Morocco 2021 Itinerary

The best part of any journey are the events you won’t find on the itinerary. This is the formal schedule. It represents the basics of what we will do, but it does not include the better aspects – the people we will meet, the meals we will share and the unexpected adventures that happen on all our tours.

Not listed in the itinerary

Notes from our guide, “It’s odd that the guide books and other guides concentrate so much on the history, when, in my experience, what fascinates guests most is actually the present; trying to understand people’s way of life and feelings within the framework of Africa, Islam, a developing country, subsistence farming, etc. 

We will take as many opportunities as possible to visit people in their homes, be they riads, tents or caves, and places of work.”

Suggestions for those spending an extra day in Casablanca from our guide, “I love the gently decomposing Art Déco Quarter and the characters on the street; the old marché centrale; the Habous (pastiche that it is) with its carpet and book dealers; the Hassan II mosque from the outside; and if the weather is good it’s fun shooting the boys surfing and dodging the rocks next to the mosque.” 

Monday 8th November 2021 – Tuesday 9th November


A visit to Fes is more like time travel than tourism. Fes is the best preserved of all the imperial cities in Morocco, and probably the world’s most intact medieval city. This doesn’t just apply to architecture; the cities social fabric, the rhythm of daily life, the old trades, are still intact. Only the addition of electricity has changed the walled city in any way.

Abandoned by the French Protectorate in favour of smaller, more easily defended Rabat, the grand capital city fell asleep in 1915. The politicians and diplomats went to Rabat. The businessmen went to Casablanca. Later, the towns large Jewish population abandoned the Mellah and went to Israel and Paris.

The city’s mansions and palaces were left staffed – and the staff gradually took over the properties. Families moved in from the countryside, to train their sons in one of the traditional trades, or to seek a better education in the beautiful medersas.

Today the walled city is the world’s largest pedestrian urban space, impenetrable by car (even the banks are forced to use donkeys to transport their bags of cash). Hard working porters traverse the city, serving the workshops dotted throughout the souks.

We will explore the entire labyrinth, including the tanneries (unchanged for 900 years), the dyers souk, Seffarine and it’s deafening brass and copper smiths, the stunning Bouanania medersa (the medersas were the forerunners of the western universities), the Jewish quarter, complete with synagogue (the Torah is written on gazelle hide), and the endless souks. Dar Glaoui gives a glimpse of an abandoned palace, owned by one of the world’s richest men.

Built in a steep river valley and surrounded by hills, the city is a superb opportunity for landscape photographers with several spectacular view points.

Wednesday 10th November

Rabat and Roman ruins

We’ll follow the road back out to the coast and the capital, Rabat. 

The Chellah is one of Morocco’s most extraordinary corners. Just beyond the Royal palace is a vast set of 14th century curtain walls and towers. Entered through a beautiful, intricately carved limestone gateway, the area within conceals the ruins of the Roman city, a Muslim Sultan’s necropolis, several domed Sufi tombs, and a sacred pool said to aid fertility (and populated by eels and cats). The whole area is surrounded by a wild garden, with the taller trees playing host to noisy storks.

We’ll have lunch on the river (home port to the Barbary Pirates until the 18th century)*. Modern yachts mingle with the old open wooden ferry boats taking passengers to Rabat’s twin city, Salé. 

We’ll arrive in Marrakech with plenty of time to relax and explore before dinner.

* Or have lunch in the Rabat home of Ali Slimani, a colleague of Dick Flanigan 

Thursday 11th November


The Bab el Khemis flea market is at its best on Thursday. The Souk Sebt rural market 12 miles outside the town is on Saturday morning 

Marrakech needs no introduction. The famous red city, a cross roads on the trade routes to Timbuktu, is legendary. Heart of the city, and in many ways the country, is the central square of Jma el Fna. Home to the snake charmers and a few tamed Barbary apes, the square is our starting point on a day that takes us deep into the city, off the tourist track. We’ll see the Bab el Khemis flea market, and explore the Moukef district, which escaped most of the impact of the Jet-Set.

As a poorer area, the souks have an authentic feel, and avoid the tourists and tourist articles for sale elsewhere in the medina.

In the evening we’ll wind our way back to the square, by now transformed;  the snakes are nowhere to be seen, and a huge street food market has been set up, smoke from the cooking drifting across the square and the view of the Koutoubia minaret (the Islamic world’s tallest building when built, 800 years ago).

Story tellers, acrobats, musicians, purveyors of black magic charms, henna tattooists… almost anything can be found on Jma el Fna at night.

After shooting sunset we’ll retire to a nearby restaurant, and a reminder that 1400 years of Islam have not, yet, managed to defeat the traditional belly dance. The dancers are happy to be photographed.

Friday 12th November

The High Atlas

We leave Marrakech and begin our climb into the High Atlas. We’ll follow an obscure, little used pass across the mountains, reaching over 7,000 feet twice, on a mixture of broken paved roads and red earth tracks; our destination is a tiny Berber village high above the Tassaoute valley, where we will have lunch in a traditional farmhouse.

The cash crop here is walnuts, and the village is shaded by some huge trees, many hundreds of years old. Despite it’s position clinging to a mountain top, the village has an abundance of spring fed water courses, and the occasional tiny water powered mill for grinding flour from wheat, barley and maize, grown as subsistence crops on the narrow strips of agricultural land alongside the river itself.

There’s a tiny school in the village, which we are normally able to visit.

In the afternoon we follow the pass down into the desert, skirting the Massif of M’goun, Morocco’s second highest mountain at 13,356 feet. The scenery is spectacular, with deep gorges and endless views; the higher peaks will be snow capped until perhaps March.

You’ll end the day at the Skoura Oasis, staying at a beautifully transformed 18th century kasbah (castle).

Saturday 13th November

The Oasis

The Skoura Oasis is a huge area of date palms surrounding a dry river bed, littered with kasbahs and ruins, and criss crossed by tiny paths and tracks. The dates are the cash crop here, but below the palms narrow irrigation channels allow the cultivation of wheat, barley, mint and alfalfa.

We’ll visit a tiny Sufi shrine in the morning. These buildings are normally closed to non Muslims, but we benefit from a special relationship here. The shrine stands in the middle of the ruins of an ancient medersa, forerunners of the western universities and a reminder that this area was once rich.

We’ll walk through the palms and across the river to another ancient kasbah for lunch. The building has plenty of fascinating corners and some very interesting light. I can arrange models if you wish.

Sunset from the river valley, with the palms silouetted against the Atlas mountains and the towers of the kasbah, can be spectacular.

We’ll return to our own kasbah for dinner.

Skoura often has an excellent night sky and the battlements of the kasbah make an excellent camera platform.

Sunday 14th November

The Draa Valley

From Skoura we skirt the Ouarzazate, capital of Morocco’s booming film business, before crossing the Jbel Saghro – literally the ‘dry mountains’ in Berber. A minor chain, there are still some wonderful views, and their barren, eroded surface lays the different rock strata and colours bare; in some ways the mountains look like a giant contour map.

Our route takes us into the Draa Valley; Morocco’s longest river, it is rarely visible over its entire course, but there are areas of deep water, lined by palm trees. The road is dotted with little mud brick and rammed earth villages, the most spectacular of which is Tamegroute.

Here the local people had the good idea of digging down for the mud for their homes, leaving some of the streets and homes below ground level – and magically cool through the searing summer heat. The village is famous as a centre of Sufi learning, for it’s ancient library, and for it’s lunatic asylum, where it is hoped the Sufi ‘saint’ may bring peace to those in torment.

As a result of it’s Sufi zawiya (literally a sanctuary), the village was also a place of refuge for runaway slaves. Even today, much of the population has sub Saharan roots – including my wife’s family.

We’ll end the day at the village of M’hamid el Ghizlane, which is also the end of the paved road. The modern village’s dusty streets cluster around the base of what was once a French Foreign Legion fort; hidden across the Draa in the palms is the old settlement, which was one of the last places to provision before the camel caravans left to cross the Sahara to Timbuktu.

We’ll stay in a comfortable auberge.

Monday 15th November

The Sahara

M’hamid el Ghizlane is the end of the paved road; the village is a supply point to the nomadic tribes and the little shops are often busy with robed and turbaned characters.

We follow the main street until it peters out into the sand, and cross our first set of dunes. Our destination is Erg Chegaga, the largest sand sea in Morocco.

The dunes give way to rough tracks through what the nomads describe as the ‘forest’ – a few tamarisk trees. A long stretch of hamada follows – stone desert, the most dominant landscape in the Sahara. We take a break from the tracks at the Sacred Oasis, a remote spot where clear water rises from a sheet of rock, amazingly supporting a population of frogs.

Soon Erg Chegaga is in view; the higher dunes first, but eventually sand fills the horizon, with dunes as far as the eye can see.

As the sun sets, the play of light and shade on the dunes means fabulous photographs are almost guaranteed. Camels are available to take you higher into the dunes if you wish.

We’ll spend the night in a camp at the foot of the dunes.

Tuesday 16th November

Mirages and Lake Iriqi

We cross the dunes, heading for the wide open flats of Lake Iriqi. The lake, almost always dry, has regular mirages, with some of the surrounding mountains appearing to float on the mirage.

Eventually the smooth, fast surface of the lake ends and we follow rough rocky tracks to the outpost of Foum Zguid, where the paved road begins.

Foum Zguid means literally the mouth of the valley, and we follow the canyon back up towards the High Atlas.

This time we’ll cross the mountains on the famous Tiz n Tichka pass, climbing to 7,000 feet one last time, before reaching Marrakech in time for dinner.

Wednesday 17th November

A day to wind down and explore Marrakech. Marjorelle Gardens in Marrakech is the country’s number one tourist attraction, so it is very crowded, but we can arrange it if we’d like to go. The adjoining Yves Saint Laurent museum is interesting for a glimpse of Paris haute couture. 

Thursday 18th November

Return to Casablanca airport for Departure

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