Tour begins: 6:30 PM. A transfer is included from Rabat-Sale Airport to La Tour Hassan in the heart of the city. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner with live music at the hotel.
Rabat, Morocco's capital & on to Fes
Morocco's seaside capital city is an intriguing blend of medieval Arabic and modern European influences, wide palm-lined boulevards, enclaves of elegant French colonial architecture, and Moorish-style palaces, mosques, and ramparts that echo the city's golden age as an Almohad stronghold. Sightseeing includes Dar-al-Makhzhen, the Royal Palace and residence of the king of Morocco, built in 1864, with its sumptuous Islamic ornament and exquisite formal gardens. Visit the Mauseoleum of Mohammed V, a masterpiece of Alouite-style architecture with stunning ornamental carvings and chandeliers, the final resting place of the king who fought for Morrocan independence in the mid-20th century. View the massive Hassan Tower, the city's most imposing landmark; built in the 12th century and rising 140 feet high, the minaret is the centerpiece of a great mosque that was never finished, begun at the height of the Almohad Dynasty. Leave Rabat and head for Fes, stopping for lunch at a winery on the way. Arrive this afternoon and check into a lovely boutique hotel with views of the old town and the city skyline. Tonight you'll dine at leisure at the hotel.
The souks & bazaars of Fes
The sprawling city of Fes is over 1,200 years old, and its well-preserved old town is a vast maze of winding streets and alleys, crowded aromatic bazaars, and eclectic architecture; no cars are allowed so transport here is in the ancient, traditional style, on foot. Choose the focus for your morning walking tour: you may choose a tour on which you'll sample the local cuisine; get an insider's look at the craftsmanship of the artisans who make intricate, handcrafted carvings, rugs, leatherwork, and metalwork; or explore the Jewish quarter and learn about its influence on local cuisine and culture. After lunch in the medina, get an eye-opening tour of the city's famous leather tanneries, which are dominated by numerous, deep, multicolored pools of dye; here, preparing leather is done in the same way as in medieval times to supply the artisans of the souks and bazaars. Return to the hotel, then join us for dinner at a riad, an inn with a central garden or courtyard; the Palais Faraj is a mix of old and contemporary architecture set within the Fes Medina.
Roman ruins at Volubilis & more
Visit the Roman ruins of Volubilis, in the rolling hills and fertile farmland between Fes and Meknes. Volubilis was a remote military outpost of the Roman Empire that fell to local tribes in 285 and was never retaken; it is one of the richest archaeological sites in North Africa, a well-preserved, example of a Roman colonial town which still retains its triumphal arch and remnants of its mansions, temples, forum, and glorious mosaics. Enjoy lunch in the town of Moulay Idriss at a private home known as the Scorpion House - including an exclusive lecture by a local scholar on life in Morocco from a woman's perspective. Return to Fes for an afternoon and evening spent as you please.
Walled Meknes to famed Casablanca
This morning, drive to Meknes. This walled city of lavish Spanish-Moorish architecture dates back to the 11th century but rose to glory in the 17th century under the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made it the capital of his burgeoning empire. Known as the Warrior King, Moulay Ismail was a powerful and ruthless leader who liberated Morocco from the Ottomans and Europeans. This morning's walking tour of Meknes includes Moulay's stables, large enough to house 12,000 horses and designed to water and feed them with an aqueduct and granary; the city's medina; and a visit to a historic madrasa (or medersa), an Islamic learning center and Koranic school. After a hearty lunch and some free time in Meknes, head for Casablanca, viewing the classic Bogart-Bergman film of the same name on the way. Arrive at your seaside Four Seasons hotel, steeped in modern Moroccan elegance, in late afternoon; dine at the hotel this evening.
Casablanca, Rick's Cafe & Marrakech
In Casablanca, visit the majestic Hassan II Mosque, set on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic with a towering minaret, 689 feet high; completed in 1993, it is the largest mosque in the country, built to accommodate 25,000 worshippers inside and another 80,000 on the grounds. (Touring this site, women and men must dress appropriately.) Meet the elaborately red-costumed "watermen" who sell water on the streets of the city. Stop for a visit to the Musée Slaoui (Museum of the Abderrahman Slaoui Foundation), showcasing works by Jacques Majorelle and other artists who made Morocco their home, before lunch at Rick's Cafe - a recreation of Humphrey Bogart's fabled lair in the film Casablanca, complete with piano bar. Continue on to Marrakech and check into your Four Seasons hotel, where you'll dine at your leisure this evening.
Discovering magical Marrakech
Marrakech is surrounded by imposing stone walls from its medieval days as the wealthy capital of an empire. Within those well-preserved fortifications are palaces of red-hued stone, gardens and palm groves, and a Medina of narrow streets and arches packed with fascinating souks and stalls, which have long held a mystical attraction for visitors. Begin today's exploration of Marrakech at the magnificent Saadian Tombs, which date back to the 16th century; the burial site of 166 members of the Saadian Dynasty, the tombs were sealed up and forgotten for centuries, then discovered in 1917. From the Saadian Tombs, ride a horsedrawn carriage through the city to the Gardens Majorelle, the masterpiece and former home of French-born artist Jacques Majorelle, designed in the 1930s and later owned by Yves Saint-Laurent; as you'll see on your visit, there are 400 species of palm trees and 1800 varieties of cacti here. Walk through the Medina of Marrakech, stopping to visit the Ben Yousef Madrasa; founded in the 14th century as a Koranic school, it is now a museum. Continue your walk among the souks to lunch at a local restaurant. Return to your hotel for an afternoon and evening spent as you wish in Marrakech.
An idyll in the desert
Explore Marrakech on your own this morning, then join us for a drive aboard 4x4 vehicles outside of the city to spend an afternoon and evening in the desert. Enjoy a tea ceremony with local residents and get acquainted with Berber history and culture. Dinner is served Berber-style under a tent at a desert camp with musical entertainment. During your desert experience, enjoy a camel ride and the exotic flavors of the hubbly-bubbly pipe before returning to your Marrakech hotel for the night.
Your choice, in & around Marrakech
You'll have a choice of sightseeing activities in and around Marrakech this morning. You can attend a local cooking school to learn about Moroccan cuisine, its history and influences (and enjoy a lunch you help to prepare); take an excursion to the walled seaside town of Essaouira, an ancient port whose magical light and picturesque beauty has long attracted prominent artists and rock stars, accompanied by a local guide and a photographer who offers tips on getting that perfect shot; or enjoy a morning of pampering at your hotel's hammam (steam bath), where you'll learn the traditional Moroccan way of steaming and washing that leaves the skin smooth and rejuvenated. After some free time this afternoon, join us this evening for a farewell reception and dinner at La Maison Arabe, a luxury riad in the heart of the city.
Tour ends: Marrakech. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Four Seasons Marrakech to the Marrakech Menara Airport (about a half-hour drive) or Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport (a drive of approximately 2.5 hours). Allow three hours for flight check-in.