The very name Morocco conjures up an enduring fascination – geographically close to Europe but culturally, a world apart. Despite the many years of French and Spanish colonial rule, a sense of the past is always present. In Morocco, you are quite literally walking on history. As a backdrop, the country’s vast geography is also remarkable: from the Mediterranean coastline, through mountain ranges to the empty wilderness of the Sahara Desert. Roman ruins, Berber kasbahs, superb Islamic architecture and the foothills of the Atlas Mountains are all bathed in a unique shimmering light. You can choose to lose yourself in the narrow winding streets of the old medinas or join the locals amidst the clatter of a busy souk.
Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh and Rabat – these are the imperial cities of Morocco and all are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. Dating back almost a thousand years, Marrakesh is where Europe, Africa and the Middle East mingle and merge. Perched on the edge of the Sahara Desert and framed by the Atlas Mountains, this ancient trading hub quite simply bursts with intoxicating energy. Marrakech is also the heartland of the Berbers, who have lived and farmed on this land since Neolithic times.
Once the haven of Barbary pirates, the current capital, Rabat, shows quite a different side today. The era of French colonisation is reflected in the long palm-lined avenues and elegant early 19th-century architecture. Perched high above the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the ancient Kasbah des Oudaïas is the jewel in Rabat’s crown.
Fez is the most ancient of the imperial cities and the true spiritual heart of Morocco. Islamic refugees from neighbouring Spain and Tunisia were some of the first settlers to make their home here when the city was founded in the 9th century. Today you can enjoy the ebb and flow of daily life amidst the intense sights, sounds and scents of the exotic medina or relax by a splashing fountain in a cool, blue-tiled courtyard.
Moulay Ismail, Morocco’s most notorious sultan, made Meknes his capital in the 17th century. A glimpse of the scale and enormity of his lifestyle is evident in the remains of the grandiose architecture. Famed for his excesses, the sultan ordered the construction of the vast, cathedral-like Heri es-Souani just to house his beloved Arabian steeds.
The imperial cities are not just defined by their history, but also by the rich and contrasting colours of their architecture. Ochre and pink for Marrakesh, the dazzling blue of Rabat, and distinctive but differing shades of yellow for Fez and Meknes.
Morocco is truly a paradise for shoppers. Handwoven rugs, finely carved woodwork, delicate glassware, brightly coloured tagine pots and babouches – the traditional leather slippers of Morocco – these are just a small selection of artisan handicrafts that may tempt you. Visit a Moroccan food market and you’ll take all your senses on an exciting journey. The stalls are filled to bursting with seasonal fruit and vegetables, mountains of green and black olives, preserved lemons, dates and figs, and bundles of fresh mint. Here you will find all the ingredients for a tagine, a fragrant stew of meat or fish, cooked in a pot with a conical lid and traditionally served with couscous and steamed vegetables. At the spice markets, friendly vendors offer their wares, and herbs and spices adorn the stalls in colourful pyramids. You can shop for ras el-hanout, a unique blend of many spices, or seek out the finest saffron. Perfect with a cup of mint tea, Moroccan pastries are ideal for those with a sweet tooth. Orange blossom, rose water, almonds and dates are often used in many of the recipes, and the choice of sweet treats is plentiful and quite irresistible. The crescent-shaped cornes de gazelle, a pastry stuffed with almonds and cinnamon, is a national favourite.
For fascinating history, diverse and exciting cities, superb architecture, an extraordinary landscape and a rich culinary heritage, look no further than this splendid tour of Morocco.
Arrive at the airport for your flight to Marrakesh. On arrival, we will transfer to the four-star superior Hotel Opera Plaza for an overnight stay.
This morning we’ll visit the Jardin Majorelle: an inspiring and amazing display of bamboo, bougainvillaea and cacti, formerly owned by Yves Saint-Laurent. Exotic plants line the lanes, burbling streams cascade into pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers, and the Moorish buildings glow with an intense blue. A visit is also included to the Berber Museum, which is located within the gardens and showcases the extraordinary history and culture of the Berber people.
This afternoon, we leave Marrakesh and the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and travel north across the rich agricultural plains. We arrive in Casablanca and our hotel, the Campanile Casablanca Center, where we stay for one night.
The coastal city of Casablanca was founded by the Berbers in the 7th century. Arab tribes also settled here and the Portuguese, Spanish and French followed, all leaving their distinctive mark on the culture and architecture. Moorish white houses, which give their name to the city, are scattered along the coastline, contrasting with the elegant 1930s architecture of the French epoch. The French were heavily influenced by Art Deco and the unique style often seen in Casablanca is known as Mauresque – French for the local interpretation of Moorish design. Some fine examples of this style and other Art Deco buildings can be seen along Boulevard Mohammed V. Casablanca was immortalised in the famous 1942 movie, starring Humphrey Bogart, but was actually wholly shot in Hollywood.
Rising high above Casablanca and dominating the skyline is the vast Hassan II Mosque; its minaret soars up to an incredible 690 feet. Your local guide will introduce you to this extraordinary building, one of the largest mosques in the world. Uniquely located, this splendid structure extends out over the Atlantic Ocean. 12 million people gave their own time and money to the construction of the mosque. Whether large or small – the smallest amount being just 5 dirham – all who donated received a certificate. During our visit we will see the very best of Moroccan artisan skills, from intricate wood and stone carving to magnificent gilded ceilings and intricately decorated tiles. There is even a retracting roof allowing worshippers to pray in the sunlight or under the stars.
This evening we soak up the romantic atmosphere of 1940s Casablanca during our dinner at Rick’s Café, a tribute to Rick Blaine’s restaurant and bar in the classic film, Casablanca. Set in a renovated riad against the city’s old medina, Rick’s Café is filled with decorative details that will have you feeling as though you’ve stepped right into the film: arabesque arches, elegant balustrades, a sculpted bar, brass lighting and an authentic 1930s piano. The resident pianist entertains with a repertoire of well-loved classics, including the highly memorable As Time Goes By.
After breakfast we travel north along the coast to imperial Rabat, the current capital of Morocco. Here we will discover the elegant sweeping boulevards and palm-lined avenues built by the French. A guided walking tour through the narrow streets and dazzlingly blue houses of the 12th-century walled medina reveals another side of this splendid city of kings. When the French arrived in the early 20th century, this was the full extent of the city.
After our tour, there’s free time to wander at your own pace. Take a stroll along the beautiful Rue des Consuls, the main shopping street of the medina, or perhaps enjoy a refreshing glass of mint tea as you gaze out over the Atlantic Ocean. Later we will continue to Fez and our hotel, the four-star Barceló Fés. Our three-night stay includes dinner on two nights in the main restaurant. Located close to the medina, the hotel is the perfect base for you to further explore the city. The contemporary guest rooms are comfortable and air-conditioned. After a fascinating day of sightseeing, you can enjoy a drink in the bar.
This morning we explore Fez, the spiritual and cultural heart of Morocco, by coach and on foot. Founded in the 9th century, Fez is the most ancient of the imperial capitals and boasts the most complete medieval city of the Arab world. In the company of our local guide, we will explore the ancient ramparts and gates outside the city and then take a walking tour into the medina.
Time really does feel as if has stood still within the imposing medieval walls. This is the world’s largest urban car-free area, and horses and donkeys have right of way as they navigate through the narrow streets, delivering goods amidst the intricate maze of flat roofs, minarets, stairways and alleys. With its distinctive mosaic tiles, the famous Blue Gate is the main entry into the ancient medina. Once inside we will discover more of the traditional crafts of Morocco. Silversmiths, potters, weavers, leatherworkers and tailors all ply their wares in the stalls that line the bustling streets.
These stand side by side with the community hammams, bakeries and knife sharpeners. At the communal bakeries, families still bake their bread in a wood-fired oven, and a tagine can be left to cook all day at the hammam. Follow the fragrant aroma of herbs and spices piled high at stalls in the bustling markets and souks. We’ll also see the 14th-century Al-Attarine Madrasa, a school for the study of the Koran that’s renowned for its elegant courtyard and intricate mosaics. The Royal Palace is still used by the King of Morocco when he is in the city of Fez. We’ll stop to admire the elegant esplanade and ornate main entrance.
No visit to Fez would be complete without a visit to the tanneries, perhaps one of the most iconic sights of the city. Here we will experience the colourful process, which produces some of the world’s finest leather, and then enjoy a birds-eye view of the pits awash with vibrant dye. It’s fascinating to note that the methods of leather production have changed very little since medieval times.
The afternoon is yours at leisure to further your discovery of Fez.
After breakfast, we drive through fertile farmland and olive groves up into the hills. As we descend, the spectacular Roman ruins of Volubilis is laid out before us – the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We step back through 2,000 years of history as we explore Volubilis with our local guide. The Romans built their city on what was originally a Berber settlement. Temples, forums, grand villas and bathhouses – many decorated with beautiful mosaics – once lined the streets and remains of a sophisticated sewer system are still evident. Today, Volubilis is considered one of the most remote settlements of the Roman Empire and a visit to the museum will help us to understand its significance.
Our journey continues to Meknes, where the legacy of the powerful 17th-century ruler, Moulay Ismail, lives on in the elaborate palaces, gardens and mosques of this impressive imperial city. We’ll stop to admire Bab el-Mansour, the giant imperial gateway built by Moulay Ismail to show the strength of his new capital to Fez and Marrakesh. We will also visit Heri es-Souani, a feat of engineering where stabling and food was provided for 12,000 horses. No expense was spared in the construction of the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, where the remains of the former ruler, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammed, are interred. Meknes is renowned for ironware and the sounds of craftsmen in their workshops can be heard throughout the medina.
After our guided tour by coach and on foot, you’ll have time to explore and perhaps pick up a memento of your visit before we return to Fez. This evening, we will dine on typical Moroccan dishes in the traditional surroundings of a charming riad.
After breakfast we retrace our steps back to Marrakesh, choosing to take the major roads, with appropriate comfort stops along the way, to ensure a smoother and more comfortable journey. We arrive in Marrakesh in the late afternoon and stay for two nights once again at the Hotel Opera Plaza, with dinner included.
Marrakesh is a labyrinth of tiny alleyways teeming with activity like few places in the world. With classic French-colonial buildings and boulevards surrounded by remarkably preserved medieval walls, the city is so perfect it could be – and often is – used as a film set. Surrounding the city are impressive ramparts stretching 19 miles long, largely intact with imposing forts. The gates are fine examples of classic Moorish architecture with their pastel hues changing colours depending on the time of day.
This morning we enjoy a sightseeing tour, during which we will see the Saadian tombs, one of the world’s finest examples of Moorish architecture, where classic archways are covered in gold leaf and stucco work. We’ll experience the Bahia Palace, which when built was acclaimed as the world’s most beautiful palace, famed for its 50 marble columns. We also visit the famous souks or covered markets, where immensely skilled craftsmen create intricate leatherware, jewellery and furniture.
You have the rest of the afternoon free to explore as you wish. Later at dusk after dinner in the hotel, we visit the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, a showcase for traditional Moroccan life. You’ll experience a fantastic spectacle of musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers and snake charmers in an exhilarating kaleidoscope of colour.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a room and includes:
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility, we encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
Requests to pre-book your seat are subject to the airline’s conditions. If you would like to pre-book seats please contact our Reservations Team, we will be able to provide further information regarding the possibility and also the cost.
Where hotels feature a swimming pool, pools are open in the summer months weather permitting.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Marrakesh Menara Airport||Marrakesh||20 mins||Marrakesh||Marrakesh Menara Airport||20 mins|
gerald & rosemary wright
We have recently returned from another excellent Riviera cruise aboard the MS Oscar Wilde. The ship and all the crew were certainly 5*. The journey and the excursions were all very enjoyable. We have just booked another cruise on...
Just back from The Deep South and Texas and well done Riviera for organising such a full and successful itinerary. Under the watchful eyes of tour director Sylvia and driver Rosie from New Orleans, this was an exciting and fulfil...