Hidden Morocco, Blue City

November 13 – 27, 2018

Arrive in Casablanca on November 13; depart for home from Tangiers on November 28.

dreamstime_xs_19087188Highlights: This custom-designed textile tour to amazing and exotic Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, and cuisine in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on November 13, and we’ll drive to the hotel for a good night’s rest.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! We’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, metal workers and ceramic artists. We’ll drive north to the mellow town of Chafchaouen, famous for its stunning old city area being all painted watery shades of blues. Another must-see destination is Tetouan, made famous recently by the Spanish television series Entre Costuras, or Time Between, as it is translated. Most of the series takes place in Morocco, and most of that is in Tetouan with its narrow, labyrinthine lanes of the old town. This northern area of Morocco is not often visited by tourists so we will discover the rug weavers and search out the mysterious and famous ‘laine de Habba” or the cream-colored sheep’s wool yarn somehow spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is used for high quality djellabas for men and we simply must discover HOW it is made because it defies the usual spinning methods!

Exotic Tangiers awaits our discovery too, and we will wend our way through the souks in the medinas to find the most interesting textiles, jewelry and artwork. Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. We’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons in a workshop with delightful ladies who will also serve us an amazing lunch! As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. In cooking classes we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Trip Details:
We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check into our hotel in the morning then after lunch, visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina.

DSC01867Next we’ll head north to our charming riad in the city of Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site for its perfectly preserved walled medieval city. Wander here to find the perfect carpet or a pair of stunning earrings or an intricately painted plate. Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its sprawling, medina or ancient walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world, and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and the medina’s souks or market sections are divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, ceramicists and so forth.
Over the next few days we will see master artisans at work and wander through the medina’s souks. We will also have the special treat of a cooking class! We’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients and flavors necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that typify Moroccan cuisine. And we’ll learn how to make local dishes redolent with harissa or ras el hanout (multi-ingredient spice mixtures that can contain dozens of spices). You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too!

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Stork nest Volubilis

Another UNESCO World Heritage site! Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics of Volubilis, and the resident storks that make their nests on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll drive to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco, for the night. Next morn, we’ll tour Rabat which is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. We will marvel over treasures at the splendid Jewelry Museum of Rabat, called the Oudayas Museum.

On our last night (November 27) and time for the Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends, and pack our suitcases, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of November 28. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip!

Tour Price:  $4850
Single Supplement:  $985

hIncludes the following:

  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and an excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1-2 lunches* and 2-3* dinners.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Two cooking classes with gourmet cuisine for your lunch or dinner!
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent once you get home, with group pictures, sites and recipes from our classes!

hNot included: Personal items such as phone calls, internet fees [some of our hotels have free wi-fi]; laundry; overweight luggage; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own those two days, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email * info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions.

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:
© Vladislav Jirousek: ceramic shop photo
© Boggy: Shoes in souk; © Madrugadaverde: Hasan mosque foto

Textiles & Tajines: MOROCCO


October 19 – November 1, 2018   Fly home November 2.
Our popular textile and cuisine tour is back!

Highlights: This custom-designed “textile tour” to amazing and exotic Morocco emphasizes not only the textiles, but also the ceramics, architecture, archeology, and cuisine (the ‘tajines’ of the title). Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors! You will be met by an official tour driver in Casablanca at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival anytime on October 19.

Morocco is an exciting and exotic country; remote kasbahs of striking architectural design contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and Rabat, and the coastal fishing town of Essaouira. Our small group will marvel at SIX stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. We’ll go behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! We’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, felt makers and ceramic artists.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases, except for that night in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In two entertaining cooking classes we’ll create lunches that include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat.

As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. Everywhere we go, our delightful guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

DSC06533Trip Details:
We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll see the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca, and drive south to the fishing town of Essaouira, now home to many galleries featuring popular up-and-coming young artists. We will have the special treat of a cooking class in a private home with Cynthia’s friend Latifa. We’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients and flavors necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that typify Moroccan cuisine. And we’ll learn how to make local dishes redolent with harissa or ras el hanout spice mixtures. You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too!  Then after a lovely time in Essaouira, we’ll head over to  fabled and friendly Marrakech. In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakech was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City.”

IMG_6439Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. In Marrackeh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs and accessories. The medina of Marrakech is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, leather and silk shoes, pottery and jewelry.

Here we will see master artisans at work and we’ll wander through the medina souks. We will also see the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the Berber Museum. We’ll visit the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna where snake charmers vie for space between tiny barbeque grills and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, the central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping is good here too!

IMG_6486Next we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, overlooking the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou on the way. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, the spectacular ksar of Ait Ben-Haddou makes a perfect stop along the way. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The earthen castle effect and the decorative motifs sculpted into the reddish adobe walls make Ait Ben Haddou an aesthetic wonder.
In Ouarzazate we can go through the Museum of the Cinema if you are interested; dozens of ‘swords and sandals’ films have been made in this desert area. And along the way, we’ll check out the glowing handmade carpets in a favorite shop, and meet some Berber weavers who will show us their techniques.

Next we’ll head to a remote and fascinating town, where there is a small museum with a superb collection of Koranic texts and other ancient books. This is also the home of Morocco’s green-glazed ceramics; we will visit some of the pottery workshops here. After an overnight in this area, we continue into the arid and spectacular eastern region. In the mid-afternoon, we’ll go by 4-wheel drive across the stark landscape to the golden-orange Saharan sand dunes. Then we’ll climb aboard camels for the short trek into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll have a traditional cous-cous dinner and fall asleep in comfy Berber tents under the stars.

Terrasse des Oliviers_my roomAfter breakfast we head back in the Jeeps and then we’ll begin our drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains. Most of the day will be spent traversing beautiful forests, dramatic rock formations, and little villages on the route north to Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  As always there will be stops for photos and bathroom breaks whenever desired. Half way, we will stop in the town of Midelt, famous for its geodes, trilobites and ammonite fossils and interesting crystals from the nearby mines at Mibladen. Beautiful mineral specimens are for sale in Midelt; don’t you want to take home a few pounds of rocks?!
We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area. Wander here to find a carpet or a pair of earrings or a painted plate. Motorcycles are not allowed in Fes medina so we can relax here; shopping and visiting the mosques and madrasas is much easier than in Marrakech. Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or ancient walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world  – and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and the medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, ceramicists and so forth.

DSC06560 (1)Another UNESCO World Heritage site! Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics of Volubilis, and see the resident storks that make their nests high on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll return to Casablanca in the evening. This is our last night and time for the Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends, and pack our suitcases, ready for flights home the next morning/day of November 2, from Casablanca.

After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book that will keep you dreaming of Morocco and your new friends!

Tour Price: $4850 for 8 -12 people; $5250 for 6 -7 people in group.
Single Supplement: $985  To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.   

  • P1050438Includes the following:
    Six UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 14 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and excellent modern hotel with swimming pool in Casablanca -2 nights)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches* and 2 dinners, depending on cooking class participation.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport for arrival/departure.
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Two cooking classes with gourmet cuisine for your lunch!
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent a month or two after you get home.

IMG_6498Not included: Tips to guide and driver (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), personal items such as laundry; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the lunch included during class time is on your own those two days, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  info@btsadventures.com if you have any questions, or call 925-957-6690.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

Camel photo: © Miroslav Novotny Dreamstime.com