Mint Tea Tours’ 4-day Private Tour from Casablanca is an excellent short itinerary to travel and explore in Morocco, perfect for Moroccan cruise ship stops or for our guests who want to extend travel from Europe with a short flight to Morocco. It includes the iconic economic capital of Casablanca, the modern and political capital, Rabat, the soft and peaceful blue walls of Chefchaouen, and the traditional Moroccan handicraft center of Fes.
Upon arrival at Casablanca’s Mohammed V International Airport, meet up with our team (private driver with an option of an additional private guide or host). Cast aside any jet lag, for when you are in Morocco, the adventure starts rapidly.
Start your own private tour in Morocco from Casablanca by exploring the magnificent architecture of Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque. This mosque is what makes Casablanca unique and distinguishes it from other Moroccan cities. Hassan II mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco, and the 13th largest in the world. The mosque gloriously hosts the tallest minaret the world has ever seen. It was completed in 1993 and stands on the Northern Atlantic coast of Morocco, with half of it constructed over water. Enjoy a tour inside the mosque, which is also one of the few in Morocco that are open for non-Muslims, and then we will drive to Rabat, the capital of Morocco.
When you arrive in Rabat, start your visit by exploring the iconic site of the city, Udayas Kasbah. The Udayas Kasbah is a small, beautiful historical kasbah with blue-painted walls. It is located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, opposite the city of Salé. The Udayas Kasbah is often described as a haven of tranquility, with all its magnificent flower-filled little streets, Andalusian garden, and Moorish café. More interesting, UNESCO recognized the significance of the Udayas Kasbah and was approved as the most recent add to World Heritage sites in Morocco.
Next, we will move to visit Rabat’s old, maze-like medina. This small medina was all that comprised Rabat before the French came in 1912 and expanded the city, creating new neighborhoods. Within the medina of Rabat there are lots of traditional shops and craft places that you can visit and explore. Rabat’s medina is a pleasure to walk around in, as it is regarded as having a more relaxed and easy-going ambiance, compared to other major medinas of Morocco.
Later, visit the ambitious but unfinished mosque of Hassan Tower. Hassan Tower was initially started in 1195 by Yacoub El-Mansour, known for his title “The Victorious”, around the same time he oversaw the construction of the Udayas Kasbah.
The mosque was supposed to have been the greatest in Morocco and the second largest mosque in the world, but its construction was never finished. Actually, the construction was abandoned in 1199, after El-Mansour’s death, and never resumed.
In spite of that, the mosque’s prayer hall was in use until a great earthquake occurred in 1755 and brought down the supporting columns, some of which have been restored to give an idea of its potential size. All in all, Hassan Tower remains one of the most beautiful pieces of Almohad architecture in all Morocco, even if not fully completed.
Next door to Hassan Tower, visit the beautiful mausoleum of Mohammed V. Just across these unfinished ruins of Hassan Tower stands the striking mausoleum of Mohammed V. It was built in the 1950s and inaugurated in 1961, six years after the death of Mohammed V. The structure is considered today a masterpiece of modern Alaouite Dynasty architecture.
The mausoleum is characterized by its plain exterior of white walls and typical green-tiled roof which contrasts deeply with the elaborately ornamental interior. However, the main features of the mausoleum are, of course, the glorious tombs of King Mohammed V (the grandfather of Morocco’s current king) and his two sons.
Finally, return to the van for an approximate 3-hour drive to Fes for your overnight.
The city of Fes is full of wonders, history and harmony. Fes is consisted of 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.
Today, make sure you get an early start for a day full of charm and exploration. We will start our first visit from Volubilis, the ancient Roman ruins. The ruin of Volubilis, which once used to be the capital of the Roman empire in northwest Africa, is considered today’s most valuable treasure in the Moroccan history.
This archaeological site is located around 60 kilometers from Fes, about 1 hour drive. The history of Volubilis dates to the 3rd century BC onward where Berbers first settled and after them the Carthaginians before the advent of the Romans. This ancient city was the most remote city in the Roman Empire. Presently, and apart from just its resonant history, Volubilis is also stunning for an impromptu photo session. This opportunity is not to be missed, if you want to imitate a Greek emperor or a beautiful goddess within Volubilis’ ancient walls and columns.
Later, we continue our drive towards Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen is a small city located in the heart of the Rif Mountains. It is often considered a village by tourists for its small size, which makes it an easy place to discover. Chefchaouen is well-known among locals for its calm and fresh air and water, because the city contains no factories.
Chefchaouen is also famous among tourists for its fifty shades of blue. The “blue heaven” and the “blue pearl” are nicknames this little town has acquired for being thoroughly painted in blue. There are many theories why Chefchaouen is blue, some of which state stories of religion since the color blue is considered divine in the Jewish belief. Some other theories assume that the blue is meant to keep mosquitoes away. The real reason why Chefchaouen is blue will always be a beautiful mystery, but the charming result is free for everyone to ponder and enjoy.
The overall medina of Chefchaouen is beautiful and charming in that every single neighborhood through which you pass is more beautiful and more breathtaking than the previous. Walking through all those blue- washed Andalusian alleyways, glancing at local crafts hung on every store’s classic door, and being greeted by the friendly merchants and little kids of the city, brings joy to one’s soul and makes one feel really alive.
In fact, if you are a photography lover, Chefchaouen is certainly your place. Or, maybe if you prefer drawing, you will find enough inspiration in this little Smurfs’ town. Chefchaouen also bears one of the oldest kasbahs in Morocco which is centered in its main square, surrounded by a 500 year-old wall with 7 gates and 10 towers. Finally, Chefchaouen offers a perfect sunset view. Since the town is surrounded with mountains, sunset makes a perfect scene of the sun sinking beyond mountains and clouds, making such a spectacular and unique show.
Today we drive back to Casablanca, our starting and finishing point. We hope that you enjoyed every second of the trip, and we wish you a safe flight home!
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Morocco was our escape from the UK’s winter on our mother-daughter adventure, and we were absolutely chuffed with how special our private tour of Morocco turned out!
Mint Tea Tours was so helpful with advice on planning our Moroccan holiday, and Tarek, the private driver they chose for us, was knowledgeable and fun.
Janine & Nancy, UK