B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World

ANCIENT MOROCCO:
ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY

Volubilis


"I stand in portico hung with gentian-blue ipomeas ... and look out on a land of mists and
mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and
ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of
the Atlantic cloud-drifts."

Edith Wharton, In Morocco


THE TOUR

This 3 week B.C. Archaeology study tour explores the history and culture of Morocco. We fly to Casablanca on Etihad and then transfer to the nearby town of Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Here we wander around the old city (medina) and Kasbah, visit the National Archaeological Museum and see the challah, a 14th Century enclosure incorporating ruins from the Roman period and mediaeval royal tombs of the Merenid Period. We then see a 14th Century medersa (student residence) in the walled city of Sale and explore the extensive remains of the Roman city of Lixus.

In Tangier we walk through the mediaeval city and visit the Archaeology Museum, today housed in the Kasbah. We then head to the beautiful hill town of Chefchouan, famous for its blue painted houses, located on the edge of the Rif Mountains. We then drive to Volubilis, a stunning Roman city with well-preserved forum, basilica and numerous house mosaics. In Meknes we explore the imperial remains of the royal city of Moulay Ishmael, visit the medieaval medersa and see the Dar Jamai, a wonderful 19th Century house with a collection of Moroccan artefacts.

Our tour then heads to Fes where we stay 3 nights. We take a walking tour through the old city to explore the superb monuments including two ancient medersas. The suqs (covered markets) evoke a previous era and lead us to the tanneries where leather is still treated in the traditional way. We see the Borj Nord fortress and its collection of arms. There is also a free day to continue ones exploration of this most atmospheric of ancient cities.

Our road then heads south over the Middle Atlas where we visit the cedar forests and see wild macaques. We go for a walk near Midelt, exploring a spectacular desert gorge and traditional Berber village. We cross the High Atlas and descent along the beautiful Zis Valley, dotted with scenic villages and palm gardens. Our journey then takes us to Merzouga famous for its enormous dunes reaching up to 150 m high. We take a camel ride in the desert and have some free time to relax. We head west, stopping to see the Museum of the Oasis in Khorbat and visit the spectacular Todra and Dades Gorges. We stay at Ait Ben Hadou, a spectacular desert village used as a location set in many films including Lawrence of Arabia and more recently Game of Thrones.

We cross the High Atlas and head for Marrakesh. Here we explore the suqs (covered markets) of the medina, visit the Museum of Marrakesh with its collection of artefacts and see a wonderful 14th Century medersa. We enjoy the traditional activities in Marrakesh’s main square, Jmaa el Fna, including snake charmers and story tellers. The following day we see the ruins of the 17th Century Badi Palace, explore the tombs of the Saadian kings and wander the cool pathways of the Marjorelle Garden, recently restored by Yves Saint Laurent.

Our tour ends back in Casabalanca. Here we see the Jewish Museum with its fascinating collection of artefacts and photographs commemorating Morocco's Jewish heritage, wander through the old city and Art Deco Quarter, and explore the enormous Mosque of Hassan II, dramatically located on the sea shore.

The suqs of Marrakesh

ITINERARY*

Day 1: Depart Australia
Our flight on Etihad Airlines leaves Australia in the afternoon with a short stopover in Abu Dhabi (usually a few hours) before we connect with our flight for Casablanca.

Day 2: Arrive Casablanca - bus to Rabat
We arrive into Casablanca in the early morning. We are met by our bus and there is a short drive north to Rabat where we check into our hotel. After freshening up we visit the Kasbah of the Oudias where we visit the delightful Andalusian Garden and small Palace of Moulay Ismail which now houses a Jewellery Museum. After lunch we take a walk through the suq along Rue de Consuls and see the mediaeval gates of Rabat. Overnight Rabat.

Kasbah at Rabat
The Chellah complex

Day 3: Rabat - Archaeology Museum - Mosque of Hassan - Chellah
The day is dedicated to exploring the historical sites of Rabat. We visit the National Archaeology Museum which showcases a selection of objects from Morocco's history including a series of famous bronzes from Volubilis. A short drive takes us to the ruins of the 12th Century Hassan Mosque and the mausoleum of Mohamed V. After lunch we visit the Chellah, a walled compound which contains Roman ruins and 13th Century ruined tombs of Merenid Sultans. Overnight Rabat.

Day 4: Sale medina - drive north to Lixus - continue to Tangier
In the morning we cross the Oued Bou Regreg River to see the sights of the Sale, Rabat's sister city. We visit its walls and gates and the 14th Century Medersa (residential college) of Abou el Hasan. We travel north by bus along the coast to see the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Lixus which includes a theatre/amphitheatre, baths and an acropolis with temples. After our visit we continue our drive along the coast and check into our hotel in Tangier.

Day 5: Tangier
Today is spent exploring the medieval medina of Tangier. We visit the suqs (market streets) and enter the Kasbah where we see the Museum of Antiquities which has a good collection of Roman and Islamic artefacts. In the afternoon we explore the Grand Socco in the Ville Nouvelle and have a coffee at the famous Café de Paris, notorious as a centre of espionage during World War II. Overnight Tangier.

Day 6: Drive to Chefchouan - walk in the medina
In the morning we leave Tangiers and head SE to the beautiful hill town of Chefchouan located in the Riff Mountains. This is a pleasant place to wander the blue painted streets of this charming mountain town dating from the 15th Century. In the afternoon there is some free time to rest or further explore the shopping opportunities in the streets of the medina. Overnight Chefchouan.

Chefchouan
Volubilis Roman ruins

Day 7: Volubilis Roman ruins - Moulay Idris - drive to Meknes
We head southwards from Chefchouan through green farmland. In the late morning we explore the extensive Roman ruins at Volubilis. The site is remarkably well preserved and includes many houses with mosaics, a forum area with temples and basilica, and bath complexes. We also visit the nearby town of Moulay Idris with its famous Saint’s tomb. In the afternoon there is a short drive to the medieval walled city of Meknes. Overnight Meknes.

Day 8: Meknes
Today is set aside to explore the fascinating remains of Meknes beginning with a walk through the medina and a visit to the 14th Century Medersa of Bou Inania (a richly decorated college). We also visit the Dar Jamai, a wonderful 19th Century palace belonging to the Vizier. The house has been converted into a Museum and has a beautiful courtyard garden. In the afternoon we see the 17th Century Royal Granaries and Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. In the late afternoon we take a short drive to Fes. Overnight Fes.

Day 9: Fes - walk through the medina
The day is devoted to the remarkable medieval medina of Fes. We walk from the Bab Boujeloud to the beautiful 14th Century Mederssa Bou Inania and then wind our way through the suqs to the famous Kairouine Mosque. Here we explore the medieval heart of the city including the atmospheric tanneries which are still used for treating leather. In the evening we have a panoramic view of the city from the Borj Nord and see the ruined tombs of the Merenid Sultans.

Day 10: Fes - a free day
This day in Fes is set aside for rest or to further explore this fascinating city and its heart; the ancient medina. It is possible to go for a walk in the Mellah (the ancient Jewish Quarter), visit the Musee Batha with its pleasant courtyard garden, or lose oneself in the medieval medina. The photography opportunities are endless.

Day 11: Middle Atlas - Midelt
We head southwards from Fes crossing the Middle Atlas Mountain range. We stop to see the native cedar trees and the wild Barbary Macaques and then cross a broad desert plain towards the High Atlas. We take a walk in the foothills of the Jebel Ayachi along a spectacular desert gorge and visit a traditional Berber village. Overnight Midelt.

The medina of Fes
The dunes at Merzuga

Day 12: Zis Valley - Merzouga desert - camp in the desert
Today we head south through the Zis Valley, a scenic river valley dotted with villages and date palms. We stop to see the fragmentary ruins of the Berber city of Sijilmassa and visit a fossil collection. Our journey takes us to Merzouga on the edge of the Erg Chebbi Desert. We take a camel ride out into the Sand Sea where some of the dunes are over 150 m high. You may either sleep in the local hotel or stay overnight in the permanent desert camp in the dunes (not to be missed). Overnight Merzuga.

Day 13: Merzouga desert
We wake to see the sunrise over the stunning Merzouga Desert at the desert encampment. After breakfast we head deeper by camel into the Dune Sea to explore a wonderful desert landscape. In the afternoon we return to the hotel in Merzouga. Here we can rest by the pool or go for a walk in the nearby dunes. Overnight Merzouga.

Day 14: Khorbat Museum of the Oasis - Todra Gorg
We leave the desert dunes and head west to Khorbat where we see the Museum of the Oasis, housed in three restored Berber houses. This Museum contains an interesting collection of Berber artefacts. We then take a walk through the spectacular Todra Gorge where the desert cliffs come down close to the Todra River. In the afternoon we drive to Boumanle de Dades where we check into our hotel. Overnight Boumanle de Dades.

Day 15: Dades Valley and Gorge
In the morning we head up the spectacular Dades Valley which is dotted with small villages and fortified kasbahs. We visit the Dades Gorge and have a short walk to see two ruined kasbahs. In the afternoon we return to our hotel in Boumanle de Dades. Overnight Boumanle de Dades.

Day 16: Ouarzazarte - drive to Ait Ben Haddou
We continue our journey through scenic desert landscapes stopping in the desert town of Ouarzazate to see the impressive Kasbah. In the afternoon we head through desert landscapes to Ait Ben Haddou where we check into our hotel. Overnight Ait Ben Haddou.

Day 17: Ait Ben Haddou - drive to Marrakesh
In the morning we see the pise (rammed earth) village of Ait Ben Haddou, famous for its appearance in many Hollywood films (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Game of Thrones). Stunning located at the foothills of the High Atlas, the village gre wealthy on its dominance of the Trans-Saharan trade with Mali. In the afternoon we head over the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n'Tichka pass to Marrakesh. Overnight Marrakesh.

Day 18: Marrakesh - walking tour of the medina
Today will be spent on a walking tour through the medina of Marrakesh. We start by seeing the impressive 18th Century Dar Si Said Palace before walking around the outside of the Koutubiya Mosque. We take a walk through the suqs and see the Museum of Marrakesh with its collection of artefacts and explore the splendid 14th Century Ben Youssef Medersa. In the afternoon we explore the fascinating sights and sounds in the city's main square; the Jemaa el Fna with its snake charmers, story tellers and open air food stalls.

The Medersa of Ben Youssef in Marrakesh
The mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca

Day 19: Marrakesh - free afternoon
In the morning we explore the ruins of the monumental Badi palace and see the splendid 16th Century Saadian Tombs. We also enjoy a walk around the early 20th Century Majorelle Gardens, restored by Yves Saint Laurent and now housing an excellent Museum of Berber artefacts. In the afternoon there is free time to visit some of the other monuments of Marrakesh. The options are endless and include further exploration of the suqs or a visit to the 19th Century Bahia Palace with its impressive reception rooms.

Day 20: Drive to Casablanca - Jewish Museum, walk in the medina
In the morning we drive north from Marrakesh to the country’s main port Casablanca. After lunch we visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism which exhibits artefacts from the rich Jewish history of the country. We also take a wander down the medina and have our dinner at Rick’s Café (an evocation of the famous café from the movie Casablanca).

Day 21: Hassan II Mosque - depart Casablanca
In the morning we visit the Hassan II Mosque which was inaugurated in 1993 by the current king’s father Hassan II. One of the largest mosques in the world it can house 25,000 worshippers. There is some free time for last minute shopping in the medina. In the evening we fly from Casablanca Airport to Abu Dhabi.

Day 22: In transit on our flight
We connect with our Etihad Airlines flight for the journey back to Australia.

Day 23: Arrive in Australia
Arrive back in Australia in the early morning.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.

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