ITINERARY AT A GLANCE
October 21-29, 2017
DAY 1 - Arrival into Casablanca with an evening welcome cocktail party
DAY 2 - Tour Casablanca, continue to Fes with visits of Rabat and Meknes
DAY 3 - Metal hammering workshop & afternoon tour of Fes
DAY 4 - Full day button workshop in Sefrou
DAY 5 - Morning Moroccan mosaic workshop & free afternoon
DAY 6 - Full day of travel from Fes to Marrakech
DAY 7 - Full day exploring the magnificent Marrakech
Day 8 - Silver inlay and wood workshop in Essaouira with free afternoon
Day 9 - Depart for home, or continue on the optional Sahara extension
OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THE SAHARA DESERT
DAY 9 - Travel Marrakech to Ouarzazate, visiting Ait Ben Haddou
DAY 10 - Full day of travel from Ouarzazate to Chegaga with evening camel ride to the tented camp where you will overnight in the desert
DAY 11 - Travel from Chegaga to Zagora, visiting Oum Laalag Oasis
DAY 12 - Travel day from Zagora to Marrakech
DAY 13 - Departure day, transfer to Marrakech airport
ITINERARY IN DETAIL
DAY 1 - ARRIVE INTO CASABLANCA
Today you will arrive into Casablanca, the economical and cultural capital of Morocco. Upon arrival, you will be met by a local Well Crafted Travel representative who will transfer you to the hotel, Le Doge Hotel. You will have the rest of the afternoon free to relax and explore on your own. This evening, we will all meet at 6pm for a casual, welcome cocktail party. Because many will be quite tired after the long travel, we will call it an early evening so we are ready to start fresh the next morning.
Please note that check-in time is typically around 3pm and early check-in is not guaranteed. If you would like early check-in guarantee, please advise at the time of booking and this can be added at an additional cost.
DAY 2 - CASABLANCA - RABAT - MEKNES - FES (B)
This morning we will tour Casablanca before we begin making our way to the ancient city of Fes. We will drive about 1-1/2 hours to the coastal capital of Morocco, Rabat. Rabat is home to the unusual Hassan Tower, which was originally constructed with the goal of becoming the world's largest minaret, but was never completed.
After visiting Rabat, we will continue by car another 1-3/4 hours to one of the most beautiful Imperial cities in Morocco, Meknes. Famous for the walls surrounding it, and the elaborate gates allowing access, it has so many mosques that it has earned the nickname "city of a hundred minarets". All of these elements combined with the rich history and preservation have earned the city a place on the Unesco's World Heritage List.
After our visit in Meknes, we will continue just under an hour further to reach Fes where we will overnight.
DAY 3 - FES (B - D)
After breakfast, our private guide and vehicle will meet us in the hotel reception to depart for a full-day visit of Fes, the religious capital of Morocco. Our tour will include the old and new medinas, the 14th century Medersa Attarine (religious school), and the Arts Museum of Batha. This Hispano-Moorish palace dates from the end of the 19th century and houses an admirable collection of traditional art from Fes: sculpted wood, wrought iron, sculpted plaster, and decorative materials that are works of art in their own right. Also embroidery, carpets, jewelry, and coins compete with one another for visitors' attention.
This afternoon, we will explore the impressive labyrinth of souks in Fes, declared by UNESCO to be one of the world’s cultural treasures. The afternoon will also include photo opportunities at the imposing gate of Bab Boujloud, the splendid fountain at Place Nejjarine, the ancient ramparts, and the beautiful façade of the Royal Palace.
This afternoon, we will enjoy our first hands-on workshop, where we will learn the clamorous skill of metal hammering. Even after only a couple of days in Morocco, we will have seen so many intricately designed silver trays used to serve the welcoming mint tea. Noticing the minute details of the patterns, we will design and hammer our own small platters to take home.
DAY 4 - FES - SEFROU - FES (B - L)
Only one hour from Fes lay the foothills of the Middle Atlas mountain range, where you'll find the largest cedar forest in Northern Africa and a large colony of Barbary apes. We will transfer to the quaint village of Sefrou, renowned for its cherry festival in June. Here we will visit a local button cooperative that was created by Amina Yabis, a typical Moroccan Muslim housewife and mother of four boys. In 1997, Amina ran for public office, but was unsuccessful in obtaining the position. This left her with a clear realization that women needed first to have access to the cash economy to be successful in public life. Over the next few years Amina organized more than 400 women from her province into a craft association called Golden Buttons. Economic success led to the formation in 2000 of the Women’s Button Cooperative of Sefrou, a for-profit cooperative that was the first of its kind organized by women. The cooperative has ventured into other crafts and training programs to expand opportunities for Moroccan women for successful engagement in public life. During our visit here, we will learn to make the Djellaba Buttons for which this area is so well-known. After learning this craft, you will be surprised how often you see these buttons adorning shoes, shirts and jewelry as you explore the markets of Morocco.
After we say goodbye to the ladies of the cooperative, we will visit the small town of Bhalil as we begin our return to Fes. Bhalil is best known for the unique cave-homes that make up much of the old part of town . Visiting one of these homes, we will relax a bit with the homeowner before starting the drive back to our hotel. As we walk through town, you may notice women visiting with each other on the front steps, their fingers nimbly making Djellaba Buttons as they catch up with one another.
We have the evening free to relax.
DAY 5 - FES (B)
This morning, after breakfast, we are going to transfer to a local mosaic and pottery center where we will learn the art behind the mosaics for which Morocco is so well-known. Working on small scale pieces, we will find new appreciation for the thousands of mosaics we will see throughout the trip. The master craftsmen will patiently show us the techniques behind this age-old craft.
After our workshop, we will return to the hotel for a free afternoon. You can take advantage of the leisure time by exploring the souks on your own, enjoying the spa, sketching in your journal, visiting a local hammam, or simply napping by the pool.
DAY 6 - FES - MARRAKECH (B - L)
Today will be a full day of travel as we drive from Fes to Marrakech via the scenic, wooded Middle Atlas Mountains. Along the way we will stop in the charming Ifrane, a ski resort and university town offering a taste of Switzerland in the middle of Morocco. We will arrive in Marrakech this evening. After checking into our riad, we will have the evening free to relax.
Our total travel time today will be approximately 8 hours.
DAY 7 - MARRAKECH (B - D)
After breakfast we will depart for a full-day guided tour of Marrakech. Marrakech dates back as far as the year 1070 and several monuments stand out as landmarks in the course of its history. We will visit the Koutoubia Mosque, sister tower to Seville's Giralda, the minaret of which has become the symbol of the city. We will then visit the more recently built Bahia Palace (19th century), which is often inhabited by His Majesty's guests, with its succession of rooms finely decorated in Arabic style and gardens planted with orange and jasmine trees.
We will continue to the Museum of Dar Si Said with the best display of Berber arts and crafts from all over the country, and the remains of the Badii Palace, an historical monument chosen to host the annual National Festival of Popular Art, beginning the second Friday in June.
We will then walk to discover the Souks of Marrakech! Certainly these are the most colorful and the liveliest in Africa. The different trades are grouped by services they offer: the dyers, the blacksmiths, the Babouche and shoemakers, spices, and fabric sellers. It’s a shopper’s paradise and a discovery for all five senses. Anything can be found here, from a blue silk thread to a wrought iron table, from a jar of pickled olives to a full bucket of “Khlih,” the local homemade beef preserve!
We will end our exploration by visiting the renowned Djemaa El Fna Square, a popular entertainment area where each afternoon storytellers, snake charmers, tooth-drawers, and dancers appear to entertain the crowd in a scene that is pure street theater.
This evening we will enjoy a relaxing dinner together.
Day 8 - MARRAKECH - ESSAOUIRA - MARRAKECH (B - D)
This morning, we will depart Marrakech to drive to the nearest seaside resort of Essaouira, about a 2 ½ hour drive. Renowned for generations for its production of "Murex" a small shellfish used to make the purple dye for Roman togas, Essaouira is now a very active fishing harbour still showing traces of having been occupied by the Portuguese in the XVIth century.
Today, protected from the sea and the wind behind its commanding fortified walls, Essaouira shelters a flourishing craftsmanship in marquetry, working citron-and-lime wood with ebony, mother of pearl and silver thread to make tables, chess-boards, caskets and bracelets.
Upon arrival, we will meet some of the local woodworkers who will teach us how to adorn the citron and lime woods with silver "threads" hammered into our own patterns.
After our workshop, we will have the opportunity to wander the town, exploring the many shops and cafes, or simply relax on the beach.
This evening, we will return to Marrakech and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant together.
DAY 9 - MARRAKECH - CASABLANCA - HOME (B)
Today, for those not continuing on the post-trip visit to the Sahara Desert, we will say goodbye and transfer approximately 2-1/2 hours by car to the Casablanca airport where we will board our international flight home.
OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THE SAHARA DESERT
DAY 9 - MARRAKECH - OUARZAZATE (B - D)
(Todays’ distance is approx. 140 miles and it will take 5-6 hours)
After breakfast, say goodbye to those returning home today. Then we will set off (around 8:30am) in the direction to Ouarzazate, climbing through striking alpine scenery into the High Atlas Mountains, crossing to the south-eastern side of the range via the Tizi N'Tichka Pass (7,415 feet). We then continue to see the ancient Kasbah complex of Ait Ben Haddou, an impressive 11th century structure, declared by UNESCO to be an historical treasure. A photographer’s wonderland, Ait Ben Haddou is still home to five families. Recent movies made at Ait Ben Haddou include "Gladiator" (2000), directed by Ridley Scott, and "Alexander" (2004), Oliver Stone.
We will have time to explore on our own before we continue driving to Ouarzazate this afternoon. We will visit the famous 17th century Kasbah of Taourirt, a former residence of the Pasha Glaoui., where we will enjoy scenic views of mountains and semi-desert terrain topped by Kasbahs and adobe homes.
We will enjoy dinner together this evening at the hotel.
DAY 10 - OUARZAZATE - CHEGAGA (B - D)
(Todays’ distance is approx. 190 miles and it will take 6-7 hours, both on paved and unpaved roads)
This morning we will begin traveling in the direction of the sand dunes of Erg Chegaga, the highest dunes in Morocco. The road from Ouarzazate to Agdz (about 45 miles) takes us first through the grand peaks and ridges of the Djebel Sarhro range to the main pass at Tizi N'Tinififft (1,660 m). At Agdz, we leave the mountains then turn right and continue driving to Foum Zguid. As we continue to Chegaga, we will have the opportunity to visit nomads living under black canvas tents, and you will cross by the dry lake of Iriki and the desert plateau of the Akassia. We will arrive in the evening at the desert of Chgaga where we enjoy a camel ride to see the impressive sunset.
The largest group of dunes reaches a height of 980 feet and stretches for approximately 24 miles. The sunset and sunrise views from the dunes across the sea of sand to the south are an artists dream.
Once at camp, we will enjoy a Moroccan dinner under the stars, overnight in tents.
DAY 11 - CHEGAGA - ZAGORA (B - D)
(Today’s’ distance is approx. 45 miles and it will take 2-3 hours driving on dust roads)
We will wake early in the morning to see the sunrise in the desert, a serene and beautiful way to welcome a day. After breakfast, we will drive to M'hamid via the sacred Oasis of Oum Laalag to reach the M’hamid village. We will continue back to Zagora where we will transfer to the Riad for check-in.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Zaouia of Tamgrout, founded in XVI century by Ahmed Ali Ansari. Nasir Mohamed founded the Koranic school of Tamgrout and its famous library (opening hours vary, to be checked on spot). The latter has a collection to nearly 4,000 books on subjects as diverse as Islamic law, astrology, medicine, history, poetry and on the theology and interpretations of the Koran, the oldest manuscripts, written on gazelle skin, date from the XI century. We'll have a guided visit walking in the village of potters, Zagora, an oasis town in the Draa Valley on the edge of the Sahara. This was the departure point, in days past, for camel caravans heading for Timbuktu in Northern Mali, a journey that took 52 days.
We will return to the riad and enjoy dinner together this evening there.
DAY 12 - ZAGORA - MARRAKECH (B)
(Todays’ distance is approx. 280 miles and it will take 8-9 hours driving on dust roads)
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we will leave Zagora to return to Ouarzazate where we will continue driving back to Marrakech where we will overnight.
DAY 13 - MARRAKECH - HOME (B)
After breakfast, we will transfer to Menara Airport for your departure flight.
Please note that hotel check-out time is typically around 11am. If your departure is not planned until well after this time, you may leave your luggage at the hotel while you head out to explore on your own.
B:Breakfast L:Lunch D:Dinner