Experience the exotic beauty of Morocco, as you ride camels from a lush oasis to a Berber camp in the Sahara Desert, take a Moroccan cooking arts class, stay at luxury riads and ancient kasbahs. Tour Majorelle Gardens, hike the High Atlas Mountains, indulge in Moroccan spa treatments, stroll the oceanside promenade of Casablanca, through medieval souks and medinas of Fez and the palm groves of Marrakech.
Deserts and Caravans
Morocco's Saharan sand dunes are the stuff of legend, and sitting on a camel as the sun sets over the golden sands is one of life's most sublime experiences. The dunes here are called ergs, "islands of sand" in Arabic, and they radiate beauty and a rare sense of tranquility. Today's camel trekking routes through the ergs follow the 9th century trans-Saharan caravan trade routes which carried salt, gold, slaves and spices from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean ports and the Middle East. The present day village of Rissani was the main oasis and stopping point on the caravans' journey. >>
The architecture of Marrakech is dominated by riads. Riad, meaning "a garden" in Arabic, is a traditional home inside a city's medina. These courtyard mansions are usually located near palaces in Morocco's main cities, and they used to belong to families of royal relatives and rich merchants. According to the tradition, riads have no windows to the street outside, but all windows open inward to the central arcaded courtyard which usually has a fountain or a pool and a garden with songbirds twittering within the branches of orange, tangerine and lemon trees. From the outside, looking at the austere, thick mudbrick walls, you'd never guess the splendor that is found inside. >>
Desert caravans passed through this outpost long before Berber leader Youssef and his savvy wife Zeinab recognized Marrakech's strategic potential and built ramparts around it in Desert caravans passed through this outpost long before Berber leader Youssef and his savvy wife Zeinab recognized Marrakech's strategic potential and built ramparts around it in 1062. The city's irrigation system and its signature pink mudbrick architecture were introduced by the Almoravids. Then Almohad el-Mansour rebuilt Marrakech with a fortified kasbah, glorious gardens, mosques and a triumphal gate. >>
Morocco is a foodie's heaven, and the country's history is reflected in its culinary arts. Being at the crossroads of many civilizations, the cuisine here has been influenced by the native Berber cuisine, the Arabic Andalusian cuisine brought by the Moriscos when they left Spain during the Spanish inquisition, Turkish cuisine and the Middle Eastern cuisines brought by Arabic and Jewish populations. All these groups left their countries in the Middle Ages and settled in Morocco, bringing with them traditional recipes which are now common in Morocco, but forgotten in the Middle East. >>
Nobody leaves Marrakech without buying something. Almost every form of Moroccan arts and crafts can be found among Marrakech's labyrinth of shops. The souks sell leatherwork, brassware, copperware, fabrics and elaborate tassels, ceramics from Fez and silver jewelry from Tiznit. Women from cooperatives of Essaouira sell the rare argan oil, Berbers sell ancient herbal cures for everything, from love to financial loss. Outside of the medina, along tree-lined avenues, there are chic boutiques offering the latest in European fashion and beauty products, along with unique housewares, African antiques and objects d'art and Belgian chocolates. >>