Markets and mosques of the African coast
This remarkable rail odyssey takes us through North Africa's most beguiling cultural destination, Morocco. During this exciting rail adventure we encounter royal palaces, ancient mosques and minarets, while immersing ourselves in the true ﬂavours of Moroccan life.
Our Moroccan exploration begins with a flight from London to Marrakech. Upon arrival, we transfer to our hotel, the Es Saadi Gardens & Resort, for a two-night stay.
This morning we embark on a guided tour of Marrakech. Known as the 'Ochre City', Marrakech lies in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, giving it a stunning backdrop. Our guided tour of the city's main sights includes the fortified Old Town and modern 'new city' area, built by the French at the start of the 20th century. The city is still best known for the Djemaa el Fna, its incredible, bustling main square - the largest in Morocco. The square is filled with entertainers during the day - acrobats, musicians, dancers, snake charmers, wide-eyed story tellers and instantly recognisable water sellers. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant, and is accompanied by a traditional folklore show.
We transfer to the station for the train to Casablanca, famously the setting of the iconic Hollywood movie. The city is an incredible blend of ancient and modern, with an Old Town Medina and a terrific Art Deco New Town. The Medina is a truly remarkable place, with tiny labyrinthine streets and tall, dusty colonial-style buildings. Nowhere will you feel more immersed in Moroccan culture, as sights, smells and eccentric local traders and performers all compete for your attention. On our guided tour, we visit the Mohammed V Square, the heart of the city which is a hive of activity 24 hours a day, and the iconic Hassan II Mosque - an impressive sight to behold. Lunch is at a local restaurant. We then board a coach and transfer to Rabat. Our hotel is the Golden Tulip Farah Rabat.
We explore Rabat with a local guide. Rabat is divided into two distinct regions, with a bustling Medina and the 'Ville Nouvelle', built by the French from 1912. Throughout the city the influence of Roman, Moorish and Spanish occupiers can clearly be seen. Our tour takes us to the main sights in this ancient city, including the stunning Kasbah of the Udayas, originally built during the reign of the Almohads during the 12th century. We also pass the impressive Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the jewel in Rabat's crown. The white-washed Mausoleum contains the tombs of the Moroccan king Hassan II and his two sons. The breathtaking structure was completed in 1971.
This morning we continue on to Tangier by rail, a coastal city with a long and tumultuous history that has left a lasting effect on the culture and architecture. Upon arrival, we embark on a guided tour of the city, heading to the coastline to explore the Cape Spartel, a rocky promontory and the most north-western point of mainland Africa. On a clear day, Europe can be seen across the Strait of Gibraltar. The Cape is home to the iconic rock formation known as the Caves of Hercules. The Cave entrance somewhat resembles a map of Africa when looked at from the sea and it is said that it leads to a subterranean tunnel that stretches under the sea to Gibraltar. Legend has it that the hero Hercules slept in the cave before attempting his 11th labour, to retrieve the golden apples from Hesperides. Our hotel is Tangier is the Golden Tulip Farah Tangier.
Today we make our way to Fez, stopping en-route in Chefchaouen for lunch and a guided tour. The distinctive city of Chefchaouen, 'the Blue City of Morocco', is so named due to the calming blue hue bedecking the compact white-washed houses. Chefchaouen has long been a Jewish sanctuary, and indeed it was the Spanish Jewish refugees who painted the city's Medina. Today Chefchaouen stands as a melting pot of cultures, with blends of Jewish, Islamic, Moroccan and Spanish influences evident in the city. The city is said to have been founded as a small fortress by the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. We enjoy a guided tour of the main sights, wandering through the blue-hued Old Town district and iconic Medina before enjoying lunch in a local restaurant, amidst the bustling market crowds. Our hotel in Fez is the Atlas Palais Medina & Spa.
We enjoy a guided tour of Fes, one of Morocco's oldest cities, founded in about 809AD. We see the grand, imposing gateway of the Royal Palace, and the impressive 17th century fortifications, along with the old guilds, souks and popular spice market of the city. We also pass the University of al-Qarawiyyan, which according to UNESCO, is the oldest functioning university in the world, having first opened as a centre of learning in 859. The University is one of leading spiritual and educational buildings in the Islamic world. From there, we pass the stunning architecture on display at the nearby Mosque of al-Qarawiyyan, with its distinctive green-topped roof and white walls, the two colours most commonly associated with Islam. The colourful tanneries of Fes are one of the city's most familiar and photographed sights and are well worth visiting. This evening we enjoy dinner at a traditional Moroccan restaurant accompanied by a musical show, with belly dancers, Ahouach and an Andalousy band.
We take an excursion to Meknes today, and experience its imperial past through its ornate palaces. We then continue to Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Volubilis is the well-preserved ruins of the 2,000-year old capital of Roman Mauritania, home of Antony and Cleopatra's daughter Sylene. The former Roman settlement was built on the remains of a Carthaginian city and became an important administrative centre for the region, controlling the production and export of grain and olive oil in what is a highly fertile area. The structures in Volubilis are comparable to other Roman ruins found throughout the Mediterranean area, and the mosaic floors are among the finest in existence.
Today, we return to Marrakech via rail, staying at the Es Saadi Gardens and Resort. On Day 10, transfer to the airport for the flight to London.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Markets and mosques of the African coast