Textiles, Tajines: MOROCCO

 

Traditional Muslim weaver with Cynthia, tour leader.November 6 – 21, 2020
Our popular textiles and cuisine tour is back!

Arrive on November 6;
fly home on November 22 from Casablanca.
Total 16 nights.

Highlights

This custom-designed tour to an amazing and exotic country emphasizes not only the food and textiles of Morocco, but also the ceramics, architecture, and archeology. We’ll go behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality!

You’ll meet many charming and friendly local artisans and craftspeople, happy to show you the best of their country. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors!

Morocco has remote kasbahs of striking architectural design that contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and the chaotic medina of Marrakech. Our small group will marvel at FIVE stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. And we’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers. Men are the leather dyers, felt makers and woodworkers. Both men and women paint the colorful designs on the ceramic pieces, but men make the zellij mosaics.

Trip Details:

Charming little hotels or riads will be our home bases, except for that night in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In each town we visit, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas and watch craftsmen at work. We can poke around in the traditional little souks for spices, textiles, 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. We’ll start our textile and cuisine tour by flying in to legendary Casablanca.

Variety of Moroccan cooked mezze vegetable dishes with goat cheese salad and fresh bread; Casablanca restaurant.

Variety of mezze dishes with goat cheese salad.

You will be met by Cynthia and the guide, or an official tour driver at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival anytime (preferably morning) on November 6. Then we’ll check in to our hotel, have lunch if the timing is right, then relax at the hotel.

On our way south to Al Jadida, we’ll go inside the fabulous Hasan II mosque with a special mosque guide, at seaside Casablanca. It’s the largest mosque in Africa, and the 3rd largest in the world. The Hasan II mosque was completed in 1993 after 7 years of construction. It’s a fascinating place to visit, with its exquisite mosaic work and painted ceilings. High-tech features include a heated floor and a roof that glides open to let in the ocean breezes on holidays when it is especially crowded.

Al Jadida Site

After seeing the mosque we’ll drive south for a look at the seaside fort and the stunning underground cistern at Al Jadida. The cistern was built in the late 1500s by the Portuguese. Old town Al Jadida was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It’s considered an “outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures.”  The cistern’s visual qualities are such that several movies have been filmed within the cavernous space, of which Orson Welles’ Othello is the best known internationally.

Essaouira by the sea

Painting detail by Youniss Toulil

Detail of large painting by Youniss of Essaouira.

Then we’ll continue to the beautiful ocean-side city of Essaouira. We’ll wander in the small medina and check out the art galleries where many of us have found stunning original paintings. Our heritage hotel looks down on the crashing waves of the ocean to lull you to sleep! A local friend will host a cooking class in her home. There we will learn how to make some typical dishes and desserts.

Next day, we head to marvelous Marrakech, enjoying a picnic along the way. 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.” Marrakesh 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. In the old fortified city area, called the medina, we will meet master artisans at work as we wander through the little stalls or souks.

Ali tastes olives in Morocco

Ali tries red olives in the souk in Marrakech.

Medina of Marrakech

We will stay in a beautiful and comfortable hotel, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs and accessories. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys. In our high-tech and entertaining cooking class we’ll create a gourmet lunch of homemade bread, tajine, a succulent stew, and a couple of cooked vegetable ‘salads.’ Our culinary creations, seasoned to our personal taste, will be our delicious lunch. At some point we’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that are now familiar to you in Moroccan cuisine. You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too.

Majorelle Gardens

Berber jewelry from the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech.

We will also see the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the new Yves Saint-Laurent Museum. Lunch this day will be in the Majorelle Garden Restaurant. 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.

After a few days, we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate. Along the way, we’ll see the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, this spectacular ksar or fortified city 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. Dozens of ‘swords and sandals’ films have been made in this desert area. For instance, Ben Hur was filmed here, but also Cleopatra, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia were set in this desert landscape.

Berber Weavers and Carpets

A colorful wool Berber rug with a variety of motifs and techniques.

Berber wool handwoven rug.

And along the way, we’ll check out the glowing handmade carpets in favorite shops (right), and meet some Berber weavers who will show us their textiles and techniques. We continue into the arid and spectacular eastern region, towards the Algerian border. In the mid-afternoon, we’ll go by 4-wheel drive across the stark landscape to the golden-orange Saharan sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Then we’ll climb aboard camels for the short trek into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll have a traditional couscous dinner and fall asleep in comfy Berber tents under the stars.

After breakfast next day, 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 lunch, photos, and bathroom breaks whenever desired.

Half way along this drive to Fes, we will stop in the town of Midelt for lunch. The town is famous for its minerals – 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?!

Typical tapestry textile of sunset colors and beautiful shading.

Tapestry rug in glowing sunset colors.

Famous Medina of Fes

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. A carpet collector friend will show us carpets and textiles from many areas, and will talk about how they are woven.

The little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. 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. However it’s primarily known for its ancient, sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. Additionally Fes is another UNESCO World Heritage site.

Craftsmen still work and sell their products in the medina. The huge space is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, textiles, ceramicists and so forth. Both the guide and driver live in Fes; because of this they’ll make you feel at home as they show you this fascinating city.

In Fes, we will meet weavers who work at old-fashioned looms to make fabric with a very modern look. We’ll see the machines that plait and braid the complex trims on traditional Djellabas, the hooded robes for men and women.

Volubilis is site of dozens of intricate floor mosaics.

Colored stone floor mosaic at Roman site of Volubilis.

Roman Site of Volubilis

Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics and ancient structures of Volubilis, another UNESCO World Heritage site. We may 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 says: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, [Volubilis] is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development, Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

Chefchaouen, Blue City

Blue city Chefchaouen MoroccoAfter Fes, we’ll head north to the famous Blue City of Chefchaouen. Built on a hillside, the town is blue from top to bottom! The city was founded in 1471 as a small kasbah (fortress) by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami. He founded the city to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Many Moorish and Jewish people settled here after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.  In 1920, the Spanish seized Chefchaouen to form part of Spanish Morocco. Then Spain returned the city after the independence of Morocco in 1956.  Nowadays there is a town council to help people keep up their pretty blue steps and walls, but nobody seems to know exactly why all the buildings are sky blue.

Then we’ll return to Fes for our Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends. November 21 is the last included night of hotel.

Departure details to be arranged. Plan flights HOME on November 22, anytime after 2 pm.

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

Tour Price: $ TBD

Note that there is a minimum number of travelers for a trip to ‘go’ and that varies by country; maximum group size is 12. Please don’t buy air tickets until you are sure the trip will happen; email us to ask.

Single Supplement: $  

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

  • Includes the following:
  •  5 UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • 16 nights accommodations: (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and centrally-located, modern hotel in Casablanca – 2 nights)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches* and 2 dinners on your own (*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.
  • Modern felted slippers in Fes medina souk.

    Bright hand-felted slippers for sale.

    English-speaking, licensed, professional and charming guide to accompany whole itinerary.

  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Flight or drive from Fes to Casablanca at end of tour
  • Cooking class with gourmet cuisine for your lunch
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent after you get home.

Not 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 class, the lunch included during class time is on your own that day, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

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

Email:  [email protected] if you have any questions, or call 707-939-8874.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

 

 

 

 

Textiles & Blue City

Textile and Crafts Tour to Exotic Morocco
September 8 – 17, 2019  Depart for home on September 18.

Textile tour crafts art and architecture small group travel Chefchaouen Morocco

Lovely blue lane in Chefchaouen, the Blue City.

Highlights: This 10-night custom-designed tour to see the textiles of Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine, in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 8, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on September 18.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in 4-5 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll first go south to charming Marrakesh, see exciting places along the way, and end up in the north at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to see the textiles and to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Cooking class Maison Arabe Marrakech tajine lunch

Hand-painted traditional tajine dish. Marrakech.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of 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!

Morocco cuisine textile tour food Marrakech souk medina 2019


Trip Details:
Arrive in Casablanca on September 8; depart for home from Tangiers on September 18. 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 visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque, inside and outside, at seaside Casablanca, then we’ll head south to fabled and friendly Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh 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.”

Marrakesh 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. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional furniture, rugs, mosaics, and textiles of Morocco.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good.

Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. The old medina is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. Major monuments in Fes date to that era. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine. We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas.

On the route north, we’ll visit a family where they make the famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is one of the most interesting textiles of Morocco, used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men. It defies the usual spinning methods; see if you can figure it out!

Sleeping in ceramic couscous dish, Fes market

World Heritage symbol

Next, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then we’ll drive to Tangier. We’ll explore the Kasbah of this city and see St Andrew’s Church, one of Tangier’s most interesting sites. Completed in 1905 as a gift from King Hassan I of Morocco, the church is a fusion of different architectures and religions, reflecting Morocco’s multicultural population. Although the church is a focal point for Christians in Tangier, it also exhibits Quranic inscriptions on its Moorish interior and marks the direction of Muslim prayer to Mecca. A visit to this religious holy site gives a new meaning to the interfaith experience. “If only we could all just get along….!”

Morocco crafts tour, mosaic art architecture 2019

Intricate mosaic or zellij floor of palace in Marrakech.

After lunch, stroll around the kasbah-medina area, and have an afternoon break of mint tea.  One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work.

Kathy & Sue relax at the leather shoe souk, Fes.

Salima Abdel-Wahab, Moroccan fashion designer, has a boutique in the Tangier kasbah. Last year we found some interesting clothing here and unusual jewelry and gifts in shops nearby. On our last included night of hotel (September 17) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of September 18. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 8 and to fly out of Tangiers on September 18, 2019. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip. We welcome your photos to add to the book, so after the trip, send us some great group people pictures to be included.

Tour Price:  $  3695 for 6-8 travelers; $3525 for 9-12 .
Single Supplement:  $ 700

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

Vegetal silk made from Agave fiber or rayon, dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 10 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 8 through 17), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1 lunch and 1 dinner on your own.
  • 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- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going and professional guide to accompany the tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • 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!

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

Note that not all hotels have hair dryers. Bring a dual-current hair dryer if you really need one.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own, 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:  [email protected] if you have any questions, or call 707-939-8874.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

 

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:
Chefchaouen blue lane

Textile Tour Morocco

Textile and Crafts Tour to Exotic Morocco (INCLUDE the camel/desert trip–take out M??)

Highlights: This custom-designed textile tour to Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 8, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on September 18.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in five UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll go south to ESSAOUIRA  —-leave out Marrakesh ?  or find riad closer   —and then north to the ocean at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Cooking class Maison Arabe Marrakech tajine lunch

Hand-painted traditional tajine dish. Marrakech.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of 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:
Arrive in Casablanca on September 20; depart for home from Tangiers on October 5. 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, then we’ll head south to fabled Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh 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.”

Marrakesh 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. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs, mosaics, and accessories.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good.

Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world – and another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, from which its urban fabric and major monuments date. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine.

We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and we’ll explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas. (Photo below.)

Just outside of Fes we will meet our button-maker friends, and have a button-knotting lesson with these charming and welcoming women. On the route north, we’ll try to search out the mysterious and famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men, and we simply must discover HOW it is made because it defies the usual spinning methods!

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.

World Heritage symbol

The UNESCO website declares: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, Volubilis is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire.” After seeing the detailed floor mosaics and buildings at Volubilis, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then just a 40-mile drive brings us to Tetouan????–authentic Andalusian soul, making Tetouan the most Hispano-Moorish-influenced of all Moroccan cities.

Inside the walls of Sultan Moulay Abderrahman’ ancient fortress lies a treasure – Tetouan’s Ethnography Museum, established here in 1948 to showcase local customs and crafts. The ground floor displays traditional arts originally brought from Andalusia, and the second floor exhibits explore the daily life of women, including a wedding ceremony. Tetouani embroidery, considered one of the most original in Morocco, is a main focus of this section.

The museum is housed inside the gate of the ramparts, and you can climb up to the roof for photos of the town after you’ve viewed the exhibits. If we have time before continuing north, we’ll have a look at the Tetouan Center for Modern Art with its five exhibitions rooms of modern painting and sculpture. The museum building was the old train station of Tetouan, designed by the architect Julio Rodriguez Roda in 1918.

Next we’ll drive a short distance to the city of Tangier. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon break of mint tea and a panoramic view at the Cafe Hafa. A Tangier icon, the almost-century-old cafe is made up of tiers of whitewashed balconies that cascade down a steep hillside toward the Mediterranean, opening panoramic views of the sea and, beyond, Spain. One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. A wooden gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work. Also in the Kasbah is the infamous Cafe Detroit, once a haunt for the visiting and expat writers, artists and hangers-on in the 1960s.
On our last included night of hotel (October 4) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of October 5. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 20 and to fly out of Tangiers on October 5, 2018. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip!

Tour Price:  $4850   15 nites
Single Supplement:  $985

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

Vegetal silk or rayon, dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 15 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 20 through Oct. 4), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1-2 lunches* and 2 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.
  • English- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going but professional guide to accompany the whole tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • 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!

Not included: Personal items such as internet fees [our hotels have free/not-very-fast 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, 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 * [email protected] if you have any questions.

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com: