Desert Grand Tour
Day 1: MARRAKECH
Arrival in Marrakesh, we will meet and escort you to your hotel. After check in procedures, and depending on your initial arrival, a meal will be arranged at your hotel. You tour of Marrakech will begin at an appropriate time and co-ordinated with your initial arrival. In some cases, and due to late arrival, the tour will begin on the next day and will increase the duration of this tour by one day.
Known as the "red city or Al Hamra," is a city in southwestern Morocco in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
Marrakech is the second largest city and administrative center in Morocco.
The heart of the Marrakesh, Djemma El Fna Square, offers an exciting experience with its souks, gardens, palaces, snake charmers, outdoor food stalls and fabulous shopping for Moroccan goods. Depart from your hotel.
Your introduction to Marrakech will begin in the Medina, the old quarter of the Marrakesh. From here we will explore this historically charming area by foot. In Djemma el Fna, you will visit the famous 12th century Koutouba
Mosque and its influential minaret. Your guide will help you navigate through the labyrinth of streets and alleys of the Djemma.Marrakech. This is a city of underground canals built by the architects from Cordoba, Spain to provide water for the town and Palmary. Driving to the Lower Medina we explore more of Marrakesh’s secrets: El Mansour mosque, the sixteenth century Saadian Tombs with its stark towers, the ruined 16th century El Badhi Palace,
and the Mellah and the Jewish quarter. Enjoy a three-course lunch consisting of fresh salad, tajine and fruit at one of Marrakech’s best restaurants. After lunch we will head north of the Mellah to visit the 19th century Bahia Palace, originally built for Si Moussa, a former slave who became King Moulay Hassan’s chamberlain. The palace holds a courtyard and Riads decorated with beautiful carved stucco and Arabic architecture. Next we will visit the contemporary Moroccan Art Museum or Tiskiwin, a private museum dedicated to popular arts & crafts, styled as a beautiful Spanish-Moroccan House, next door to Dar Si Said Palace, a smaller version of the Bahia. Onward to the New City, we will navigate our way to the French, Gueliz walking to the Majorelle Gardens, a magical and lush small garden estate designed by Jacque Majorelle and maintained and financed by Yves Saint Laurent during his lifetime. He died in 2008 and his ashes are scattered throughout the gardens. Now a foundation has been established to finance and maintain the gardens. The Majorelle Garden is filled with colorful walkways, ponds, cactus and other plants. Majorelle is not beautiful in the traditional sense; nor does it have anything to do with the horticulture traditions of Morocco and the Maghreb. It is a fantasy garden that captures the pure colors of North Africa, but it feels more Mexican or Mediterranean than Moroccan. But, that is not the point, as it is an exotic fantasy brought to exquisite life, a living work of art.
Consider a purchase of hand-made goods in the beautiful shop. The museum contains a display of traditional costumes and exquisite native jewelry. This room is dark, with a swirling starry “sky” overhead and glowing cases filled with magnificent traditional Moroccan jewelry and ornaments. The gorgeous baubles almost float in the space, as if viewed by the light of a fire in the darkness of a desert night. It is absolutely gorgeous. . stunning. . . magnificent. . . magical.
Returning to your hotel, we pass the La Mammounia Hotel Garden. (where Alfred Hitchcock wrote the famous film (The Birds).
For dinner, dine in the Djemma el Fna, a recognized UNESCO site. After dinner, we return to your hotel.
Day 2: MARRAKECH – TELOUET – AIT BENHADDOU
After breakfast prepare for our departure from Marrakech. We drive through the High Atlas Mountains and Head South of Marrakech passing Aït Ourir, a charming Berber Village where you can stop to take pictures of the Atlas foothills. Traveling on the P31 we will pass the Grouka Hunting Reserve and Forestry Department Buildings a reminder of the French presence once felt in the High Atlas. Soon after seeing views of the olive groves of the Oued Zat, you will begin to ascend onto the Tizi-N-Tichka Pass Road.
Stopping for lunch we can enjoy a tajine or grilled meat in a cafe restaurant of the Tadart. At 2260 meters (7,414ft.) above sea level. It is the highest part of Atlas and the highest pass in Morocco. Lunch will be complemented with overwhelming mountain views. Driving on the road to Ouarzazate, we will pass the town of Amerzgane where we bear to the left to reach the ruined Kasbah Telouet. Once home to the Pasha El Glaoui; this Kasbah has a rich history that is entwined with the French and located in this fertile valley surrounded by Palm, Fig and Olive Trees. Inside you can see the Kasbah’s painted wooden ceiling and low level corridors leading to two well preserved Andalusian style reception rooms engraved with stucco work and colorful Zellij Tile work. We will drive to the pictur-
esque village of Aït Benhaddou situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ouarzazate River. Once an important stop for traders carrying gold, salt and slaves along the famous Southern Caravan route which moves through the Sahara.
Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here. Orson Welles used it as the location for Sodom and Gomorrah; and Jesus of Nazareth. The whole lower part of the village was rebuilt. In recent years controlled restorations have been monitored under the auspices of UNESCO.
Your guide will lead you on a private tour through the Berber village of towering and crenelated kasbahs that once guarded the lucrative caravansary route through the Atlas Mountains. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Aït Benhaddou or Ouarazat.
Day 3: AIT BENHADDOU – EL KELAA DE MGOUNA
After breakfast, we journey an hour away from Aït Benhaddou, taking the “Road of One Thousand Kasbahs” to visit Skoura. Skoura is a fertile oasis lined with immense palm groves that provide great views of the Atlas Mountains alongside deserted landscapes. It is renowned for the cultivation of roses. The palm groves were laid out in the 12th century by the Almohad Sultan Yacoub el-Mansour
and named after its original inhabitants, the Berbers of the Haskourene Tribe. The most beautiful kasbahs in southern Morocco can be found here. Many of them are still partially inhabited.
We will stop to visit the most imposing of the kasbahs in this area that is the 17th Century Amerhidil Kasbah. This fortified residence once belonged to the most powerful family responsible for protecting the village and its lands called the Glaoui. Today it is owned by the Sheikh of Amerhidil. Touring this Kasbah is an opportunity to inspect the restored interior. The Amerhidil Kasbah is featured on the 50.00 note (MAD) of Moroccan Dirhams and
on an Orange Juice box labeled Marrakesh. The Kasbahs of Aït Abou were built in the 1800’s and are the oldest in the palm grove. They are six stories high with walls 25m high. After lunch in Skoura, we drive north heading towards the El Kelaa Des Mgouna, the Valley of Roses, where our driver will stop for you to view the Capp et Florale distillation factories. They are in El Kelaa Des Mgouna, a small Kasbah town that manufactures the entire nation’s products of Eau de Rose. The Rose Water and other products such as hand and body soaps, oils, crème perfume and dried flowers for sale. They are popular among Moroccans.
In Spring of each year, the Rose Festival is attended by local villagers and celebrated with traditional Berber music, food and dance. The festival features a an exhibition of local crafts and a street-parade with bright colorful floats made out of faux roses whereby the Ms. Roses of El Kelaa Des Mgouna is chosen.
Dinner and Overnight in Hotel Kasbah.
Day 4: EL KELAA DE MGOUNA – DADES GORGES
Breakfast at a local Pâtisserie of Café Cassis (Moroccan Cappuccino) Moroccan sweet breads and fresh fruit. Climb aboard our Travel Exploration’s air-conditioned/heated auto for a day filled with great adventure. We will take you through the Dades which covers 125 km (77 miles) between Ouarzazate and Boumalne du Dadès in the High Atlas Mountains. We will pass flower filled fields, fertile fields, riverbanks and several fortified Ksours (A commune or fortified castle). At the bottom of the Gorge of Boumalne Dadès there are ruined hilltop Kasbahs. And gardens on the valley floor. Protected by the mountains, Aït Youl is among the largest Glaoui Kasbah that is worth a stop.
Your driver will help you explore it and take a sort hike to Tamnalt where an impressive natural formation of rocks known by locals as the “Hill of Human Bodies exists”. A series of fascinating Kasbahs can be found and our driver will take us past the Boumalne hills and see how the
gorge narrows into a canyon which passes directly through Aït Oufi to Msemrir.
Lunch will be served in an Msemrir Guesthouse offering local Moroccan fare and panoramic views. On Saturdays, there is a large village Souk (Market place) in Msemrir.
After lunch, your driver will travel the road towards the spectacular Todra Gorge. The Gorge extends from the village of Tamtatouche to Tinerhir. The Todra, with cliffs rising dramatically to 300m (985ft.) on each side of the narrow corridor. Some of the most impressive cliffs are the highest in Morocco. We may see Nomad women with children from the Atlas Mountains visiting the Gorge to carry water by donkey to their village.
Having driven through the gorge we arrive at Tamtattouchte, our final destination.
Upon reaching this picturesque village of Tamtattouchte, you will be escorted to your Berber Guesthouse where we will dine and spend the night.
Day 5: TAMATTOUCHTE – GOULMIMA – ZIZ VALLEY
Breakfast over, we depart passing through the Amellago Canyons crossing several Berber Villages.Todra Palmeries,an oases of impressive Kasbahs, and valleys lined with Date Palms, Olive Trees, Pomegranate, Almond and fruit trees.
Returning on the main road, we arrive the town of Tinerhir. It is built on a rocky out-cropping. Tinehir has an elongated layout making it an interesting stopping place to visit Kasbahs and Ksours. Tineghir’s silver mines produce silver for jewelry which plays an important part in the town’s economy.
Continuing on, we will pass by the small village of Tadighouste and the valley of Taltfraoute to eventually arriving in Goulmima, a modern village set in the heart of the Rheris oasis.
Lunch at Goulmima trying Madfouna, Southern Morocco’s version of pizza: griddle-baked wheat flour topped with onions, tomatoes, olives, minced lamb and cheese. After lunch, stretch your legs as you stroll through a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys lined with houses and a mosque located within the old fortified village. The village’s Ksours are said to be unusually sturdy and the Ksar itself a great example of southern Moroccan defensive architecture.
After our respite, we will continue to Er-Rachidia, spending the night in the Ziz Valley. Dinner and overnight.
x- Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech - UNESCO listed.
x- Todra Gorge, Morocco's 'Grand Canyon'.
x- Erg Chebbi sand dunes, start of the Sahara Desert.
x- Djemâa el-Fna and souks.
x- Camp with the Berbers and camel trek in the Sahara.
x- Aït Benhaddou - UNESCO-listed ancient fortified Kasbah city.
x- Services of 1 or 2 person crew (leader and driver)
x- Transfer from Marrakech airport
x- Transport in 4x4
x- 9 nights accommodation
x- Guided tours of Marrakech.
x- Sahara camel trek
x- Berber Camp
Day 6: ZIZ VALLEY -ERFOUD – MERZOUGA
Morning breakfast over, we will hike in the Ziz Oasis. It is one of the world’s largest and longest fertile valleys. We will see palm trees alongside a long limestone corridor providing shade for the Kasbah of Ifri.Have. We will enjoy a well deserved lunch in the Ziz Valley. After lunch walk around the Ksar country which overlooks the oasis.
Located south of the Ziz River, the Ziz Valley has historical roots of the Caravansary route which guided travelers from the desert near Merzouga to the Mediterranean Sea. See many Pise and earthen red houses located within fortified villages protecting Berber families from bandits and rival tribes.
Descending the Ziz Valley to Erfoud, known for it’s fossils and other craft items. It is a peaceful town with a military past and an extensive palm grove.
Dinner with live music in a traditional Auberge near the Erg Chebbi Dunes. If you prefer, you may choose to sleep in a Berber tent underneath the desert stars.
Day 7: MERZOUGA – ERFOUD –TODRA GORGES
Arising early, you can watch the magnificent sunrise sweeping the sands of Erg Chebbi while sipping Maloui, a fruit, natural squeezed orange juice among other delights for breakfast. Prepare for a morning of camel trekking through the Erg Chebbi. The Erg Chebbi dunes rise up out of stony, sandy desert and extend for thirty kilometers reaching a height of up to two hundred fifty meters. Spend the next few hours on this trek, returning to your Auberge and preparing to continue, a drive to the Dayet Srji. We will pass the Saharan town of Rissani, an ancient capital for the Alaouite Sultans and the most important market town for Sub-Sahara camel caravans. It was built on the ruins of Sijilmassa. We will stop in Rissani to visit its Souks where stalls are piled high with pyramids of dates, vegetables, spices, rugs, carpets, pottery, jewelry and metalwork.After passing Erfoud, we will stop to have lunch by the palm plantation of Touroug and Tinjdad. We will continue to the Todra Gorges Cayons where you can go on foot to explore the surrounding Berber Villages. At our hotel, at dinner time, enjoy the panoramic views prior to our overnight stay.
Day 8: TINEGHIR – OUARZAZATE
After breakfast, a morning walk through the canyons, to see the Imarighen Spring “the spring of the sacred fish”, trek through a network of Tinerhir’s Palm Groves orchards. You will see the Ksour located on the other side of the Wadi. Of the most interesting are the Aït Boujane Ksar and Asfalou Ksar.
Deaparting, Tinerhir, we will travel towards Skoura. Lunch will be in a local restaurant in the town of Skoura.
Continuing towards the mystical town of Ouarzazate, considered the door to the Sahara desert. Located just four hours from Marrakesh, Ouarzazate is the main Berber city in the south known for its spectacular sunsets and dramatic mountain and desert scenery. Surrounded by breathtaking valleys. Ouarzazate was once crossing point for African traders seeking to reach Northern cities in Morocco and Europe. During the French period, Ouarzazate
expanded considerably as a garrison town and became the administrative centre of the Zagora region. In Ouarzazate, we will visit a local Berber natural herbal pharmacy where one can have a massage and purchase local fragrant crèmes made with rose water, orange water and almonds.
Dinner and overnight in a Hotel or Riad.
Day 9: OUARZAZATE - MARRAKECH
Enjoy a savory breakfast of baguette, fresh fruit, jams and a Café Cassis (Moroccan cappuccino) at a local Pâtisserie, then begin your tour to Atlas Film & Aït Benhaddou. We will visit the Atlas Film Studios where David Lean filmed Lawrence of Arabia in the early 1906’s. Since then many famous directors have followed in his footsteps to exploit the magnificent scenery. International blockbusters filmed here in recent years include: the French version of Cleopatra, Bertolucci’s Sheltering Sky, Scorsese’s Kundun, Gillies MacKannon’s Hideous Kinky, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, Black Hawke Down, Oliver Stone’s Alexander, The Great, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Penelope Cruz’s Sahara.
Taking the road to Marrakech, we will pass the village of Tadart, stoping for mint tea and an afternoon snack in a local restaurant. The views are incredible. Continuing, on the road towards Marrakech, once again breathtaking views of the Tichka Pass in High Atlas. We will travel on the French built road through the largest mountain chain
in North Africa. An early evening arrival in Marrakech for our last night in Morocco.
You can choose to spend your night in a Riad or hotel. With your free evening, you can explore the exciting night clubs and restaurants of Marrakech. Or, experience a traditional optional Fantasia Dinner and Show. The Fantasia is a ceremony opposing various groups of horse riders. Each group quivers under light, and the riders point their long rifles to the sky, shouting out simultaneously and leave behind them a cloud of dust, before spouting their “black baroud of honor."
During dinner, made up chiefly of traditional Moroccan food, you will experience traditional music such as Berber Ahidous, Chabbi, Gnaoua and other forms.
Day 10: MARRAKECH
Departure from Marrakech's Menara Airport.