Textiles & Arts: Morocco 2022

Rug from Textiles of Morocco tourAugust 26 – September 11, 2022  Depart for home on September 12.

Highlights: This 17-night trip focuses on textiles and arts of Morocco but also emphasizes architecture, culture and cuisine. And we’ll take in 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travelers are very welcome in Morocco; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors.

This trip takes you behind-the-scenes with a small group of friendly people to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality. The itinerary is special because although we visit justifiably popular sites like Marrakech and Fes, we’ll spend more time in authentic Berber villages and in the Atlas Mountain regions than on other trips. We’ll meet Berber women making rugs, have a cooking class with a local family, admire the date palm plantations and buy dates from the farmers in this beautiful region.

Trip leader behind the scenes adventures owner portrait.

Cynthia in front of mosaic; dress by Salima Abdel-Wahab. Photo by Ali Alami.

Charming hotels called riads or kasbahs (in the desert) will be our home bases. As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled ksars, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. Moroccan food is divine, in case you aren’t familiar with it. In cooking classes, we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include salads, vegetable dishes, crusty bread and tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide (a bit of a foodie himself!) will show us the best places to eat, the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Trip Details:

We’ll start this marvelous adventure by flying in to legendary Casablanca. We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on August 26. We’ll check in to the hotel, and get a good night’s rest. (At the end of the trip, we’ll return to Casablanca, enjoy a Farewell Dinner and stay our last night before flying out on September 12.)

Next day we’ll visit the fabulous Hassan II Mosque, at seaside Casablanca. The mosaics inside and outside are exquisite and the statistics of this enormous construction are stunning: It is the second largest mosque in Africa and its minaret is the world’s second tallest at 210 meters. It can hold 25,000 people, has heated floors, and a roof that glides opens to the sky on warm days during crowded holidays. We’ll have a specialized guide for our mosque visit and she’ll explain it all.

Ali explains the Kufic script and zellij mosaic wall decorations.

Essaouira to Marrakech

Next, we’ll hop in our Sprinter and drive south along the coast to El Jadida, an old Portuguese fortress town. The most exciting feature of the old part is the underground cistern with its striking mirror reflections between the water and the columns. Later we’ll arrive at the artists’ town of Essaouira. Our hotel is right above the ocean so you’ll have crashing waves to lull you to sleep.

Essaouira was famous as a hippies’ artist retreat decades ago, and some young Moroccans still make impressive artworks. My favorite painting in my home is by Youness Touil; see another example of his work below.

We’ll wander the old town and see crafts shops, as well as art galleries. After two nights here, we’ll head for fabled and friendly Marrakesh. 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 it the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Moroccan baker slides another loaf into the wood-fired oven.

The baker at our cooking class shows us how to slide the dough rounds into the wood-fired oven.

Legendary Marrakech

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. We will be the only guests there, like living in a private home!

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.

Girls look over books in a new Olive Seed library in a remote Moroccan village.

Atlas Mountains

After a few days, we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate. In this area we’ll see more textiles in the form of carpets, as we visit some women’s groups of rug makers. 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 an interesting stop. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls is another 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 quirky 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. We’ll also drive through the spectacular Todra Gorges, carved by the forces of two rivers, the Todra and the Dades, and spend several days relaxing in this beautiful area.

Morocco crafts tour, mosaic art architecture 2019

Intricate mosaic or zellij floor of a palace.

Bring books to donate!

We’re delighted to partner with Barb Mackraz, the founder of the California-based Olive Seed Morocco Library project to donate books in English to school libraries. Barb has organized libraries in remote places where there were none. In one area, we’ll donate books at a new school library! Both our guide and driver have teenagers (in the city of Fes) and are thrilled to see the advances made by reading and writing programs in these remote under-served villages. We hope you’ll bring some books for teens, to contribute to the Olive Seed library project. According to our itinerary and the need, Barb will plan our visit to a new school library that needs books.

Next we’ll drive north into the mountains to experience Berber culture. A Berber cooking class and yummy lunch with a local family will contrast with our Marrakech cuisine experience. Then we head inland to Midelt, land of fossils and minerals. You can buy some beautiful crystals and trilobites, ammonites, or other fossils. Here we’ll have tea with a group of women in a textile cooperative and see their creations. Next day we’ll head to the Swiss-influenced town of Ifrane, where we always stop for a tea break with flaky European-style pastries.

Our wonderful driver Abdel, with some nice carpets.

The fabulous Fes Medina

That evening we’ll arrive in Fes, a delightful city with 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 with an authentic old world ambiance. Our charming riad has zellij walls and only 8 rooms, all for us!

Fes 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 traditional arts of Morocco: carpets, leather slippers, brass lanterns, or antique silver jewelry.

Ceramics and Mosaics

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory in Fes where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases, above. Other workers there paint tiles and fire them, then cut the intricate glazed 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.

Volubilis, ancient Roman city

Next day, we’ll head east to Volubilis, another UNESCO site. Volubilis contains essentially Roman vestiges of a fortified city built on a commanding site at the foot of the Jebel Zerhoun peak. Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire.

Royal stables and granary in Rabat.

Because of its isolation and the fact that it had not been occupied for nearly a thousand years when excavations began, it presents an important level of authenticity. (UNESCO info) There is a good site museum that displays some of the artifacts found also. We’ll have lunch nearby in town then continue on to Rabat for the night. Next morning we’ll visit the royal stables and other monuments before leaving town.

Finally we drive a couple of hours back to Casablanca to our hotel; the rest of the day is free to pack up suitcases and/or explore the city. September 11 is our last included night of hotel. At the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new and then get a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast at the hotel if it fits with your schedule, then we’ll take you to the CMN airport for your flights home from Casablanca, the next morning/day of September 12.
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:  $  5495
Single Supplement:  $ 995

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

“Vegetal silk” traditionally made from Agave fibers but now rayon – dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 17 nights hotel accommodations (August 26 – September 11), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and very good modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches and 2 dinners on your own.
  • All ground transportation by private Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on official 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!
Ali tastes olives in Morocco

Ali tastes olives in the Marrakech market.

Not included:

Personal items, visits to sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van. Early arrival/late departure (on another day) airport transport is extra.

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 Samaké.
Cynthia’s dress by Salima Abdel Wahab.

 

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