Moroccan Odyssey

  • 11-day journey through Morocco from the seaside to the Sahara
  • Experience Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez, and the Atlas Mountains.

Expedition Details

 

Morocco’s mystique can be found in medinas that brim with color, soaring mountains that give way to endless desert, and stunning Moorish architecture. Discover the enchanting cities of Marrakech and Fez, venture into rose-colored kasbahs, and visit little-known mountain villages. Listen to the strains of Berber music around a campfire in the Sahara, and stay at the historic Palais Jamai in Fez.

Trip Highlights

  • Explore the Roman ruins of Volubilis and the ancient adobe village of Aït Benhaddou, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Ride a camel at sunset from a tented camp nestled among the sculpted dunes, and watch the sun rise over the Sahara.
  • Observe artisans plying their timeless crafts in the workshops of Fez.
  • Learn about Berber culture while sipping mint tea in a traditional mountain village.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Casablanca, Morocco

Depart on an overnight flight to Casablanca. After time to relax the following morning, meet the group for lunch before visiting the extraordinary Hassan II Mosque, which boasts the world's tallest minaret at 689 feet. This afternoon, stroll through the city’s Habous district and the mechouar, the ceremonial meeting place outside the Royal Palace. Tonight, gather for a festive welcome dinner.
Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche (L,D)

Day 3 — Casablanca/Marrakech

Drive through the elegant Anfa neighborhood on the way to Marrakech, Morocco's legendary "pearl of the South." Enjoy a poolside lunch at the hotel before exploring the city of Marrakech. See the splendid Koutoubia Mosque and the Saadian Tombs, and visit Bahia Palace. Explore the labyrinthine streets of the medina, lined with market stalls and craftspeople; and soak up the colorful chaos of Djemma el Fna Square, where snake charmers and magicians captivate the passersby. Tonight, gather for a rooftop reception and dinner accompanied by traditional Gnaoua music in the heart of the old medina.
Le Méridien N'Fis (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Marrakech

Continue exploring the sites of Marrakech today. Meander through the stunning Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent, and see an exclusive collection of Berber objects originating from diverse regions of Morocco at the Berber Museum. Explore historic Moroccan architecture with visits to the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Museum of Marrakech, located in the Dar Menebhi Palace. After lunch, venture back to the lively medina with our local guide or explore on your own.
Le Méridien N'Fis (B,L)

Day 5 — Telouet/Aït Benhaddou/Ouarzazate

Cross the High Atlas Mountains over the Tichka Pass, stopping to board 4x4’s for the trip to the Kasbah of Telouet. Once home to the powerful Glaoui clan, the kasbah’s crumbling exterior belies its rich tile and woodwork. After lunch in the village, drive through the Ounina Valley to the ancient fortified village of Aït Benhaddou, and delve into its warren of twisting lanes and shops. Continue to Ouarzazate, a former colonial trading post, now known for its movie studios where films like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.
Le Berbère Palace (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Ouarzazate/Boumalne Dades

Learn about traditional adobe architecture in Taourirt Kasbah this morning. Then set out on the fabled Road of 1,000 Kasbahs. Arrive in Boumalne Dades, a small town nestled amid the crags and plateaus of the semidesert landscape. After lunch, head out on a hike in the dramatic Dades Gorge and visit nearby villages.
Xaluca Dades (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Erfoud/Rissani/Merzouga

Follow the Road of 1,000 Kasbahs to Erfoud, passing spectacular rock formations, oases, and rose plantations. In Erfoud, climb into 4x4s for the drive into the desert. Visit the suq in Rissani, a historic camel caravan stop. Later, ride into the dunes on a camel to watch the sun set on the Sahara. Return to our deluxe Berber tented camp to dine under the star-studded sky and enjoy an evening of Berber folk music and tales around the campfire.
Bivouac Tented Berber Camp (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Merzouga/Fez

Awaken early for a walk across the sandscape as the rising sun paints the dunes orange and gold. Return to the camp for a hearty breakfast, then head north into the high-mountain plains on your way to Fez. Arrive in Fez late this afternoon, and settle into your room at the legendary Palais Jamai, your home for the next three nights.
Palais Jamai (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Fez

Spend the day exploring this magnificent imperial city. Visit the Royal Palace and Fes Jdid, home to the historic Jewish Quarter. Delve into the lively medina, where merchants preside over colorful mounds of spices and tanners soak skins in vats of dye. Discover the 14th-century Bou Inania Madrasa, characterized by its intricately carved stucco walls, arches, and cornices. See the Nejjarine Fountain, covered in exquisite mosaics, and the Kairaouine Mosque.
Palais Jamai (B,L)

Day 10 — Fez/Volubilis and Meknes

Today you may choose to explore Fez at your own pace or take an excursion to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a World Heritage site; and Meknes, Morocco’s 17th-century capital. Tonight, toast our Moroccan adventure at a farewell dinner and belly-dancing performance at the Palais Jamai.
Palais Jamai (B,D)

Day 11 — Fez/U.S.

This morning, transfer to the Fez airport for your return flight or transfer to Casablanca for flights departing in the afternoon.
(B)

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Ronald Messier

Ronald MessierRonald Messier is professor emeritus at Middle Tennessee State University and former adjunct professor and senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University, where he taught Islamic history and historical archaeology. He received three National Geographic research grants to direct the excavation of the ancient city of Sijilmasa in Morocco, famous for its gold trade and its contacts with Timbuktu. He currently directs an archaeology project at Aghmat, near Marrakech, Morocco, and is president of both the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Seminar and the advisory board for the Society of Universal Dialogue.

Ron has won prestigious awards—including the CASE Tennessee Professor of the Year Award—for both teaching and research. He published two books in 2010: The Almoravids and the Meanings of Jihad traces the history of the Almoravid dynasty as it emerged from the Sahara desert to conquer Morocco, the western part of Algeria, and the southern part of Spain (there waging war against, among others, the famous Spanish hero El Cid). Jesus, One Man Two Faiths: A Dialogue between Christians and Muslims looks at Christian and Muslim images of Jesus in parallel tracks showing similarities, many of which are quite surprising, as well as differences that are more often complementary than contradictory. Ron has also published more than two dozen articles and co-edited a book entitled The Jihad and Its Times.

Ronald will join the following departure:

Oct 16 - 26, 2015

SEE OTHER EXPERTS »

Dates

2014
  • Oct 17 - 27, 2014 (waitlist only)
  • Oct 31 - Nov 10, 2014
2015
  • Mar 20 - 30, 2015
  • Apr 17 - 27, 2015
  • Oct 02 - 12, 2015
  • Oct 16 - 26, 2015

Expedition Cost

2014

$5,875

2015

$5,995

Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,295 in 2014 and $1,395 in 2015.

International airfare to Casablanca and return from Fez is not included in the expedition cost.

What To Expect

Our hotels are first-class, well-located properties that reflect the character of each region. In Marrakech, Ouarzazate, and Fez, each hotel has a lovely pool and stunning tropical gardens. Our camp in Merzouga features deluxe Berber-style tents with en suite bathrooms and generator-powered electricity.