Day 1: Drive from Fez to Midelt
Our professional driver will pick you up early in the morning from your accommodations in Fez at an already appointed time. Then, we will start our drive towards Midelt in the Middle Atlas region. Our journey will take us through the Sais plateau towards the Middle Atlas. This plateau is a bountiful agricultural field full of olive grove, wheat fields, and fruit trees feeding Fez with good quality organic food. As we continue on, we will start to see the foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains. Our first stop will be in the provincial town of Imouzer. This town is famous for its Apple Festival in September. Many of the inhabitants of Imouzer are of Amazigh descent and speak a language different from Arabic as their mother tongue. The area around Imouzer is dotted with lakes. They are formed during a period of intense volcanic activity in the distant past. Stopping at one of these lakes, Dayet Aoua, we will have the opportunity to go for a quick horse or donkey ride on the lakeshore. Climbing higher up and passing through oak forests, the next stop on our drive will be in the famed ‘Switzerland of Morocco’, the town of Ifrane. Thanks to its alpine climate, at 1,665m above sea level, Ifrane cannot escape getting large quantities of snow every winter. As such, the roofs of its buildings are sloped so not to be crushed under the weight of snow, earning Ifrane the cute nickname the ‘Switzerland of Morocco’. French architects designed it in the 1930s as an escape for the French settlers in Morocco from the overwhelming Medinas. During the summer, though, the temperature rises and Moroccan’s flock to Ifrane for its tidy parks, clean air, and beautiful scenery. Ifrane is also famous for the world-renowned Al-Akhawayn University. It attracts the best and brightest students in Morocco and North Africa. We will also make a stop at the Ifrane National Park to appreciate the ancient cedar trees and try to find finding a colony of Barbary apes. Lunch will be in Ifrane in one of its good quality restaurants downtown offering a stuffed menu of local and Western dishes. Driving just a little further, our last stop of the day will be in the town of Azrou. It is the ancient capital of the Amazigh people in the Middle Atlas region. Situated at 1,250m above sea level, Azrou finds itself nestled cosily in the surrounding hills of the Middle Atlas Mountains. It is famous for its cedar forests, butterflies, and Barbary apes. The rural vibe of this village makes a perfect opportunity to connect with nature. In Azrou, we will visit the old town with the possibility of also taking a walk in the abundant nature. Our last stop will be in Midelt to spend the night in one of its cosy Hotel overlooking the magnificent Ayachi Mountain.
Day 2: Drive from Midelt to the Erg Chebbi Dunes
In a blue-skied morning and after breakfast in Midelt, we will head towards the Erg Chebbi Dunes. The beautiful scenery and the changing climate on the way gives a feeling of transcendence over time and place as if the kingdom is a variegated combination of countries within a country. Once over the Middle Atlas Mountains, the climate will become ever drier. Then, we will enter the picturesque arid of Ziz Valley at the tail end of the adjacent High Atlas Mountains. It serves as a vein to the heart of the Sahara Desert resurrecting palm trees as well as visible and invisible wonderers of the sand sea. We will notice the Taffilalet Oasis standing stout in the face of Sand Storms and persisting the heat of the Sahara. This stunning region is a miraculous manifestation of abundant palm groves, underground rivers, and traditional mud brick architecture. The Taffilalet Oasis was the pumping heart of vast Kingdoms stretching all the way to Libya, the Iberian Peninsula and south to Senegal. It is also the current dynasty’s origin. Our first stop will be in the Moulay Ali Sherif Mausoleum, the founder the current Alaouit dynasty. Lunch will be Rissani getting a local royal dish of Stuffed bread with meet, almonds, carrots, and other local stuffing the natives use as a welcoming dish for visitors and during ceremonies. After lunch, we will walk in its uncovered market witnessing hooded men and women bargaining and trading as they were doing for centuries ago. By late afternoon, we will arrive at our day’s destination: the Erg Chebbi Dunes. Upon our arrival to the shores of the sand sea, a blue camel-man will guide us to his camel friends’ caravan. Atop the friendly camels, we will dive deep into the sand dune to grasp the picturesque sunset in the Sahara. This natural show displays one of the most beautiful artworks of Mother Nature: a shadow of light pink and orange shadowing the blue desert sky combining the reflection of the golden sun along with all these colours. Upon our arrival to our Nomad Camp fire, we will be stunned by the meditative mythical music of the nomads. We will join our Nomad hosts in their dinner. Overnight in the cosy goat-wool tent or under the Milky Way and the Poles Stars.
Day 3: Explore the Sahara Desert
This morning will be our first chance to appreciate the glowing sunrise in the Sahara Desert. After a local nomad breakfast containing Moroccan pancakes, mint tea, orange juice, olives, olive oil and other healthy breakfast food, we will be able to spend our day exploring the desert surrounding Merzouga as we like. We can also arrange multiple activities including a visit to the historical towns and palm groves around the Taffilalet Oasis (Rissani, Merzouga, and Erfoud). On the other hand, we can take a 4×4 excursion into the desert to explore black volcanic rock formations and fossils, visit a nomadic family living in a tent, ride quad-bikes around the sand dunes. For better understanding of the myths of the desert creations, we can visit Khamlia village to surrender to the meditative Gnawa music. Alternatively, we can simply relax around the desert tents. In the late afternoon, once the day’s heat has subsided, our camel man will set us out from the desert to reach Merzouga, the town at the edge of the desert. Overnight in a hotel in Merzouga.
Day 4: from Erg Chebbi Dunes to Ouarzazate
A nomad myth says that Mother Nature gave birth to two twins and named them Sunrise and Sunset. Our camel-man have a better knowledge of the timing of the Sunrise. He will be waiting for us to wake up and not miss a mesmerising show of Nature, the twin brother of sunset: Sunrise. After breakfast, he will carry us atop his camel friends back to our hotel in Merzouga following invisible pathways in the desert and surrender to the mesmerising variegated show of nature. Upon our arrival to the erg Chebbi, we will have time to shower and refresh ourselves in a hotel before we begin our journey towards Ouarzazate. The road will be a panoramic show of beautiful desert landscapes and traditional mud brick towns with mosque minarets supervising them in a father-like posture. We will have a break in Tinrghir, an ancient Amazigh (Berber) town built in the traditional mud brick style. Then, we will turn off the main road to make a stop in the amazing Todra Gorges. The 300m high cliffs attracts climbers from around the world to fight gravity and fear as they scale vertically. Our journey will take us on foot to have a better sight on this fascinating area. Driving a little further on, we will arrive at the Dades Valley. It is a region famous for its sprawling palm groves growing over an underground river. Along our way, we will visit the famous little town of Kalaat M’gouna. This village is famous by its high quality rose water and a traditional Rose Festival in May where a local jury elects a beauty queen. Our last stop will be in Skoura oasis, another mud brick town in heart of 25km² of lush palm groves. We will finish this exciting day in Ouarzazate. We will have dinner and spend the night in a beautiful hotel overlooking the sand castles of the Skoura valley.
Day 5: Drive from Ouarzazate to Marrakesh
After breakfast and before heading north to Marrakesh, we will start our day exploring the sights in Ouarzazate. This city is clean, quiet, and sunny. It is the administrative capital and the biggest city of a province well known for its Kasbahs. The same ones that might have inspired Jimmy Hendrix during his visit to Morocco in 1965 to write his famous song “Castel made of Sand”. The etymology of the word ‘Ouarzazate’ comes from the Berber expression meaning ‘without noise’. As part of its effort to join the human struggle against climate change, the province of Ouarzazate had settled the world largest solar power plant. In a collaboration with many other entities and organizations such as the NASA, its value is estimated at around $9 billion. These solar plants will provide 75% of the Moroccan national needs of energy. Our journey today will start in the old town of Taourirt with its large ancient Kasbah. Its noble founders have moved out, leaving its many towers to families of White storks. The next stop will be in Morocco’s largest movie studios. Over the years, thanks to their prime desert location, these studios have helped turn out classic film like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000). Recently, certain episodes of Game of Thrones were filmed here. Leaving Ouarzazate, we will turn off the main road to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Benhaddou. An ideal model of the many sand castle villages and Kasbah’s that dot the south of Morocco. The ancient town of Ait Benhaddou enchants its thousands visitors with its curious towers. They stand stout in face of surrounding desert resisting its harsh weather forging a place in Morocco’s history. During the 20th century, this Kasbah was the stronghold of Ethami Glaoui as one of the most powerful men in Moroccan History. His fame was worldwide inviting V.I.P.s from all over the world to attend his affluent ceremonies. George Orwell paid him a visit in one of these Kasbah as well as in Marrakesh. Towns like Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou played an important role in Morocco’s past as key stops on the lucrative sub-Saharan trade routes. They were a safe stopover as well as a link over the vast deserts and mountain ranges for commercial caravan coming from Timbuktu to the heart of Morocco: Marrakesh. Lunch will be at one of the numerous restaurants that overlook the picturesque town. Then we will proceed our drive to Marrakesh. We will notice the atmosphere’s change as we climb higher into the High Atlas Mountains. We leave the arid desert plains and hills to forests, mountain streams, and maybe snow-capped mountains. We will follow the road to the very top of these mountains. Then, we will stop at the Tizi Ntichka pass before heading down the other side. First constructed by the French in 1936, but remodelled and modernized many times since, the Tizi Ntichka pass is a true feat of civil engineering. Once over the mountains, it will be a straight shot to the ochre mysterious city: Marrakesh. Our professional driver will drop you off at your accommodation.