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Morocco's Great North
Morocco’s Great North Private Tour of Morocco’s – Discovery of Imperial Cities, Coastal towns and Hidden medinas in the Rif Mountain Region
Duration: 10 Days/ 9 Nights
Morocco Travel: In Luxury 4x4
English, Arabic, French Speaking Driver, Guide
Starting & Finishing Point: Airport in Casablanca
MOROCCO’S GREAT NORTH – DISCOVERY OF IMPERIAL CITIES & COASTAL TOWNS - PRIVATE TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:
Explore Tangiers Jewish
Synagogue and Mellah
Visit Cap Spartal and the Cafes of Hercules
Sip Mint Tea at Café Hafa with views of Gibraltar
Excursion to former Portuguese artistic capitol of Asiliah
Drive Morocco’s Northern Coast with Seaside Views
Discover the blue washed Rif Mountain town of Chefchaouen
Hike in the Rif Region’s Akshour Waterfalls, God’s Bridge
Historical Tour of Fes El Bali’s Mosques, Jewish Sites, Majestic Palaces, Gardens and Souks
Stay in Boutique Moroccan Riads and Guest Houses
Travel to Morocco for Morocco’s Great Northern Discovery – Visit Tangier, Tetouan, Asiliah, Chefchaouen, Fes Meknes and Moulay Idriss. Northern Morocco awaits you.
Private Travel to Morocco. Book a Tour to Morocco's Great North or call (800) 787-8806. Let us be your guide to Morocco Travel.
DAY 1: TANGIER SITESEEING & GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR
Arrive in Tangier
by ferry, or at the Tangier Airport. Discover the Best of Northern Morocco in 10 magical days. Starting from Tangier, visit Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Coastal Towns, Hidden Medinas and Rif Mountain region. Take in the blue and whitewashed city Chefchaouen
, wander through the labyrinthine souks of Fes, explore the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and journey through the beautiful Rif mountains.
Tangier, the capital of the Tétouan Region, has a rich history from the historical presence of many civilizations and cultures that conquered this area starting in the 5th century BC. Tangier sits at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel.
This beautiful city, only 35 minutes from Spain by modern hydrofoil or two hours by normal ferry boat service, has a hugely multicultural society, predominantly Muslim, but with small Christian and Jewish communities who express tolerance for one another. In the 1950’s Tangier was a refuge for many artists and writers from America and Europe.
This port city is shaped by the sea and has attracted famous writers including Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, and Truman Capote. Writers of the Beat Generation visited or lived in Tangier including Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Brion Gysin. Notable artists who lived and painted here were Eugene Delacroix and Henri Matisse.
Celebrities who have stayed in Tangier include The Rolling Stones, who also recorded with the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Bachir Attar in the Kasbah in 1989. Tangier was a favorite home to Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, whose lavish parties at Sidi Hosni put Tangier on the map in the international press during from the 1950s through the early 1970s. Forbes magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes held his 70th birthday party in 1989 at his Palais Mendoub for 800 guests flown in from all over the world, spending over $2.5 million for a weekend celebration.
Start your day with a panoramic city view from the vantage point of the Colline de Bella-Vista. Then drive to see the Grand Socco, a popular nighttime square close to the Mosque of Sidi Bou Abib and the link between Ville Nouvelle and the medina.
Next visit the Caves of Hercules and Cap Spartel, a majestic part of Tangier.
Option to visit the Sh’ar Raphael Synagogue, one of the surviving remnants of Jewish Heritage in Tangier.
Next, visit the old medina. Enter the medina at Rue Es-Siaghinie, the busiest part of this Roman medina lined with cafes and bazaars, a Spanish church, jewelers’ shops, and an arts center displaying works depicting Tangier’s social history. Walk the Petit Socco, which was once the heart of the medina where businessmen and bankers frequented cafes, hotels, casinos, and cabarets that have since relocated to Ville Nouvelle. Move on to visit the Grand Mosque, built on the site of a Portuguese cathedral. Walking north, you will then visit the Kasbah decorated with mosaics, ornamental stucco, and woodcarving.
Have a traditional Moroccan lunch in the city center then explore the Quartier du Marshan, an attractive residential area west of the Kasbah. Next, visit the Anglican church of St. Andrew built for Tangier’s growing British population. After, make a stop to appreciate fine works of art at the Musée d’ Art Contemporain showcasing contemporary Moroccan paintings.
Have a traditional lunch at Populaire Le Saveur De Poisson, a rustic and well-appointed restaurant in the Tangier Medina. The owner Si Mohammed is a legendary self taught Chef from El Hoceima who cooks up one of Morocco’s best meals combining fresh herbs, grains and spices from the Rif Mountain region. Diners can anticipate a five-course meal that starts by fish soup made with barley, grilled sea bass, baby shrimp, served with blanched nutsand honey from the Moroccan countryside. All dishes are served in terra-cotta small vessels that are a local pottery from this region. After lunch explore the Quartier du Marshan, an attractive residential area west of the Kasbah. Next, visit the Anglican church of St. Andrew built for Tangier’s growing British population. After, make a stop to appreciate fine works of art at the Musée d’ Art Contemporain showcasing contemporary Moroccan paintings.
In the mid afternoon, take a break and experience Tangier’s cafe scene at the Cafe de Paris, a popular meeting place for Tangier residents, expats, and a former favorite of Paul Bowles.
Option to visit the Moroccan Cafe Hafa, an attractive restaurant with a terrace and gardens that overlook Gibraltar – perfect at sunset and another former writing spot of Paul Bowles.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Tangier
DAY 2: TANGIER – EXCURION TO SEASIDE ASILIAH
Larache is an important harbor town in the Tangier-Tétouan region of northern Morocco. It was founded in the 7th century when a group of Muslim soldiers from Arabia extended their camp at Lixus onto the south bank of the Loukkos River. In 1471, the Portuguese settlers from Asilah
and Tangier drove the inhabitants out of Larache, and again it remained uninhabited until the Saadi Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh decided to repopulate it and build a stronghold on the plateau above the river. He constructed a fortress at the entrance to the port as a means of controlling access to the river.
Lixus is the site of an ancient city located in Morocco just north of the modern seaport of Larache on the bank of the Loukkos River. The location was one of the main cities of the Roman province Mauretania Tingitana. Among the ruins there are baths, temples, mosaic floors, and the intricate remains of the Capitol Hill to explore.
Continue on the road to Asilah, a fortified walled city located on the tip of the Atlantic coast. Asilah dates back to the era of the Phoenicians who used the area as a base for trade. The Portuguese conquered it and it was later abandoned until it was taken over by the Moroccans under the leadership of Moulay Ismail. Today Asilah is a popular seaside resort that hosts an annual music and arts festival each August. The Asilah Arts Festival is an annual cultural extravaganza featuring both studio and performing artists from all over the world. Journalists, writers, painters, musicians, and dancers gather at the Asilah Arts Festival imparting the town with color, exuberance, and dynamism.
Have lunch near the sea at Casa Garcia, a charming Spanish-style restaurant located opposite the sea that serves up grilled fish, octopus, eels, shrimp, and barnacles fresh from the port.
Explore the old medina of Asilah, art galleries, and the stark white and blue painted old city.
Return to Tangier in the late afternoon.
Dinner by the sea and then begin your own evening exploration of Rue Mexique. Stroll down Rue Mexique and participate in the lively nightlife and fascinating shopping experiences ranging from modern clothing to traditional Moroccan shops that are open late into the night. The most popular bars include Deans Bar on Rue Amerique Sud, English Bar on Rue du Mexique, and Restaurant Negresco next to Katoubia Palace on Rue al-Moutanabi.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Tangier.
DAY 3: TANGIER - TETOUAN
Breakfast at your hotel. Drive up the magnificent coast of Northern Morocco to Tetouan.
Tetouan is a small city in northern Morocco with a unique heritage of Andalusian and Arab cultures making this whitewashed city one of the jewels of Morocco.
Situated in the middle of a belt of orchards that contain orange, pomegranate, almond, and cypress trees, Tetouan is picturesquely perched on the northern slope of a fertile valley down which flows the Martil river with Tetouan harbor at its mouth.
Begin your Tetouan tour with a visit to the Big Mosque, the Spanish Cathedral, Babu Saidi, the Kasbah, the Medina, and Hassan II Square. Then tour the old Royal Palace, a 17th century building, at Place Hassan II. Hassan II Square is a reflection of the Hispano-Moresque architecture of Tetouan. The palace is closed to public entry but its main ornate gate Bab Er-Rouah is magnificent. Place Hassan II, where the old and new town meet, is the dynamic heart of Tetouan.
Next, explore Tetouan’s old medina, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old medina in Tetouan was once a pirate hub and the capital of Spain during colonial times. The Romans destroyed Tetouan and it was repopulated in the 16th century. Tetouan was a refuge for Jews, Moors, and Moriscos who escaped the Spanish inquisition and many people in the city still speak Spanish.
The streets in Tetouan are wide and straight and many of the houses belong to aristocratic families, descendants of those expelled from Al-Andalus by the Spanish Reconquista. These houses boast marble fountains, orange groves, exquisitely carved and painted ceilings in Hispano-Moresque designs, similar to those in the Alhambra in Granada.
Lunch in Tetouan of local Moroccan fare and then explore Tetouan’s winding streets and alleys on your way to the fort.
Visit the Jewish mellah, the Berber market, and the Andalusian sector. The Jews of Tetouan once lived in its mellah that was separated from the rest of the town by gates that were closed at night. Tetouan was once home to an important Sephardic Jewish community, which emigrated from Spain after the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition. This Jewish Sephardic community spoke a form of Judeo-Spanish known as Haketia. There are very few Jews left in Tetouan today.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Tangier.
DAY 4: TETOUAN – COASTAL DRIVER TO CHEFCHAOUEN – CHEFCHAOUEN GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR
Take the road to Chefchaouen.
Arrive in early afternoon. Check into your riad and have lunch, or venture out for lunch at one of the local cafes that offer an intimate view of the old blue and whitewashed city.
Explore the blue and whitewashed town’s old medina on foot along with your guide who will share stories of Chefchaouen’s history.
Start your tour with the Kasbah Museum in the medina. The Kasbah of Chefchaouen belongs to the early 18th century and was built by the legendary ruler Moulay Ismail. It is fairly simple without architectural flourishes, however it is surrounded by gardens on the interior and exterior. Inside the Kasbah, you can visit the ethnographic museum containing antique weapons, musical instruments, and photographs of the old town.
Step onto the museum’s roof and take pictures of a panoramic view of the town lined with blue and whitewashed houses, tiny balconies, tiled roofs, and patios embellished with citrus trees. Next, visit the cobbled main square, Plaza Uta El-Hammam where the striking 15th century Grand Mosque sits. Jewish refugees who, alongside Muslims, escaped the Spanish persecution and settled in Chefchaouen built the Mosque and its nearby buildings.
Try fresh goat cheese salad, a local Rif specialty, chicken pastilla, or a lamb tajine with prunes. For dessert sit outside by the mulberry trees of Plaza Uta El-Hammam and enjoy local sweets from one of the cafes. Browse the small shops famous for selling woven rugs, blankets, and woolen goods.
End your day with a guided hike in the green hillsides. In the evening, relax in a hammam, a Moroccan spa experience.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Chefchaouen.
DAY 5: CHEFCHAOUEN DAY AT LEISURE – VISIT BERBER VILLAGES IN THE RIF MOUNTAIN REGION
Day at Leisure to explore Chefchaouen on your own, or visit Berber villages in the Rif Mountains, hike to local waterfalls, and explore the arts scene in Chefchaouen.
Visit the Akshour Waterfalls just 40 minutes from Chefchaoun. The Akshour falls and a natural referred to a “Gods Bridge” that connects the falls are a worthwhile day excursion. The Akshour waterfalls leads to a bridge located across from them and in direction of larger and more impressive waterfalls. Akshour is in the direction of the coastal town of Oued Laou. There are charming small cafes that line the outline of the falls where your can dine on local tajine or sip mint tea in these natural surroundings.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Tangier
DAY 6: CHEFCHAOUEN – RIF MOUNATAINS – FES
Journey through the Rif Mountains to the UENSCO World Heritage site, Fes El Bali. The Rif Mountains are still relatively unexplored by visitors, partly because they are quite remote, and partly because of the hashish that is grown in fields of the hidden valleys. With your guide and driver you will be safe and enjoy this unspoiled region of Morocco.
Head south through the poetic Rif Mountains. Take the route through La Arobia, the Arab villages that are nestled quietly on the exterior of the route to Fes.
The Rif Mountains has been inhabited by Berbers for thousands of years. In the 11th century BC, the Phoenicians began to establish trading posts with the approval of the local Berbers on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. They founded cities such as Tetouan, Melilla (Rusadir), and Tangier.
The Riffians are the Berbers who inhabit the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco. The original language of the Riffians is called Riffian, though many also speak Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, or French.
DAY 7: FES GUIDED HISTORICAL TOUR – SITE SEEING OF MONUMENTS, MOSQUES, JEWISH HERITAGE SITES, GARDENS, SOUKS AND MARKETS
Visit the following sites on a route that takes you through the medina starting with the old Jewish Quarter.
The 14th Century Palace Gates of the King – The Royal Palace in Fes is one of the oldest and largest in Morocco.
Jewish Mellah – A mellah is the Jewish quarter located in the old cities of Morocco with a walled boundary. The Fes Mellah is also walled and it has a fortified gateway. These Jewish quarters are located near the royal residencies, which enabled its inhabitants to be protected from the wrath of the Muslim populace. Jews once solely inhabited the Fes Mellah. This was the first mellah in Morocco and originated in 1438. In contrast with the young Casablanca Mellah, the Fes Mellah is over 650 years old. This picturesque neighborhood adjoins the royal palace where Jews took shelter during the 1912 pogrom.
Ibn Danan Jewish Synagogue – Fes was once home to a flourishing Jewish community during the 17th century. The Rabbi Shlomo Ibn Danan Synagogue was built and founded by the Ibn Danan family, as well as the nearby Mansano Synagogue.
Jewish Cemetery and Tomb of Solica. The cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Lalla Solica, who was killed for refusing to convert to Islam. Solica was born in Tangier in 1817. At the age of 16, she was courted by a Muslim man, but refused to marry him. To force her hand, the man went to the caid, the local government official. The man told the caid that Solica could not refuse his offer of marriage because she was no longer Jewish, having converted to Islam of her own free will. When called before the caid, she refused to acknowledge having converted. The Sultan called her to Fes, where she again denied her conversion. As a result, she was condemned to death for apostasy and killed in 1834.
Walk through one of the oldest and most beautiful preserved Jewish streets in Morocco from the time of the inquisition.
Rcife – Fes el Bali, also known as Rcife, is the heart of manufacturing for Fassi goods. Cross the local fruit and vegetable market and visit the stalls of local traders while watching locals buy their daily goods.
Dyers Souk – The dyers market, located along Rue de Teinturies, is the best place to see the dying vats, which have been used for centuries to dye cloth
Place el-Seffarine is the most important center for the production Fasiss style ceramics, brassware, and silverware in Morocco.
The Tannery – The Chourara, or the Tanner’s Quarters, is one of the most lively and picturesque souks in Fes. Located near the Wadi Fès and far from residential areas due to the tannery smell. See the wide array of local leatherwork, a proud tradition of Fes.
The Bou Inania Madrasa – The Madrasa Bou Inania is a madrasa founded in AD 1351–56 by Abu Inan Faris. It is widely acknowledged as a major example of Marinid architecture. The madrasa functioned as both an educational institute and a congregational mosque. It was the last madrasa to be built by the Marinides.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Fes.
DAY 8: FES DAY AT LEISURE – VISIT GARDENS, PALACES, SOLO EXPLORATION OR THE SOUKS
Begin your day of solo exploration, or visit the gardens and palaces of Fes.
Visit Jnane Sbil Gardens originally created by the Sultan Moulay Abdallah. Jnane Sbil encompasses 7.5 hectares, is located in the heart of city, and is one of the oldest gardens in Fes. Because of its historical importance, great care was taken to restore the garden to its original design. After four years of detailed restoration and renovation of the heirloom plants, the hydraulic systems, and the famous waterwheel, the project was completed and re-opened in June 2010.
Dar El-Batha Museum and Andalusian Gardens offer up a great collection of pottery, leatherwork, wood, books, and manuscripts from the nineteenth century. The Batha Andalusian Garden boasts a three hundred year old Quercus Rotundifolia, Washington Fifera, Cycas Revolta, and gorgeous Moroccan fountains. The Batha Garden is a serene escape from the bustling medina in Fes. Every June during Fes Festival of Sacred World Music various world music groups perform in the Museum and gardens.
Palais Mokri, or El Mokri Palace, is a landmark in Fes. Built around 1906 by If Tayeb El Mokri, son of the Grand Vizier of the king and himself Pasha of Casablanca, this residence is a classic representation of Fassi architecture and gardens. Built in the old medina, Palais Mokri reflects the ancient art of Morocco. It has fine woodwork, zellij tile, and plasterwork. Masters who were remarkable artists designed this grand palace. The floors are of white Carrara marble and fine mosaics. The carved ceilings, domes, and painted woodwork in the baroque style are set with sanded Venetian glass.
Cafe Fes is a charming Moroccan bistro set at the edge of a vast garden and topped by an immense rooftop terrace. Under the careful guidance of Michel Biehn himself, a Provencal food connoisseur with three award-winning cook books to his name, Fes Cafe crafts a market-fresh menu every day which draws its flavors from the Moroccan tradition, the East, and the home-grown organic vegetables from their own garden. The bar and foosball table make it a fun medina meeting place.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Fes.
DAY 9: FES – EXCURSION TO MOULAY IDRISS – VOLUBILIS & MEKNES
Drive to Moulay Idriss and Volubilis.
Just one hour away from Fes and scenically nestled in a fold of the Rif Mountains, Moulay Idriss is considered the holiest town in Morocco.
Moulay Idriss was forbidden to non-Muslims until 1916, however today, it welcomes visitors from all over the world. Most travelers who visit Moulay Idriss come to see the green tiled tomb of Moulay Idriss I. Moulay Idriss I was the great-grandson of the prophet Mohamed and the founder of the first Arab Muslim Dynasty in Morocco and Fes.
One of the five pillars of Islam is the hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca. It is an obligation for every Muslim man to make the pilgrimage at least once in his life. For those Moroccans who cannot afford to travel to Mecca, it is considered of equal merit to make a pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss five times in one’s life. Every August, thousands go on a pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss and pitch tents throughout the town as a more affordable alternative to going to the Mecca.
Explore the holy town of Moulay Idriss with its high defensive walls, monumental gate, koranic schools, fountains, and domed mausoleum. The Tomb of Moulay Idriss is closed to non-Muslims, but from the terrace near the Mosque of Sidi Abdallah el Hajjam, you can see breathtaking views of the town and the mausoleum.
Enjoy a terrace luncheon overlooking the rocky Middle Atlas Mountains at Restaurant Scorpion, a charming cafe owned by British Mike of the famous Cafe Clock in Fes. After lunch, walk through the lively souk and labyrinthine streets filled with small cafes selling chicken brochettes, sweets, fruits, vegetables, and all sorts of trinkets.
Next take the road to the Romain ruins of Volubilis.
Roman Ruins of Volubilis – The breathtaking archaeological site of Volubilis, also referred to as Oualili, was once a thriving town occupied by the Romans. Volubilis has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and gained international acclaim when Martin Scorsese made it a feature location for the film The Last Temptation of Christ. Discover the fascinating Roman ruins adorned with beautiful mosaics and colorful tiles depicting Roman mythology. The ruins are spread out across several acres and what remain visible are several fragments of wall, parts of massive columns, the capitol, the basilica, and a triumphal arch. The ruins reveal how the Roman Empire transformed the original Carthaginian settlement into a typical Roman city complete with mansions, a town center, a triumphal arch, and temples devoted to Roman gods.
Take the road to Meknes. Lunch in Meknes in the old French part of town. Visit a lookout with a panoramic view of Meknes over the medina with its numerous soaring minarets.
Old Medina and Bab el-Khemis – Stroll through the ancient walls of the medina and the Islamic cemetery, which extends from the Jewish quarter and the entrance to the Old Mellah. Enter through Bab el-Khemis. Bab el- Khemis is a large decorated gate from the 17th century often referred to as the Thursday Gate because of its proximity to a nearby camel market, which was held on Thursdays.
17th Century Kasbah – Famous for its military scale, Meknes Kasbah has a massive extension of walls and monumental gates that are wondrous to explore. Meknes is classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site for the highly important masterpieces left by the zealous sultan who built in a Roman fashion style. Meknes is the Versailles of Africa and is named after a Berber tribe, which was known as Miknasa.
Moulay Ismail built royal Stables and Agdal Reservoir- The Royal Stables and Agdal Reservoir, along with immense granaries. The Royal Stables is an amazing sight. This massive stable yard and reservoir were constructed to comfortably house and water up to twelve thousand royal horses.
Mausoleum and Royal Funeral Complex – Within the Kasbah is the royal sanctuary, which is still open for burials and other rituals.
Place El-Hedim is the central public square in Meknes that comes alive in the afternoon. Be sure to visit the Bab el Mansour Gate that is regarded as one of the most beautiful gates in Morocco and the most important gateway in Meknes. It opens into the mechouar of the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. The gate was named after El Mansour, the architect, and was completed in 1732. El Mansour was a Christian rebel who converted to Islam. Stop by the Meknes Olive Market to taste the decadent and delightful selection of olives.
Return to Fes.
Overnight at a Boutique Riad or Hotel in Fes.
DAY 10: FES – TANGIER DEPARTURE
Take the road through the villages and return to Tangier for a late morning or afternoon departure drop-off at the ferry or airport.