropical gardens of the French painter Jacques Majorelle (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent). There's the Palais Bahia, a superb example of Muslim architecture, and the ruins of the Palais Badi, reputedly one of the most beautiful palaces in the world in its time. The Saadian tombs are a recently uncovered gem of the Medina. All of the above can be a challenge to locate, but that's all part of the experience of exploring the phenomenal medinas of Morocco.Hotel Corail or similarBreakfast
Day 7 - Marrakech
Marrakech is home to a seemingly endless mosaic of souqs. Each is devoted to a separate trade: pottery, woodwork, copper, leather, carpets and spices. More free time in Marrkech, during which you may shop 'til you drop. Or drink mint tea 'til you drop. Not literally, of course. Must-have Moroccan buys include pointy-toed slippers, jelabas, cushions and tajines.Hotel Corail or similarBreakfast
Day 8 - Marrakech - Essaouira
The part of your adventure that takes place in Essouira is designed to give you more freedom and flexibility in choosing your own way. We will show you around, make sure you have a place to rest your head in the evening and give you couple of suggestions how you can discover this coastal town of Morocco.
While waiving goodbyes to a tour leader in Marrakech, you will be provided with handful of notes and maps of Essaouira and bus tickets for return journey. You will also be advised which hotels you will stay at for that part of your trip, but don’t worry, you will not have to find it yourself. A local guide will meet n’greet you at the Essaouira bus station, take you to the hotel, and show you around the town later on that day. How you will spend rest of the time in Essaouira is entirely up to you!Breakfast
Day 9 - Essaouira
Spend today exploring Essaouira as you please. This is usually best acheived by visiting the markets, hitting the beach or wandering around the old medina. Got it? Good.
The pace of life in Essaouira is slow and relaxed. After time for a leisurely breakfast you can wander over to the harbour and its adjacent fish markets where you may see the daily auction in full swing. Back in the centre of town, the Museum of Sidi Mohammed Ibn Abdallah has an interesting collection of artefacts, woodwork, carpets and stringed instruments. In the medina there are numerous shops to browse and for those wanting to swim the Plage de Safi is a good spot to head to as long as it isn’t too windy.Breakfast
Day 10-11 - Essaouira - Marrakech
Hang out in Essaouira this morning, then take the bus back to Marrakech, where you can get reacquainted with your old friend's madness and mayhem.
Free time in the morning for last-minute shopping before returning to Marrakech by bus in the afternoon.
Hit the cafes of Marrakech overlooking the square for one last tagine.
Your trip ends after breakfast on Day 11. Check-out time is usually around 12 noon and you are free to leave at any time.
Additional accommodation can be pre-booked if you wish to spend more time exploring Marrakech. Speak to your tour leader prior to day 7, who will be able to assist you with this.Hotel Corail or similarBreakfast
What to Know
• Gecko's expert English-speaking local Tour Leader throughout the tour, and local guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing: Entrance to Casablanca's Mosque of Hassan II; Meknes' old medina; Entrance and guided tour of Volubilis; Fes-El-Bali; Marrakech and Essaouira.
• Free time to explore Casablanca, Meknes, Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira.
• Trains from Casablanca to Meknes, and Fes to Marrakech.
- International flights, airport transfers, departure taxes, visas, insurance (compulsory on all trips), meals not listed (lunches and dinners), any optional tours or activities during free time, camera fees, excess baggage charges, tips and items of a personal nature.
Trip Dates and Prices
Start Date – End Date Trip Status Price 05 Apr 2015 - 15 Apr 2015 Fully Booked smokin' deal Sale: US $748 Closed 26 Apr 2015 - 06 May 2015 Available smokin' deal Sale: US $735 Book Now 07 Jun 2015 - 17 Jun 2015 Available smokin' deal Sale: US $794 Book Now 21 Jun 2015 - 01 Jul 2015 Available smokin' deal Sale: US $765 Book Now 16 Aug 2015 - 26 Aug 2015 Available smokin' deal Sale: US $794 Book Now 20 Sep 2015 - 30 Sep 2015 Available smokin' deal Sale: US $794 Book Now 11 Oct 2015 - 21 Oct 2015 Available US $905 Book Now 01 Nov 2015 - 11 Nov 2015 Available US $870 Book Now 27 Dec 2015 - 06 Jan 2016 Available US $870 Book Now
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What to know
Entrance fees are not included, you pay these as you go along.
Please note the last few days spent in Essaouira are unescorted.