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 absord 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.
Day 2 - Casablanca - Meknes - Moulay Idriss
After breakfast we can make a quick visit to 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.
Later we make our way to the station where we catch the local train to Meknes, a journey of about four 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.
Pop over to the whitewashed village of Moulay Idriss to stay with a local family.Breakfast
Day 3 - Meknes - Fes
Morning visit to Volubilis in the valley below Moulay Idriss.See Roman ruins etc, but a real highlight is the iconic shot of storks nesting on top of the Roman columns.
Volubilis was one of the Roman empire's most remote bases, which remained affluent until the 8th century. The main structures remained intact until they were damaged by an earthquake in the 18th century, after which much of the marble was taken for construction in nearby Meknes.
Back to Meknes for a walk with local guide.
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.Breakfast
Day 4 - Fes
Start the day right with a krachel, bghrir or croissant from the bakery washed down with a milky Moroccan coffee. Take a tour of the carpet workshops and get your bearings in the medina, maybe grab some of the world's best pottery to take home.
Have a full day of touring Fes.
Visit pottery and carpet workshops before exploring the medina on foot with local guide.
Main highlights are Musee Belghazi and Funduq Nejjarine.
Our 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, known for the iconic view overlooking its dye pits, and a ceramic factory where you can see potters working in the traditional way.Breakfast
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.Breakfast
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 bus 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, when 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.Breakfast
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.
Free time to shop til you drop. Must-have Moroccan buys include pointy-toed slippers, jelabas, cushions and tajines.Breakfast
Day 8 - Marrakech - Essaouira
Take a three-hour bus ride to Essaouira and take an orientation walking tour with a local guide. It's a bit like exlploring on your own, but with someone who knows loads more about the place you're visiting than you do.
Essaouira means ‘little picture’ and it is a stunning old port town, with whitewashed houses, bright blue shutters, covered alleyways, cool sea breezes and great seafood. After settling in your time is free to explore our surroundings (please note that your tour leader will provide you with a map and directions to your hotel in Essaouira).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 - Essaouira - Marrakech
Hang out in Essaouira this morning, then take the bus back to Marrackech, where you can get reacquainted with your old friends madness and mayhem.
Free time in the morning for last-minute shopping before returning to Marrakech by bus in the afternoon.
Hit the cafes overlooking the square for one last tagine.Breakfast
Day 11 - Marrakech
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.Breakfast
What to Know
• Gecko's expert English-speaking local tour guide throughout the tour, and local guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing: Casablanca's Mosque of Hassan II; Meknes' old medina; 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.
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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.