The Travellers' Club - Holidays for discerning travellers Halnaker Park Cottage, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QH
Telephone 01243 773597

MOROCCO: A GRAND TOUR OF THE SOUTH

31 October – 15 November 2011

with Richard Hunt

To book this tour, click here

COST: Including flights to Marrakech, 15 nights  accommodation with half board in twin bedded rooms, using good hotels (of character where possible); all transport and touring by private coach, entrance fees, guided visits. £1985

EXTRAS: Insurance, Single room supplement £295, additional meals, tips.

Morocco is a beautiful country with a fascinating history. Our tour focuses on the south – the region that offers the famous Imperial city of Marrakech and the greatest contrasts in scenery: the magnificent Atlas Mountains, a delightful coastline and the dramatic Sahara. The tour is designed to enjoy the variety that South Morocco has to offer - its architectural and artistic heritage, its remarkable history, its peoples, religions, crafts and dramatic landscapes. Marrakech is a vibrant & exciting city that reveals the story of 1200 years of Islamic civilisation. The palaces, royal tombs, the famous souk, the university and fortifications provide fascinating insights into the medieval and more recent past. At the heart of the city is the Koutoubia mosque with its beautiful medieval minaret.  We travel through the Middle & High Atlas to the edges of the Sahara at Zagora. We pass through valleys of kasbahs and visit deep gorges and waterfalls in the mountains, remote ruined mosques and dramatic castles. We stay in a small kasbah at the oasis of Skoura, a palace hotel set in the walls of the lovely old city of Taroudant, and travel along the picturesque coast, staying in a delightful small riad (merchant’s mansion) hotel inside the medina of the charming small fishing port of Essouira. Wherever possible, we plan to look at the lives of the people - at work or at home and no doubt bring home examples of the exquisite craftsmanship from this exciting country. Warning: Morocco is a serious shopping risk!

MARRAKECH 31 Oct-2 Nov.  Our journey starts with a flight from Gatwick to Marrakech [depart 12.00 arrive 15.25]. Marrakech was the most southern & perhaps the most exciting of the Imperial capitals of Morocco [others were Fez, Meknes & Rabat], ruling an Empire that extended at times from Spain to the Sudan. Marrakech controlled the trade routes from Africa & was subject to a succession of Islamic dynasties. In the 11th century she became an Imperial Capital under Sultan Yussef Ibn Tashfin of the Almoravides dynasty. As each dynasty took on a more luxurious life-style, it declined in military prowess, only to be succeeded by a more austere and fanatical usurper who won the support of the fierce tribes. The Almohades built a new city after 1147 (including the famous Koutoubia mosque and university) destroying much of the earlier building. They in turn were subjugated by the Merinides from Fez, and Marrakech declined until a new golden era in the 16th century under the Saadi dynasty. The Alouite dynasty then ruled from Meknes, and not until the late 19th century did Marrakech again flourish, when Moulay Hassan was proclaimed King in Marrakech, giving its name to the country of Morocco (Maroc).  The great square of Djemaa El Fna is at the heart of the city, with its merchants, musicians, jugglers, acrobats and storytellers. From here radiate the labyrinth of streets with sunshades and fountains to protect the myriad of craftsmen and sellers of merchandise in the great Souk. Here, too is the Bahia Palace with its Andalucian garden, and the arts museum in the Dar Si Said Palace. Our tour includes madrases (theological colleges), the tombs of the Saadian rulers, a view of the great Koutoubia Mosque, the ruined El Badii Palace and the Majorelle Garden once owned by Yves St Laurent. From Marrakech we plan excursions south into the valleys approaching the Atlas, including Tinmel, first capital of the Almohad empire, with its ruined 12th century mosque. We will see some of these sights at the start of the tour, and others at the end.
2 nights at the Titchka Hotel at the start of our tour, and 3 more at the end. This is a well-designed modern but atmospheric hotel in the ‘new’ city [built and designed by the French] only about 10 minutes from the old city. The bedrooms are attractive and efficient; there are very attractive dining rooms and excellent restaurants, with a swimming pool and terraces.

OUARZAZATE & SKOURA 2-4 Nov.  We travel through the Atlas Mountains, over the Tichka Pass, passing through Ouarzazate and visiting the Kasbah of Taourirt (owned by the Glaoui family – Lords of the Atlas) before arriving at the oases of Skoura - a convenient stop for excursions into the mountains and the valleys of the Kasbahs. 2 nights with dinner at the Kasbah of Aït ben Moro. This is a genuine small kasbah converted to a charming little hotel with just 14 rooms. The meals have always proved excellent, and from the hotel we can walk through the oasis (little fields under the palm trees), to visit some fascinating kasbahs. Please note that all rooms are quite different, & there are staircases and rather dim lighting. We usually dine in a small courtyard. The planned swimming pool may not yet be complete?

THE DADES & TODRA GORGES 4-5 Nov: Leaving Skoura we follow the valley of the Dadès, with its many kasbahs and villages, along the southern slopes of the High Atlas. At Boumaine Dadès we deviate along the Gorges du Dadès to see the amazing rock formations. At Tinerhir we deviate again to visit the spectacular Todra Gorge, walking along the stream through the narrow defile (and probably NOT taking the opportunity to join the intrepid rock climbers on the vertical faces!). We may take lunch at the entrance to the gorge. At Tinerhir is a fascinating old mosque, medersa and ruined village, set in the palmery.
1 night at the Tomboktou Hotel, Tenerhir. An atmospheric small hotel with pool and all facilities .

ZAGORA 5-7 Nov: After breakfast we depart west, We join the Valley of the Draa and turn south along the beautiful series of oases This is a most picturesque journey, passing palmeries and Kasbahs along the route. Arriving at Zagora we spend  2 nights at the Hotel Assma. A small hotel with pretty garden and swimming pool - our base for visits to the oasis of Zagora, the remarkable town of Tamegrout with its ancient religious library & the southern desert.

ZAGORA TO TAROUDANT 7-10 Nov: The journey takes us back via Ourzazate to visit to the spectacular Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou (overnight [7 Nov], with dinner at a delightful small hotel the Dar Mouna (just 12 rooms) in the charming village overlooking the kasbah). Next day we drive on via Tazenakht and Taliouine, famous for its crocus fields and saffron. Taroudant is another fascinating ancient city with the best preserved city walls of all Morocco (a sunset drive around the walls by horse drawn carriage is delightful). It played an important part in the history of Morocco, being a focus for the tribes of the south. It has most interesting souks and the Place Assarag, where the (male) inhabitants meet for tea and backgammon has lovely arcades and tiled roofs. 2 nights [8/9 Nov] at the Melia Palais Salaam, a former palace, set in the city walls with beautiful gardens, 2 swimming pools and indoor and outdoor restaurants.

ESSOUIRA 10-12 Nov:  The journey to the coast takes us through the lush Sous Valley, famous for oranges, and the resort of Agadir (not very interesting) and then along the very delightful coastline north to the picturesque small port of Essouira (the Mogador of old legends). This was a planned mercantile harbour defended with walls and gates. A large Jewish community traded here (after its expulsion from Spain). Now a haunt of artists, there is still a thriving fishing industry (freshly grilled sardines and prawns on the quay! wooden boatbuilding) and a bustling souk full of high fashion as well as domestic items! A fine beach extends out of the town.
2 nights at The Riad al Madina. Converted from adjoining riads (merchant’s courtyard houses) inside the souk, and furnished with antiques, this hotel has great charm and character. Some rooms are small!

RETURN TO MARRAKECH. From Essouira we turn East once more, passing through the Argan forests (where goats climb the trees!) and scrub land. In Marrakech we have opportunities for further sightseeing in the valleys leading to the Atlas, the historic city, or relaxation.
3 nights at the Tichka Hotel (see above – on arrival)
On our last day we plan a farewell lunch at a restaurant in town, some last minute shopping and perhaps a final visit to the square of Djemaa El Fna before our flight
Depart 15.40 Arrive Gatwick 19.05