Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Beautiful sight - Casablanca-Morocco-Africa-2807439-P

The Best of Morocco: Ancient Medinas to Modern Identity

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4.6 . Excellent
89%
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
13 days
From: $ 4,049 $ 311 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • Learn about Islamic architecture in the heart of the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, Al Quaraouiyine.
  • Walk the food market of Fes before our Moroccan cooking session, and gain an up-close perspective on Moroccan cuisine.
  • Experience the mosques, palaces, gardens and markets of fabled Marrakech on expert-led excursions and independently.

Short Description

No country conjures up images of ancient medinas and bustling bazaars, evokes the smell of mint tea and spices, or touches the spirit with the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer like Morocco. From the sacred fountains and medieval souks of Fes, follow the ancient caravan routes to the trading city of Beni Mellal and then on to magical and mysterious Marrakech. Along the way university professors, Islamic scholars, activists and local experts illuminate Morocco’s captivating history, spirituality and modern identity as it strives to play its part in the world today.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
See all the highlights and popular spots on a classic tour.
Itinerary Focus Classic Highlights
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Fes
End City Casablanca

Trip Includes

  • 11 nights of accommodations
  • 8 expert-led lectures
  • 9 expert-led field trips
  • 1 hands-on experience
  • 3 performances
  • An experienced Group Leader
  • Customary gratuities throughout the program
  • The Road Scholar Travel Protection Plan, 24-hour-a-day emergency assistance coverage
  • Taxes

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Itinerary

Day 1: In Transit to Program

In Flight

Day 2: Arrival Morocco, Fes

Meals: Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Merinides

Dinner: At the hotel.

Day 3: Spirituality, Religiosity & Daily Life in Morocco

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Merinides

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Enjoy two introductory lectures, "Islam & Politics in Morocco" and "The Spirit of Fes through Women’s Narratives."

Lunch: At a restaurant.

Afternoon: Founded in the ninth century and home to the oldest university in the world, Fes reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. Experience an expert-led exploration of the urban fabric and principal monuments in the medina — madrasas, fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains — that date from this period. Make your way through the narrow streets and alleys, exploring the oldest Islamic Arab architecture in Morocco, the Medersa, the Foundouq museum and the tanneries. Walk past the mausoleum where the founder of the first Islamic dynasty in Morocco is buried, as well as the Qaraouyine Mosque that was built by a woman in the ninth century.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 4: Explore Volubilis and the Town of Moulay Idriss

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Merinides

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Combine a group departure to Volubilis with a lecture, "Agriculture in Morocco." Volubilis is the site of the largest and best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. Dating largely from the second and third centuries, excavations have revealed that the site was originally settled by Carthaginian traders even earlier. At its peak, it is estimated that the city housed up to 20,000 people. Gain an understanding of why Islam succeeded in Morocco and why Christianity and the Roman culture left so little impact on Morocco.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Visit the town of Moulay Idriss, which is named after the Prophet Mohammed’s great grandson, who is considered the country's most revered saint. He came to Morocco from Mecca in the late eighth century, settled at Volubilis and converted the locals to Islam. He became their leader and also established Morocco's first imperial dynasty. Moulay Idriss is considered the holiest town in Morocco with the shrine of this saint causing it to be the location of the largest pilgrimage in the country as the town fills with Moroccans of all walks of life for the annual moussem in late August.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 5: Food Market of Fes, Moroccan Cooking & Cuisine

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Merinides

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Learn how to prepare Moroccan cuisine in Fes, considered the capital of Moroccan fine and delicate cooking. Begin with a grocery trip to the local souk, where participants will buy fresh ingredients and spices. The cooking lesson takes place at a Riad, a traditional Moroccan home, which has been restored to a beautiful guest house. Learn from a renowned chef who has been at the helm of the kitchens of some of Fes' best restaurants.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon, perhaps choosing to continue exploring Fes, the second-largest city of Morocco with a population of approximately 1 million. It has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa.” There is much to experience in Fes el Bali, the oldest walled part of Fes that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. It is believed to be the biggest car-free urban area in the world.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 6: Islamic Architecture Lecture at Al Quaraouiyine University, Fes

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Merinides

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Visit the University of Al-Karaouine, the oldest continually functioning university in the world. Discuss art and spirituality in Morocco during a lesson at the historic Bou Inania Madrasa.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Delight in a Malhoun musical performance led by a female singer that demonstrates the artistic combination of Andalusian music and melodic, medieval Moroccan poetry.

Day 7: Rural Weekly Market, Beni mellal

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Chems

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Depart for Beni Mellal via Khenifra in the heart of the Atlas Mountains and visit a rural weekly market, called a souk, where villagers come to shop, trade, socialize, and visit a doctor or healer. Traditionally ancestral, souks are evolving to include contemporary consumable products and services.

Lunch: In Khenifra.

Afternoon: Arrive in the inland trading city of Beni Mellal, at the foot of Mount Tassemit and next to the plains of Beni Amir. The walls of the city of 163,000 date to 1688, but most of the city is quite modern and is an important economic center for the region. Textile manufacturing is the backbone, but local agricultural products such as oranges, olives and figs find their way to market via Beni Mellal.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Enjoy an Ahidous performance, a traditional dance performed by Berber tribes from the Atlas Mountains in which men and women, side by side, dance in soft and undulating rounds, accompanied by singing punctuated by bendir instrument (a small drum). The choreography of Ahidous brings the community together in order to “speak” and sing the issues of daily life, be it social, economical or political.

Day 8: Diverse Cultures Merging in Marrakech

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Sofitel Lange and Spa

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Depart to Marrakech, Morocco’s fourth-largest city after Casablanca, Fes and Rabat. Like many Moroccan cities, Marrakesh comprises both an old fortified city packed with many people working in stalls — the medina — and modern neighborhoods, the most prominent of which is Gueliz. Near the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and a few hours from the foot of the Sahara Desert, its name originates from the Berber words mur (n) akush, which means “Land of God.”

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon to begin your fascinating orientation to Marrakech.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner on your own.

Day 9: Koutoubia Mosque & Saadian Tombs, Marrakech

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Sofitel Lange and Spa

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel

Morning: Begin today’s exploration of Marrakech in the Djemaa el Fna square viewing the Koutoubia mosque — dating to 1200 — whose beautiful minaret rises nearly 70 meters and can be seen from much of the city. Then experience the 16th-century Saadian Tombs, resting place of Saadian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour ed-Dahbi, whose tastes included imported Italian marble and archways gilded with pure gold. The tombs lay hidden and mostly forgotten until 1917, when they were discovered during an aerial survey.

Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant

Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon, perhaps visiting the Museum of Marrakech, housed in the 19th-century Dar Menebhi Palace. Carefully restored by the Omar Benjelloun Foundation in 1997, the museum holds exhibits of both modern and traditional Moroccan art, as well as fine examples of historical books, coins and pottery of Moroccan Jewish, Berber and Arab cultures.

Dinner: On your own

Day 10: Archeological Site Aghmat in the Suburbs of Marrakech

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Sofitel Lange and Spa

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Depart for the archaeological site of Aghmat, 30 kilometers southeast of Marakech. As you interact with site excavators and local residents, learn how Aghmat was built around a former Arab Andalusian king (Mouatamid Bnou Abbad) who had been exiled from Sevilla in southern Spain to the south of Morocco until his death. Aghmat was an important city for routes through the Atlas Mountains on the trans Saharan trade. Locals detail how such a site intertwines with the reality of the inhabitants.

Lunch: Experience a lunch with locals.

Afternoon: Return to Marrakech.

Dinner: On your own.

Day 11: Expert-led Explorations of Marrakech Gardens, Marrakech

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Sofitel Lange and Spa

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Experience an expert-led visit to two renowned, enchanting gardens — beginning with the Majorell Gardens, home to French artist Jacques Majorelles in the 1920s. Majorelles built houses on the property and surrounded them with pools, banana trees, coconut palms and bougainvilleas. Later, the French couturier Yves Saint-Laurent bought the property and transformed part of it into a private museum of North African artifacts and opened the garden to the public. Then continue to Menara Gardens, a 16th-century pavilion surrounded by an immense, ornamental lake. This idyllic setting has offered a pleasant escape from Marrakech to its inhabitants for centuries.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner and a musical performance at Soulayman Palace.

Day 12: Elegant Bahia Palace, Renowned Hotel & Palace la Mamounia, Casablanca

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: Ibis Casa City Center

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: This morning, explore the Bahia Palace and gardens, built in the late-19th century and intended to be the greatest palace of its time — the name means “brilliance.” As the black slave Abu Ahmed rose to power and wealth, he had the Bahia palace built by bringing in craftsmen from Fez. The structures tell a lot about the taste of the nouveau-riche of its time. Continue to the la Mamounia Hotel — an elegant palace that is a mythical landmark of the city. It faces the Atlas mountains and is at the heart of the old city of Marrakech. It is owned by the railways (ONCF), the city of Marrakech and the "caisse des dépôts Moroccain." Winston Churchill loved to winter here and the daughter of Russian Prime Miniester Vladimir Putin was married here in January 2013.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Departure to Casablanca

Dinner: Check-in at the hotel. Farewell dinner.

Day 13: Program Concludes, Casablanca

Meals: Breakfast

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Group departure to Mohamed V Airport, Casablanca.

Availability

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Price From $ 4,049
Price Per Day: $ 311 per day
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Stride Featured in

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38 Road Scholar Travel Reviews & Ratings

89%
4.6 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 31
Great 3
Average 1
Disappointing 1
Terrible 2
Value
4.6
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.6
Lodging
4.5
Transportation
4.5
Meals
4.4

The Best of Morocco: Ancient Medinas to Modern Identity

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Old Cuba is fantastic and should be seen before it's spoiled by capitalism.

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities4.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation5.0
Meals3.0
This was my wife's and my first trip with Road Scholar. At the time (April, 2012), it was not possible for Americans to directly visit Cuba. You had to do it with a cultural/educational group, often associated with a university. Or, you could fly to Canada, Mexico, or Europe first and then get a flight to Cuba from there (while risking a ~$10,000 fine from the US Government). We opted for the legal route with Road Scholar.

It was a fantastic trip! We had a small-ish group of about 20 people and a wonderful guide, José Luis (who, like most Cubans, had never been off the island).
The trip began in Miami where we had an orientation and spent the night. Then we flew to Havana and stayed in the Hotel Nacional for four nights. It doesn't get more historic -- or fun -- than the Nacional:
https://vimeo.com/41612444

While in Havana, we enjoyed great history/culture lectures from experts, toured various parts of Havana (including Hemmingway's home in the hills nearby), and, on our own, had the opportunity to have dinner at a paladar -- a restaurant inside someone's home.

The Cuban people are friendly but the infrastructure of their country is in shambles. It's been a long time since Russia's deep pockets left the island (1991), and you see poverty everywhere. But not the begging-in-the-street kind. Cuba provides universal health care, education (including room and board all the way through grad/med school!), food staples, and a very modest income (~$30/month) to everyone. Most people add to that income by working on the side.

After Havana, we traveled to Cienfuegos. From there we saw the infamous Bay Of Pigs, but also the wonderful Benny Moré Art School where we learned of the fantastic support for the arts by the Cuban government. Children are identified in grade school as having artistic talent and then funneled into magnet schools like Benny Moré to study art for their entire scholastic career!

Don't go to Cuba for the food. It's edible (and won't make you sick) but rather boring. You mainly get the "three amigos": fish, pork, or chicken, along with rice and/or black beans. But the aged rum is superb and so are the cigars!

Probably my favorite thing on the island, though, was the music -- whether on the street or in a more formal setting:
https://vimeo.com/43273083

Cuba is fantastic. Go enjoy it!
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Best trip I ever took!

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Loved the variety of different hotels, the expertise of the individual tour guides, the meals and especially the beautiful countryside. All 17 of us on the t rip got to know each other well, thanks to the kindness, the personality and the organizational skill of Mark, our tour director. Keep up the good work!
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Sunrise, Sunset, Learning Photography

5.0
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Value4.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation5.0
Meals4.0
Road Scholar offers many tours starting in Utah. The one I took focused of photography of the National Parks in Utah, with a professional photographer traveling with us. The schedule was set up such that we would get "the golden light" at each of the parks. Those not familiar with the term must know that the best light occurs at either sunrise or sunset, when the impact of the sun on objects is diffused by having to travel through the earth's atmosphere on a diagonal rather than vertically.

As such, you can now expect that sleep will be an issue as you will get to bed late and rise early. But the territory is beautiful at all times, and more so illuminated by the golden light.

In order to maximize your sleeping ability, the tour is only offered in the spring and the fall. Doing this in the winter would be pretty cold and require special equipment to traverse the snow. Doing it in the summer would basically mean no sleep as the daylight is so long.

A great learning experience in beautiful territory.
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Thank you Road Scholar

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Thank you Road Scholar Staff for planning a wonderful introduction to Cuba today. My previous knowledge was from people who felt they had to leave Cuba more than fifty years ago. I learned from qualified professors, tour guides and from talking to Cuban people from different parts of Cuba who work in different kinds of jobs. I could see how the Cuban people have come together to meet the challenges of the past and to prepare for a brighter future.
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Thank you Road Scholar!

5.0
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Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Road Scholar tours are the best bang for your buck

Fabulous!

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
This is a fabulous program for young and old. The instructors are great with kids and adults. The activities are very well organized and varied. My grandson is already making plans for next year.

Details

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Maximum Number of People in Group: 24

Accomodations

Hotel Merinides: 5 nights  Fes

Located on the heights of the oldest city Fes, the Merinides Hotel is a few minutes walking distance from the Merinides dynasty tombs and other main sites to be visited during the program. Its proximity to Al Karaouiyine Mosque, Dar Batha Museum, the Andalusians mosque and the Thermal baths of Moulay Yacoub contribute to make of Merinides Hotel an address of charm for a stay for discovering and relaxation.

 

Hotel Chems: 1 night  Beni Mellal

The Chems of Beni Mellal is located in a priviliged position offering stunning vistas of the middle Atlas mountains, yet in close proximity to the bustling city of Beni Mellal.

 

Hotel Sofitel Lange and Spa: 4 nights  Marrakech

In the heart of the most elegant part of town, the Sofitel Marrakech Lounge & Spa is where you find the fashionable luxury boutiques, casinos, nightclubs and restaurants. The hotel is a short walk from the Jema El Fna square and 10 mins from the airport.

 

Ibis Casa City Center: 1 night  Casablanca

The Ibis Moussafir Casablance City Center hotel is a newly opened hotel in the heart of Casablanca. Its unique features are it proximity to the old medina, and its location by the main train station in Casablanca casa-Port. Its is also located 30 minutes away from Mohamed V airport and is a short distance from the sea shore, the old downtown, business district, Hassan II mosque, shopping centers, musems and the port

Guides

Rachid Qasbi

Rachid Qasbi joined the Center for Cross Cultural Learning (CCCL) in 2006 as full time Arabic instructor, as well as a coordinator of several programs. He teaches Fu’sha (standard Arabic), Darija (Moroccan dialect), and Tamazight (Berber language), while also assisting in summer abroad studies. His interests include traveling, cross-cultural exchange, and peace and justice issues. Rachid holds a bachelor’s degree in English linguistics from Ibn Tofail University in Kentira, Morocco.

Trip ID#:

TheMorRoa

Meals Included:

13 Breakfasts, 8 Lunches and 5 Dinners

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