The following itinerary describes a range of gardens and estates we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2025. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=light lunch or picnic lunch and D=dinner.
Agadir - 1 night
Day 1: Wednesday 26 March, Arrive Agadir
Meeting Point: The tour commences at 4pm in the foyer of the Riad Villa Blanche. The riad is 20km from the Agadir International Airport (approximately 30min by car). Check-in is at 3pm. Please contact ASA if you wish to reserve additional accommodation prior to the commencement of the tour.
Following a short Welcome Meeting we view the riad’s private garden designed by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart which consist of splendid endemic plants, oases of rare flowers, exotic plants, palm trees and cacti. We end the day with a dinner at the hotel’s atmospheric restaurant. (Overnight Agadir) D
Taroudant – 3 nights
Day 2: Thursday 27 March, Agadir – Taroudant
- La Tour des Faucons, garden and lunch
- Tour of Taroudant’s ramparts and secret gardens by horse & carriage
- Medina & Souq, Taroudant
This morning we depart Agadir and drive 83 kms east to La Tour des Faucons (The Falcon’s Villa), located in the countryside outside of Taroudant. Welcomed by Karl Morsher, the owner and designer, we visit his renovated farmhouse and its extensive grounds of palm and olive trees (producing their own organic olive oil) and exotic flower-filled gardens. We also view his unique collection of Berber arts in his contemporary style villa, and enjoy a buffet lunch.
In the afternoon we tour Taroudant’s ramparts and secret gardens by horse and carriage. Taroudant, a walled Berber market town, lies just south of the High Atlas and to the north of the Anti Atlas. It gained commercial and political importance thanks to its position at the heart of the fertile Souss Valley. The Sa’adi made it their capital for a short time in the 16th century before moving on to Marrakesh. The 7.5 kilometres of ramparts surrounding Taroudant are among the best-preserved pise (reinforced mud) walls in Morocco. As the sun moves across the sky their colour changes from golden brown to the deepest red.
Built in the 16th and 17th century, a string of mighty defensive towers create the gates of the city. One of the most commonly used of these gates is the impressive, triple-arched Bab el-Kasbah, approached along an avenue of orange trees. Beyond and to the right past an olive press stands another gate, Bab Sedra that leads to the old qasba quarter – a fortress built by Moulay Ismail in the 17th century that is now the poorest part of town.
Today, Taroudant is an important hub in southern Morocco well known for its handicrafts, jewellery design, Berber crafts and woodwork. Within the walled inner city there are two main squares – Place Assarag (Place Alaouyine) and Place Talmoklate (Place en Nasr) – which mark the centre of town, with the main souq area between them. The pedestrian area of Place Assarag is the centre of activity which comes alive in late afternoon.
At the heart of this ancient city lies the medina, home to traditional Moroccan houses with interior gardens or courtyards, many of them built or restored by Ossart and Maurières. These are the riads for which Morocco is famous – havens of freshness usually exclusively reserved for their owners, and now ours to discover on this enchanting tour. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD
Day 3: Friday 28 March, Taroudant
- Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue
- Dar Deboules
- Palais Claudio Bravo incl. buffet lunch and tour of gardens
- Les Jardins de Andrew
- Dinner at Palais Oumensour
For over 25 years, Maurières & Ossart designed gardens in France and throughout the Mediterranean region. When they moved to southern Morocco they designed low-maintenance gardens for a dry climate in the olive groves to the west of Taroudant. Their work focused on preserving areas of unspoiled natural wilderness, designing and building gardens and rammed-earth houses that have by stages added an entirely new neighbourhood to the city.
This morning we begin with a visit to Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue, which marked Ossart & Maurières’ very first venture into steppe planning: with groups of grasses, drought-tolerant shrubs (grown mainly from seeds collected in Madagascar and Mexico) and succulents featuring a rich collection of opuntia (prickly pear).
Dar Igdad, meaning ‘the house of the birds’ in Berber, was begun in 2007 on the site of a former olive grove. It is surrounded by high earthen walls in a rich mahogany colour, against which still stand many of the grove’s original multi-trunked trees. The garden, which featured in Garden Illustrated by Louisa Jones, is drought tolerant. The most spectacular part, a vast meadow, appears natural but is actually composed of species from similar biotopes from all over the world, like American agaves and African euphorbias that grow among the meadow’s Sahara grasses.
At Dar Deboules we see another of Ossart & Maurières’ designs which offers an unusually broad range of steppe plants, making it possible to track growth from planting to maturity.
Born November 8, 1936, in Chile, Claudio Bravo lived in Spain, Tangier and Marrakech, for some time before he finally settled in Taroudant in 1972. Here he built his palatial home with stunning gardens and stables. Following his death in 2011, the estate became a museum showcasing his art and collections, including works by friends like Picasso. The palace is divided into several pavilions connected by inner courtyards and covered walkways, while inside the guest rooms, salons, and Bravo’s private rooms and studios are paintings, sculptures, and artefacts, including Roman and North African ceramics. Following a buffet lunch we visit the palace museum and tour the 75 hectares of gardens designed by Ossart & Maurières. The gardens, which provide spectacular views of the Atlas Mountains, include an extraordinary range of exotic plants set around a large water basin which irrigate citrus and banana trees.
In the afternoon we visit Les Jardins de Andrew. Andrew is an eccentric British collector with a taste for whimsical constructions. His garden, located outside the ramparts, is punctuated by fanciful creations that lend an air of mystery to their lush surroundings. Ossart and Maurières described their work thus: “using the same plants as at Dar Igdad, we laid out here a very formal garden corresponding exactly to the architecture of the house. Keeping in mind the advice of the great Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx, we used the right plant in the right place, whether rare or commonplace, native or exotic. We often use bold swaths of the same plant to get different moods even in this relatively small garden”.
This evening we return to Taroudant’s medina where we enjoy dinner in the patio of the beautiful Palais Oumensour. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD
Day 4: Saturday 29 March, Taroudant – Souss-Massa – Tiout Oasis – Taroudant
- Estate of Henri Delbard, Souss-Massa (To be confirmed)
- Tiout Oasis and the Anti Atlas
At the invitation of King Hassan II, the prince of the rose, George Delbard came to Morocco in the 1970s at the request of Jean Soldini, Director General of the royal agricultural estates, to plant experimental orchards and nurseries. Today we visit the estate of his son, professional horticulturalist, Henri Delbard. Known as the creator of painters’ roses in homage to the Impressionists, he is also the author of A Passion for Roses: The Notebook of Henri Delbard. The twenty hectares of this estate are full of white and purple bougainvillea, laurels, date palms, palm trees, olive trees, prickly pears and aloe vera. Around the swimming pool, aromatic plants give off the scents of rosemary, lavender and thyme. Roses “grown for the pleasure of the senses” are naturally in the spotlight. This ‘pleasure garden’ also includes extensive orchards of orange trees and clementine trees, argan trees, as well as banana plantations.
From Souss-Massa we enjoy a scenic drive to the fertile oasis of Tiout, located on the northern edge of the Anti Atlas mountains. In the Souss Valley we witness the tremendous contrast between commercially farmed irrigated cash crops (such as oranges, maize or bananas) and subsistence farming of arid land including the strange sight of goats grazing in the native argania (trees). Argania spinosa, endemic to the semi-desert Sous Valley and the Algerian region of Tindouf, is a source of argan oil used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads, and in natural cosmetics. In Morocco, arganeraie forests now cover some 8280 square kilometres, designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The Tiout Oasis, formed by a now dried-up ancient lake, is probably the westernmost of all the oases that have survived from antiquity. It provides a perfect demonstration of the traditional custom of sharing irrigation water and also reflects the diverse richness of sub-Saharan arable farming. Our excursion includes a guided tour of the oasis led by a local farmer, a visit to the women’s Taitmatine de Tiout Argan Oil Cooperative, and lunch under Berber canvas at the heart of the oasis. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD
Ouirgane – 1 night
Day 5: Sunday 30 March, Taroudant – Ouirgane
- Scenic drive to Ouirgane
- Domaine de la Roseraie, Ouirgane
Today we journey north following one of the most spectacular routes in Morocco. It winds its way up and then down through the High Atlas, above the beautiful valleys and past isolated villages, eventually reaching the Tizi-n-Test Pass, with its breathtaking views across the Souss Valley to the Anti Atlas.
In the afternoon we arrive in Ouirgane, a small village surrounded by stunning greenery, red-earth hills and pine forests. Here we enjoy a tour of Domaine de la Roseraie, which is set in the middle of 25 hectares of flower beds, olive trees, orchards and, as the name suggests, plenty of rose bushes. Winding paths through the estate offer unique views over the Toubkal range. Mt Toubkal is the highest peak in the Atlas mountains, and in North Africa, at 4167 metres. (Overnight Domaine de la Roseraie, Ouirgane) BLD
Marrakesh - 4 nights
Day 6: Monday 31 March, Ouirgane – Ourika Valley – Marrakesh
- Anima Garden
- Ourika Community Gardens
- Private gardens of Dar Azaren, Tnine Ourika
This morning we drive to the Ourika Valley to visit Anima, one of the most beautiful and imaginative gardens in Morocco. Austrian multi-media artist André Heller’s opulent, two-hectare botanical garden is a magical place of sensuality and wonder. It combines unusual sculptures with flowers and plants, paying homage to local traditions and fauna, as well as incorporating modern Western elements.
We visit the Ourika Community Gardens recently founded by Yves Saint Laurent Beauty. The main garden created by landscape designers Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart covers 20,000 square metres. The gardens feature a growing area that is home to more than 200 botanical species, along with an experimental and observation laboratory plants from which active ingredients are developed, and a decorative garden paying tribute to the iconic flowers that inspired Yves Saint Laurent.
We then visit the secluded retreat of Dar Azaren, owned by Liliane Fawcett. This dar (house), set in 6.5 hectares, is nestled within olive groves and walled gardens, and offers spectacular views of the High Atlas Mountains. The grounds and gardens, conceived by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart, blend subtle plantations of fragrant flowers and sculptural cacti with local crops. The colours of the landscape using the grey santolina, mauve lantana and enormous Kalanchoe set a dramatic scene. Following our lunch and visit at Dar Azaren, we continue north to Marrakesh.
Tonight we dine at La Maison Arabe’s renowned restaurant ‘Les Trois Saveurs’. (Overnight Marrakesh) BLD
Introduction to Marrakesh
Marrakesh is one of four imperial cities in Morocco, founded in 1070 by the Almoravid Abu Bakr. He chose the site because it was well watered and flat: perfect as a camping ground for the Almoravid army, composed of nomads from the Sahara. Marrakesh began as the perfect springboard for the Almoravid conquest of North Morocco, but it soon became the Almoravid capital by virtue of its location on the trans-Saharan trade route.
After the Almoravids had conquered much of Spain, a period of cultural and artistic exchange ensued bringing the sophisticated urban culture of al-Andalus (Iberia) to Marrakesh. All that remains of Almoravid Marrakesh is an exquisite qubba, (domed chamber), which may indicate the site of the lost Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh.
In 1147 Marrakesh fell to the Almohads, who then captured North Morocco, Muslim Spain, and North Africa as far as Tunis. The most famous Almohad ruler, Ya’qub al-Mansur, builder of the Qasba of the Udaya and Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda of Seville, constructed a spectacular Almohad great mosque (1190), sister to the great mosques of Rabat and Seville here. The mosque soon became known as the Kutubiyya, or Booksellers’ Mosque, as a result of the book market which grew up in its shadow.
The minaret of the Kutubiyya is one of the most important extant Almohad buildings as the only Almohad minaret which has survived intact. Like the Hassan Tower, the minaret’s façades are decorated with intricate screenwork, punctuated on the upper levels with small windows. It is crowned with a small domed pavilion surmounted with a gold spike holding three gold balls and a crescent, and gives an impression of how the Hassan Tower would have looked. Ya’qub al-Mansur also enclosed the city in a new set of walls punctuated by gateways, of which the most important is the Bab Agnaou. The Almohads also constructed the suburban Menara Gardens with their huge central pool and olive groves as a place for recreation and physical training of the Almohad army.
The Marinids showed little interest in Marrakesh but nevertheless commissioned the Bin Yusuf or Yusufiyya Madrasa here. Like Morocco’s other Marinid madrasas, the Yusufiyya has a central courtyard leading to a prayer hall flanked by students’ cells.
The Sa’di dynasty added palaces, shrines and mosques to Marrakesh. The greatest Sa’di sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur al-Dhahabi, embellished the Sa’di tomb complex and renovated the Yusufiyya Madrasa. The Sa’di reproduced Andalusian stucco work in marble from Italy.
Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakesh all became ‘Alawi capitals when this dynasty supplanted the Sa’adi. Many ‘Alawi sultans loved Marrakesh and built palaces and gardens here. Mawlay ‘Abd al-Rahman (1822-1859) restored the Agdal gardens and his son, Sidi Muhammad sponsored agricultural projects in the area. His grandson’s minister, Mawlay al-Hassan (1873-1894), built the Bahia and Dar Si Sa’id palaces.
Day 7: Tuesday 1 April, Marrakesh
- Le Jardin Secret (See Youtube video)
- Bahia Palace & courtyard gardens
- Monde des Arts de la Parure (MAP)
- Sa’di Tombs
- Bab Agnaou
- Kutubiyya Mosque
- La Mamounia: historical gardens and afternoon tea
This morning we visit Le Jardin Secret, a public garden designed by English landscape architect, Tom Stuart-Smith. The garden is located on the former site of the Riad of the Governor of the medina in the 19th century. Described by Tom Stuart-Smith: “Part of the garden is a faithful reconstruction of an Islamic garden that could have existed in Marrakech in the 19th century. The smaller garden has been largely reconfigured and is a more romantic interpretation of a Moroccan garden, full of the sorts of flowers and colour that would not be found in the more traditional garden. The west courtyard has a citrus grove with underplanting of Stipa tenuissima, California poppy, Lavender and Tulbaghia.”
Next, we visit the 19th-century Bahia Palace, a fine example of Andalusian-style architecture. This was previously the home of Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by slave-turned-vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. The name ‘Bahia’ means ‘palace of the beautiful.” There are 160 different rooms in the palace which sprawl out in an open, rambling fashion. Decorations take the form of subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadlakt) finishes and zouak painted ceilings. It has three beautiful courtyard gardens, rich with intoxicating roses, jacaranda, jasmine, orange blossom and pomegranates.
We end the morning with a visit to Monde des Arts de la Parure (MAP) – a new museum containing a fine collection of ornaments, jewellery and ceremonial clothing. Lunch will be provided in the museum’s garden rooftop terrace which offers views of the Badii Palace and the minaret of the Moulay El Yazid Mosque. The hanging gardens were designed by landscape architect, Marius Boulesteix.
Following lunch we view the Sa’di Tombs. Sultan Ahmed al Mansour constructed the Sa’di Tombs in Marrakech during his rule of Morocco (16th century) as a burial ground for himself and some 200 of his descendants. The most significant chamber in the tombs is the Hall of Twelve Columns. Here rests the Sultan Ahmed el Mansour and his entire family. This chamber has a vaulted roof, Italian marble columns, beautifully decorated cedar doors and carved wooden screens. Inside the inner mausoleum lies Mohammed esh Sheikh, founder of the Sa’di dynasty, as well as the tomb of his mother. The tombs are surrounded by a small garden with richly coloured and scented roses.
We also visit the 12th-century, horseshoe-arched Bab Agnaou and the Kutubiyya Mosque. The Almohad Bab Agnaou is one of the 19 gates of Marrakesh. The Kutubiyya Mosque, Marrakesh’s largest, is ornament with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches. It was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199).
We end the day with a visit to the gardens of La Mamounia one of the most famous hotels in the world (1929) and beloved of Winston Churchill. Its vast gardens are cared for by 40 gardeners who twice a year plant 60,000 annuals to enhance its grounds. They garden has immaculately mown grass under citrus and olive orchards, a desert garden, a rose garden and a tropical garden as well as many fountains. At the back of the 15-hectare garden there is a herb and kitchen garden whose produce is used in the hotel’s daily meals. We will be served Moroccan style afternoon tea in the garden. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL
Day 8: Wednesday 2 April, Marrakesh
- Jardin Majorelle and Musée d’Art Berbère
- Villa Oasis: the private garden of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé (to be confirmed in 2025)
- Yves Saint Laurent Museum
- Afternoon at leisure
Marrakesh, perhaps known best for its souqs (markets), squares and spices, also has many lush gardens. Green spaces have always been an integral part of life in Marrakesh. The city’s gardens have also inspired many artists, fashion designers and writers over the years. The British writer Osbert Sitwell said Marrakesh “is the ideal African city of water-lawns, cool, pillared palaces and orange groves.” Matisse, Delacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty visited too, finding inspiration and spending long periods in the city.
Early this morning we visit the Jardin Majorelle, created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. The garden presents a cacophony of pink bougainvillea, blush-coloured water lilies, and a vast array of cacti. The inner walls are painted a vibrant ‘Majorelle’ blue, named after the garden’s founder. Majorelle’s art-deco studio houses a Berber Art Museum which displays valuable ceramics, weapons and magnificent jewellery, textiles, carpets, woodwork and other treasures. We also, by special invitation, will visit the gardens of Villa Oasis, Yves Saint Laurent’s private home adjoining the Jardin Majorelle. The garden was designed by Madison Cox.
Located right next to the Jardin Majorelle is the Yves Saint Laurent Museum dedicated to the work of the French fashion designer. This new museum houses an important selection from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent’s impressive collection, which comprises 5000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute couture accessories as well as tens of thousands of sketches and assorted objects. The museum’s landscaped areas are also designed by Madison Cox.
The remain of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Marrakesh) B
Day 9: Thursday 3 April, Marrakesh
- Gardens of Jnane Tamsna with Gary Martin and Meryanne Loum-Martin
- Yusufiyya Madrasa
- Jama’ al-Fana’
This morning we transfer to Jnane Tamsna. Owned by ethnobotanist Gary Martin and his wife Meryanne Loum-Martin, this beautifully designed boutique guesthouse boasts a magnificent botany collection. It is set in the Palmeraie area of Marrakesh where tens of thousands of palm trees create shade for other plants to prosper, providing the atmosphere of an oasis. The free-flow approach (there are no formal lawns), adds to the ambience with grounds that encourage aromatic herb gardens, olive groves, lemon trees, vegetable plots and flower beds. The organic gardens are spread over nearly 9 hectares, and are watered constantly by traditional groundwater flow (khettara) and drip irrigation, while the air is naturally scented by gardenia, jasmine and white bougainvillea. We enjoy a visit of the garden and the estate before enjoying lunch.
In the afternoon we visit the religious heart of old Marrakesh where the Almoravid Qubba, the Yusufiyya Madrasa and Yusufiyya Mosque stand, probably on the site of the original Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh. We shall also walk through the old medina visiting the city’s fascinating souqs. Marrakesh’s souqs are renowned for their vast size and the quality and variety of crafted goods on sale there. As in other Moroccan cities, each different craft can be found in its own particular street or alley: we shall see streets dedicated to gold jewellery, silver, cedar wood carving, silk robes, textiles, leather slippers, copper utensils, ceramics, rugs and carpets. The market area is covered by reed lattices whose dappled shade shelters the alleys from the hot southern sun.
We walk through the old city to its commercial and recreational heart, the Jama’ al-Fana’, an extraordinary public arena lined with booths selling fresh orange and grapefruit juice, nuts and sweets. In the centre a number of stalls offer snacks and meals of infinite variety, and numerous people provide public services and entertainments. Dentists, preachers, acrobats, black musicians from the Gnawa religious brotherhood, letter writers, snake charmers and story tellers all mingle in the Jama’ al-Fana’ from dusk late into the night. This square is very dear to the people of Marrakesh, a place to meet and promenade. This is evening is at leisure. You may wish to stay on in the Jama’ al-Fana’ to enjoy its extraordinary atmosphere. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL
Ouarzazate - 1 night
Day 10: Friday 4 April, Marrakesh – Ait Ben Haddou – Ouarzazate
- Tiz n’Tishka Pass
- Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou: UNESCO World Heritage Site
This morning we cross the High Atlas by way of the Tiz n’Tishka Pass, opening up on the landscapes of the pre-Sahara with its pisé qasbas and qsars, the verdant palm groves of the Ziz valleys, and the rocky drama of the gorges.
This afternoon we drive to Ait Ben Haddou, one of the fortified villages under control of the Glawi family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Located in the foothills of the High Atlas, Ait Ben Haddu is the most famous qsar in the Ounila Valley, and a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. This fortified village in its dramatic landscape is regularly used as settings for films. (Overnight Ouarzazate) BLD
Tineghir - 1 night
Day 11: Saturday 5 April, Ouarzazate – Taourirt – Tineghir
- Qasba de Taourirt
- Qsars of Tineghir
This morning we travel west via the Route of the Qasbahs to visit the Qasba of Taourirt located in the town of Ouarzazate. Built late in the 19th century, the qasba became important in the 1930s when the local Glawi dynasty’s powers were at their peak. The qasba was never actually resided in by the Glawi chiefs but rather by their second tier of command, including their sons and cousins and their massive entourages of extended family members, servants, builders, and craftsmen. The qasba has close to 300 rooms grouped in more than 20 riads (apartments).
We have lunch in Tineghir and then visit the qsar (fortified village). (Overnight Tineghir) BLD
Merzouga - 1 night
Day 12: Sunday 6 April, Tineghir – Tudgha Gorge – Erfoud – Rissani – Merzouga
- Tudgha Gorge
- Moroccan khettara
- Rissani Market
- Tomb of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif, Rissani
This morning we head up the spectacular Tudgha Gorge. En route we take a leisurely walk through one of the rich, cultivated areas nestling on the banks of the Tudgha river.
Near Tineghir the High Atlas meets the Jabal Saghru, a small massif which is part of the Anti Atlas range. The deep gorges of Tudgha and Dades mark the fault line between these two mountain ranges. Both gorges were carved out of the rock by torrents of melt water from the peaks above them. As they widen, small terraces of crops line each watercourse and villages cling to their sides, placed above the line of the torrential meltwaters which can close the gorges in spring. Here the mud-brick is the same brilliant red as the soil, creating a striking contrast to the rich green crops.
Then we take the Tinjdad road east to the town of Erfoud. This road marks the start of the Route of the Qasbas, so-called because of the many fortified houses, or qasbas, which line its edges. Along the way we stop to view part of the 300-kilometre network of khettara (qanat) – subsurface irrigation channels which were excavated in the Tafilalt basin beginning in the late 14th century. More than 75 of these chains provided perennial water following the breakup of the ancient city of Sijilmassa. Khettara continued to function for much of the northern oasis until the early 1970s, when new technologies and government policies forced changes.
After lunch in Erfoud, we depart for Rissani, the capital of the province of Tafilalt and ancestral home of the ‘Alawi dynasty. Rissani lies alongside the ruins of the early Islamic town of Sijilmassa which controlled Moroccan trade with sub-Saharan Africa from the early 8th century until the 14th century. Sijilmassa’s vast ruins reflect the wealth of this medieval city, but by the 16th century it was no more than one of a number of fortified mud-brick villages (qsars). These mud-brick villages are composed of many small houses wedged together whose outer walls form a continuous outer rampart through which a single ornate portal provides access to the village. The modern town of Rissani itself, constructed this century, grew out of the largest set of local qsars.
The ‘Alawi dynasty’s founder Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif died a hero fighting the Portuguese in North Morocco. His tomb in Tafilalt became a local shrine, set amid date palms, irrigation canals and brilliant green qsar gardens. We shall visit the mausoleum of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif (gardens only) and the Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim, a restored 18th-century kasbah or fortified house. In Rissani’s Sunday market, we may view wandering traders, nomads, Berbers and Arab desert dwellers who come to sell all kinds of clothing, wares, plants, spices and vegetables, and animals.
We continue to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara, where we will spend the night. (Overnight Merzouga) BLD
Fes - 3 nights
Day 13: Monday 7 April, Merzouga – Midelt – Ifrane – Fes
- Dawn Camel Excursion (Optional)
After an optional dawn excursion to the sand dunes of Merzouga to watch the sunrise, we travel to Fes through the Middle Atlas mountains.
Midelt marks the start of one of the main routes through the eastern High Atlas mountains to the Sahara. This route was carved through the mountains by the Wad Ziz, a river which snakes south alongside the road. As we drive south the cedars and oaks of the north gradually give way to barren rock, clusters of date palms marking water sources, and finally the sand of the desert. We emerge from the mountains into the fertile Ziz Valley down which vast numbers of date palms stretch to the horizon like brilliant green rivers; dates are a Moroccan staple and one of the country’s major exports. From Midelt we will drive to Ifrane through some of Morocco’s most magnificent scenery in which broad high plains are framed everywhere by snow-capped mountains.
We shall pass through Ifrane, a small mountain town built by the French to escape the summer heat of the plains. The town is famous for its luscious gardens. Just outside Ifrane we drive through huge cedar forests, second only to those of Lebanon. These forests provided the wood to be carved into the magnificent decoration of Moroccan monuments. (Overnight Fes) BLD
Introduction to Fes
Fes is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and is still its historic religious and cultural centre. Fes is actually composed of three discrete entities: Fes al-Bali (old Fes), wedged into the narrow valley of the Wad Fes (River Fes); Fes al-Jadid (New Fes), originally a royal complex; and the Ville Nouvelle (New Town), the modern French-built section of the city.
Fes al-Bali, was founded by Idris I around 799. His son, Idris II made Fes his capital in 809 and its population was swelled by immigrants from other Arabo-Islamic lands. Fes soon became an important centre for religious scholarship, commerce and artisanship. Fes benefited from its position at the juncture of land trade routes to and from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic east.
The 11th-12th century Almoravid dynasty conquered North Morocco and incorporated Muslim Spain into its empire. Although the Almoravids founded Marrakesh as their capital in 1070, they also built mosques, baths, funduqs (multi-storey lodging houses for merchants and their wares), and fountains in Fes. Many Hispano-Muslim artisans moved to Fes to work on Almoravid buildings, which were renowned for their stuccowork decoration.
After 1154 the Almohads gave the city new walls which still define the limits of Fes al-Bali to the present day. The Qarawiyyin Mosque could now hold approximately 20,000 worshippers. The Qarawiyyin is quite different to Hispano-Muslim mosques and medieval European cathedral architecture for despite its vast size it hides within the narrow streets of the city and has no defined exterior or monumental façade.
In the 1240s the Marinid dynasty replaced the Almohads and fought against the Christians in Spain. Moroccan rulers henceforth dedicated themselves to holy war (jihad) against the aggressive Christians. Much of Fes’ exquisite architecture dates from the Marinid period (13th-15th century). They amalgamated Moroccan and Hispanic elements in a style subsequently known as ‘Andalusian’, which remains dominant in Fes and other Moroccan cities to this day. The Marinids built the royal complex of Fes al-Jadid which included palaces, mosques and residential quarters for the sultan’s troops. They commissioned a series of palaces and funduqs in Fes al-Bali and introduced the ‘madrasa’ or theological college to Morocco, constructing a series of wonderful madrasas in Fes. These madrasas have a central courtyard, a prayer hall, and several storeys of student rooms wrapped around the courtyard and prayer hall. They are all decorated in the distinctive registers of carved cedarwood, stuccowork, and mosaic tile, a hallmark of the Moroccan Andalusian style. The Marinids also created the shrine of Idris II.
In the 15th century Morocco broke up into small principalities ruled by strong men able to resist Spanish and Portuguese aggression. Fes’ cultural and commercial life was nevertheless enriched by Jewish and Hispano-Muslim migrants fleeing Spain. Fes consequently maintained its religious and cultural importance despite the 16th-century Sa’di dynasty’s choice of Marrakesh as their capital. The ‘Alawi sultans also recognised the importance of Fes and added palaces, fortifications and the Jewish quarter (mellah).
Day 14: Tuesday 8 April, Fes
- Burj al-Janub
- Palace and Andalusian Gardens of Fes, including the Jnane Sbil Garden (Bou Jeloud Garden)
- Dar al-Makhzen (Royal Palace), Fes al-Jadid (Exterior)
- Mellah, Jewish Quarter & Synagogue Ibn Danan
- Museum Dar Batha (to be confirmed in 2024)
- Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa
- Fine dining at Restaurant Nur
- Dinner at La Maison Bleue
We start today with a visit to the Burj al-Janub, or South Tower, which gives a panoramic view of Fes from the alternate side to the North Tower.
Fes was one of the first cities in the world to build a water distribution network which enabled it to develop the art of gardening. Today we explore some of the city’s palaces and Andalusian gardens.
The Royal Palace or Dar al-Makhzen is the palace of the King of Morocco in Fez. Its original foundation goes back to the establishment of Fes al-Jadid, the royal citadel of the Marinid dynasty, in 1276 CE. We view the gates decorated with elaborate mosaic tilework, carved cedar wood, and doors of gilt bronze.
Morocco’s first official mellah, or Jewish quarter, was established in Fez in 1438 in the shadow of the Royal Palace. The name mellah derives from a salt marsh or the Oued Mellah (Salt River) that runs under the palace. Afterwards, the name came to be associated by analogy with similar Jewish districts that were later created in other cities. The district’s main street is lined with homes with open balconies – a distinct architectural feature brought by the Jews expelled from Andalusia by Catholic monarchs, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Aragon. Since 1981, the mellah has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has gone through extensive restoration, including the synagogue Ibn Danan that we visit.
The 19th-century Jnane Sbil Park (formerly Bou Jeloud Gardens), covering an area of 7.5 hectares, underwent 4 years of extensive renovations which were completed in 2012. Renovations works included the rehabilitation of its old and ingenious hydraulic systems (including fountains, seguias, channels and norias), restoration of the central boulevard and bamboo garden, as well as the creation of the Garden of Scents. The Oued Fes (Fes river) and the Oued Jawahir (river of pearls) flowed through the garden; a water wheel remains as a reminder of how the medieval city provided power to its craftsmen and their workshops.
From Jnane Sbil Gardens we proceed through the vividly decorated Bab Bou Jeloud Gate to Fes al-Bali, unique in its maintenance of an urban plan dating to the ninth century. The narrowness of its steep, winding streets means that motor vehicles may not enter and donkeys, mules and handcarts still transport food and merchandise around the city. Many of the religious, domestic and commercial structures lining the streets date to the fourteenth century, providing a unique insight into the physical experience of living in a medieval city.
Then we visit the 14th-century Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa which served as residence for students at the great mosques of Fes rather than as teaching centres.
Midday we enjoy a special lunch at Restaurant Nur, which features New Moroccan Cuisine. Chef Najat Kaanache has worked around the world, including a stint at Spain’s famous El Bulli restaurant.
Finally we visit the Dar Batha Museum, a collection of antique Moroccan woodwork, marblework and other craftwork housed in a converted ‘Alawi palace. This museum contains the original carved wood doors of some of Fes’ madrasas and a marble doorway from the Sa’di palace in Marrakesh, along with many other artefacts which demonstrate Moroccan adaptation of Hispano-Muslim styles. The palace’s garden shaded with citrus trees and perfumed with orange blossom, red roses and sweet-scented jasmine, provided a serene escape from the bustling medina. Its layout is based on the principles of charbagh – a Persian-style garden where the quadrilateral layout is divided by walkways or flowing water that intersect at the garden’s centre. In Persian, char means ‘four’ and bagh means ‘garden’. This highly structured geometrical scheme, became a powerful metaphor for the organisation and domestication of the landscape, itself a symbol of political territory. The gardens were restored by landscape architect, Carey Duncan in 2005. Duncan worked with Cotecno and Architect Raffael Gorjux from Italy recreating the Andalusian Garden while keeping existing large trees, but replanting the undergrowth which was either bare or overtaken by weeds, and revitalising the existing planting.
Dinner tonight will be at La Maison Bleue, a traditional Moroccan residence built in 1915 by Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a judge and astronomer. (Overnight Fes) BLD
Day 15: Wednesday 9 April, Fes
- Al-Andalus Mosque
- ‘Attarin Madrasa
- Qarawiyyin Mosque (exterior)
- Shrine of Mawlay Idris II (exterior)
- Fondouk el-Nejjarine
- The Dyers’ Street
- The Tanneries
- Souqs of Fes
- Lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn
Today we explore the al-Andalus quarter; Marinid madrasas in the city; areas of artisanal production and the souqs, or markets.
The al-Andalus quarter lies on the eastern side of the Wad Fes, and has its own great mosque with a dramatic monumental gateway with a horseshoe arch. We descend to the river and cross to the Qarawiyyin quarter of the city to see the street of the dyers and the tanneries. Every morning, when the tanneries are at their most active, cascades of water pour through holes that were once the windows of houses. Here, hundreds of skins lie spread out on the rooftops to dry, while amid the vats of dye and pigeon dung tanners treat the hides. The rotation of colours in the honeycombed vats follows a traditional sequence – yellow (supposedly ‘saffron’, in fact turmeric), red (poppy), blue (indigo), green (mint) and black (antimony) – although vegetable dyes have largely been replaced by chemicals, to the detriment of workers’ health. This ‘innovation’ and the occasional rinsing machine aside, there can have been little change here since the sixteenth century, when Fes replaced Córdoba as the pre-eminent city of leather production.
We also visit the Qarawiyyin Mosque and the shrine of Mawlay Idris II. The two buildings form the sacred core of the city, and the prestigious markets for perfumes, spices and silk garments are located nearby adding pungency and fragrance to the air. Although non-Muslims may not enter these buildings, we can view their interiors through their gateways.
Then we visit the Fondouk el-Nejjarine, home to the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts which showcases the skill of woodcarvers and artists both in the embellishments of the building and the intricately decorated items on display. Various types of timber are used in Moroccan woodcarving, including oak, mahogany, acacia and cedar, with the latter being one of the most popular, most likely due to its availability in Morocco, particularly in the Middle Atlas regions, but also because of its durability, warm shades of colour and its texture which is particularly suited to carving. Declared a national monument in 1916, the funduq was originally built in the 18th century as a caravanserai (roadside inn) where travellers could rest before continuing their, sometimes arduous, journey. These buildings, which are found throughout Morocco, were typically built in a square or rectangular shape around an inner courtyard, usually with a fountain in the middle creating an oasis from the Moroccan heat.
During the day we break for lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn, a large Andalusian garden in the middle of the medina, scented by Isfahan roses, jasmine, orange blossom and bergamot. The gardens, surrounded by a former 20th-century summer palace, were redeveloped by Michel Biehn. Its quadrants are divided by mosaic paths, with tingling streams and fountains, and include flowers, aromatic herbs, fruits and vegetables. (Overnight Fes) BL
Chefchaouen - 1 night
Day 16: Thursday 10 April, Fes – Volubilis – Chefchaouen
- Roman Site of Volubilis: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Today we travel north from Fes to Chefchaouen via Volubilis. The Roman city of Volubilis was built in the 1st century BC on the site of earlier Prehistoric and Phoenician settlements when Morocco and Algeria were incorporated into the Roman Empire as the client kingdom of Mauretania. The kingdom was ruled by Juba II, the Roman-educated son of its vanquished Berber ruler. Juba II was a classmate of both Octavian and Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. When Octavian became Augustus, he married Juba II to Cleopatra Selene, and made them client rulers of Mauretania. They founded two capitals: Iol Caesarea in Eastern Algeria and Volubilis in Morocco. The wealth of Volubilis was based on local production of grain, olive oil and copper which were exported to the rest of the empire.
In 40 AD Caligula had Juba’s son, Ptolemy, assassinated. Mauretania went into revolt only to be formally annexed to Rome and made into the directly-governed province of Mauretania Tingitania. The wealth of Volubulis’ agricultural hinterland ensured its ongoing importance to the Romans. Despite the shrinking Roman presence in Morocco from the 3rd century onwards, Volubilis probably remained partly Romanised until the 7th century.
We visit the ruins of Volubilis, which is set in broad wheat bearing plains as it was in the Roman period. Its monuments include the well-preserved Basilica and Arch of Caracalla and there is a fine collection of very important Roman mosaic floors. We also explore the House of Orpheus, the Baths of Gallienus, the Forum, the Temple of Saturn and a number of houses. From Volubilis we travel north to Chefchaouen, a small town nestling in a deep, narrow valley at the western end of the Rif mountains, where we spend the night. (Overnight Chefchaouen) BLD
Tangier - 3 nights
Day 17: Friday 11 April, Chefchaouen – Tetouan – Tangier
- Old Town of Chefchaouen
- The Royal Artisan School, Tetouan (Dar Sanaa)
- Welcome Drinks in the private garden of Jean-Louis Riccardi with interior designer François Gilles, Tangier
This morning we explore the old town of Chefchaouen. ‘Chefchaouen’ is a Berber name, meaning ‘two horns’, which refers to two rocky peaks that dominate the town. The town was founded in the 15th century by a descendant of the Prophet, called Mawlay ‘Ali ibn Rashid, and refugees from Spain who sought to create a mountain stronghold where they would be safe at last from the Christians. Around 1760 Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah (Mohammed III) ordered the Jewish families to move into the medina, their mellah (walled Jewish quarter of a city) taking in the area that today encompasses the southern quarter between the qasba and Bab el Aïn. Until this century, Chefchaouen was completely closed to Europeans, who risked their lives if they tried to enter its gates.
The Hispanic origin of Chefchaouen’s inhabitants is clearly evident in the architecture of this little town which has much in common with villages of southern Spain. Small, whitewashed ochre houses with balconies, windows covered by ornate metal grilles, tiled roofs and Andalusian-style courtyards, pile up upon one another. Chefchaouen’s famous shades of blue arose when the Jews added indigo into the whitewash to contrast the mellah against the traditional green of Islam. The town’s stone-built Friday mosque resembles rural Spanish churches. The focus of town life is the central plaza where the inhabitants promenade in the balmy dusk air.
Midday we travel along the picturesque mountain road from Chefchaouen to Tangier. We break our journey in the city of Tetouan, situated on the slopes of the fertile Martil Valley. Tetouan, from the Berber word tit’ta’ouin means ‘springs’, which explains the greenery of the town, its many fountains, its flowering gardens and its surrounding fertile plains. The city was of particular importance from the 8th century onwards as it served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia. After the Spanish Reconquest, the town was rebuilt by Andalusian refugees who had been expelled by Isabella and Ferdinand (1492). This is reflected in its art and architecture, which reveal clear Andalusian influences.
Tetouan’s ancient walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site whose houses reflect a rich aristocratic tradition. Throughout Morocco we will find carpets, textiles and leather that are dyed with natural pigments that are derived from indigenous plants. Deftly woven carpets, expertly crafted leatherwork, intricately carved woodwork, superbly tooled metal work, colourful tiles and exquisite ceramics are all to be found in Tetouan. We visit Dar Sanaa, the Royal Artisan School where local children are apprenticed to masters for 4 years of intense training in traditional artisan work.
In the afternoon we continue our journey north to reach Tangier. Tangier is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Morocco. Founded by the Phoenicians (c.1100 BC) it was subsequently incorporated into the Roman Empire as Tingis, capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitania. With Rome’s decline (4th century AD) it became the only surviving Roman town of any consequence in Morocco. Temporarily lost during the Vandal invasions, Tingis was recaptured by the Byzantines in the 6th century.
In the late 7th century, Tingis was captured by Muslim armies and transformed into the garrison and port of Tangier. It served as a stepping-stone for Muslim attacks on the Iberian peninsula (Spain & Portugal). When the Castilians and Portuguese eventually reconquered Iberia and began attacking north Africa, Tangier became a regular victim of Portuguese raids and was finally captured late in the 15th century. The Portuguese monarchy ceded it to Britain in the 17th century as part of the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. But the expense of retaining Tangier against constant Muslim attacks persuaded the British to withdraw in 1684 and Tangier again became a Muslim city. Morocco’s ‘Alawi dynastly added new defences and a qasba and Tangier became a small port trading with Cadiz and other Spanish ports. In the 19th century, Tangier became the ‘City of the Consuls’, the residence of European diplomats and it became an ‘international zone’ in the early 20th century during the French Protectorate. Tangier gained a shady reputation for espionage, prostitution and drug-smuggling. Since Independence in 1956 the city has been gradually re-integrated into the Moroccan cultural mainstream, although it still has a large expatriate community, especially of writers, artists and gardeners.
This evening we enjoy welcome drinks with François Gilles. François is a London-based interior designer who has been sourcing Moroccan textiles for over 30 years. We enjoyed welcome drinks in the garden of French interior designer Jean-Louis Riccardi. Located on the cliffs facing the Strait of Gibraltar, the garden is home to a myriad trees and plants creating an incredible natural setting. The owner wanted to pay tribute to his good friend Madeleine Castaing through the garden. He worked with the great interior designer for 5 years and she even helped him plant the first flowers here. Most of the plants in the garden are wild and grow on their own. We return to our hotel for our evening meal. (Overnight Tangier) BLD
Day 18: Saturday 12 April, Tangier
- Cape Malabata
- American Legation
- Palace Moulay Hafid, Mersha
- Lunch at the Hôtel Nord-Pinus
- Dar Al Makhzan Museum
- Private garden of Villa Mabrouka (to be confirmed in 2024)
When, in 1923, Tangier was declared an international zone the city began to attract artists, poets, and philosophers, much as the Côte d’Azur did on the other side of the Mediterranean. Henri Matisse, William S. Burroughs, Jean Genet, Paul and Jane Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Patricia Highsmith and Allen Ginsberg were all inspired by Tangier. Foreign residents, many of them artists, today own some of its most stylish homes including American painter Elena Prentice, the Italian interior designer Roberto Peregalli and the American garden designer Madison Cox. “It is alarming,” Truman Capote wrote, “the number of travellers who have landed here on a brief holiday, then settled down and let the years go by”.
In the company of François Gilles, we begin the day at Cape Malabata, located 6 miles east of Tangier, for a morning view (with the sun behind us) of the Strait of Gibraltar.
Returning to the heart of Tangier, we take a short tour through the old town where traces of Tangier’s intimate relations with Europe abound. Many consular buildings, such as the American Legation, dot its narrow streets and its architectural styles bear witness to ongoing northern Mediterranean influence.
The American legation is an elaborate Moorish-style building of stuccoed masonry. This complex structure contains the two storey mud and stone building presented to the United States in 1821 by Sultan Moulay Suliman. The first property acquired abroad by the United States government, it housed the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years, the longest period any building abroad has been occupied as a United States diplomatic post.
Today it is the Tangier American Institute for Moroccan Studies, a museum and cultural centre for the study of Morocco and Morocco-United States relations. The museum holds an impressive display of paintings that give a view of the Tangerine past through the eyes of its artists, most notably Scotsman James McBey, whose hypnotic painting of his servant girl, Zohra, has been called the Moroccan Mona Lisa. There is also a wing dedicated to the expatriate writer and composer Paul Bowles.
We then visit the renovated Palace Moulay Hafid, considered the most beautiful historical monument in Tangier. Also known as the ‘Palace of Italian institutions’, Moulay Hafid’s palace is today admired for its beautiful garden with old trees, its large patio with a gorgeous marble fountain and stucco salons.
This palace was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Sultan Moulay Hafid. He wanted his palace to be a masterpiece of Moorish architecture also known for its beautiful gardens. The namesake of the palace, the sultan, never lived in his grand palace as he was forced into exile in France upon signing the treaty of Fez on 30 March 1912. This treaty would see Morocco become a French protectorate, and Moulay Hafid’s abdication and forced exile to France. The sultan did however demand the completion of this palace as a condition of his signing the deed of protectorate and construction was completed in late 1912.
Following lunch at Hôtel Nord-Pinus, a renovated pasha’s palace overlooking Tangier’s old port, we visit the Dar Al Makhzan Museum of Moroccan Arts located in the ‘Alawi governor’s residence and its Andalusian garden.
Villa Mabrouka owned by British designer Jasper Conran OBE has a fascinating and illustrious past; it was once home to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Built in the 1940’s, incorporating both modernist and traditional Moroccan architecture, it is a haven of privacy set in a lush expansive landscape within close walking distance of the ancient bustling kasbah. The renowned landscape designer, Madison Cox, laid out the garden with towering palms, citrus trees, vines, hydrangea and bougainvillea. Terraces are deftly positioned to give breath-taking views across the straits of Gibraltar. Within the grounds is a magnificent pool carved out of the mountain rock and filled by a cascading waterfall. (Overnight Tangier) BL
Day 19: Sunday 13 April, Tangier
We spend another day with François Gilles and begin with a drive to Cape Spartel which lies 14 kilometres west of Tangier. This is the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast. Our dramatic journey continues over the pine-covered headland to La Montagne.
In the Nouvelle-Montagne we visit the stunning residence and garden of Umberto Pasti, a well-known Italian novelist and horticulturalist. Pasti’s garden is a magical labyrinth of narrow paths, alleyways and walled enclosures. Plants of eucalyptus, palms and bitter orange trees provide peaceful shade from the burning rays of the Moroccan sun. Lush vegetation, fountains and frog song are the only sign of life in this world of tranquility.
Then we visit the recently opened Donabo Botanical Gardens, which offers sweeping views across the sea to Spain. It is the very first Botanical Gardens in Tangier. Its name Donabo comes from the Latin verb donare which means “to give”. Conceived by Malika El Alaoui, granddaughter of Tangier Princess Lalla Fatima Zahra, and designed together with British artist Paul Belvoir, Donabo takes the visitors through the tradition of the art of the garden in a journey through ten successive gardens – each with its own distinctive personality, purpose and scent – housed within the broader garden. We are gradually introduced to the plants, from the Moroccan garden that celebrates the tradition of tea to the labyrinth of mints where multiple varieties blend their fragrances along the alleys, from the delicate rose garden thriving in the cool shade to the Chinese garden revealing its ancestral symbols, from the pollinator garden whose flowers attract bees to the garden of peppers to the vegetable garden.
We finish the day with a visit to the garden of award-winning French photographer Daniel Aron, known for his visuals of the Hermes brand and work for Harper’s Bazaar (USA), Vogue (France), House and Garden (USA) and Elle (France). Attached to his residence is La Fondation pour la Photographie dedicated to contemporary Moroccan photographers. (Overnight Tangier) BL
Rabat - 1 night
Day 20: Monday 14 April, Tangier – Rabat
- Oudayah Kasbah, Rabat
- Hassan Tower
- Marinid Necropolis of Chellah (To be confirmed)
- Farewell dinner at Riad Kalaa
This morning we drive to the imperial city of Rabat, capital of Morocco today. Rabat is situated on the southern bank of the Bu Regreg River, across from the town of Salé. A Roman town existed in the vicinity but modern Rabat is a Muslim foundation. The name ‘Rabat’ comes from the Arabic word ribat, which means a fort on the Islamic frontier, usually manned by Muslims as a religious duty. Such a fort existed on the site of modern Rabat by the 10th century. Rabat’s earliest monuments built after the Romans, however, date from the Almohad period (1147-1248). The Almohads expanded the settlement by building a qasba (kasbah), or fortress, during the reign of ‘Abd al-Mu’min, the second leader of the Almohad movement. ‘Abd al-Mu’min’s grandson, Ya’qub al-Mansur, transformed Rabat into his capital by constructing a six-kilometre defensive wall around the town, and initiating the construction of the huge Hassan Mosque.
We enjoy lunch at a seafood restaurant in Salé overlooking the newly built Grand Théâtre de Rabat designed by the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) with its fluid sculptural form inspired by the Bu Regreg River.
After lunch we visit the Oudaya Kasbah with its beautiful Andalusian garden and the Hassan Mosque. All that remains of the Hassan Mosque is a series of huge columns from its hypostyle prayer hall and the huge Hassan Tower, originally the mosque’s minaret. The vast size of the Hassan Mosque gives a measure of the ambition of its founder, the Almohad Caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; when he died, the mosque, which would have been the largest in the world, was never completed. The minaret (1195-1196), stands to the north of the mosque’s forecourt on an axis with its mihrab in order to emphasise the mosque’s orientation. It was meant to be one of the highest minarets in the world, although its upper section was never built. The Hassan Tower, with the beautiful decorative screen-work on its upper façade, provided the model for the Giralda of Seville and the minaret of the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh. The mausoleum of Muhammad V, an example of modern Moroccan architecture, is located at the south end of the Hassan Mosque site.
We then visit the Chellah, a medieval fortified necropolis built on the ruins of the Roman town. Inside are beautifully landscaped gardens with hundreds of flowers that come into bloom during springtime. The result is an amazing variety of scents. We may also view Roman ruins and the remains of a small mosque and madrasa.
Tonight we enjoy our farewell dinner at the charming Riad Kalaa. (Overnight Rabat) BLD
Day 21: Tuesday 15 April, Rabat – Casablanca, Tour Ends.
- Transfer from Rabat to Casablanca Airport
After breakfast we transfer to Casablanca airport where our tour officially ends at approximately 11.30am. B