Turkey & Morocco

Explore Istanbul, discover the amazing rock churches of Cappadocia, Morocco's Imperial cities, Berber cultures and the ancient ruined city of Ephesus.

Country Information

Turkey

Morocco

Turkey & Morocco Enrichment Series

(Countries Visited)

Turkey

,

Morocco


(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel


(Tour Length)

20 Days


Tour Highlights

Starting at: $16,390
  • Explore ancient Istanbul, known as the place where Europe and Asia meet   New graphic sm
  • Investigate Cappadocia with its estimated 3,000 rock churches; most of those in Goreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries
  • Encounter the ancient Ionian city of Ephesus, which dates from the 1st century B.C. and home to the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
  • Discover the ancient Imperial cities and Berber culture of Morocco – Rabat, Meknes, Fes and Marrakesh
  • Ride a camel to the top of to Erg Chebbi, the highest dunes in Morocco’s Sahara, for an amazing sunset that color the sands from gold to purple

Day 1:  Arrive Istanbul, Turkey
Welcome to Turkey!  Upon arrival at Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport you will be met and privately transferred to your hotel.  Although it is not the capital, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the leading industrial, commercial and cultural center.  It spreads on both sides of the beautiful Bosphorus, which was naturally formed many centuries ago as the sea water occupied the deep and narrow valley.  The Bosphorus connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, and is known as the place where Europe and Asia meet.  Istanbul has been the capital for three empires.  Originally called Byzantium, the city was renamed Constantinople in A.D. 330 by Emperor Constantine, who chose it as the site of the capital of the Byzantine Empire.  Today, Istanbul is a multifaceted city of ethereal minarets, monumental mosque domes and a wealth of historic sites as well as all the signs of modern life from high-rise buildings to cell phones.  Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet – Premier Room

Day 2:  Istanbul
After breakfast, you will have a full-day city tour of Istanbul.  The first stop is at the famous Hagia Sophia (closed on Mondays), which occupies a prominent place in the history of art and architecture.  It is one of the rare works of this size and age that has survived over the centuries.  The church is erroneously known as Saint Sophia in the west.  The basilica was actually dedicated to divine wisdom.  Explore the captivating Underground Cistern (The Basilica Cistern).  It is thought to have been built after the Nika Revolt in 532 AD.  It was known as the Basilica Cistern during the Roman Period, as there was once a Stoa Basilica above the pre-existing site.  After the conquest of the city by the Ottoman Turks, it was forgotten until rediscovered in 1545.  Today it has a rather eerie and mystical ambiance.  When the city was first founded, the acropolis was a typical Mediterranean trading center surrounded by city walls.  The Hippodrome was built by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus towards the end of the 2nd century.  The Blue Mosque,  just opposite Hagia Sophia, is one of the most prominent landmarks of Istanbul, and is quite impressive with its domes and semi-domes, courtyards and six slender minarets.  Construction began in 1609 and was completed in 1616.  Topkapı Palace, which in 1924 was turned into a museum, is situated on the acropolis, the site of the first settlement in Istanbul.  It commands an impressive view of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara.  The palace complex is surrounded by five kilometers of walls and occupies an area of 700,000 square meters at the tip of the historical peninsula.  On to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, a 540-year-old covered shopping mall of 64 streets, 4000 shops, 22 entrances and 25,000 workers.  It sells a plethora of items to bargain for, including Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, apparel made of leather, cotton and wool, meerschaum pipes and alabaster bookends.  Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet – Premier Room (B,L)

Day 3:  Istanbul
Today you continue your discovery of ancient Istanbul by first visiting the Egyptian Bazaar, famous for selling the best spices in Turkey such as saffron, mint, cinnamon, natural henna color for the hair and several varieties of pepper.  Then take in Dolmabahce Palace (closed Mondays & Thursdays), built in 19th century.  It was the administrative center for the late Ottoman Empire.  Enjoy an excursion by boat to see the Bosphorus, and head up Istanbul's winding straits to admire the shoreline dotted with mosques, lavish palaces and elegant villas.  You will pass by Beylerbeyi Palace, another Ottoman summer mansion and Ortakoy Mosque, the defensive Rumeli Fortress and Bosphorus Bridge - one of the world's largest suspension bridges.  You cruise alongside fishing boats, yachts, huge cargo ships and tankers.  Please note that while other people will be on the cruise, your private guide will accompany you.  After your cruise, you tour the small but ornate imperial Beylerbeyi Palace, dating from mid-19th century (closed Mondays and Thursdays).  The palace was often used as a guest house for visiting royalty.  Camlica Hill offers panoramic views of the city and has a small teahouse in the midst of the pine grove.  Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet – Premier Room (B,L)

Day 4:  Istanbul / Kayseri / Cappadocia
This morning, you fly to Kayseri, where you will be transferred to your hotel in Cappadocia.  The region known as Cappadocia includes the centers of Urgup, Goreme, Avanos, Uchisar, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara.  It is a stunning area of other-worldly rock formations, subterranean churches and underground dwellings.  Cappadocia was a refuge for the early Christians, who escaped persecution by living and worshipping underground.  There are an estimated 3,000 rock churches in this region.  The village of Göreme is at the heart of the area's tourist industry, and many of its villagers still live in cave dwellings.  Some have been converted into pensions.  Surrounding the area are the amazing rock formations known evocatively as 'Fairy Chimneys'.  The area is also famous for its carpet-weaving, wines and the distinctive red pottery of the Avanos area.  You check into your enchanting hotel, Anatolian Houses, in the heart of Cappadocia.  Anatolian Houses promises luxurious hotel services within cave formations, which are part of Cappadocia's historical structure.  After settling in, you investigate Zelve Open Air Museum, once housing one of the largest communities in the region, is an incredible cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, both religious and secular chambers.  Anatolian Houses – Standard Suite (B,D)

Day 5:  Cappadocia
Today you explore the more of the Cappadocia region.  Visit the Open Air Museum of Goreme (closed on Mondays), which resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church.  The area covered by this Open Air Museum forms a coherent geographical entity and represents historical unity.  There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches.  Each is associated with a church.  Most of the churches in Goreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.  Then you will visit the Dark Church.  The entrance is from the north through a winding tunnel which opens into a barrel-vaulted narthex.  This church dates to the end of the 12th century.  The Snake Church has a linear plan, consisting of two chambers, and boasts frescoes dating to the 11th century.  Your next stop is the Apple Church, one of the most prominent buildings in the area with its vivid colors, four columns and a central dome with more frescoes from the 11th and 12th centuries.  You will continue to the Buckle Church, a complex of four main chambers, and contains some of the most important samples of paintings that spans various periods.  Departing the Goreme Open Air Museum, visit Uchisar, a natural rock citadel that is the tallest point in the area and is visible for a great distance.  The underground city of Kaymaklı encompasses troglodyte cave-cities that were excavated as early as the Hittite era, which reached its height in the 14th century B.C.  They were expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder.  There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia.  Finally, you stop at Avanos, a center for terracotta art since 3,000 B.C., to watch a demonstration in a pottery workshop, and a carpet-weaving workshop before returning to your hotel.  Anatolian Houses – Standard Suite (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Cappadocia / Kayseri / Istanbul / Izmir
This morning, you transfer to the airport in Kayseri for your departing flight to Izmir via Istanbul.  Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel where the remainder of the day is at leisure.  Izmir is the city which is home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  On the Aegean Coast in western Turkey, the city has managed to modernize while preserving its priceless archaeological and historical treasures.  Izmir is an important port and trade center.  It features thermal spas, the deep blue sea, and sandy beaches.  Swissotel Gran Efes – Swiss Advantage Room (B)

Day 7:  Izmir – Ephesus
Today discover the ancient Ionian city of Ephesus, which dates from the 1st century B.C.  Near the Aegean Sea, this was one of the great cities of the Greeks in Asia Minor and home to the Temple of Artemis, also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  It is a sacred site for Christians for its association with several biblical figures, including St. Paul, St. John the Evangelist and the Virgin Mary.  On the way to Ephesus, you stop at the house of the Virgin Mary, where she supposedly spent her later days.  The Vatican has recognized this small house in the Solmissos Mountains (Bulbul Mountain) as the final resting place of the Virgin Mary.  A small shrine dedicated to St. Mary was found when the ruins of the house were first discovered.  In Ephesus you have the chance to see spectacular ruins, some of which have recently been excavated.  Enter through the Magnesia Gate walk with your guide into the ruins of this Roman provincial capital.  Your route takes you past the Odeon, the Bouleterion, the Fountain of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian, the Brothel, the Celsus Library, the Agoras, the Roman Baths, the Gymnasiums and the Great Theatre.  The theater had seating for 25,000, and is where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians.  After lunch, tour  the archaeological museum, a small museum in Selcuk that boasts an incredible collection of Hellenistic and Roman statues, carved reliefs and artifacts unearthed from the ruins of Ephesus.  The Temple of Artemis was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401.  The next stop is the Basilica of St. John, now in ruins, built over the tomb of St. John the Apostle.  It once rivaled St. Sophia in size and you still see graceful columns, mosaics and frescoes.  Swissotel Gran Efes – Swiss Advantage Room (B,L)

Day 8:  Izmir / Bodrum
This morning, drive to Bodrum where you will check into your hotel, an oasis by the sea.  Take time to enjoy a treatment at the luxurious Six Senses Spa; lose yourself on the hotel’s private beach; or discover 3,000 years of history.  Bodrum is known for its climate, sea, natural beauty and active nightlife.  Bodrum, known in antiquity as Halircarnasus, has been influenced by many cultures over the centuries including Carian, Leleges, Persian, Dorian, Helen, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman.  Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 9:  Bodrum
Today is at your leisure to relax on the beach or the pool, and enjoy the fine amenities of your resort hotel.  Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay – Deluxe Room (B)

Day 10:  Bodrum / Istanbul / Casablanca, Morocco / Rabat
Early this morning you fly to Istanbul, where you connect with your flight to Casablanca, Morocco.  Casablanca is a gleaming white city on the north coast where Morocco’s international personality mixes with European influences.  Here, you see the contrasts between traditional and modern themes as you walk through the old and new medinas.  Originally a Carthaginian stronghold, it is now the second-largest city in Africa, after Cairo.  After clearing customs and immigration at Casablanca’s airport you are met by your private licensed national guide and driver, and are driven to Rabat, where you will check into your riad, the Villa Mandarine, and enjoy lunch.  This charming villa has been renovated to preserve its original Hispano-Mauresque and Mediterranean authenticity.  It sits among six acres with 700 orange trees, a blaze of flowers and lush vegetation creating an atmosphere of complete serenity.  Rabat is the setting for the Royal Palace of his Majesty Mohammed VI.  It is the seat of the government.  It boasts the biggest university in the country and the city abounds with shops, bookstores, cinemas and theaters.  Take in the romantic gardens of the ancient Chellah Necropolis.  Then see the Mohammed V Mausoleum, and the marble columns of the unfinished Hassan Tower.  Wander the maze of streets that make up the Oudaias Kasbah, you will notice how Islamic arts blend well with the modern city.  Overlooking the bay, you see the superb white medina of Sale-Sala Al Jadida, a treasure house of fine artwork.  Villa Mandarine – Deluxe Room (B,L)

Day 11:  Rabat / Meknes / Volubilis / Fes
Travel to the city of Meknes, one of Morocco’s four Imperial cities.  Its medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Meknes was chosen by the Sultan Moulay Ismaïl in 1672 to be the capital of his empire.  It sits on a plateau serving as a virtual cross road for the South-North camel caravan traders and settlers.  Throughout its history, the city’s importance grew out of that strategic location as well as good weather, abundant water and fertile plains.  The city's unity of style lends to it undeniable charm, enhanced by the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  Explore some of its 40 kilometers of ramparts and monumental gates such as the Bab Mansour.  From here you continue to the El Heri es-Souani, the granary of huge vaulted structures and stables.  You will then visit the Christians’ Prison, the splendid Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, the Place el-Hedim and the Dar Jamai Museum.  Travel to Volubilis, a city of ancient olive presses, mansions, incredible mosaics, monumental arches and Corinthian columns, where you gain a sense of Roman lifestyle and of the subsequent medieval Berber town.  The site features the mansion containing the mosaic of the Labors of Hercules, the baths of Gallienus and baths of Forum with fragmented mosaics.  Other sites include the House of Orpheus, the Cortege of Venus, the Gordian Palace, the House of the Wild Beast, the House of Nymphs, the House of the Seasons, and the House of Flavius Germanus.  Enjoy a light lunch overlooking the ruins.  Drive to Fes, where you will check into your luxury riad.  The Riad Maison Bleue is among the best places to enjoy traditional riad-style property.  The riad was built in 1915 as the family manor of the eminent Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, an illustrious judge and astrologer of his day.  Riad Maison Bleue – Suite (B,L,D)

Day 12:  Fes
The fascinating Fes is 2,000 years old, and is another of Morocco’s four Imperial cities.  It is surrounded by nine miles of ramparts situated in a narrow valley, strategically positioned on the old caravan crossroads.  This once connected the Saharan empires with the Atlantic and Mediterranean trading routes to Europe.  Fes was once, after Mecca and Medina, held to be one of the holiest cities in the Islamic world.  Moroccans say that Marrakech, Rabat and Casablanca live in the present, but that Fes lives in the past.  European chroniclers of the Middle Ages wrote with awe of this city that for several centuries was the most civilized Western outpost of the Semitic world.  With its two hundred mosques and holy shrines, Fes contains more places of worship than any other city in Morocco.  At its peak, early in the 13th century, Fes el-Bali alone boasted almost eight hundred mosques and mausoleums for its 125,000 inhabitants.  By the seventeenth century, however, the Scottish traveler William Lithgow reported that places of worship were far outstripped by some twelve thousand licensed brothels.  With ancient ramparts set against a backdrop of the Middle Atlas Mountains, you and your guide will amble through the bustling maze of alleyways.  The medina and souks offer every possible combination of pottery, Berber carpets, Fassi brassware, Jewish-originated silverware, traditional and modern jewelry, beautiful leather goods all amidst the pungent aromas of spices, herbs and oils.  First you will visit the impressive Dar el Makhzen and a brief stop at the Royal Palace with its seven magnificent bronze gates.  From here you walk through the Mellah with its intense atmosphere and fine examples of Mauro-Hispanic architecture.  Drive to the Borj Sud for panoramic views of the medina.  Then, begin your walking tour of the labyrinth of the ancient Fes Medina.  Here you will see the Bou Inania Mosque and Medersa, and the Maimonides’ clock.  Walk by the colorful es-Sabbaghine with its Street of the Dyers and see the brass workers at es-Saffarine.  You will see the exterior of the impressive al-Quarawiyyin Mosque and University and el-Atterine Medersa, passing the aromatic Souq el-Atterine area of spices and groceries.  Continue to the delightful el-Nejjarine Square with its fountain and Woodworkers' Museum, stopping nearby for a light lunch.  You will then go to the renowned tanneries on the bank of the Oued Fes; then see the potteries, perfumes and beauty products at the Souq el-Henna.  Leaving the medina from the Bab Boujloud, you tour the magnificent ramparts with its beautiful ‘Babs’ as you make your way to the 16th century Saadien watchtower at the North Borj.  Finally you will visit the Dar Batha Museum with its collection of carpets and woodwork.  Riad Maison Bleue – Suite (B,L)

Day 13:  Fes / Midelt / Erfoud / Merzouga / Erg Chebbi
After breakfast, you’ll set out on an excursion into the Sahara Desert.  Driving south through the cedar forests and beautiful scenery of the Middle Atlas Mountains, you stop for a light lunch in the mountains at the Berber town of Midelt.  Continuing south through the dramatic Ziz Valley, you arrive at the desert town of Erfoud, situated at the beginning of the impressive sand dunes of the Sahara Desert.  Almost one million palm trees grow in the region, so it is not surprising that the date should be its symbol.  Erfoud is also one of the largest oasis in Morocco and is the departure point for visits to Merzouga, where you can see a desert erg, the great dunes of the Sahara.  Change to an air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle to continue to the Hotel Auberge Du Sud.  Then, you climb onto the back of a camel – the “Ship of the Desert” – on a ride that takes you up to Erg Chebbi, the highest dunes in Morocco’s Sahara, for an amazing sunset that color the sands from gold to purple.  At nightfall, a canopy of stars looks as though you could reach out and grab them.  Enjoy a Moroccan dinner around the camp fire accompanied by ethnic musicians and a dancer.  Auberge Du Sud – Nomads’ Tent Bivouac (B,L,D)

Day 14:  Erg Chebbi / Merzouga / Dades Valley / Todra Gorges / Tinehrir / Skoura / Ouarzazate
After a brilliant sunrise, relish your Bedouin breakfast of tea, ‘sand’ bread, jam, and cheese.  Return via camel to the Hotel Auberge du Sud in Merzouga where you will board your 4x4 for your journey to Erfoud and your original vehicle.  Then, head westward through route of 1,000 Kasbahs in the Dadès Valley.  You enter the fabulous Todra Gorges and have lunch at the town of Tinehrir, at the mouth of the Gorges.  Travel on into the Dades Gorges and on to the luxurious Skoura Oasis, with its postcard perfect colors of red earth, yellow dust, green oasis and a brilliant blue sky.  Encounter the magnificent 17th century Kasbahs, the most beautiful of these being the living museum of Amerhidl.  With its towers and fine decorations, the Kasbah could serve a movie set.  Continue on Ouarzazate for dinner and  overnight.  Designed as a typical, walled Berber-styled Kasbah, built in 1992, Le Berbere Palace, the best hotel in Ouarzazate, is set amidst 11 hectares of beautiful gardens and is just a short walk down the hill to the city center.  Le Berbere Palace – Deluxe Room (B,L,D)

Day 15:  Ouarzazate / Taourirt / Tiffoultoute / Ksar Ait Benhaddou / Marrakech
After breakfast this morning, you briefly visit the Kasbah of Taourirt.  This Kasbah once belonged to El Haj T’hami el Mezouari el Glaoui, who played a vital role in uniting all of Morocco, but is still viewed as a traitor and collaborator by most Moroccans.  You then visit the Kasbah of Tiffoultoute.  An old fortress whose rooftops offer a magnificent panoramic view of the valley, the Kasbah was built on the upper reaches of an adobe village.  Here you can climb the terrace for breathtaking panoramic views.  This Kasbah was actually transformed into a hotel during the filming of Lawrence of Arabia in 1962.  The final leg of your voyage of discovery of Morocco’s multifaceted south takes you to the final Ksar Aït Ben Haddou, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and backdrop to many Hollywood films.  Visit different Berber and Jewish Kasbahs so closely-knit that they appear to be one complete building, backed up against the looming mountain.  After lunch, continue to Marrakech and your hotel in the medina.  The spacious boutique town house, Riad El Fenn, was once a palace in ruins, but it has been carefully and artistically renovated to make it more spacious and modern than most other riads.  The air conditioned guest rooms in five interconnected houses are furnished to a high standard with locally-sourced 1950s furniture and locally produced sumptuous textiles.  The best suites have their own plunge pool and private terrace with wonderful views across the old city.  There are quiet areas for yoga, cool courtyards where trays of mint tea and cake appear every afternoon and a family of tortoises amble beneath bougainvillea tumbling down the walls and a home cinema screening room for watching DVDs.  After checking in, you will set out on a brief familiarization excursion of this cosmopolitan city in a horse-drawn carriage to see the famous ramparts and monuments of this garden city including the delightful Majorelle Gardens and Museum belonging to the late fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent.  Returning to your riad, you can dine at the restaurant, which is supplied daily by fresh local ingredients from its own organic garden, either outside in the courtyard or on the roof terrace overlooking the ancient city with the High Atlas Mountains as a backdrop.  Riad El Fenn – Colonnade Room (B,L,D)

Day 16:  Marrakech
After a leisurely breakfast, you set out into the Kasbah and Mellah (once the Jewish Quarter) to the lavishly-decorated Saadien Tombs.  This is the ancient cemetery of the shorfa, the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.  Here you see the Prayer Hall with its horseshoe arches, the tombs of the Alaouite princes from the 18th century and a large tomb of the Black Sultan.  Walk through the Hall of Twelve Columns and the central mausoleum of Ahmed el Mansour.  There are 33 other tombs of Saadien princes.  The late 19th-century Dar el Bahia Palace built by craftsmen from Fes for the black slave Si' Ahmed Ben Musa (or Bou Ahmed).  The attractive, Harem Courtyard has been featured in many movies.  The Dar Si Said Museum was a palace built by Mehdi Mnebhi (1894-1908), Moroccan ambassador to London.  Restored in 1997, it now houses both traditional and contemporary exhibitions of Moroccan arts and sculpture.  The Bert Flint Museum is housed in a riad constructed at the turn of the twentieth century in Hispano-Mauresque style.  Flint, a Dutch anthropologist and art historian, displays his excellent collection of costumes, jewelry, weaponry, basketwork, musical instruments, Moroccan art, artifacts, carpets and furniture collected over a period of 50 years as he traveled along the Gold Road from the Atlas Mountains to Timbuktu.  You continue into the medina to the 14th-century Ben Youssef Medersa, one of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakech that housed the Islamic equivalent of a monastery.  See the Almoravid Dynasty Koubba, the oldest building in Marrakech and the only Almoravid building to remain standing in Morocco.  Probably an annex for the Ben Youssef Mosque for centuries, it was covered over amid the many reconstructions of the mosque.  This little building is significant not only because it's very old, but because its style is at the root of all Moroccan architecture.  The next stop is the Marrakech Museum of Art and on into the labyrinth of narrow covered alleyways of the famous souqs, finishing your journey with a lunch overlooking the Djmaa el Fnaa Square.  Back at your riad, you may opt to simply relax in the late afternoon or choose to further explore the city.  Late this evening, you can enjoy tea and pastries in the Cafe De France, which overlooks Djmaa El Fnaa Square.  At night the plaza comes alive with a complex series of circles of people.  Each circle, or halqah, is formed by crowds of individuals whose attention is fixed on whatever snake charmer, acrobat or storyteller has caught their eye.  It is an endlessly fascinating spectacle to watch.  Riad El Fenn – Colonnade Room (B,L)

Day 17:  Marrakech
This morning, you participate in a memorable lesson in the art of traditional Moroccan cuisine with your Berber hostess in her authentic home just outside of Marrakech.  You gain insight into real Berber life, culture and traditions during this hands-on cultural connection.  Your national guide escorts you to the Cafe De France in the Djmaa El FnaaSquare to meet your hostess, Nezha, who takes you into the ancient Mellah, and, away from the tourist souks.  She will help you pick spices to be included in your lesson while she describes their diversity and importance to each traditional dish, from paprika, cardamom, fennel curry, anise, saffron, and orange oil.  From here, you select the vegetables, fish, lamb and/or poultry, couscous and sheets of pastilla for the meal you have selected.  After short drive to her village of Tougouna, begin your lesson in the preparation of the meal, which will include a starter such as seasoned Baba Ghanoush (brazed eggplant topped with tomatoes) eaten as a dip with khoubz - home-baked Berber bread with olive oil pressed from the trees in her garden.  The main meal may be couscous of beef, lamb or fish, or the classic dish of seven vegetables; Tagines of beef, lamb or chicken with pickled lemon and/or with apricots and dates flavored with spices.  You learn how to pour tea, such as mint or verbena tea, with fresh mint picked from her garden.  Then, you settle in to enjoy your meal together.  You will leave with recipes to take home.  Before you return to your riad in Marrakech late in the afternoon, you might wish to accompany Nezha on a stroll around her village to meet some of the residents, another unique opportunity not to be missed, to see the local bakery and small shops carrying out their daily trade as they exchange gossip.  The evening is at leisure to go where you will within the city, accompanied by your driver and guide.  Riad El Fenn – Colonnade Room (B,L)

Day 18:  Marrakech / Essaouira
After a leisurely breakfast, travel west to Essaouira on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean where you will check into an authentic late 17th-century graceful riad, a former palace.  Recent renovations took four years to complete.  It is in the heart of Essaouira’s medina just a short walk from the main Moulay Hassan Square, the Othello Gardens, a scenic harbor and sandy beaches.  Here you savor a luxurious combination of traditional design, modern conveniences and refined hospitality.  With tiled and marble floors throughout, the 10 suites (all no smoking) each enjoys different decoration, all with private bathroom/shower, balcony, flat screen TV and free minibar.  The remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy Essaouira, which was the ancient Phoenician town of Mogador.  It was abandoned by the Portuguese in 1541, and not until 1765 was Mogador transformed into a fortified city by the Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohammad Ibn Abdullah.  The ramparts were never that effective in keeping out the marauding tribesmen, and now it is a charming artists’ town with its old port and cannons overlooking the fishing fleet.  Essaouira invites you to wander through the narrow alleyways of the medina, to witness artisans at work making their wooden tables, boxes and sundry items in lemon or briar wood inlaid with mother of pearl.  Purple dyes produced by the crushed shellfish were exported from the offshore Purple Islands by the conquering Romans to color the togas of the rich back home.  Riad Mumtaz Mahal – Suite (B)

Day 19:  Essaouira / Safi / El Oualidia / El Jadida / Azemmour / Casablanca
After breakfast today, you set off up north along the Atlantic coastline to stop first at Safi, known also as Little Jerusalem.  Safi boasts of having the first Muslim Mosque in the kingdom, as well as Portuguese buildings dating back more than five centuries.  The world-renowned Safi pottery pieces elaborately trimmed with tooled silver overlay are beautifully displayed with their rich designs, styles, and colors, each piece having been wheel-thrown and hand-finished by skilled artisans.  Continuing north alongside the Atlantic Ocean via Cap Beddouza you arrive at the seaside resort town of El Oualidia, a simple place still off the tourists’ map offers peace and quiet on the legendary Barbary Coast.  See a hilltop Kasbah built in the 16th century.  At the foot of the hill, there are the ruins of the once-elegant summer palace of Sultan Mohammed V (the grandfather of the current King Mohammed VI), its regal steps descending to within a few feet of a lagoon.  Surrounded by lofty dark-green stone pines, and tumbled down for half a century now, the palace has a perfect view of the whole lagoon and the distant narrow breach into the ocean.  El Oualidia’s well-kept secret is its oyster beds, which sends oysters all over Morocco.  You may see a fleet of candy-pink fishing boats lies high on the dunes overlooking the ocean, and avocets, cormorants, oystercatchers, stilts, and redshanks.  You now continue to El Jadida, known as “The New One.”  Founded in 1513 by the Portuguese as Mazagao, which was their first and last possession in Morocco, El Jadida is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is a small, delightful coastal town with several three meter-thick bastions - L’Ange, Saint Sebastian, Saint Antoine and Saint Esprit, which were destroyed in 1769 by the same Portuguese, who were forced to leave Morocco, but were subsequently restored to their former armed state.  Taken back from the Portuguese in 1769, Mazagao was to become a Jewish Mellah (or Quarter).  Your first stop is at the old fortress inside which lies an ancient structure that escaped the destruction of the fleeing Portuguese.  The misnamed “Portuguese Cisterns”, as they were actually built by the Romans originally to store grain, were then used by the Portuguese as a fresh water cistern to withstand sieges.  The Cistern was actually discovered by accident in 1977 by a Jewish spice merchant and where Orson Wells shot the riot scenes for his film Othello.  You leave there to continue to the Porto do Mar to visit a communal bakery.  A short walk brings you to the Bastion of St Sebastian, home of the old prison compound and the Tribunal of the Inquisition.  You continue to the Mellah and an early19th-century synagogue, as the Star of David underneath a Muslim crescent on the wall testifies.  Some believe it symbolizes the appreciation of the Jewish population of the time at being accepted by an Islamic country after fleeing Spain and persecution at the hands of the Inquisition and of their desire to integrate into Moroccan life.  Integration was never really complete, however, as Jews here always lived under a different set of laws to those of Muslims (one was they were not allowed to wear shoes).  No Jews live here now, as they relocated to Israel.  On now to Azemmour, a natural port that has been under Carthaginian rule and later Portuguese control. Here, Dar el Baroud (powder storage house of the Portuguese) bastion guards the now-ruined Kasbah, the Arab medina and Jewish Mellah (the synagogue of Rabbi Abraham Moul Niss is still frequently used).  The final leg of your journey takes you to the White City of Casablanca, where you explore the interior of the beautiful Hassan II Mosque (closed on Fridays), the second largest mosque in the Islamic world after the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.  This architectural masterpiece, a symbol of an Islam open to the world, took seven years to complete using 50 million man-hours.  The mosque was inaugurated on August 30, 1993 and was built partially on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the farthest western point of the Maghreb.  Conceived by the French architect Michel Pinseau (1924-1999), the mosque employed 3,300 craftsmen from all over Morocco.  The mosque has 53,000 square meters of carved cedar wood, 67,000 square meters of plasterwork, and some 10,000 square meters of sculpted ornamentation and writings.  It contains on the ground floor an oblong Prayer Hall of perfect symmetry measuring 200 x 100 meters.  Supported by 78 pillars of granite, marble and onyx, this vast space supports a retractable roof covered with emerald green tiles - the symbolic color of Islam, representing Mother Earth.  The Prayer Hall can welcome to prayer 25,000 believers inside and 80,000 on the adjoining esplanade.  Embedded in the axis of the southern facade, a 210 meter-high minaret boasts a laser beam of 30 kilometer reach pointing towards Mecca.  This magnificent mosque also encompasses a medersa (school of Koranic learning), a library, a national museum and immense lecture halls, all beautifully decorated by artisans from all over Morocco:  frescoes and zelliges in traditional geometrical motifs; painted and sculptured woods, stuccos of intricate designs, arabesques in decorative drawings and writings in brilliant color.  After touring the mosque, you check into your hotel for your final evening in Morocco.  Staying at Le Doge is an enchanting experience.  You are transported back to the Art Deco era as in each of the 16 rooms and suites is dedicated to an artist from that period.  The sophistication, elegance and refinement of the Le Doge are carried on through to its gourmet restaurant, its spa and its hanging garden, the crowning glory of this exceptional hotel.  Hotel Le Doge – Passion Suite (B)

Day 20:  Casablanca / Depart
After breakfast this morning, you will check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for your onward flight home.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  Starting from $16390

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