September 22-October 2, 2019
A land of legend and intrigue, Morocco lies close to Europe, yet its place on the African continent has made it a multicultural crossroads for goods, ideas and people, including refugees from sub-Saharan Africa seeking asylum. On this 11-day journey, discover the rich, artistic influences of Moorish and European cultures, meeting with locals and experts to delve deep into this colorful nation.
Morocco is a blend of all the cultures that have passed through, including Roman, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Muslim. A land of ancient royal cities and dramatic Berber villages, its landscapes range from stunning deserts and cedar forests to snowcapped mountains and scenic coastlines. With expert guidance and exclusive access, visit some of the country’s most notable souks, medinas, palaces and cities to discover the rich, artistic influences of Moorish and European cultures. Visiting all four of its imperial capitals and other historic sites, gain insight into the history and forces that have created the beautiful and complex land that is Morocco.
Welcome to Morocco
Arrive in Casablanca and meet with your Times Journeys representatives and your fellow travelers. After lunch at a seaside restaurant, tour Casablanca, the thriving economic capital of Morocco. Start with a visit to the Hassan II Mosque, the tallest religious structure in the world, to see the interplay between modern architecture and traditional influences. Then, stroll through the Habous Quarter, built by the French in an attempt to solve the city’s housing shortage, and view the many different vendor stalls. Gather this evening as a group for a welcome reception and dinner.
Depart Casablanca for Rabat, Morocco’s capital city and the residence of its monarch, on the Atlantic Ocean. The Barbary Coast pirates used Rabat as a base from the 16th to 18th centuries. Enjoy unspoiled views of palm-lined boulevards, colonial architecture and tranquil streets. Visit the palace, Dar al-Makhzen; the Hassan Tower, started in the 12th century and intended to be the tallest minaret in the world; and other major sites of Rabat. Have lunch as a group before continuing to Fez, Morocco’s oldest imperial city.
The Medina and Madrasas of Fez
Spend the day exploring Fez. Delve into the ancient medina, one of the world’s largest walled cities and a Unesco World Heritage site. Explore narrow streets, unchanged since medieval times, lined with merchants offering mounds of spices and colorful woven Berber carpets. Stop by the el-Attarine and Bou Inania madrasas, traditional Islamic universities built in the 14th century. Continue to the Fondouk el-Nejjarine, in the city’s woodworking souk, to view the building’s intricate carvings. This afternoon, head to Fes Jdid, home of the historic Jewish Quarter, and visit the Ibn Danan Synagogue to learn about Jewish history in Fez. Later, meet with a cultural expert to discuss Morocco’s culture and education system. Dinner is on your own.
Roman Ruins in Volubilis
This morning, head to the archaeological site of Volubilis to explore the remains of this ancient Roman city. Declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, Volubilis’s importance is illuminated by its many ancient buildings, including the Capitoline Temple, the Basilica — considered one of the most beautiful in Africa in its day — and the 14,000-square-foot Forum. Return to Fez for evening on your own.
The Road to Marrakesh
Depart Fez to head west toward the ocean, and then south toward Marrakesh. Pause in Rabat for lunch and meet with a local expert to discuss women’s issues in Morocco. Continue to Marrakesh, the most important of the four imperial cities, in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Established in the 11th century, the city is protected by walls built in the 12th century, which give it its nickname, the “Ochre City.”
The Majorelle Garden and Contemporary Morocco
Begin the morning with a visit to the tranquil Majorelle Garden, a 12-acre botanical garden built over 40 years by the painter Jacques Majorelle; Yves Saint-Laurent saved it from becoming a hotel in the 1980s. Then explore Marrakesh’s architecture and other gardens with visits to the 14th-century former Ben Youssef Madrasa, and the Bahia Palace and gardens. Pause outside the Koutoubia Mosque, the largest in the city. If time allows, continue to Jemaa el-Fna, a square that for centuries was used for public decapitations. Now it is filled with musicians, snake charmers and magicians. Tonight, enjoy a traditional Moroccan dinner in the heart of the old medina as traditional Gnaoua music — heavily rhythmic chant-based performances — accompanies your meal.
The Atlas Mountains
Those who are feeling adventurous can ascend into the Atlas Mountains for a day excursion via 4x4s. Climb into the hills to the rarely visited Kasbah Telouet, formerly the seat of power for the El Glaoui family. The palace was built in the 18th and 19th centuries and was once a key stopping point along the caravan routes over the Atlas Mountains. Have lunch in the village of Telouet before returning to Marrakesh in the evening.
Essaouira: Back to the Sea
Spend the morning at leisure before leaving for Essaouira, a seaside port city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. Pause along the way to visit a cooperative that produces argan oil, a lightweight oil derived from the nut kernels of argan trees, which grow naturally only in Morocco. Gain insight into producing argan oil and its derivatives as a natural cosmetic product, high in vitamin E. The name “Essaouira” means “little fortress,” and its medina is protected by 18th-century seafront ramparts called the Skala de la Kasbah, designed by European engineers. After lunch, explore this idyllic fishing town, formerly a Portuguese stronghold called Mogador, famous for its cabinetry and woodcarving handicrafts.
Essaouira: Craftsmanship in Essaouira
El Jadida: Pottery, Another Fortified City and Casablanca
After breakfast, journey back toward Casablanca, stopping at El Jadida. This fortified port city was built by the Portuguese as Mazagan and designated a Unesco World Heritage site for its interchange of European and Moroccan culture. In Casablanca, gather as a group one last time for a farewell reception and dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for individual flights home.
Prefer to travel as a private group or on a different date? Call 855-698-7979 to learn about our private departures.
Sofitel Tour Blanche
This hotel, in the heart of the Sidi Belyout business district, is opposite the Hassan II Mosque.
This five-star hotel, designed by the architect and designer Christophe Pillet and opened in 2014, has spectacular views of the largest medina in the Arab world.
Sofitel Marrakesh Palais Imperial
This luxury property in the heart of the city combines traditional Moorish architecture with French elegance.
Atlas Essaouira & Spa
This low-rise seafront hotel has a private beach and faces Mogador Island.
Sofitel Tour Blanche
This hotel, in the heart of the Sidi Belyout business district, offers exceptional views of the city looking toward the Hassan II Mosque.