Morocco - Valley of Tafraout
Exotic Morocco

Morocco is a land truly rich in history and culture; it is a veritable feast for the senses. Few countries are more exotic. Morocco finds itself both rooted in the past and yet moving quickly into an increasingly modern world.

A big surprise to many Westerners is just how advanced North African Arab society was while Europe suffered through the Dark Ages. There were renowned centres of learning during this time in Morocco and elsewhere in North Africa. This society was very advanced in Education, Mathematics, Science and Medicine. It was the academic Arab world that kept alive the knowledge base acquired in Greco-Roman times.

At the time of the expulsion of the Muslims and the Jews from Andalusia in Southern Spain, an influx of educated people, as well as skilled craftsmen and artisans enriched Moroccan society.

We see remnants of Morocco`s glorious past, as well as the liveliness of life in the present. Morocco literally breathes history. Add to this the stunning and varied natural environment, and spectacular architecture and arts, and one has a rich and varied travelling experience.

This trip is meant to expose one to four main components of the Moroccan experience. We will have in-depth exposure to the four Royal Cities: Rabat, Marrakech, Mèknes and Fès. We will cross the mountain areas, and see glorious scenery, and an entirely different way of life. We will travel to desert areas and small oasis towns, and experience first-hand the borders of the Great Sand Desert. We finish our trip on the Atlantic coast in the wonderful seaside town of Essaouira.


 Thursday, September 21 to Monday, October 9, 201


    We meet the first morning in Casablanca, the metropolis of Morocco. (There is a direct flight from Montreal which arrives early in the morning) Our van will meet us at the airport. For those who arrive before that morning we will pick you up at your hotel.Fes-Hotel

    Casablanca can be a bit of a disappointment when one thinks of the romance attached to the name. However, there is here the pulse of modern Morocco. We will see just a couple of sites and then move on to the capital, Rabat, which is much more interesting.
    We will first do a guided tour of the Hassan II Mosque, built with the most beautiful of materials, and a tribute to the greatness of Allah. It has a site that looks out over the sea, and a roof that can be retracted to reveal the sky. We will then visit the old colonial centre built by the French in Mauresque style, a French interpretation of Moorish architecture. We will see the main administrative buildings which are very interesting.

    After this we will drive to Rabat, the capital of the country and one of the 4 royal cities, which is a little over an hour away. Our hotel is a riad in the old walled quarter. Riads are grand houses built around a central courtyard, and were constructed by prosperous citizens or state officials. In recent years many of these riads, which were mostly falling into ruin have been restored and renovated to their previous splendour. We actually will have an interesting sampling of beautiful riads in many of the towns and cities that we will stay in.

    The afternoon will be free.

    Dinner tonight in our riad's dining room. It is reputed to serve excellent food in a lovely setting.This way we can truly take advantage of our beautiful hotel. (DINNER INCLUDED)

    OVERNIGHT - RABAT, Riad Kalaa


    Rabat is an approachable city size-wise and has a Kasbah, Roman ruins, Islamic ruins, and a wonderful setting, with Sale (its sister city) across the river. We will spend the morning on an agreeable walking tour here.
    After lunch we will take the first class train to Meknes. Meknes is the second of the royal cities we will visit. We will stay in the medina again in historical accommodations.


    OVERNIGHT - MEKNES, Riad Lahboul, Meknes Medina


    We spend our morning touring Mèknes, which has a small medina, but impressive remains of the grand constructionsMajorelle Gardens
    of the Sultan Moulay Ismail, who made Mèknes his capital. It thrived during his reign and then became again a secondary city after his death. There are ruins of his stables that held 12,000 horses, his garrison of 150,000 black guards, (descended from captured black slaves from sub-saharan Africa), the ruins of his palace (no entry possible), and 25 kilometres of massive walls and monumental gates. There is also his tomb and mosque which have been restored to their former amazing beauty. Only this and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca can be visited by non-Moslems of all of the myriad mosques in the country. This is a city not often on the tourist route.
    We will then spend the afternoon doing a Winery tour and wine tasting of some of Morocco`s wonderful vintages. These are somewhat of a surprise in that some of the wines are of very good quality and have won prizes in competitions in Europe. This will be a very different experience for us. We will have lunch here (INCLUDED) before our wine tour. This winery is owned by the in-laws of the owner of our small hotel in Marrakech.
    In the late afternoon we will return to the hotel in Meknès.



    OVERNIGHT - MEKNES, Riad Lahboul, Meknes Medina

    We will start our day with an excursion to the Roman ruins at Volubilis, not far outside Meknes. There were many Roman centres in Morocco, but Volubilis was the most important one and it is the only surviving ruined centre of real interest. The Romans never actually managed to capture all of Morocco because of the intensely independent Berber tribes of the mountains who refused to be subdued (at least for long). There are several mosaics in-situ which, unfortunately, are suffering the ravages of time and the elements, as they are largely unprotected. The change in the condition of these mosaics since the 1970’s when I first saw them is considerable. There are fairly extensive remains of the public buildings of the ancient city.

    From Volubilis we will head north-east to the fascinating, blue-painted city of Chefchouenne, once a Spanish settlement in the Rif Mountain area. This is one of the most beautiful towns in Morocco. The last part of the afternoon will be free and you can easily wander through the old city as our hotel is right there.


    OVERNIGHT - CHEFCHAOUENNE, Riad Cherifa, Chefchaouenne Medina


    AM-Walking tour of old Chefchaouen and for those who want we will take a walk to a picturesque mosque along a trail outside the old city.
    In the late morning we will continue on to Fes (about 3 hours) and check in to our riad.
    Fès is nothing short of a wonder. It has the largest medieval medina (old walled Arab city) remaining in the world. There is a new city, Fès el-Djedid (12TH CENTURY), although not as old as the really old city, Fès-el-Bali (900 approx AD). There is also the "Ville Nouvelle", the colonial French modern city, which has developed even more since independence. Fès is still the cultural and intellectual centre of Morocco.

    At 5:00 P.M. I will do a walk about of the medina for an hour just so that people can gain their bearings in this labyrinth of an old city.


    OVERNIGHT - FES, Hotel Riad Rcif


    This morning we have a historical and exploratory walking tour of the old city (Fès-el-Bali). This will last several hours and we will have breaks and lunch (Lunch at own expense) We walk through the narrow streets and alleyways, no vehicles to be seen, stepping back into a medieval world. The first time I came here in 1974, I felt exactly as if I had been transported in a time machine to 5 or 6 hundred years back. Now, of course, there are cellphones, and televisions blaring, but there is still much of the feel of another age. The old city is still organized, as it has been for centuries, around the guild system, with different guilds operating in different sectors of the city. We still see the medieval organizational structure of the masters, the apprentices and the journeymen at work. There are the dyers, the tanners, the woodworkers, the coppersmiths, the jewellers, the sandal makers, etc. Skills lost in other countries are still alive and flourishing in Morocco. And the old city has a very large number of quarters all of which had a mosque, fountains for water supply and for performing ablutions before praying at the mosque, the hamman (or local steam bath, also taking advantage of the water supply), as well as a communal bakery (taking advantage of the fire to heat the water for the hammam. This was an ingenious and complex city organization.
    There is the Andalusian quarter which housed the refugees from Moorish Spain when they were forced to leave by Isabelle and Ferdinand. There is, as well, the Kairaouine which is one of the 2 oldest universities in the world, adjacent to the Kairaouine Mosque. Students came from all over the Mediterranean to study here.

    There will be time to shop for those so inclined. There will strictly be no shopping when we are with the guides and I will explain why on the trip.

    There will be a cooking class at the riad at around 6 P.M. (exact time to be announced closer to the date), followed by dinner. If the weather is good it will served be on the hotel's terrace overlooking the old city.

    OVERNIGHT -  FES, Hotel Riad RcifMorocco - Kasbah of Tifoultout


    The morning is spent discovering more aspects of Fes. We will have a tour of Fès-el-Djedid, the newer of the two older cities in Fès (12th century) and we will visit the old Jewish quarter (The Mellah). The Jews were an important part of the culture and economy of the city, and there was peaceful co-existence for much of the history of the country. In this century most of the Jewish population has left Morocco, as religious tensions increased. There is a very atmospheric Jewish cemetery and an intact synagogue. The gold and silver merchants are still in this area. Interestingly, the Mellah was placed beside the Royal Palace strategically, as the sultans valued the Jews’ business acumen and accounting abilities, but also as a buffer if the people rose up. We will also take a drive around the peripheral road which circles Fes and allows a panoramic view of the old walled city.

    After lunch (at one`s own expense), and checking out of our hotel, we start our excursion to the south of Morocco. It is a very long drive to the desert dunes, and we do half of this drive this afternoon. All breakfasts and dinners are included on this southern sojourn.

    You will spend your day discovering the rural environs of the Atlas Mountain Berbers. The region is covered with pines, tall cedar trees, and poplars, and laced with flowing streams. Your first view of the Middle Atlas will appear oddly un-Moroccan. Passing by Imouzzer, we will take coffee/tea and maybe a pastry in the Swiss-like town of Ifrane. Ifrane is the site of a unique University dedicated to the study of the 3 great monotheistic religions. After leaving Ifrane we will soon come across the first real city of the Middle Atlas, Azrou. Azrou is an important market centre for the region’s Berber tribes, located at a major junction of mountain routes. Your driver will take a little detour in a cedar forest to introduce you to one of the oldest inhabitants of this region, the Barbary apes.

    At Midelt, the Middle Atlas Mountains give way to the High Atlas Mountains, whose peaks are visible through the haze, soaring to over 12,000 feet. We will stop in Midelt overnight.


    OVERNIGHT - MIDELT, Riad Villa Midelt (This is a fairly simple small hotel, but the last time I was there the owners and staff went out of their way to make a super pleasant evening for us).

    We will then continue on this morning to Erfoud, through one of the most delightful southern regions consisting of a dry, red belt of
    desert with a sudden drop into the lush valley of the Ziz River, with copious date palm groves and flowing streams. We pass by the gorges of the Ziz and some of the oases and natural sites before reaching the magnificent Oasis of Erfoud.

    Continuing on to Merzouga , we will stay at a special small inn within walking distance of the highest dunes of the Erg Chebbi. We will check in early in the afternoon so there is time to enjoy this wonderful French-run spot. Late in the afternoon I will take those who want to go on a walk to the high dunes to experience the magical sunset over this finger of the great sand desert. (Our hotel is the closest to the highest dunes in the area). Amazingly, it was completely destroyed by flash floods a few years ago, and the owner, Francoise has been slowly rebuilding. There is a swimming pool and good food and a very different atmosphere from the huge touristic hotels near the main settlement of Merzouga.


    OVERNIGHT - MERZOUGA, Hotel Ksar Sania


    Early this morning (well before breakfast) we head out by camel for sunrise over the dunes. This is a once in a life-time experience. The light over the dunes ranges from golden in the morning to rose-coloured at sunset. (Long camel rides are really not that comfortable, so this is a shorter ride, but still worth the experience) We return by camel to our hotel where breakfast will await us.
    After breakfast we will take an excursion around the area by 4x4’s , stopping to visit a group of musicians (the Gnaouas, descended form black slaves brought from central Africa), local sites, including impressive fossils and hopefully to visit nomads. We then return to Ksar Sania for lunch. (LUNCH INCLUDED)
    We head off after lunch to cross to Zagora. We will traverse a typical gravelly desert area landscape (which much of the Sahara actually is) punctuated by rare villages and the occasional oasis. We will make a couple of stops along the way. The last part of the drive is along the southern portion of the very extensive oasis of the Draa River valley. (the total length of this oasis north to south is about 135 km). Zagora sits at the southern end of this oasis and we stay at a beautiful hotel right in the oasis with an African décor and extensive grounds.


    OVERNIGHT - ZAGORA, Hotel Riad Lamane

    We start the day with a walking tour of the Zagora oasis and learn about life in the oasis and about date cultivation. We will drive to the real gateway of the Moroccan Sahara. You will drive through lowlands to Tamegroute, a humble village where deep knowledge is transmitted in the most simplistic way. Full of rare books and documents, the library includes 13th century writings made on gazelle hide.

    M’Hamid borders a large expanse of dunes. It was originally an important marketplace for nomadic and sub-saharan trade. Caravan routes to Timbuktu passed through here. Today it functions as a “jumping-off” point for tourist visits to the desert. This is the Erg Chegaga portion of the desert. Parts of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed here to give you an idea of the scenery.

    We will be staying at the “Bivouac de Charme Chegaga” tonight, a luxury tented camp run by Dar Azawad. We will be able to appreciate the extreme quiet and really experience the desert here.

    You conclude your day with dinner (INCLUDED) at the camp.

    OVERNIGHT - CHEGAGA, Bivouac de Charme.

  • Day 11 - SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1 - ERG CHEGAGAMorocco potter

    This morning we will go by 4x4’s to the dunes of Erg Chegaga. Then we return to the wonderful hotel at Dar Azawad operated by 3 French citizens. Its room design is spectacular, as well as its garden and pool and you will have time to enjoy the “Auberge” in the afternoon


    OVERNIGHT - MHAMID, Dar Azawad


    We head off on our long, but scenic drive to Marrakech, exploring Berber villages and oases, then crossing the High Atlas Mountains through Taddert and the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass. (The Tizi–n-Tichka pass is at an altitude of 11,000 feet). We will stop at a beautiful little oasis hotel and have lunch in their spectacular garden right in the middle of the oasis. (INCLUDED)

    Ourzazate is a centre of film production, developed after David Lean made “Lawrence of Arabia” in the area. Rather than stopping in Ourzazate, we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Benhaddou. It is an extensive series of ksars (traditional clay fort-like structures) and is extremely well-preserved. It was used in the filming of The Gladiator.
    We arrive in Marrakech for a sojourn that will be both stimulating and interesting. We check in to a small and luxurious hotel in the old city of Marrakech, near the Bahia Palace. This hotel will be our own “oasis” where we can escape the noisy but always interesting street life. We are a short walk from the centre of urban activities.

    DINNER ON OWN. Evening free. The owners of Dar Beija have a beautiful restaurant and bar not far away with a terrace that overlooks the city walls, if you should want a reliable place nearby after a long day of travelling.

    OVERNIGHT - MARRAKECH, Dar Beija ( we will also have to have 2 rooms down the street at Dar 73 as Brigitte only has 5 rooms in her beautifully renovated place.)


    This morning we have a visit to the Bahia Palace, the Saadian tombs, and to the Badi Palace. We will visit the Marrakech medina.

    We will visit the ever-fascinating public square in Marrakech, “ the Jemaa el Fna”, without a doubt one of the very
    liveliest and most exciting public squares in the world. Desert and mountain peoples come in to Marrakech, and as in
    times of old, entertain, meet, and do business. Snake-charmers, acrobats, water sellers, fortune tellers, dental
    extractionists, and folk-medicine practitioners all call out for business. Visit the snail bars (if you dare), the orange
    juice stands, and the nut and sweet vendors. We will visit this square together, but you will want to return on your own at different times of the day for the varied experience it can be. Off the square are the myriad alleys of the famed Marrakech medina.

    Later afternoon free.

    Tonight we have dinner together (INCLUDED) in a spectacular setting. Marrakech is full of such settings, as more and more mansions and small palaces have been converted into atmospheric small hotels and fantastic (in the true sense of the word) restaurants and clubs.



    We will organize a visit to the Koutoubia Mosque and gardens (exterior only, non-moslems are not allowed in), one of the most beautiful in all of Morocco. We visit the colourful Majorelle gardens, maintained at least in part, by the Yves St. Laurent Foundation. There is a wonderful Berber Museum adjacent to the gardens where St. Laurent's collection of Berber costumes and artifacts are expertly arranged. This is a must-see. We will have lunch together in a spectacular setting not far out of town (INCLUDED): a French Bistro in a giant rose garden, which produces both cut flowers and rose water. Morocco ruins
    In the late afternoon we leave for our mountain retreat near Imlil, south of Marrakech. The drive is absolutely stunning as we wend our way higher and higher into the High Atlas Mountains. We pass Richard Branson’s very upscale mountain resort.

    DINNER TOGETHER (at our hotel) (INCLUDED)

    We will be based at a special lodge which has traditional accommodations in Berber style and spectacular views of this wild mountain area. In this lodging one feels very much to be at the centre of life in the village. Rooms are heated by fireplaces at night, and for the most part, lit by candlelight and oil lamps. Meals are served communally in a large stone-walled dining room.



    Today, I will organize hiking for those who wish. There are shorter and longer hikes available and a local guide will be hired to take you out. This is covered in the tour price. The less actively-inclined can spend time at the lodge, or take shorter walks in the countryside and you can visit the neighbouring villages. A day-long trek can be arranged for the more active participants. A picnic lunch will be provided for everyone.

    Do not forget that although temperatures are warm in the southern areas of Morocco, that it will be cool in the mountains, especially at night. At this time of year one sees snow on the mountain tops and fall foliage colours in the valleys down below.

    Testimonials related to the lodge show us that many of the people who have stayed here found it to be one of their most memorable experiences in Morocco. We had a wonderful visit there on our last 2 visits. The baker brings his bread there daily. People from the village stop by and visit. The cook worked for the King of Morocco and the food is therefore excellent.

    Because of limited availability of alternate eating establishments, all meals are included at the mountain lodge.



    We leave after breakfast for Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast. The drive takes around 4 and ½ hours.

    Essaouira is a beautiful town, originally settled by the sea-faring Phoenicians, much later by the Portuguese, then the French, with periods of Moroccan rule. The city was designed by the same architect who designed St. Malo in France. It has a European and also decidedly Moroccan feel. The port is still a functioning fishing port. It has a medina and a thriving artist scene and a laid back seaside feel, although winds from the Atlantic are often very strong, and it has been called the "Wind City of Africa", attracting lots of windsurfers. It also is a place of interesting music and art. It is one of the loveliest places in the country. There is a very large expanse of beach just outside the city walls.

    We will check into our comfortable hotel, which has a wonderful location by the medina walls but with terraces and views of the sea from several of the rooms. The rest of the day and the evening will be free to wander.


    OVERNIGHT - ESSAOUIRA, Riad Perle d’Eau


    We can take a morning walking tour of Essaouira. The medina is compact enough to not really need a guide.

    The afternoon will be free. Some might be interested in the daily fish auction held in the market hall near the port gates at 3:00 P.M.

    We have our last dinner together tonight in a charming restaurant (INCLUDED).

    OVERNIGHT - ESSAOUIRA, Riad Perle d’Eau


    We have the morning and the early afternoon just to enjoy Essaouira. In the mid afternoon we will leave for a hotel close to Casablanca International Airport. (an approximately 3 and 1/2 hour drive)

    OVERNIGHT - Relax Airport Hotel, Casablanca



    There is a very convenient Air Canada flight direct to Montreal at 09:10, arriving in Montreal at 12:00 (noon) This allows lots of opportunity for connections to other destinations in Canada.

    There is an airport shuttle service from the hotel to the airport every 30 minutes 24 hours a day.


- 18 nights accommodation
- 18 breakfasts
- Breakfast and dinner daily on the Saharan trip (all dinners (5)
- 3 meals a day in the mountain lodge (2 days) Lunches are picnic lunches.
- One dinner together as a group in Rabat, one dinner together in Mèknes, one dinner together in Chefchaouenne,
  one dinner as a group in Fes, one dinner as a group in Marrakech, one dinner as a group in Essaouira
  (also all dinners on the Saharan trip and in the High Atlas as above) (Total of 14 dinners included)
- Lunch at the Winery outside Meknes, 2 lunches in Merzouga, lunch at the oasis hotel in the Valley of the Draa, lunch outside Marrakech
- The rest of the meals are one's own responsibility
- Walking tours of Rabat, Mèknes, Chefchaouenne, Fès, and Marrakech
- All tours and admissions. All guides. ( Tips at your discretion)
- Transportation from Casablanca to Rabat, from Meknes to Volubilis to Chefchaouenne, from Chefchaouenne to Fes, on the Sahara trip,
  to and from Imlil, to  Essaouira, and from Essaouira to Casablanca
- First class train Rabat to Meknes

NOT INCLUDEDMarket Morocco

- Airfare to Morocco
- Non-alcoholic beverages (except at breakfast)
- Alcoholic beverages
- All lunches except at the Mountain Lodge and the 5 others mentioned above


Maximum 10 i
n the group

Activity level -
This is a moderately active tour. Participants must be able to walk for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Actual hiking is optional.

Weather -
The weather will generally be hot. It will be cool to cold in the mountains at night.

Money -
Moroccan dirhams for purchases in the market and smaller restaurants. Euros used in some touristed places


For itinerary details contact Donald Smith at

For bookings contact: Tel: 1-800-265-5515 (Attention :Susan Hickling )

In several settings upgrades are available to luxury standard (additional cost is just the difference in room rates).


- $4635.00 CDN (based on double occupancy)
- single supplement $ 750.00 CDN
- deposit $750.00 at booking
- balance due August 1, 2017
- cancellation-refund of all monies up to 30 days before departure (minus $200.00 (cancellation fee) and any charges paid on your behalf that are not refundable)
- refund of 50% of monies paid if cancellation from 29 to 14 days before departure.
- no refund less than 14 days before departure


  1.  "This is my second trip with Don Smith and once again  it was memorable in a very good way. A small group of 8 people, we saw a lot of Morocco and its' history from Casablanca to the Sahara. It is exotic from the medinas which are very old and I think represent Morocco very well, to the High Atlas Mountains, to small oasis towns where, as we drove through we saw a wedding procession right outside our van window. We had many types of transportation, from our van which was extremely comfortable for the long ride across the mountains. We had walking tours and 4-wheel drives in the desert. Guides were excellent, all arranged by Don in advance. We had wonderful dinners on terraces overlooking the cities and small intimate dinners in tented camps. The southern part of our journey exposed us to a very different way of life.  The Sahara is magnificent as were the small towns we stayed in. I never felt unsafe. And then there were the camels, who were gentle and took very good care of us riding in the desert.

    Don knows Morocco well and his organizational skills and sense of humour are superb. ...... Can't wait until he does another tour." 

    Marcia Ordway, Vancouver, B.C.

  2. "My 2012 trip to Morocco arranged by Donald Smith, was one of my most exciting and adventurous vacations taken during the past 5 years. (which have consisted of visits to India, Peru,  many areas in Europe, Asia, South America, etc.) I have never experienced the privilege of travelling with such a small group of people who felt so comfortable and special after meeting on the first day in Casablanca. That feeling remained thoughout the whole remarkable journey. Each day offered a new experience of tastes, visions, and sounds that will be remembered fondly forever."

    Carol Thomas, Burlington, ON

    See more testimonials HERE

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