MOROCCO in STYLE - A GRAND TOUR OF THE SOUTH
1 – 15 November 2019
Tour Leader(s): Richard Hunt & Omar Nid
Including flights to Marrakech, 14 nights accommodation with half board in twin bedded rooms, using good hotels of character; all transport & touring by private coach, entrance fees, £2085
Insurance, Single room supplement £645[very few available], additional meals, tips.
Provisional Flight with BA Depart Gatwick 13.40 arrive Marrakech 18.10
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 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, Jardin Majorelle, once owned by Yves St Laurent & also the recently restored ‘Secret Garden’. Later in the tour we plan excursions into the foothills of the Atlas.
3 nights at the Riad Vendome at the start of the tour and 2 at the end. This is a beautiful small riad with just 19 rooms, deep in the heart of the medina, with small pool.
OUARZAZATE, SKOURA & THE GORGES. We cross the High Atlas Mountains, over the Tichka Pass, passing through Ouarzazate (a town built to garrison the French Foreign Legion) before arriving at the oases of Skoura - a convenient stop for excursions into the mountains and the valleys of the Kasbahs. From the hotel we can walk through the oasis (little fields under the date-palm trees), to visit some fascinating kasbahs. Our coach excursions will explore the ‘valley of 1000 Kasbahs’, deviating along the Dadès valley and Gorge, with its amazing rock formations.
2 nights with dinner at the Kasbah of Aït ben Moro at Skoura. This is a genuine restored kasbah converted to a simple small hotel with just 17 rooms, with pool and garden. Please note that all rooms are quite different, & there are staircases and rather dim lighting.
ZAGORA From Skoura we follow a more southerly route along the edge of the Sahara towards Zagora. 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 Dar Sofian. A small hotel with just 10 rooms, & a pretty garden and swimming pool - our base for visits to the oasis of Zagora, the remarkable town of Tamegrout with its ancient religious library. Some may enjoy a camel ride through the palmeries of Zagora: from camel height you can look down into the gardens!
ZAGORA TO TAROUDANT The journey takes us back to Agdz, where we walk deep into the oasis to a remote hotel bordering the River Draa. This is a charming place to relax, watch the birdlife, perhaps swim?
Overnight at the ‘eco-hotel’ Hara Oasis, small thatched cottages set among the palm trees in a garden.
Next day we drive to Tazenakht (a carpet weaving village in a remote valley, where we have lunch). We pass Taliouine, famous for its crocus fields and saffron, towards Taroudant - 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 at a lovely relaxing hotel: Riad Jnane Ines, in a village outside the city, with just 11 rooms, beautiful garden & swimming pool. No alcohol is served, but we can send out for supplies of wine!
ESSOUIRA. The journey to the coast takes us via the town of Tiznit, famous for filigree silver and the resort of Agadir (not very interesting) and then along the very delightful coastline north to the pictureque 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. A fine beach extends out of the town. After a guided tour, this is a town to explore on our own
2 nights at Dar L’Oussia. Converted from a caravanserai where the merchants unloaded their camel trains, We are within walking distance of the port, the souks and the main sights of Essaouira.
RETURN VIA MARRAKECH INTO THE FOOTHILLS. From Essouira we turn East once more, passing through the forests and scrub land, returning to Marrakech where we have opportunities for further sightseeing into the foothills of the High Atlas.
2 nights returning to Riad Vendome where we started the tour.
Provisional departure from Marrakech 14.50 arrive Gatwick 17.15