Textiles & Tajines: MOROCCO


September 24 – October 8, 2017  Fly home October 9.
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, mosaic art, architecture, and cuisine. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors! You will be met by the tour leader and/or the guide in Casablanca at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival on September 24.

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 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 red sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Red 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 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.

IMG_6486Next we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, visiting 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, not visited by many people, 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 tajine 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 October 9, 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: $4750
Single Supplement: $985  To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.   

  • P1050438Includes the following:
    Six UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 15 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and excellent modern hotel 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 on set arrival and departure dates
  • 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 (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), personal items such as phone calls, 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 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, or call 925-957-6690.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

Camel photo: © Miroslav Novotny Dreamstime.com