Although it is small compared to some of the vast countries of Africa, Morocco contains within its borders a great variety of scenery, from the blue Atlantic coast, to the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains, to the treeless Sahara desert with lovely oases of palm groves.
Due to its unique blend of nomadic Berber culture, Arab influences, and French colonial legacies, Morocco is – and has been for a hundred years – a tourist paradise. There are few health problems for travelers, and visitors are made comfortable in pleasant hotels and, as the members of our previous tours have found, truly welcomed by the friendly, cheerful people.
October 21 to 31, 2018 – US $5,498.00
Optional Tour Choices:
$1400 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)
Accommodations at deluxe hotels and riads for nine nights, plus one night in a tented camp, in double occupancy; Subject to availability we offer single rooms for an additional supplement, but please note that at some hotels this may be a single room in a 2-bedroom suite, and all tents are shared for our one night in the desert; All transportation by motorcoaches or vans, cars, camels, jeeps and other modes during the trip; Airport transfers for those arriving in Casablanca and departing from Marrakech on group arrival and departure days or who booked extra nights with HE Travel; Breakfast each day, 7 lunches, 9 dinners; Wine or soft drinks at the Welcome and Farewell dinners; Services of a knowledgeable HE Travel tour director (subject to minimum participation) and local Moroccan guides; Admissions to sites, museums and attractions that are shown in the itinerary; All hotel service charges, government taxes, porterage, and gratuities for drivers and included meals. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Airfare to Casablanca and from Marrakech; Airport departure taxes; Airport-hotel transfers if doing independent travel in Morocco before or after the tour; Meals not included in itinerary; Gratuities for guides and HE Travel tour director; Personal items such as alcoholic beverages, telephone calls and laundry.
Our tour starts in a fantastic port city hugging the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca. Morocco’s largest city is the country’s modern economic and cultural capital. Upon arrival at the airport we will be welcomed by our private driver and transferred to our beautiful city center hotel for check-in and to freshen up and prepare for an amazing welcome dinner.
Travelers arriving in the morning or early afternoon may like to tour the historic port of Casablanca, or visit the world’s tallest minaret at Morocco’s largest mosque, King Hassan II Mosque.
After breakfast at our Casablanca hotel, we will drive to Fes. Our journey passes through an agricultural and forested part of this country – quite a contrast to the arid mountain passes and deserts that we will see later in our journey.
Today we will see three of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco. En-route to Fes, we will pass Rabat, home of today’s king, and the ancient city of Meknes. The latter is often used by film producers from all over the world for movie backdrops. The city’s most glorious days were under Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), a contemporary of Louis XIV of France, whom he tried to emulate. During his reign, the sultan attempted to construct the “Versailles of Africa!”
women shopping in Morroco
We’ll make a stop at the holy city of Moulay Idriss, a picturesque little town that is a national pilgrimage site (it holds the tomb of the holy saint Moulay Idriss). We next visit Volubilis or “Oualilli” as it is known by the Berber. Volubilis ranks among the best preserved Roman towns in North Africa. It was once the home of Cleopatra’s daughter.
We will arrive in Fez in the early evening and check into our atmospheric lodging near the ancient medina.
Fes (also spelled Fez) is the oldest of the imperial cities and arguably the symbolic heart of Morocco. We have a lot to see, so we’ll get an early start!
On today’s excursion we will visit:
The Medina of Fez el-Bali (Old Fes). The largest living medieval city in the world comes to life as we make our way through winding alleys crammed with hundreds of craft booths, restaurants and markets. All of our senses will be awakened in this jostling city.
Qarawiyin Mosque / Medersa, the oldest university in the world, founded in 859 by Fatima Fihriya, a noble lady from an intellectual family of Fes.
Borj Nord Fortress Museum. The second of the Saadian fortresses constructed in 1588 contains a fascinating display of historic weapons.
The Mellah, a traditional Jewish quarter.
Dar Betha Museum and the tomb of Moulay Idriss II.
After a long day exploring this marvelous city we will return to the hotel for relaxation and prepare for our next day’s adventure.
Departing from Fes we’ll journey up the cedar-covered slopes of the Middle Atlas Mountains to Imouzzer, dominating the plain of the River Sebou. Then we continue past the hill station of Ifrane, the town of Azrou with its old kasbah and handicraft center, the pass of Zad and the town of Midelt, a center of lead mining.
Continuing from Midelt we will pass through the awe-inspiring Tizi N’Talghemt Pass, then along the Gorges of the Ziz River to Errachidia, a garrison town where we will have a stop for lunch. Our destination today is the picturesque oasis of Erfoud, situated among the impressive sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.
We’ll depart Erfoud in rugged 4×4 Land Cruisers, the only vehicles that can safely traverse the sand drifts and pebbles of the desert. Our first stop is at the nearby village of Rissani, once home to the African/Berber trading market. We’ll visit the village of Merzouga. at the base of two prominent Sahara sand dunes reaching over 450 feet high and stretching 15 miles.
The dunes are fascinating, changing color from pink to gold to red at different times of the day. It is a great place to appreciate the immense, clear desert sky. For bird-watchers, this is the best area in Morocco for spotting many desert species.
From Merzouga we mount camels for a ride among the dunes. Tonight we stay in a permanent Bedouin encampment of comfortable camel-skin tents. Marvel at the sunset before an amazing show of stars under the desert sky.
Start your day with the spectacular sunrise at dawn. After breakfast we re-trace our steps by camel to Merzouga and by Land Cruiser to Erfoud.
We soon head west from Erfoud and the relatively flat desert landscape gradually changes as we approach the foothills of the southern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains. They call this the Route of 1000 Kasbah’s because the inhabitants of the small villages along the route have historically lived together in a large earthen building complex called a Kasbah.
Over the next two days we will immerse ourselves in the majesty and raw beauty of the Todra and Dades Gorges that nature has carved from these slopes over the millennia. We will spend two nights in a Kasbah-style hotel overlooking the mile-high main town of the gorges, Boumalne-Dades. This will give us a chance to slow down for a leisurely exploration of the area, and perhaps a visit to the hotel’s hammam or outdoor pool.
From Boumalne we continue west along the Dades River. We will pass through the Skoura Oasis, and pause to explore Kasbah Amridil. This is a traditional Kasbah which has been well-preserved (and used as a movie set), and it’s open for visitors to get a better idea of the intricacies of Kasbah living.
Our next destination is the largest city in the region, Ouarzazate. This fortified town was created by the French Foreign Legion in 1928 as a military outpost, and features curious lofty adobe dwellings.
colorful ceramics and tagines on the HE Travel gay tour in Morocco
Ouarzazate stands in the middle of an arid plateau that contrasts sharply with the rich vegetation of the nearby slopes of the High Atlas Mountains. The market is renowned for its fine pottery and magnificent carpets woven by local tribes, so this will be a good opportunity to make purchases of typically Moroccan products.
The city’s two most famous man-made locations are the outdoor movie studio where movies such as Cleopatra were filmed, and one of Morocco’s most famous Kasbahs, the 11th Century Ait Ben Haddou – location for some of the scenes of Lawrence of Arabia! Our Moroccan riad-style hotel for the night is an oasis of green close by the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou, allowing us to feel the ambiance and tradition of hospitality that has greeted passing desert travelers over the centuries.
From Ait Ben Haddou we drive north over the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass (6666 feet) in the direction of Marrakech, with views of adobe homes and Kasbahs. As we descend to the fertile Haouz Plain we will see red clay villages and greenery, in contrast to the infinite shades of brown on the desert side of the High Atlas Mountains.
Rising up from the plain is Marrakech – Morocco’s fourth imperial city. Marrakech is known as The Pearl of the South, and it is a truly magical place, magnificently situated in an oasis, with the High Atlas Mountains as a backdrop.
traditional tea time on the HE Travel gay tour in Morocco
Upon arrival in Marrakech, we drive to the heart of the old city to our elegant boutique lodging, our home for the next two nights. Within our hotel and nearby are many fine restaurants and cafés, as well as the main market selling fruit, vegetables and local handicrafts. The rest of the afternoon is free to rest or get a taste of Marrakech.
During today’s tour of Marrakech we’ll inspect the most beautiful of the city’s gates, the ancient Bab Aguenau; the fabulous 19th Century Bahia Palace, with its Moorish gardens and Andalucian decorations; and the picturesque Koutoubia mosque.
exquisite tile work on the HE Travel gay tour in Morocco
One of the greatest delights of being in Marrakech is to stroll through its souks. There we can see leather workers, shoemakers, dyers, brass-smiths, spice merchants and antique dealers in their working quarters and shops. We’ll wander around the legendary Djemaa al F’na Square which is always filled with entertainers, medicine-men, musicians, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, storytellers, soothsayers and snake charmers.
market of marrakech on the HE Travel gay trip to Morroco
Marrakech features a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from sidewalk cafés ideal for people-watching, to restaurants housed in traditional Marrakech mansions. Tonight, we will have our farewell dinner together, and perhaps savor typical Moroccan cuisine such as cous-cous, harira, tagine and pastilla.
Some of us will take a morning 45-minute flight from Marrakech to Casablanca, then connect to the Royal Air Maroc non-stop flight to New York or to a European hub to connect with flights home. Others may fly directly from Marrakech to Madrid, Paris or London then fly home from there.
Whatever route we take home, we will be already thinking back on the magic and mystery of our nights in Morocco!