Make your travel resolution a reality with our New Year’s 12-day private tour from Casablanca! One of Mint Tea Tours’ best holiday tours of Morocco, usher in the New Year by celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Sahara Desert for an unforgettable night amidst the sand dunes, under the stars!
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 overall 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. Later, you will have the evening free in case you want to relax and shake off fatigue, because the upcoming days will be full of wonders and discoveries.
This morning, we will start our drive towards the center of Morocco to the historical city of Fes. But before that, we will stop and discover Rabat, the capital of the kingdom.
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 there was of 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, get back into the private luxury van for an approximate 3-hour drive to Fes for an overnight.
The city of Fes is full of wonders, history and harmony. Fes consists of two main 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 as 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 were traditionally made. You may be invited to try your hand to produce a ceramic pot in the traditional way and experience how challenging this art 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 for 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 streets 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 the 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 experience 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 your private 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 the palm grove 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 and ksar dotting the palm groves makes the place a pearl within the oasis. Next stop on today’s trip is Todra Gorge, which is an impressive natural oasis in the mountains where one of the most spectacular canyons is situated. Eventually, arrive to 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 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 among 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 to 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 an 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.
Today we drive towards the Atlantic coast to the charming town of Essaouira. Once we arrive to the city after approximately two hours’ drive, get refreshed and enjoy a stroll along the town’s sunlit pedestrian main square, Place Prince Moulay Hassan and the Skala du Port, the fishing harbor offers breathtaking views of the Portuguese ramparts and then explore the spice and jewelry souks.
Later, discover the charm of the inner medina with its walls, ports, markets and museums. In fact, Essaouira is believed to be a conventional museum in itself. However, visit the museum of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah where fascinating sepia photos and a collection of old weapons and traditional jewelry are found. Or maybe if you prefer having a different kind of shopping away from the hassle of Marrakech, then get lost in the medina and discover another type of local souk (market) where you will find some precious pieces of local art and souvenirs for good prices. Afterwards, head to Place Moulay Hassan and enjoy a unique type of musicians performing Gnawa music which is the most famous type of music in southern Morocco.
The last thing that not to be missed in Essaouira is sunset. In fact, sunsets over the Atlantic are spectacular, and few people leave Essaouira without dozens of sunset shots on their camera or phone. Enjoy the beautiful sun disappearing inside the ocean for a moment of peace.
Today you will have a free day to rest and relax after so many eventful days. Essaouira, being a port city and resort on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, is the perfect place for a free day. The overall city is generally beautiful and offers a perfect break from the hot weather and crowds of Marrakech. It has nice weather in summertime and more refreshing yet mild weather in winter time.
Today we drive back to our starting point Casablanca. It is preferable that you reach there in early afternoon, so you can enjoy one last walk along the Atlantic as well as one last sunset view from the Ain Diab beach after having some free time to stroll along the Atlantic coast.
Today is officially the end of your private New Year’s tour! We hope that you enjoyed every second of the trip, and we wish you a safe flight home!
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