Welcome to Morocco, the country that is distinguished by its Berber, Arab and European cultural influences, and a land of more than 3,000 years of rich history and unique culture.
Start your journey in Morocco from Tangier, “the bride of the north” as locals call it. Tangier was once ruled by Vandals, the Byzantine Empire, Arabs, indigenous Moroccan Berbers, the Spanish and the Portuguese. It is the largest city in north of Morocco, and is open to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Touristically speaking, the city is famous for its medina (old town).
For many tourist, the medina is a beautiful and charming maze of narrow streets on the hillside with an ambience feels like the movie “Aladdin”. Within the medina’s walls you find the 17th century Kasbah that occupies its highest point and that is considered an eye opening insight into life in Tangier down the years. After you finish Tangier’s visit, drive through the Rif Mountains towards the small blue town of Chefchaouen.
The city is known worldwide as “little Santorini” and “the blue pearl”. Chefchaouen is more than 5 centuries old, and it was first inhabited by Moorish Muslims and Jews who escaped Spain upon the Spanish inquisition of Al Andalus (Andalusia). Upon arrival to the blue town in afternoon, discover the blue-washed streets and the charming Andalusian alleys while walking towards the main square Outa el Hammam. The city will most likely inspire you to take many artistic photos.
Afterward, discover the reddish 15th century Kasbah At the middle of the square and its interesting and magnificent garden, museum, prison and towers. Later, visit the river of Ras el Maa, the main source of water in the city, which supplies the entire city with fresh, natural and drinkable water. Enjoy a walk down by the cool river, and along the way, discover water-mills on which locals relied to grind their wheat, which used to be their number one activity for living.
At the bottom of the river is the Portuguese bridge that was built by Portuguese prisoners who tried to invade the city. Finally, visitors of Chefchaouen should not miss watching the sunset from near the Spanish mosque up on Bouzafar Hill. The spectacle is, to say the least, breathtaking. Make sure you watch the whole process of the sun peacefully sinking beyond the mountains in front of you, while listening to the melodic adhan (call to prayer) coming up from all the mosques together for a moment of spirituality and peace.
Today we say “goodbye” to the blue-tiful city of Chefchaouen and we go further south towards the middle of Morocco. It is preferable to start early, because today will be full of wonders and discoveries. The drive from Chefchaouen to Fes is approximately 4 hours, but before arriving there, we will stop first in the ruin of Volubilis, which once used to be the capital of the Raman empire in north-west Africa.
This archaeological site is located around 60 kilometers from Fes, our last destination for today. The history of Volubilis dates to the 3rd century BC onward where Berbers first settled and after them the Carthaginians before the advent of Romans. The ancient city was the most remote city in the Roman Empire. Apart from just its resonant history, Volubilis is also stunning for photo session if one wants to imitate a mighty Greek emperor or a beautiful Greek goddess within Volubilis’ ancient walls and poles.
The second stop in today’s trip will take place in the imperial city of Meknes.
This holy city was founded in the 11th century by Almoravides for military reasons. However, it reached the peak of its glory once it became the capital of Morocco in the 17th century, during the reign of Moulay Ismail, the third king of the Alaouite dynasty. The city is rich with historical landmarks and monuments that narrate different stories about every place in the city. Start your visit by discovering Bab Mansour, one of the most remarkable gates in Morocco and maybe in North Africa. The gate looks like an entrance for a holy castle from the 16th century.
Later, enjoy the lively local vibes at Hedim square, the main square in Meknes, which is surrounded by historical buildings and narrow alleys that lead into the markets. Then, wander around the old medina which is a lively museum for tourists, and explore other monuments such as Royal Stables, Agdal Reservoir and the 17th century kasbah, if time allows.
Finally, arrive to Fes, the city where the first university in world was established.
The city of Fes is full of wonders, history and harmony. Fes is consisted of mainly two parts, Fes el-Bali (“old Fes”) and Fes el-Jedid (“new Fes”).
First we start our day from Fes el-Jedid, by visiting the famous golden gates of the king’s palace. The palace was constructed in the 14th century of neat and beautiful architecture. Even today it is still considered among the largest and the oldest in palaces in Morocco.
Not so far from the king’s palace is situated the Jewish mellah. “Mellah” is the typical name of traditional Jewish quarters. The mellah of Fes is the oldest among all other Jewish quarters in Morocco. The mellah was usually established next to the king’s palace so the Jews could feel safe under the personal protection of the king. Within the same neighborhood we will visit the Jewish cemetery and the Ibn Danan synagogue, which are recognized as a cultural treasure and an important piece of art of Moroccan Jewish heritage.
Next, after a walk through the well-preserved streets of the mellah, we enter the Bab Boujloud Gate, the famous blue gate of Fes. Once we enter the gate into the old medina, we will observe the green-tiled minaret of the Bou Inania Medersa, our next stop, jutting into the sky. The Bou Inania Medersa was built between 1351 and 1358, and functioned as both an educational institute and a mosque. Today it is still an active religious building, and it is one of the few mosques in Morocco that are open for all visitors, including those that are not Muslim, providing a unique experience for tourists. It is also one of the most stunning examples of Merenid architecture in the world.
Next, we leave the medina behind and we drive to El Borj of Fes, the fine fortress, which was built by Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour in 1582 to monitor the populace of Fes. From there, you can have a panoramic overview of the three parts of Fes.
We continue our short drive to reach the pottery and zellij tile cooperative. In this place, the production is totally handmade, relying on old techniques of how zellij and pottery is traditionally made. You may even be invited to have a try at making a ceramic pot in the traditional Moroccan way and experience how challenging this art form is. This place is also a perfect shopping opportunity for those who admire fancy quality handmade Moroccan goods.
Later we return to the medina for our walking tour. We enter the old medina of Fes el Bali, the center of manufacturing of all local goods. We walk through local markets of all kinds, selling fruits, vegetables, delicious local pastries and different types of craft and workshops, such as Nejjarine and Seffarine squares. We stop at the University of Al-Qarawiyyin that was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman who came as a refuge, fleeing her homeland of Tunisia for Morocco, in 859 AD. UNESCO considers it to be the oldest university in the world whose libraries have several extremely valuable documents dating from c. 780 A.D.
Later we visit Fes’ tannery. The oldest and largest of all traditional tanneries of leather in Morocco and the world, Chouara Tannery dates back to medieval times. The sight of the multi-colored dyeing vats in the central courtyard of the tannery is indeed a unique picture that should not be missed. The tannery is famous for its intense smell. Of course, “the smell is free… but if you want to buy, you have to pay” is the phrase that merchants in the tannery often say.
Not far from the tannery lies our last destination for today: the carpet workshop and market where you will learn about everything concerning the different types of Moroccan carpets, scarves and local handicrafts.
Erfoud is the ultimate destination today, but along the way, we will make some stops and explore the charm and beauty of Ifrane and Midelt. Ifrane was built by the French in the mid-1930s mainly for its strategic location in the mid-Atlas, which makes the atmosphere of the little town feels like an alpine resort. For this reason, Ifrane has earned the nickname “Little Switzerland”.
Ifrane is also famous for its fresh and clean air, scrubbed and tree-lined streets, as well as the mountains peaks which are often well-adorned with snow in winter months. Next stop before reaching the final destination is Midelt, which is known for its fossils and rocks. Midelt is located between the Middle and the High Atlas Mountain ranges, where the landscape offers some breathtaking views.
Evening arrival in Erfoud – make sure to relax and refresh for your upcoming Moroccan Sahara Desert adventure in the morning.
Today starts a new chapter in our journey in Morocco, the chapter of Sahara Desert. Erfoud, being the closest point to the Sahara desert, acquired the nickname “Gate of Sahara Desert”. Start your morning in Erfoud by discovering the local art and craft that makes use of fossilized stone in a very impressive and elegant way. In afternoon, meet a local 4×4 driver who will take you to Merzouga and into the Sahara desert where its magnificent orange and golden sand dunes can reach as high as 150 meters. There, you will have one of the most stunning experiences in your life that will stay with you forever.
Start by riding your own camel through the dunes, until you reach a stunning point of view where sunset makes you feel like you are in another world with all of its glory. Another no less remarkable experience is stargazing upon nightfall, where you are likely to be treated to millions of stars which make the sky look like a beautiful painting. This view will most likely make a tear stream unconsciously down your face.
Get an early start today so as to not miss the Sahara’s magical sunrise, and then, once ready, join the driver to start today’s adventure. It is known about Morocco to be home for a numerous of stunning palm groves. Today’s first stop is palm of Ziz Valley, where rivers flow through the dry expanses bring with them flourishing belts of green palmeries, which stretch into the distance for as far as the eye can see. The valley’s golden prehistoric walls towering above, and the dusty ancient kasbahs & ksar dotting the palm groves makes the place a pearl within the oasis.
Next stop on today’s trip is Todra Gorges, which is an impressive natural oasis in the mountains where one of the most spectacular canyons is situated. Eventually, arrive at the appealing little town of Boumalne Dades, which is believed to be one of the most attractive Moroccan touristic cities. The town is famous for its beautiful and charming landscapes where you can also visit the historical sites of the kasbahs of Boumalne Dades and Mohdach as well as exploring the local traditional art.
Today our adventure south in the Sahara takes us to a new region which is most famous amongst film makers. The region of Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou became famous as the “Hollywood of Africa” for being the backdrop of a number of worldwide movies such as “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Gladiator” among many others. Upon arrival at Ouarzazate, wander around Taourirt Kasbah, Ouarzazate’s main historical attraction. There, explore the maze-like passageways, steep steps and dizzying ramparts in addition to recognizable features such as the harem quarters and palace kitchens.
Later, drive for another 30 minutes to discover Ait Ben Haddou, a living example of the outstanding traditional architecture of the Moroccan culture in the south. After you discover it all, drive towards Marrakech for overnight.
Marrakech, known as the capital of the Great South, is considered to be the most popular city in Morocco and the gateway to the Moroccan golden Sahara. The city is rich with magnificent gardens, royal palaces and souks that attract the largest number of tourists to Morocco every year.
Majorelle Garden in Marrakech is believed to be the most popular and attractive garden, not only in Morocco, but also in North Africa. Historically, the garden took its name from French artist, Jacques Majorelle, who toiled 40 years to fully create and open the garden in 1924. In its modern form, the garden is Marrakech’s little paradise which contains a psychedelic desert mirage of 300 plant species from five continents. After enjoying Majorelle Garden in the morning, wander through the different souks in the medina which are full of exotic handicraft items, and then head towards the Koutoubia mosque, which is Marrakech’s most important mosque.
The Koutoubia mosque was one of the largest places of worship for followers of Islam when it was built in 1158. Later in afternoon, visit El Bahia palace which is a remarkable example for Eastern architecture in the 19th century. It is recognized to be a very photogenic site with amazing decoration, mixed with all different handcrafted works, great colors and beautiful gardens. At night, you will have the chance to visit Marrakech’s main square, Jemaa el-Fna, the most important part of the medina. There, inhabitants and tourists gather at night to enjoy the various shows performed by local musicians and story tellers.
After 8 days of early mornings, it is possible to have a lazy start today, because the drive from Marrakech to Casablanca is no less 3 hours. Casablanca is considered the center of business and the beating heart of economy in Morocco. The largest city in Morocco, though ”recent”, it has numerous of sites and places to visit and discover. Upon arrival to the city, do not miss exploring Hassan II Mosque which is the largest mosque in Morocco, it also has the highest minaret in the world and has a capacity of more than 25,000 worshippers.
Interestingly enough, the building cost nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars, raised entirely by public offerings, from all layers of Moroccans, including contributions from the Jewish and Christian communities, which makes it stand out as a symbol of harmony among the three main Abrahamic religions. Next, visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca which is the only one of its type in Africa and the Muslim world. The Museum was founded in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. It is lively image of more than 2,000 years of Jewish history, religion, tradition and culture in Morocco. Finally, enjoy one last sunset view from Ain Diab beach after having some free time to stroll along the Atlantic coast.
Today is officially the final page of Mint Tea Tours’ 10 day private adventure in Morocco. Even though it ends here, its memories and vibes will definitely stay with you for a long time.
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