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.
Depart on an overnight flight to Casablanca. After time to relax the following morning, meet your group for lunch before visiting the extraordinary Hassan II Mosque, whose 689-foot minaret is the world's tallest. 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 overlooking the sea.
Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche (L,D)
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)
Continue exploring the sites of Marrakech today. Meander through the stunning Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. Explore historic Moroccan architecture with visits to the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrassa 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)
Cross the High Atlas Mountains over the Tichka Pass, stopping for mint tea at a traditional Berber village. Proceed to Aït Benhaddou for lunch overlooking this ancient fortified village before venturing 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)
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)
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 well-known 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)
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, stopping for a walk in a lush cedar forest. 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)
Spend the day exploring this magnificent imperial city. Discover the 14th-century Bou Inania madrassa, characterized by its intricately carved stucco walls, arches, and cornices. See the Nejjarine Fountain, covered in exquisite mosaics, and the Kairaouine Mosque. Delve into the lively medina, where merchants preside over colorful mounds of spices and tanners soak skins in vats of dye. Visit the Royal Palace and Fes Jdid, home to the historic Jewish quarter.
Palais Jamai (B,L)
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)
This morning, transfer to the Fez airport for your return flight or transfer to Casablanca for flights departing in the afternoon.
Geographer David Scott Silverberg (Ph.D. MIT, postdoc Harvard) has worked throughout the North Africa-Middle East region since 1989 helping to map Moroccan geography, mentor Moroccan doctoral students, and explore the history of exploration and discovery by Moroccan adventurers. He is reaching completion of a geography and art book on the Atlas-Sahara transition. One of his current projects is restoring a Marrakech riad where he spends European winters in his Moroccan atelier. His digital photo and video talks on Morocco and Saharan geography, Berber, Arab, and Saharan cultures have been popular with National Geographic travelers. He has served as executive director for research at EarthWatch and helped launch AmeriCorps's environmental programs. David is a fellow of the Explorers Club, the Royal Africa Society, the Royal Geographical Society, and the Royal Asia Society. He is passionately committed to community-based protected area projects on six continents. As this expedition moves from coast to mountains to the Sahara to lush cedar forests, David will illuminate the relationship of Morocco’s fascinating cultures to its diverse geography.
David will join the following departure:
Apr 18 - 28, 2014
*We will stay at the Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche on Day 2 in 2014
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,180 in 2013 and $1,295 in 2014. Airfare is not included in the expedition cost. Economy airfare from New York to Casablanca and return from Fez is $1,400 (subject to change).
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.