On this week-long holiday discover the real Marrakech based at Riad Africa – an authentic and peaceful retreat in the heart of the ancient city – and enjoy privately guided day trips to the Atlas Mountains and beyond.
On arrival in Marrakech you will be met at Menara airport and transferred to Riad Africa, your accommodation in the heart of Marrakech medina. After time to settle in the famous souks of Marrakech offer an intoxicating passage to Africa’s most famous meeting place – the huge medieval square of Djemaa el Fna. Here at the heart of the old city acrobats and jugglers, snake charmers, beggars, boxers, musicians, fresh juice and food sellers all compete for your attention – and a few dirham’s in the process. It is easy to spend several hours wandering the square, sipping mint tea and savouring the utter assault on your senses. As night falls take a seat in one of the cafes that overlook the square and watch the scene unfold. With the conflicting sounds from musicians and singers, and thousands of tiny white lights illuminating swirling smoke rising from food stalls, expect a night you’ll never forget! Tonight a tasty home-cooked Moroccan dinner is included at Riad Africa.
Today you will take in the vivid Red City and its carousing life of trade and fun! Marrakech is about bargaining for treasures in dusty hanuts, the incredible tribal music and theatre at Djemaa el Fna… and so much more. You will visit Ben Salah, which is not on the typical tourist trail, where Moroccan people go to buy (or rent) their wedding garments and bands for festivals; plus you will see the Old Jewish Quarter, the Mellah. Your tour is tailored around the genuine beauty of Moroccan life. Walk through the Old Medina with a focus on how people live and work. The walking tour begins with tea or a juice at Dar Cherifa, which means “the holy house.” Cherifa is a place of sanctuary from the busy souk streets beyond and a literary café/art gallery. Next visit Mouassine souks. Skirt along the narrow residential streets where a small, wooden door may lead into a cavernous, neighbourhood bakery or a palace! View artisans making wares in their workshops. Enjoy a break for lunch about 1 PM in one of the medina’s excellent local restaurants. The afternoon of your walking tour is tailored to your interests.
With palaces and palm groves, rose gardens, and a backdrop of the snow-capped peaks of the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakech is the capital of the Moroccan South, a cultural crossroads and keeper of tradition and folklore. The ancient pink-walled medina contains a wealth of rich architectural heritage, and the real highlight – Place Djemaa el Fna – is like no other square in the world. Marrakech is simply jam-packed with things to do and a week would certainly do this fabulous city justice.
Just one hour away from the bustle of Marrakech are the quiet reaches of the High Atlas, populated by traditional Amazeer people, most often known as the Berbers. The Amazeers are the original people of Morocco. They were here long before the invasions from the Saudi Peninsula. Since then they continued to live isolated in the mountains, retaining their distinctive identity. Now, under the new Constitution, Amazeer is an official language of Morocco. You will explore villages along the river. And you’ll visit Ait Burka – a place where only a few travellers have set foot from outside Morocco. You will see how people live and work through agriculture, working gardens and apple groves along splendid terraces, as well as have a couscous lunch in a private home. On your way down the mountains, you will visit a family owned mill where corn and wheat flour is made and if you like, you may enjoy visiting a women’s community cooperative for Argan oil, where it is pressed and made into both cooking and cosmetic oils. In all, you will have enjoyed an unforgettable day in a place unlike anywhere else you have been before!
As well as numerous cultural attractions in the old medina, Marrakech has a great range of outdoor activities on offer including quad biking, buggy adventures, horse and camel-riding excursions. Helicopter and balloon flights operate throughout much of the year (depending on weather conditions) and offer a superb bird’s eye view of the Red City. Should you wish to chill out for the day by a large pool in an out-of-town tropical setting, take your pick from Nikki Beach, Plage Rouge or the Beldi Country Club. Families may enjoy a visit to Oasiria, a water park with beach.
On this private guided day trip you’ll enjoy a scenic journey into the High Atlas Mountains to the Tizi n’Tichka Pass (2,260m). Our first sightseeing of the day is at Telouet, a village on the ‘Route of the Caravans’ from the Sahara over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. Telouet has one of the most spectacular Kasbahs in the Atlas, which was once the palatial residence and headquarters of the powerful Glaoui tribe. Telouet is one of the great sites of mountain Morocco and an extraordinary display of quasi-medieval power created in the 20th century.
Next, taking a little used back road we arrive at Ait Benhaddou. Inscribed by UNESCO in 1987 as a ‘World Heritage Site’, the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco. The Ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. The houses crowd together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers. After a guided tour of the ancient settlement be sure to walk up to the high point on the hill above the Ksar for particularly fine views. Lunch is included today at a restaurant with a view – facing the dramatic Ksar.
From Marrakech it is a leisurely 3 hour drive to the Atlantic Coast and the former Portuguese stronghold of Essaouira. Despite seeing an increase in visitors over the years, this town remains one of Morocco’s best-kept secrets. Complete with a bustling historical centre and surrounded by ancient city walls, Essaouira is a delightful destination. With a whitewashed medina enclosed by huge pink sandstone ramparts which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with a rich Portuguese and Andalusian heritage, Essaouira holds great appeal.
Originally founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC, the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century and established the first fortifications and a trading post. The town of Essaouira itself wasn’t built until the latter half of the 1700′s, sanctioned by an Alouite sultan, Mohammed II. It was actually a renowned French architect who designed and built the town, harbour and fortifications in the style of a European fortress. A fresh seafood lunch is included in this day trip plus a guided tour of the most interesting monuments, the market, ramparts and bustling harbour.
Today you might like to make use of Riad Africa’s hammam and massage room, with a scrub-up and massage included in your holiday (though this can be done on whichever day you choose). There’s plenty of time to explore the medina further, bargain in the souks or relax in the peaceful surroundings of Riad Africa.
Your holiday ends with a transfer to Marrakech airport.