Days 1-3 Transfer in Casablanca to Marrakech were we meet our Land Rovers to go to Essaouira. Half the day we explore the souks and ateliers of this seaside town whitewashed and trimmed in blue, noting the colonial influences of Spain and Portugal. Next day we get acquainted with shops along the rampart walls, its distinctive, crumbling Jewish quarter, picnic at the market's fresh grilled fish stand, relax at a local hammam (steam bath), and bid farewell with a stroll along the port at sunset.
Day 4 Traveling south along the coast, we picnic at an exquisite beach where nomads shelter in cliff side caves and gather mussels for a living; stop at a country market where the sights, smells, and lively transactions give you a glimpse into the region's independent mountain Berbers. We camp in an isolated valley frequented by shepherds.
Day 5 Continuing south, we encounter sun-bleached terrain of the desert and reminders of the trans-Sahara trade; visit a holy shrine of a 16th century saint, We settle at a desert outpost, near the ruins of an immense kasbah built by the infamous Blue Sultan where the shimmering, star-filled night brings us silent beauty.
Day 6 In this arid region, we scramble up a hill to discover Neolithic rock carvings perched above a vast plain. Then roaming our way north, we stake out territory in a lovely palmerie.
Day 7 Just before Tafraoute, we visit a wondrous art-in-nature site of massive, painted boulders that defy gravity. Arriving to one of the tiny villages dotting Tafraoute, we take in rural life, trekking past shady groves of olive and almond trees and farmers working irrigated plots, and stop by an 18th century ksour constructed from mud, stone, and lumber. We overnight in a luxurious setting of Arabian gardens and a pasha's palace.
Day 8 Change of scenery, we find primitive African architecture in off-the-road hamlets where we'll tea with a Berber family, and spend the afternoon investigating the interesting imperial city of Taroudant: its red ramparts, souks, and antique shops of interest. Before returning to our pasha's palace for the second night, we'll dine in Taroudant, at one of the best tables in Morocco.
Day 9 We climb Tiz n' Test which crosses the High Atlas, with awe-inspiring vistas of the Souss plains below and surrounding snow-capped peaks (highest in North Africa). Time stands still here as we take tea with a highland Berber family and enter a grand mosque of the 12th century, Tin-Mal, one of Morocco's most memorable sites, and we feel serenity trekking into the lovely mountain landscape for a picnic. Probably the most breath-taking ride down to Marrakech follows, and we greet this glowing city at twilight. A private, very tranquil dar in the midst of the bustling medina is our haven for the next 2 days.
Days 10-11 With our insider guide leading the way, we investigate the mysterious medina of Marrakech (many of the structures dating from the 11th-19th centuries) to the best historic and religious landmarks off the tourist path at the savvy time to go; best places to shop; best souks to haggle for spices, babouches, rugs, leather and metalwork, and more; best ateliers and fondouqs to see quality crafts produced, and hit Jemaa el Fna, Morocco's most fascinating square, to partake in its incredible goings-on, and to have adventures of our own. In honor of our journey's end, we share a Moroccan feast prepared by our own cook.
Day 12 Marrakech/Casablanca/US
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