Itinerary 12 - 22 October 2012
The final itinerary of this tour will be anounced in due course
|Richard Hunt taught social history at|
Southampton University, where he was
responsible for art and history in the
Adult Education Department. He is
founder of the Travellers' Club and has
led many tours, mainly to the Indian
sub-continent and South East Asia. He
has conducted tours of Morocco since
1997. Our accompanying guide, Omar, is
an old friend, with a deep knowledge of
Morocco and its culture
This tour takes in many of the highlights that the exciting country of Morocco offers. The tour is designed to enjoy the wonderful variety to be found - its architectural and artistic heritage, its remarkable history from Roman times, its peoples, religions, crafts and the truly dramatic landscapes. We fly to Tangier to explore this ancient city. We drive through the Rif mountains to reach the very picturesque town of Chefchouan,
settled by Moslem and Jewish refugees from the expulsion from Spain in the 15th century . We then visit two of the great Imperial cities of the north – Fes, where we stay for 6 nights at a riad in the medina, and Meknes. These, together with other Imperial cities, vied with one another as the capital of an empire that, at the height of its power extended into Spain as far as the Pyrenees and east to the Sudan. Controlled by a
succession of Islamic dynasties, these cities have a fascinating history, whose architecture bridges the last 1200 years of Islamic civilisation. The mosques (which we may not enter) palaces, souks, universities and fortifications provide insights into the medieval and more recent past. Close to Meknes and Fez is the Roman site of Volubilis - Morocco's best preserved Roman city. Wherever possible, we plan to look at the lives of the people - at work or at home and no doubt bring home examples of the exquisite craftsmanship from this tempting country. Warning: Morocco is a serious shopping risk!
TANGIERS. We fly to Tangiers in the afternoon and transfer immediately to our small hotel in the heart of the medina. The city is the oldest in Morocco, with great strategic importance commanding the straights of Gibralter, and at one time providing Morocco’s prime port to the Mediterranean. It was a base for the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Byzantines and became a focus of the struggles between Arab and Berber Muslims from 706AD. The Portuguese first conquered the city in 1437. It became Spanish, then Portuguese again and briefly British when it was given, along with Bombay, as part of Catherine da Braganza’s dowry to King Charles II. The British left in 1684 not before ingloriously deporting the Jews, alienating the Catholics and destroying the kasbah. Sultan Moulay Idriss rebuilt the city and during the 19th century it was a prosperous trading port and became a tax-free International Zone from 1923. Very little of ancient Tangiers remains, but the Kasbah (with its museum in the palace) and the Medina make a fascinating introduction to Morocco.
2 nights at La Tangerina Hotel. Located inside the Kasbah, a few steps from the port and the souk, this is a charming small 10 room hotel, where we plan to use all 10 rooms for a Moroccan ‘house party’. Meals can be served on the terrace with views over the medina and Mediterranean. There is a hammam.
CHEFCHAOUEN & THE RIF MOUNTAINS. A short and picturesque drive up into the rugged Rif takes us to the lovely blue and white Andalucian town of CHEFCHAOUEN (also called Chaouen) set above the Oued Laou valley. The town was founded in 1471 to prevent the Portuguese and Spanish expansion, and grew with the
influx of Jews and Muslims expelled from Spain at the time of the réconquista. It is an important place of Muslim pilgrimage and was virtually closed to Christians until taken by the Spanish in 1920. There were brief periods of ejection by fierce Rif tribesmen, until Independence in 1956. Unlike Tangiers, the Medina of the town is a place to wonder at will – small enough not to get lost! – and where we still see local costumes of Rif men and women as they go about their business. The Medina is dominated by the 15th century Kasbah, which houses an interesting museum and in which we can explore roof-top views over the town as well as the dungeons.
2 nights at the Casa Hassan and Dar Baibou. These are two small riad hotels, in the same ownership located in the heart of the medina of the old city.
FEZ. This is a beautifully preserved city (thanks in part to UNESCO sponsored conservation), full of history and mystery, and one of the great pillars of Islamic learning - of science, medicine, music and poetry as well as theology. The city dates from the 8th century under Sultan Idriss I, founder of the Idrissidos dynasty. It became an important trading and manufacturing centre (famous for tiles, pottery, copper, textiles) as well as the great intellectual city, embellished by successive dynasties of rulers. The Merinides made it their capital after 1248 and Fez reached its zenith in the 14th century. It again became the capital under Sultan Moulay Rachid in the late 17th century. While in Fez we plan to see the exteriors of mosques (we cannot go inside), the important museum, medieval madrasas (theological colleges) with their highly decorated interiors, the medina including the souks of potters, dyers, tanners, coppersmiths, spice dealers and
cabinet makers. 6 nights at a Riad hotel in the heart of the old city. From here we can make
leisurely visits into the medina and other sights of the city and also excursions to:
VOLUBILIS, MOULAY IDRISS & MEKNES.
The impressive Roman city of Volubilis occupies a majestic site, and the impressive colonnaded streets, archways and above all mosaic floors reflect the prosperity, based on olive oil, of this provincial Roman city. We will explore the layout of the city, its forum, oil presses and even the slightly risqué carved advertisement for the municipal brothel!
Nearby is Moulay Idriss, an important pilgrimage centre, as the great-great- grandson of the Prophet who was named Idriss is buried here. He came from Arabia in 786 AD, was accepted as an Imam by the berber tribes and founded both Fes and the town of Moulay Idriss. The town grew in the early 18th century, developed by Sultan Moulay Ismal (the same Moulay Ismail who established his capital at Meknes), who took much of the building stone from Volubilis. It is a dramatic sight with a huge jumble of houses
and mosques on two rocky promontories.
Meknes – another Imperial capital - dates from a 10th century settlement of Berber nomads. It then passed under the control of successive dynasties of rulers, each adding to its architecture: the Almoravides in the 11th century; the Almohades in the 12th; the Merinides in the 13th. It was Sultan Moulay Ismail of the Alouite dynasty who made it his capital in the late 17th century, building the palaces, gardens, granaries,stables and ramparts for which Meknes is famed. The Sultan was also famed for the cruelty of his rule.
To contact us about this Tour telephone 01425 480600 or via email here.