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

Previous Travelers!

Is YOUR group’s photo here?

Here are 75 photos of groups of previous travelers from the past twenty+ years, all the best digital shots we could find so far. See if your group is here.
Not in chronological order, sorry! Let me know if any dates are incorrect. We feel very lucky to have known all these wonderful people.

Textile tour visits renowned kente strip cloth weaver.

GHANA 2020: Susan just bought a big kente cloth from a renowned weaver on this textile tour; leader Barou Samake.

 

PERU 2019: Textile tour takes a break to admire Inka stonework at Sacsahuayman, archeological site above Cuzco.

 

BHUTAN 2019:  At a 14,000 foot pass, briefly – five of us knitting! Prayer flags flutter to bless departed family members. Tej, our excellent driver, at far left.

 

Morocco textile tour travelers with friend who makes trim for clothing.

MOROCCO 2019: Textile tour group shares a laugh with Bouchra who came to the hotel to teach us plaited trims; Fes.

 

ARGENTINA 2018: Knitters at the countryside estancia near Buenos Aires where we had a private knitting retreat and relaxing time on 200 acres.

 

BHUTAN 2020:  Hardy hikers who ascended to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro; other people decided to relax at the hotel for the day! Complete group below.

 

Cooking class in Bhutan hotel in Bumthang Valley.

BHUTAN 2020:  In the Bumthang hotel kitchen, we made buckwheat noodles and garlic potatoes for dinner. BTSA team’s guide Sonam at center and driver Tej on far right.

 

Lush garden by Niger River, Mali.

MALI 2011: Taking a break from painting mudcloth to crunch on fresh carrots in Papou’s riverside garden.

Previous travelers on Argentina Knitting tour with Cynthia Samake.

URUGUAY 2018   Happy knitters with big bags of yarn from the Malabrigo mill. Montevideo. I’m sure we all needed yarn….

 

Past group of knitters in Buenos Aires, knitting tour.

ARGENTINA 2016: Dressed up for the Tango Dinner and Show in Buenos Aires!

 

MOROCCO 2019: Taking a break from climbing around the Roman ruins of Volubilis, near Meknes.

 

Southern LAOS 2006: With Wat Phu Champasak in the background, UREP group relaxes before climbing to the top.

 

Ikat weavers, India.

INDIA 2018: Renowned family of master silk ikat weavers explains their complex technique of making double ikat on a slanted loom.

 

Group on steps in Chefchaouen Morocco.

MOROCCO 2018: We’re headed to a cooking class in the blue city of Chefchaouen. Great driver Abdul at right.

 

 

Cambodian cooking class group.

CAMBODIA 2018: We’re learning the basics of Cambodia cuisine while we make our delicious lunch; mangoes and sticky rice are for dessert!

 

LAOS: Textile tour travelers rest on the hike up to see spectacular Wat Phu, in the southern part of the country.

 

Archeological sites are included on most of Behind the Scenes textile tours of Turkey.

TURKEY 2005:  On the steps of ancient amphitheatre in Selcuk. Some of these loyal previous travelers have gone on many trips with us since this long-ago adventure!

 

INDIA 2015: Visiting a tea plantation and meeting the workers before a tea-tasting.

 

Group of textile tour people, India

INDIA 2018: Happy day at the salty lakes of northern Gujarat state; we had just seen a herd of wild asses!

 

Group of hikers on Turkey coast.

TURKEY 2013: Hiking trip on the woodsy Mediterranean coast with our wonderful guide Zeynep in purple and trekking guide Ozgur at left.

 

Knitting and weaving tour to the Andes. Group at hotel in Cuzco

PERU 2018: Textile Tour group with Nilda Callañaupa at center, heading out for a great natural dye workshop in Nilda’s hometown. Cuzco.

 

Group with bead artist, Cedi in Ghana

GHANA 2018: Barou and BTSA group, ready to start a bead-making workshop with Cedi, famous glass bead artist, at center.

 

Previous travelers with silk scarves made in dye workshop with Master Ali M. Katri

INDIA 2018: We just made the most beautiful tie-dyed scarves, with Master Bandhini artist and his sons.

 

group from the past Morocco textile tour

MOROCCO 2016: Argan tree with goats (above Ali’s head) who eat the nuts. The rest are made into argan oil.

 

Ghana textile tour previous travelers learn making adinkra printing ink.

GHANA 2018:  Peter shows the textile tour group how to make ink for the Adinkra printing workshop. Photo: Tour leader Barou Samake.

 

Group at Machu Picchu with Inca stones.

PERU 2009: We’ve climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and the Inca stonework is amazing!

 

Behind the Scenes group on textile tour sit on reed Urus islands in Peru.

PERU 2007   Previous travelers with Cynthia’s 2-year old god-daughter Anita. Her parents let the group participate in her first hair-cutting ceremony, and little Anita let a bunch of strangers snip at her hair! Urus Islands, Lake Titicaca.

 

group from the past in Turkey with Cynthia Samake

TURKEY 2012: BTSA textile/culture tour group among the columns of the Athena Temple, Assos-Behramkale.

 

Northeast India textile tour group rests on the steps of the Nunnery in Tawang.

NORTHEAST INDIA 2016: At Tawang Nunnery with drivers Daniel, Manoj and Nomo. Littlest nun on my lap; not visible are the dark red sheepskin boots I brought for her. Miraculously they fit her cold little feet!

 

Oaxaca Mexico textile tour group of previous travelers, at farewell dinner.

MEXICO 2010: Farewell dinner, previous travelers from our textile tour in Oaxaca; with Chloe Sayer in blue/black huipil.

 

INDIA 2009: To enter a New Delhi mosque, we donned colorful but very modest bag dresses that they have available at the entrance!

 

Group sitting on steps of old building in Bolivia.

BOLIVIA 2017  Carnival and textiles tour group. With Liz Rojas at Candelaria Hacienda outside of Tarabuco.

 

Lunch in Oaxaca Mexico

MEXICO 2010: One of the UREP research groups of previous travelers, headed to the Assumption Festival. With Chloe Sayer.

 

Group from the past, travelers to Peru in Lima

PERU 2015: We visited the little-known Museo del Andres Castillo, with its good collection of ancient artifacts, Lima.

 

TURKEY 2007:  Knitters hit the huge Yarn Market near the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

 

MEXICO 2013: Visiting the municipal art museum near Oaxaca city, with Chloe Sayer, far right.

 

MALI 2011: Our Tuareg friend Halis showed us around his Sahara Desert town of Timbuktu; yes, it’s real!

 

GUATEMALA 2014: Ready for the ride across Lake Atitlan to Santiago Atitlan, to see embroidered huipiles.

 

BOLIVIA 2005: My super students from University of CA Davis Summer School Abroad ‘World Textiles’ class; Tiwanaku archaeological site near LaPaz. One of my favorite groups from the past!

 

TURKEY 2008: Learning how rugs are knotted and woven – and how to judge quality – in a little carpet shop in Cappadocia.

 

PERU and BOLIVIA 2006:  Private tour ladies relaxing with our knitting at lakeside Titicaca hotel.

 

Relaxed group from the past, long ago in Thailand!

LAOS 2006:  University Research Expedition Program: Weaving group at dinner break by the Mekong River.

 

Athena Temple- Steve Chun

TURKEY 2014: Amidst the columns of Athena Temple at Assos; guide Zeynep bottom right. (Steve Chun photo)

 

Peru travel group in Lima.

PERU 2010: After a morning of seeing ancient textiles in Lima museums, we had lunch at El Bolivariano.

 

CAMBODIA 2018: Excited to be heading out to the fabulous Angkor Wat temple complexes.

 

Private tour at Tikal, Guatemala.

GUATEMALA Private tour with friends at Tikal National Park, Maya site.

 

TURKEY 2014:  At the UNESCO World Heritage site of Divrigi, beautiful and historical hospital-mosque.

 

TURKEY: Exploring Cappadocia’s eroded sandstone formations and visiting the painted cave churches.

 

MEXICO:  Waiting for the embroiderer to come back so we can see his work! Juchitan. Chloe Sayer, far left.

 

MEXICO 2010: Lunch in Teotitlan del Valle, famous rug weaving town, outside of Oaxaca.

 

TURKEY: Friends on a Textile and Cuisine Tour, at the famous and exquisite Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

 

LAOS 2009: We donated school supplies and met the teachers and girls at a rural elementary school.

 

TURKEY: We have just spent the night in a village homestay; super guide Fatih and best driver Ahmet at left!

 

Showing off our beautiful scarves! Turkey

TURKEY 2012: Showing off our hand block-printed scarves in Tokat. Many friends from Alaska on this trip.

 

INDIA 2013:  Happy with our hand-dyed and tied silk scarves made with the help of a Master Dyer!

 

ARGENTINA 2016: Knitters gather at the Estancia; fabulous cooks Rebecca and Maria on either side of Cynthia.

 

PERU 2006: UC Davis Summer School Abroad camps out in Paucartambo for the Virgin of Carmen Festival.

 

MALI 2011    Headed out to the mudcloth (bogolan fini) village, to try mud painting, with Barou Samake.

 

INDIA 2017   We’re proud of the scarves we stamped with hand-carved blocks at  friend Deepak’s studio.

 

MALI 2012  Nighttime celebration at Papou’s wedding festival in Barou’s hometown of Segou.

 

BOLIVIA 2006   At the Benito Cruz mask-maker studio before heading to Oruro for Carnival; La Paz

 

GUATEMALA 2016: Dear friend Tomasa with us at a restaurant outside of Patzun. She embroidered my huipil.

 

ARGENTINA 2016:  Taking a break on our Street Art Tour in Buenos Aires. It’s everywhere and all legal!

 

Group of women with white masks wait to tour a hat factory in Sucre.

BOLIVIA 2017: We’re here to tour the SUCRE Hat Factory, not to stage a hold-up! Masks ostensibly will protect us from flying fleece.

 

GUATEMALA 2014: Leaving the hotel for the airport, to fly to the Tikal Mayan ruins in the jungle.

 

MOROCCO 2008: Travelers at Volubilis Roman ruins; 32-day private tour. Mali and Ghana were next….

 

N.E. INDIA 2015  Ladies play dress-up in Saris at the Good-bye Party on the Brahmaputra River beach!

 

INDIA 2017   Checking out the organic cotton fields. The guide sews his own exquisite handspun cotton clothes!

 

CAMBODIA 2015  Angkor Thom – Ancient Khmer temple with strangler fig roots, and our driver, Sai.

 

GHANA 2011:  At Jamestown fishing port with school director Mark, who showed us the boat building processes.

 

ARGENTINA 2015  Happy Knitters’ group with Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont, and other great knitters!

 

BOLIVIA 2018: We just toured the Sucre Hat Factory.

 

PERU 2011 Visiting friends on the totora reed Urus Islands, floating in Lake Titicaca.

 

INDIA 2011: New Delhi visit to the tall brick minaret, Qu’tub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with great guide Manish.

 

Knitters in Cuzco hotel courtyard.

PERU 2008:  Knitters and two of my wonderful cousins. BTSA knitting and weaving tour group, in Cuzco hotel courtyard.

 

INDIA 2011: Showing off our hand-tied and dyed silk scarves with the master bandhini artist; Bhuj.