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Moroccan Visual Artist & Jewelry Designer, Chama Mechtaly Builds Aesthetic Bridges

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 29, 2021 at 5:50 AM Comments comments (159)

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A new golden era and the ideology of peace in Middle  East region has the potential to blossom at last. This vision is shared by Dubai-based, Moroccan visual artist and activist Chama Mechtaly. Her focus has been to introduce the unique Jewish History of Morocco, North Africa through multimedia art and jewelry design. Originally from Casablanca, Chama Mechtaly, claims, “I am a romantic and I dwell on the romanticism of Andalusia.”  Mechtaly is the Creative Director of the company, Moors and Saints, which makes handcrafted products in Dubai and is committed to interfaith dialogue and pluralism. In the wake of the Abraham Accords and the recent peace deal between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates along with improving relations between Israel and Morocco, these actions have increased importance and continued to inspire artists like Chama Mechtaly is working with the Jerusalem Biennale on the first Jerusalem-Dubai art residency and exhibition, which will foster co-creation and artistic development through Hebrew and Arabic calligraphy. “I can’t help but think of the golden era of Ibn Ezra and Judah Halevi, Solomon Ibn Gabirol and the giants of Hebrew poetry who developed in close contact and under the influence of Arabic poetry." says Mechtaly.  This is a cultural renaissance that is being ignited in Dubai. Now the flames are being fanned and fed. Dubai and Jerusalem have many similarities, such as ‘Jerusalem of Gold’ and Dubai as a ‘City of Gold.’” Mechtaly grew up in Casablanca, Morocco and moved to Boston when she was awarded a scholarship to study at Brandeis University. Her interest to discover more about about her family's history and the origins of her last name inspired a new, artistic journey. Chama set out to dig through her identity in effort to decolonize her own Moroccan history. She discovered that her father did not share his family story being her grandfather had come from a Moroccan Jewish family and converted to marry a Muslim woman.  Morocco's extensive Jewish Heritage and historic Jewish community are notable with thousands of Israeli Jews having roots in Morocco.

Mechtaly raised the question of what her family’s identity means to them however some of her relatives were sensitive and did not wish to discuss the topic at the time. Intern, she decided to express her  feelings through art. “I had always painted since I was a kid and I took those questions [I had] to the canvas. I used to paint portraits of Amazigh [Berber] women who were Jewish. This is what is referred to intersectionality today; when you sit at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression and accumulate layers of invisibility.” With her mother, Mechtaly's objective was to better understand her past by removing the layers of complexity of North African Jewry and also those that exist particularly within the history of Moroccan Jews. Although many Jews emigrated to Morocco during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the origination of their traditions and history run much deeper. Chama discovered another narrative that was shared by her mother, when researching Amazigh Jewry. Her mother shared how Jews were indigenous to Morocco for over 3,000 years, perhaps even more. She observed transformation where her work was exhibited given it  attracted North African communities from the diaspora. People noticed the women featured in her works had similarities to their grandparents yet these women were Jewish. They began to process the resemblance  of Jews and Muslims facial and bone structure within the context of North Africa. It helped to dismantle the idea of the "othering" of people that had gone on for decades.” This “othering” is present when Jews are seen as outsiders instead of part of Middle Eastern countries. That transformation is what pushed Chama to continue to use her art for social transformation.. She received messages from strangers, both Muslims and Jews, about how her work made them feel seen and repaired something within them. Mechtaly moved back to the UAE four and a half years ago. At the time the Abraham Accords were not even a dream. “I couldn’t even access Jewish websites for scholarship and research purposes at the time,” she recalls. I had studied conflict resolution and international relations at Brandeis, so I was interested in reconciliation work and activism for the inclusion of the history of minorities of the region in school curricula, especially because I don’t believe that peace can be sustainable without addressing historical grievances and narratives of trauma," she states.  

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Mechtaly’s concept of her company Moors and Saints sprung from her experience living in Dubai. Moors and Saints became  more than a jewelry design startup. Its purpose is to connect global cultures in meaningful ways with the goal to reveal powerful examples of tolerance and coexistence throughout history. Her aim is to continue the mission she embarked on through painting in a “language of luxury goods and fine jewelry, Her concept for Moors and Saints involves blending Jewish and Islamic themes similar to how Magen David inspired by jewelry models on Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo. “I knew that people were ready to embrace the shared history between Muslims and Jews in the region even if they didn’t necessarily express it in public. This could bring dialogue and reconciliation and highlight the shared history between Jews and Muslims in the region without threatening or offending anyone.” she adds. Mechtaly is a solid example of the hope of the Abraham Accords. Her life embodies this bridge between Jewish and Muslim history, the region and the mosaic of cultures from the Atlas Mountains to Jerusalem and the exquisite nightlife of Dubai. When she was studying at Brandeis, she exhibited in the Boston area and abroad. Chamaa spoke about Amazigh Jewry and the Berber Jews of North Africa. She had friends and colleagues who were baffled when she mentioned the Amazigh Jews... so many people were taken by surprise. The responses  from Chama Mechtaly's works have been primarily positive however at times her work was considered political in North Africa and became the subject of censorship by government authorities. A work she created of the Moroccan Flag Revisited was originally censored yet five years later she was asked to exhibit in Morocco. Her work has been well-received since the news broke of diplomatic relations between Israel and Morocco. Now people are sharing the painting and displaying it as the profile picture of new WhatsApp groups, and talking about it on videos.

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Ibn Khaldoun, a North African scholar of Islam, social scientist, philosopher and historian who has been described as the founder of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography claims the Amazigh Jewish community in Morocco was the result of many historic factors.  The wave of Jewish migration after the destruction of the Second Temple Mount and settling elsewhere along with local conversions expanded Jewish communities. Some theories say that Jews settled in the Maghreb region even before. The Amazigh community was pagan prior to the arrival of Jews in the Maghreb therefore conversions or interactions with Judaism go back for at least 3,000 years.  Chama supports the idea that there is a deep connection between Muslims and Jews, this strongly influenced artistry and craftsmanship. “There is a museum in the south of Morocco that shows how this visual syncretism takes place, with the Star of David in jewelry or on old flags and Hebrew scripture on a wooden guillotine.” she says.]

Mechtaly met  many Jews in Dubai who came from Israel who were interested in Amazigh history. The mayor of Yeruham said her dream was to have a museum of Amazigh Jewry in Israel. When it comes to design, Mechtaly emphasizes how important it is to acknowledge  the Andalusian and Sephardi history of the region. Without the influence and pairing of multiple religions, Moorish design and Andalusian architecture would not exist nor would the Golden Era of Islam or Golden Age of Hebrew poetry in Andalusia. Both were crucial to the creation of the golden moment in history referred to as Andalusia.  

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Examples of the synthesis of Moorish design can be found in the Dohány Synagogue in Budapest and the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York . Both were influenced by Moorish design when Jews embraced their Moorish architecture in the 19th and early 20th centuries in architecture. These Moorish synagogue designs were influenced by the Alhambra and the Mezquita; the grand Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba.

For more information about Jewish Heritage Morocco

Luxury Glamping in the Stony Agafay Desert

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 29, 2021 at 5:50 AM Comments comments (114)


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The White Camel Luxury Camp and Agafay Desert Lodge is located just 45 minutes from the Red City of Marrakech and a one-of-a-kind property in Morocco. The Agafay Stony Desert’s landscape lends itself to this luxurious campsite designed and created for travelers looking to go off the beaten path for a desert experience yet don’t have the time to head down south. The Agafay desert can be reached by those touring Marrakech. White Camel Lodge created an intimate and exclusive, white styled Bedouin village of glamorous lodges and one-of-a-kind luxury tents.

The Agafay desert is a charming destination offering unparalleled beauty at the edge of Marrakech ideal for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and sunset chasers. The Agafay Desert is an ideal place to disconnect and reconnect. Adventure seekers and nature lovers have a range of mountain biking, hiking, horseback, quad, and camel trekking activities to choose from. For those who want to indulge further, spa massage options along with astronomy evening and star mapping is also available.  The White Camel swimming pool in Agafay is the heart of the camp ideal to recharge your batteries. The stony desert is home to rugged mountain ridges, canyons, and resilient fauna and flora.

Agafay is also a location that calls to photography enthusiasts who find inspiration in the natural beauty and daily scenes from the local Berber community. For those who appreciate astrology, Agafay is an open-air planetarium. Each of White Camel's 10 lodges have the spirit of an organic five star hotel and the soul of the great Agafay desert. Spaciously designed, every lodge has an expansive glass wall with a sunset or sunrise facing view and a king size bed. High canopy style ceilings, natural fibers, minimalist furniture, and earthy colors connect the dreamy essence from inside to outside. Berber carpets, sequined pillows and flowing curtains  of the lodge abutt the Agafay dunes. Each lodge has its own private facilities featuring a hot-water shower and sink. Outside each lodge, a stony cabana fitted with cushions and an uninterrupted Atlas Mountains. White Camel offers 20 Premium Luxurious Bedouin style tents with captivating canyon views from each room.Most are secluded and create the effect of being alone in Agafay. Each luxury tent features a twin size or king size customized wood bed. A mix of traditional Berber and modern Moroccan architecture inspire the designs style of this Agafay gem.

The tents are equipped with a hot water shower along with a private wooden terrace complete with Berber cushions and chairs well placed to observe the starlit desert sky. Sought after for it’s fine cuisine, White Camel has two signatory restaurants where guests can indulge in delicious Moroccan fare. The contemporary Singita restaurant was created with nature as its muse. It is luxuriously designed high ceiling room is wrapped in natural light and offers 360-degree views of the Agafay desert from all sides.Open for  breakfast, lunch, and dinner Singita offers the option of a High Atlas Mountain, pool, or desert oasis facing views.

The 360-degree panorama Nomad Oasis restaurant is a coveted venue at the White Camel. It is boasts wide-open air views of the surrounding campsite. From your traditional low set table, you can enjoy scenes of the rolling desert hills, olive trees, ferns, and unforgettable sunset views. The Oasis interior is fitted with elegant white Berber poufs and white patterned Amazigh carpets that reflect a naturalistic value. The chef’s speciality at White Camel is marinated beef meat from the Moroccan highlands with prune and almands served on a traditional Tagine, also Chicken Tagine With Olives And Preserved Lemons. Fresh vegetables, salad and herbs also accompany dinner. Extraordinary Moroccan wines complete the culinary experience amidst the desert.

Travel Exploration Morocco Private Tours Trip Advisor Winner 2020

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 26, 2021 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (34)

 Travel Exploration Morocco Travelers Choice Award

Travel Exploration Morocco Private Tours has been awarded the Trip Advisor 2020 Traveler's Choice Award.  The Trip Advisor Traveler's Choice is a coveted award program that celebrates travelers’ favorite travel agencies, hotels, restaurants, and airlines around the world, honoring over 4,000 unique businesses each year.  Traveler's Choice Winners are calculated based on the quality and quantity of the millions of reviews, opinions, and ratings collected on Tripadvisor in 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. With over 8.7 million businesses listed on Tripadvisor, these awards are a testament to the service and quality that winners consistently provide to their guests. Travelers’ Choice (formerly Certificate of Excellence) recognizes businesses that earn consistently great user reviews. Travelers’ Choice winners are among the top 1% of listings on Tripadvisor.

Travel Exploration Morocco Private Tours achievement is a direct result of consistently receiving positive reviews from Morocco travelers who have shared their experiences on Trip Advisor’s website. The Trip a 2020 Traveler's Choice Award Award is a testament to Travel Exploration’s High Standards and Service provided for couples, family, and small group tours who have visited Morocco with Travel Exploration.  TripAdvisor places a spotlight on businesses that are focused on delivering great service to customers. As a winner of the 2020 Travelers Choice Award, Travel Exploration Morocco guarantees to continue offering a wide array of services ranging and private tours: Adventure Tours to Morocco, Imperial City Tours, Honeymoon Tours, Jewish Heritage Tours, and Sahara Desert Tours. Our agency is also committed to providing the best quality accommodations from Luxury Boutique Hotels to Luxury Riads including Relais & Châteaux and Boutique Hotel of the World 5 Star properties.

Best Morocco Private Tours

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 26, 2021 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (57)

The world changed dramatically in 2020 as the result of Covid 19 with travel coming to a full halt. After a year of being cooped up, resigned to limited travel domestically and internationally; now is the time to hit the ground running and choose one of the 6 Best Private Tours in Morocco. Boldly situated on the far northwestern corner of Africa and one of the ancient intersections of civilization, Morocco is the ideal place to vacation given the possibilities it offers to combine city and rural adventure. Morocco boasts some of the world's foremost Moorish, Art Deco and Andalusian architecture, Roman ruins, majestic gardens, glorious houses of worship and exotic food markets. The country's expansive shoreline stretch from the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco's dramatic landscapes include lush plains, high mountains, and the Sahara Desert.

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The 6 Best Private Tours in Morocco guarantee a unique experience with Expert Guides and a Tailor-Made Tour Itinerary. Morocco Private Tours are fully escorted and customized.  Each trip achieves a fine balance of discovering Imperial Cities, visiting Medieval Medinas along with the diverse landscapes throughout the Atlas regions, and participating in a wide range of activities such as a cooking class, food tour or sidecar ride.  Insider experiences are a must. Some of the highlights Morocco offers that combine culture and adventure are,  trekking the High Atlas Mountains, sipping tea and dining on couscous with a Berber family, breaking bread with Nomads who live in caves and indulging in a traditional Moroccan spa experience; while staying at a palatial boutique riad. For those with deep pockets a trip to the Moroccan desert is a must. A private flight to the South can speed up the long drive in preparation for a Sahara Desert Safari. Whether you are looking for a One-Week Private Tours in Morocco or a Signature Tour that is long, choosing one of the 6 Best Private Tours in Morocco will enable you to begin a lifetime memorable travel journey for the years to come.

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6 Best Private Tours in Morocco 1001 Arabian Nights Tour - Become apart of a One thousand and one Arabian Nights Tale as you trek by camel across Sahara Desert’s Saffron colored sand dunes. Explore the unique flora and fauna with your Berber guide and overnight by a luxury desert camp within an Oasis, under the Moroccan stars. Visit ancient, crenulated Kasbahs and Moroccan palaces. Learn about the hidden secrets of the Bedouin tribes and the Moors. Visit the Draa Valley region’s palm groves in a 4x4 where ancient caravan’s once passed. Sip Tea and eat couscous in the Saghro Mountains with a Berber family and meet Nomads who have lived in a caves for centuries.  

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Splendors of Morocco Tour - Tour Morocco's Imperial Cities and the Great Sahara Desert region and Berber Villages. This is the perfect private tour for first time travelers to Morocco. Offered on a Mid-range or Morocco Luxury Tour basis, Splendors of Morocco offers a blend of site seeing and an in-depth Moroccan Cultural experience. Explore Moorish Architecture, Andalusian Gardens, Jewish Heritage Sites, Ancient, Kasbahs and Valleys. Discover UNESCO Heritage Sites and Lost Morocco's lost Medieval cities.

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Sahara Desert Safarai - Visit Morocco's Sahara Desert on a 5 Day Private Tour from Marrakech. This Sahara Desert Private Tour includes stays at stylish and Boutique Riads and Guest Houses, an overnight in a Luxury Desert Camp, time in the Skoura Palm Groves, Berber Villages, visits of Morocco's Historic Kasbahs, Camel Trekking in the Erg Chebbi Dunes and the option to Hike in the Dades Valley Region. Perfect for couples, families and independent travelers seeking adventure from Marrakech. 

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Morocco Discovery Tour - This 9-Day Morocco Discovery Tour is ideal for first time travelers to Morocco or for those with a limited timeframe. Our Morocco Discovery Tour offers a private, guided exploration of the Imperial Cities, Sahara Desert region, Skoura Palm Groves, Berber Villages and the High Atlas Mountains. Travelers will discover UNESCO Heritage Sites, venture to the back streets of Fes on a Food Tasting Tour, Camel Trek in the Sahara Desert, Sip Tea with a Berber Family and Trek the High Atlas. You will experience an insider's view of the country on this Moroccan Odyssey.

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Imperial Morocco Tour - Visit the Imperial Cities of Morocco, the Blue washed Rif town of Chefchaouen and the High Atlas. Travel to Morocco's Imperial Cities and the High Atlas, a fascinating and adventurous tour for first time travelers to Morocco.

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Gardens of Morocco Tour - Discover the tradition and history of Moroccan Gardens on this special guided tour written by horticultural and garden enthusiasts. Journey through the Maghreb’s most private and public green spaces and places. Great pleasure of the senses will be experienced on this exotic 10-Day tour that includes Morocco’s Imperial Cities and rural regions.  The Gardens of Morocco Tour is an ideal way to connect with fellow garden enthusiasts. Discover ancient cities led by licensed historical guides, gardens with expert Gardeners, Botanists, Nurserymen and Herbalists Morocco’s ancient culture is steeped in rich traditions not to be missed.

4 Morocco Side Car Tour Experiences in Marrakech

Posted by Alecia Cohen on March 26, 2021 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (41)

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Discover a Secret Marrakech on a Vintage Sidecar excursion. Explore an insiders view of Marrakech and the surrounding region. A private side car excursion options include going off the beaten path to the High Atlas, the Agafay Desert's Stone Camp along or city adventure through the back alleys of the Marrakech medina.

Morocco's sidecar ride experience is tailor-made and designed according to each travelers level of interests, respectful of the local culture and all inclusive to offer a memorable experience. A Sidecar excursion is one of the many things to do in Morocco that is perfect for couples, honeymooners or the entire family.

4 Vintage Sidecar Adventures are: #1: Essential Ride: On this one hour and a half open-air Moroccan sidecar adventure, you can either choose to immerse yourself in the quaint Marrakech of the 1920s, discover the most authentic neighborhoods of the Medina or enjoy a shot of greenery in the mythical palm grove. With its ancient Art Deco buildings, its former open-air cinema, the very first hotel built in 1918, its dusty clock shop and its former Mines Counter, the 1920s Gueliz district testifies of the daily life during the former French Protectorate. A ride in History. Another page of history opens up in front of your eyes if you decide to discover the stunning Medina of Marrakech. Ride through the most remote and authentic neighborhoods to witness the local life in the Kasbah district, a former fortress reserved for the employees of the Royal Palace, the Mellah, the former Jewish neighborhood or the flea market in Bab El Khemiss taking place every Thursday and Sunday. Further away, you can choose to discover the palm grove, once a very fertile oasis, this piece of land only known nowadays for its luxurious villas, gave birth to the entire Tensift region almost a thousand years ago thanks to its ingenious underground irrigation systems. After this last stop, your insider will take you back to your hotel or any other place in downtown Marrakech.

#2: The Secret Ride  On this one hour and a half open-air Moroccan sidecar adventure, you can either choose to immerse yourself in the quaint Marrakech of the 1920s, discover the most authentic neighborhoods of the Medina or enjoy a shot of greenery in the mythical palm grove. In the Medina’s beautiful maze, through the ancient French neighborhood or in the mythical palm grove, Marrakech is full of surprises. A vivid flea market, secret gardens behind closed doors, old art deco buildings or khettaras in the palm grove are just a few of the many hidden treasures we will introduce you to on this unusual open-air ride.

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3: The Atlas Ride   Head out for a full day of Insider Moroccan sidecar expedition in the high altitude regions of the Atlas mountains. Have lunch in a preserved berber village and learn about its traditional daily life, hunt for ancestral rock paintings on a brisk cliff and explore an impressive canyon or a berber traditional market before coming back via the scenic roads of the Agafay stone desert.

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#4: The Agafay Desert Ride  This special Moroccan sidecar excursion is like no other pairing the dry tolerant scenery of the desert with unique landscapes with a magnificent Altas backdrop. Cruise through the unreal landscape of the Agafay stone desert outside Marrakech with its berber villages and gorgeous oases. Discover the 16th century koranic school still inhabited by the descendants of its holly founder and wrap things up with a delicious lunch in a luxurious camp in the middle of the stone desert facing the Atlas mountains.

For Rates - Inquire Directly with Travel Exploration Morocco 

Where to Travel in Morocco Post COVID-19

Posted by Alecia Cohen on July 3, 2020 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (76)

Morocco stepped up during the COVID19 pandemic making it a success story and a top destination for travelers seeking a long-needed escape. The country offers fascinating Imperial cities with historic architecture, magnificent gardens, glorious houses of worship, scenic valleys and gorges along with a  vast coastline that stretches across both the Atlantic and Mediterranean sea. Shopping in the souks and bustling markets of Marrakech, trekking across the Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert and windsurfing on the coast of Essaouira are some of the activities you can indulge in on vacation in Morocco post COVID19.

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Where to Vacation in Morocco Post COVID19. Imperial Cities - Tour Morocco's Imperial Capitols led by a Moroccan guide. Explore majestic mosques, heritage sites, glorious markets, Andalusian gardens, and Romain ruins. Discover the backstreets of Fes on a Souk Tasting Tour. Stroll through ancient medinas. Experience the famous Djemaa el Fna Square at sunset. Take a Kalech ride on the cobblestoned paths of Marrakech. An Imperial City tour is ideal for couples and families who want to delve into Morocco's history, architecture and hear the ancient stories of the Jewish mellah

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Valley’s & Gorges - Morocco's valleys and vast gorges make up the country's sprawling landscapes in the south.  The Dades Valley is one of Morocco's natural wonders and covers 125 km between the Todra Gorge and Ouarzazate. The Dades Valley boasts limestone cliffs with uniquely shaped erosions and superb scenery along the valley’s piste. Touring the Dades Valley you will pass flower-filled fields, fertile agricultural fields, riverbanks, and several fortified ksours. At the bottom of the Gorge of Boulmane Dades, there are ruined hilltop kasbahs and valley floor gardens. One of the valleys most sought after views is it's rock formations often referred to as "monkey's fingers." This region is perfect for an arduous hike if you are an adventure traveler whereby you will witness stunning views and trek through Berber villages. All hikes are guided by a licensed and trained Morocco guide and include picnic lunch.

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The Todra Gorge is Morocco's grand canyon located in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains in southern Morocco near the town of Tinghir. Both the Todra River and Dades River have carved out the cliff-sided canyons. Touring the Todra Gorge region guarantees a scenic drive along newly built roads. You will pass the mouth of the gorge and with extended time reach the villages of Ait Hani and Tamtattouchte. The Todra Gorge extends from the village of Tamtattouchte to Tinghir. With cliffs rising dramatically up to 300m on each side of a narrow corridor, the Todra Gorge a spectacle with its gigantic rock walls changing color to create magical effects with the sunlight. A day at the Todra Gorge offers the option of extreme climbing, hiking, and sightseeing. A fun and strenuous hike involve a three-hour loop used by donkeys and mules heading north of the main gorge to Tizgui, home of palmeries and ancient kasbahs. For a lighter hike, try the Petit Gorge entering at the mouth of the gorge. The mouth is an enclosed section with overhanging cliffs and is the most dramatic scenery in the gorge. Climbing in the Todra Gorge is an unforgettable experience.

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Morocco's Great Desert Regions - Morocco's great desert regions of Zagora, M'hamid, and Merzouga are vast and wonderous. The desert's fresh air and open spaces allow for a wide variety of adventure activities ideal for a vacation post COVID19. Zagora Desert, known for its sunsets and breathtaking valleys, is a commonplace to begin a camel trek. Zagora is also famous for being a base to travel to Timbuktu; on one of Zagora’s streets, is a famous sign stating “52 days to Timbuktu”. In the 9th century, traders went back and forth on this Saharan Caravan Route, which went from Zagora to Timbuktu in fifty-two days. Traders carried salt, gold, slaves, and spices. Its main destination point was Sijiilmassa, present-day Rissani (Merzouga).

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M’hamid Desert was once an important market place for nomadic and trans-Saharan trade. M’hamid has one of the two sand seas in Morocco where you can camel trek. The most easily accessible dunes are those at Erg Lehoudi (Dunes of the Jews) which can be reached by camel or piste with a 4x4. There are also the Erg Chegaga sand dunes which are remote and more difficult to reach than the Erg Chebbi dunes of Merzouga. While the journey to the dunes takes about two days, it is a true reward to arrive and see this protected area inhabited by the traditional semi-nomadic Aït Atta Berbers. For an authentic Sahara experience, Erg Chegaga’s dunes are worth the visit. The Erg Chebbi Dunes at Merzouga are indisputably one of the greatest sights of Morocco. These giant hills of smooth sand line the Algerian border and are a must-see for everyone. Camel trekking at sunrise or an overnight adventure to an oasis in Merzouga is one of the most enchanting and memorable experiences one can have in the Sahara. An overnight trip to sleep in a bivouac (Berber tent) by an oasis will give you the true feeling as to how the Berbers have lived and still live today nomadically.

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Beaches & Coastal Towns - Morocco is sandwiched between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, you won’t have trouble finding a beautiful beach for your Morocco vacation while taking in the local seafood fare. If you choose to relax by the tranquil Mediterranean shores, you are in store for unspoiled Moroccan beaches with dramatic scenery of rocky inlets and headlands. In comparison, the beaches by the 2000 mile turquoise lit Moroccan Atlantic shore are more popular as they are lined with pristine stretches of sand. You will surely be astounded by the sand dunes, mythical cliffs, and bluffs when traveling to the seaside of Morocco. The most popular Atlantic beach resorts for a Moroccan vacation are Essaouira, Sidi Kaouki, Mirleft & Legzira Baech, and Agadir. All have stunning sandy beaches with a plethora of exciting things to see and do.

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Essaouira affectionately referred to as “swera” by locals, is a windy city on Morocco’s Northern Atlantic Coast. Essaouira is a top-rated destination for families for its multitude of things to do with kids. Ideal for families honeymooners and Morocco travelers Essaouira’s white and blue washed medina is revered for its charming ramparts, vibrant art galleries, shopping, and seafood gastronomy. Just three hours from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech this coastal town is the perfect weekend getaway with an abundance of unique accommodation options ranging from quaint, countryside villas, to luxury riads and hotels with sea views. Families who have an interest in vacationing at an artistic seaside community and with a penchant for adventure should add Essaouira to their bucket list.

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Sidi Kaouki is a Berber coastal town 30 minutes south of Essaouira. The beach in this remote region is unspoiled and strikes a perfect balance with offering an ideal place for kite and windsurfers while staying true to its African roots. Sidi Kaouki is known for its great waves, reefs, and breakpoints. Camels saunter across the sand dunes while locals sell hand made items with local guides offering camel treks and horseback riding to those who are in search for a coastal adventure. The town is quiet and desolate therefore being the perfect destination for relaxation, contemplation, and enjoying the scenery.

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Legzira Beach is well-appointed 20 minutes north of Sidi Ifni and lauded as one of the best beaches in the world for sunbathing and surfing. Legzira has been also described by travelers as a real-life painting. The geological rocky beach artfully connects the Anti Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Legzira’s organic cave formations are fascinating and well appreciated by nature enthusiasts. Sunset in Legzira offers stunning views of rock formations surrounded by cliffs in multiple hues of burnt orange.  Legzira during high tide when the ocean veil is pulled back and revealed is an ideal time to capture a photograph.


5 Reasons to Hire a Morocco Tour Guide

Posted by Alecia Cohen on June 30, 2020 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

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Rabat[/caption] When visiting Morocco some travelers would like to explore the destination independently while others may prefer a private, guided tour. There are significant benefits of hiring a private Morocco tour guide such as being able to personalize your itinerary, gaining cultural insight, having clear communication, flexibility, and being led by an expert who is deeply knowledgeable. A local Morocco tour guide can suggest locally-owned or top-end restaurants, museums, art galleries, and important monuments that are often not included in the best guide books. Morocco tour guides must be licensed by the Moroccan National Tourism Board (ONMT) and have been properly trained and vetted. They are multilingual, fluent English, Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and French. A Moroccan tour guide can add an extended dimension to your trip.

A Moroccan tour guide is ideal for couples, families, and small groups who visit the country on a private tour since it enables them to complement their visit being made by a licensed tourism driver. For larger tours, National Licensed Guides are highly recommended. Then for smaller tours, Local, Licensed Moroccan Guides are the ideal choice.

5 Reasons to Hire a Morocco Tour Guide

#1 Personalized Itinerary – Groups tours to Morocco have their advantages as they encompass visiting a broader range of sites and are often paired with scheduled meals at hotels and shopping time; with the opportunity to meet like-minded travelers. These tours are often led by national guides yet the depth of what is experienced is limited. A private Morocco tour, on the other hand, is led by local city guides and offers more in-depth coverage of historical, architectural, and cultural sites.  

#2 Cultural Insight – Each country has its own cultural norms, unique traditions, and expectations. For example, in Morocco, it is considered rude to not shake the hand of the person you are greeting, ask about their family, and engage in small conversation. Understanding the details of this nature cannot be learned from a Morocco Guide Book. Hiring a private Morocco tour guide who is knowledgeable will enable you to avoid making embarrassing mistakes and also offer a sounding board to discuss what is acceptable within the culture. A Morocco tour guide will offer insight into the country’s history, architecture, arts, crafts, cuisine, and on may be willing to engage in a conversation about local politics, social services, and deeper aspects of the country's norms.

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#3 Communication – When traveling to Morocco it is helpful to be able to communicate. The main three languages spoken are Moroccan Arabic, Berber dialects (Tashelhit, Tamazight & Tarifit), and French. English is also widely spoken in Morocco. A Morocco tour guide who is a fluent speaker of all three languages makes it easier for you to connect with locals. Your Morocco tour guide can translate for you in restaurants, museums, in the souks, and also when shopping.

#4  Flexibility - Larger Morocco tours with a national guide tend to have each day fully scheduled, with not enough time to stop and take in the more interesting sites you may come across. Meals are often included at hotels and larger, touristic restaurants, with less opportunity to experience to dine with locals or choose the restaurants. A private Morocco tour led by Moroccan local guide guarantees a flexible schedule that combined site seeing with leisure and even time to wander on your own.

#5 Knowledge & Experience – Knowing the best things to see in Morocco and not waiting in line can be difficult, particularly with limited time. On larger tours, time is often wasted waiting in lines, visiting sites that may not be of interest, and serving the varied needs of the group. With a private Morocco tour guide, the experience of visiting Moroccan cities will be tailor-made around your interest. He or she is bound to have their finger on the pulse of new things to see and experience. Whether it is a private visit exclusively arranged for you at a garden or museum, exploring a hidden mosque or newly renovated Jewish synagogue, attending an art opening, or taking a private cooking class with a Dada Chef, having the knowledge and experience of a Moroccan tour guide cannot be overstated.  Not only are private guides knowledgeable locals who are able to make recommendations, they ask questions and design tours with you in mind.

Moroccan Handicrafts, Artisan Weavers in Tameslouht

Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 14, 2020 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (39)

 Handicrafts-Morocco-Travel-Blog

Morocco is famous for its artisan handicrafts and as you wander the streets of any Moroccan medina (old city), you will see stunning examples of local leatherwork, carpets, tasseled baskets, and blankets, soft furnishings, babouche slippers, carved wood and much, much more.  Moroccan style, textiles, and handicrafts have influenced major design houses and retail fashion outlets for many years, but these items have gained unprecedented popularity more recently - from the glossy pages of interior magazines and the profiles of Instagram influencers to the floors of houses and apartments across the globe. A trip to Morocco is the ideal opportunity to source your own Moroccan handicrafts. You might want something for your homes, such as a rug or embroidered bedlinen, or something beautiful to wear, such as a bag or kaftan. The choice can, however, be overwhelming and the prospect of haggling for a good price in the souk where shops are packed floor to ceiling with beautiful items can be daunting for even the most enthusiastic shopper! We have helped many travelers to Morocco with their purchases of gifts, souvenirs, and stunning artisan items. Here, we share our advice and expertise on buying these items directly from the artisans who produce them, with a highlight on weavers in the village of Tameslouht, in the foothills of the High Atlas mountain range. 

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Buying crafts from the artisans Moroccan artisan goods make great souvenirs of your vacation that you will enjoy for many years, and there is no shortage of choice in any of Morocco’s medinas (old cities). However, most of the retail outlets in the medina source their wares from a long chain of middlemen, and the only certainty regarding the income for the original artisans is that it is minimal, once everyone has taken their share of the commission. If you are interested in supporting artisans to continue their crafts and pass them down through the generations as has been the practice for hundreds of years, it is best to go to the source. This means getting out of the cities and into the villages where weavers practice their craft. If your trip takes you to Marrakech or through the High Atlas, you have a perfect opportunity to visit the village of Tameslouht. More accessible than some of the more remote villages further into the mountains, it is around 25km, less than one hour, from Marrakech city center, making it the perfect day trip. Alternatively, it can be a stop-off point on the route to the sights of the High Atlas Mountains such as Lalla Takerkoust lake, the river, and waterfalls of the Ourika Valley or the village of Imlil, gateway to Mount Toubkal. As well as being accessible, Tameslouht is an incredible microcosm of artisan talent and Moroccan craft heritage. 

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The Women weavers of Tameslouht Creation Tameslouht was founded by Sarah, a US Peace Corps Volunteer, and Mustapha, a local man, in Tameslouht in 2012. In 2013, the women weavers with whom they work formed their own association, Creation Tameslouht. They have received support and training to manage their own affairs and develop as entrepreneur-artisans. Today the association comprises around 60 local women, providing them with support to help them reach a wider market. The women at Creation Tameslouht produce a range of woven, embroidered, and sewn items for the home, such as blankets, cushions, and other soft furnishings. They also make beautiful items to wear and accessories, such as kaftans, jellabas, scarves, and bags. They also have several connections to other associations and cooperatives of artisans, meaning they are able to offer linens embroidered in the traditional Fassi style from the Middle Atlas, Amazigh (or Berber) rugs from surrounding High Atlas villages and much more. If you can’t visit in person, their goods are for sale on Etsy.

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Art Tissage Tam – maintaining tradition and livelihoods Art Tissage Tam is a cooperative, also in Tameslouht, which trains local men and women weavers and embroiderers in traditional handicrafts. Created in 2009, it exists to preserve the knowledge and traditions while developing them for modern tastes and new markets. Many of the artisans have been practicing their craft from a young age. At Art Tissage Tam, it possible to see men weaving organic cotton, linen, local wools, and vegetable silk (typically made from the prickly pear cactus) on the narrow looms. The team of around 15 men uses a number of techniques to fabricate items ranging from rugs to fabrics for soft furnishings, bags, and scarves. Handwoven rug styles range from flatweaves (in a tapestry weave style, like a kilim) often made with cotton or a cotton mix to woolen pile rugs such as the famous monochrome Beni Ouirane style to hand-knotted rag rugs, known as Boucharouite. Women at Art Tissage Tam generally undertake embroidery, sewing, and basket weaving, with tassels and pom-poms being popular adornments to homewares. Together, the women and men of Art Tissage Tam make a range of items that are steeped in the local traditions of many centuries while also being suitable for modern homes and tastes. It is possible to purchase these items at their workshop and store in Tameslouht or via their Etsy store.

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The community of artisans Because of commitments to home and family, it is often difficult for women to commute to work outside of the home. Even for men, the costs and logistics of traveling to work in low-skilled or manual work in the over-crowded cities are often less attractive than the chance to learn or develop a skill in their own village. By working from home or in a cooperative, in a network with other artisans, local people can work in a way that suits their lifestyles while benefitting from the collective support for product design, sales, and marketing. For women, weaving and sewing together help create community and a vital support network. Together as an association or cooperative, artisans are also able to offer a broader selection of products, including through e-commerce. The ability to access markets beyond the local middlemen outside of Morocco is an essential way of honoring the traditions and time which go into producing traditional crafts. Where souk salesman may compete on price and when Moroccan shoppers often seek something functional and mass-produced at a cheap price point, the ability of artisans to convey their pride, expertise, and heritage to people willing to value them is essential for their livelihoods. Speak to us about how to incorporate a visit to traditional artisans into your itinerary and help preserve and promote these vital elements of Morocco’s traditional heritage.

Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours, Remarkable Sites & Places

Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 5, 2020 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

 Iban Danan Synagogue, Fes  

Morocco is steeped in Jewish Heritage and Culture. The country has a remarkable history of Jewish life that sets it apart from other Muslim nations. If you are Jewish and interested in touring Morocco you are guaranteed to discover ancient traditions and old-world customs that have permeated Moroccan Jewish society for centuries. Morocco's key Jewish Heritage sites are located throughout the country's Imperial Cities and rural regions. The sheer number of Jewish sites is staggering.

 

“ Moroccan society is partly built on Jewish culture, a culture deeply rooted in three millennia of history,” André Azoulay, Senior Adviser to King Mohammed VI of Morocco

 

As a Jewish traveler, you can explore synagogues, cemeteries, holy zaouias, monuments, and historic homes. Morocco's most remarkable places and historical sites are centered around the Jewish Mellah in Casablanca, Tangier, Fes, Marrakech, and Essaouira. The countryside offers additional fascinating Jewish sites of pilgrimage that are frequented by Israeli's in particular and Moroccan Jews living abroad. They come to visit holy zaouias of celebrated former Rabbi's (Saints) who were once honored by their local communities.

 

Morocco also has an intimate Jewish community with strong ties, connecting with them is part of enriching the travel experience. The largest Jewish community that is thriving today is in Casablanca.  Over 3,000 Casablanca Jews live outside the Mellah in the European city, where they worship in over 30 synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, entertain themselves in community centers, and attend Jewish schools and social service centers. They worship at Temple Beth El, the largest synagogue and an important community center. There is a smaller, yet lively, Jewish community in Fes and Marrakech. Sharing a traditional Sephardic meal on Shabbat at the Kosher Club in Casablanca, or a Kosher restaurant in Fes or Marrakech will offer a glimpse into Jewish life today.

 

Each of Morocco's Jewish quarters (Mellah) is comprised of historic Jewish architecture and monuments. The Mellah is home to synagogues and cemeteries surrounded by local markets and city life. Today the Moroccan Mellah is inhabited primarily by Muslim families who relocated there when Jews migrated to Israel in 1948. The Jews who left Morocco did so in hope of a more prosperous life and to be surrounded by their brethren after World War II.  Jewish sites in Morocco are protected by the Moroccan Kingdom and open daily for visitors.

 

 Miaara Jewish Cemetery, Fes 

 

Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour: Remarkable Places & Sites to Visit:

 

• Temple Beth- El, Casablanca

• Museum of Moroccan Judaism, Casablanca

• Ibn Danan Synagogue & Jewish Mellah, Fes

• Jewish Cemetery & Tomb of Solica, Fes

• Maimonides Home, Fes

• Jewish Mellah, Cemetery & Lazama Synagogue, Marrakech

• New Jewish Synagogue, Ville Nouvelle Marrakech

• Jewish Mellah, Cemetery & Miaara Cemetery, Marrakech

• Chaim Pinto Synagogue,  Essaouira

• Jewish Mellah, Cemetery & Zaouia's Sahara Desert Region

 

Jewish Mellah, Marrakech Spice Market  

 

Visiting Morocco offers a rare glimpse into peaceful Jewish-Muslim coexistence.

 

Jewish culture has been interwoven throughout Morocco for centuries. It is believed that Jews settled in Morocco prior to the destruction of the First Temple Mount. A Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour provides an in-depth exploration of Jewish culture and its vast history from the time of the Philistines to the 21st Century.

 

Touring Morocco and its historic Jewish Heritage Sites is something every Jew should consider.

 

Touring Morocco and its historic Jewish Heritage Sites is something every Jew should consider. Morocco’s unique history of Jewry and the co-mingling of Jews with Berbers and Arabs is what makes the country safe to visit and an icon of peace for the entire Muslim world. The climate and culture of Morocco with its keen mix of Jewish, Berber, and Arab traditions, UNESCO Heritage sites and cities, a magnificent coast, Moorish architecture, glorious markets, and food tourism make it an ideal vacation destination.

 

Should you embark on a private, guided Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour, you can anticipate hearing Stories of the Mellah, learning about Morocco's Sephardic Jewish traditions, and discovering the hidden jewels of Morocco's Jewish past.  With the only Jewish Museum in the Islamic world and history of religious tolerance, visiting Morocco offers a rare glimpse into peaceful Jewish-Muslim coexistence.

5 Best Morocco Family Tours

Posted by Alecia Cohen on May 5, 2020 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (74)

 Morocco Family Tour  

 

A Morocco Family Tour should rank high on your bucket list. Morocco is a family-friendly country that offers a wide range of activities and popular tours that makes for easy family travel with those who have children of varied ages. Morocco's sandy beaches and blue, jeweled coast stretch for miles across the country. Its mountain ranges in both the High and Middle Atlas are perfect for trekking by foot, exploring by a donkey, or settling down by a stream for a picnic lunch. Morocco's exotic medinas are a shopper’s paradise of colorful hand-made crafts and cuisine, such as Berber carpets, lanterns, baboosh slippers, textiles, caftan’s, teapots and sweets, all surrounded by stunning gardens and hidden alleys for the entire family to explore. Popular Morocco family tour activities range from hiking, trekking, a hot air balloon ride over the Atlas, sandboarding, quad riding, sand skiing, lunch with a Berber family, and exotic food tours, held in UNESCO Fes and Marrakech’s famous Djemaa El Fna Square at sunset. Families interested in historic activities can visit Morocco's spectacular Art and Photography museums, Andalusian and Moorish gardens, along with UNESCO Heritage sites, monuments, mosques, and Jewish Heritage Sites. Families traveling to Morocco are guaranteed a safe and enriching experience.

 

5 Family  Morocco Tours - Popular Vacation Itineraries, for the Best Family Vacation

 

 

Family Adventures in Morocco

 

A 10-Day Family Tour tailor-made to include the vibrant and colorful city of Marrakech,  the High Atlas Mountain region, camel riding, sandboarding, and quad riding in the Sahara Desert, along with visits to the UNESCO Heritage Site, Ait Ben Haddou, and the Atlas Film Studios. This tailor-made family vacation includes stays at traditional Morocco riads and guest houses that are quaint and filled with charm, serve excellent local cuisine, and offer a mix of courtyards, gardens, and some with a rural setting. Families can take a Hot Air Balloon Ride over the Atlas Mountains and sip tea and eat couscous with a Berber family. A family tour to Morocco would not be complete without a Marrakech food tasting tour at sunset in Djemaa el Fna Square. Tasting Moroccan delicacies in the back streets and seeing live snake charmers and monkeys plays into the hands of an exotic Medieval carnival. This 10-Day Morocco family tour is perfect for families who have children that are 9 years or older.

 

One-Week Morocco Family Tour

 

A-One week-long family vacation to Morocco for active family travel, designed for those looking for family fun in Marrakech's medina, visiting bustling souks and market places, majestic palaces along with hiking and zip lining across the Atlas Mountains. The highlight of this family tour is the camel trek in the Sahara Desert across the Erg Chebbi Dunes to an Oasis, music, and dinner Arabian Nights style by the campfire and an overnight in a Bedouin tent. A private henna party and lunch with a Berber family along with zellige tile design pottery making are also part of this Morocco family holiday adventure. This One-Week Morocco family tour is perfect for families who have children ranging from 6 years and are well-traveled.

 

 Sahara Desert Family Safari,  Morocco  

 

Sahara Desert Safari Family Tour

 

Embarking on a 5-Day Sahara Desert Safari from Marrakech is the perfect family tour with those who have a limited amount of time as the result of school and holiday schedules.  This Sahara Desert Safari Private Tour includes stays at stylish and Boutique  Riads and Guest Houses, an overnight in a Luxury Desert Camp, time in the Skoura Palm Groves, Berber Villages, visits of Morocco's Historic Kasbahs, Camel Trekking in the Erg Chebbi Dunes and the option to Hike in the Dades Valley Region. Perfect for families seeking adventure from Marrakech.

 

Souks of Morocco  

 

The Souks and markets are a major feature in Moroccan life and what better way to explore them to the fullest then on a 10-Day Family Adventure. Each of Morocco's Imperial cities has a special souk quarter. Villages in the countryside also have local souks which are usually held one day each week in an open field or outside the town's kasbah walls. Large cities like Marrakesh and Fès have labyrinths of individual souks (each filling a street or square that is devoted tone particular craft).  On this Souks of Morocco Family Tour Adventure, you will explore the medinas of Marrakesh, Fès, Chefchaouen, and Ouarzazate. These Moroccan cities are famous for their beautiful souks that sell handicrafts and some of Morocco's best food delicacies. Our Souks of Morocco Family tour lays the ground for a food tasting in the souks that starts with dates, juices, fresh-baked bread's, honey's, olives, and for the adventurous foodie families sheep's head. The Souks offer up some of the best leatherware, locally made handicrafts, carpets, pottery, wood carvings, and traditional dress (djellabas). The Souks of Morocco Family Tour will provide an insider's view of where locals shop for fresh meat, vegetables, household goods, and other items that Americans for example, purchase at Wal-Mart or Target. In the countryside, families will visit weekly souks (markets) which will lend to a richer understanding of Morocco's Berbers and rural culture.

 

1001 Arabian Nights

 

A 12 -Day Morocco Family Arabian Nights Tour to Morocco's Imperial Cities, the Sahara Desert, and the Atlantic Coast. Families seeking a fascinating and adventurous private tour for first-time travelers to Morocco will discover Casablana's Grand white mosque and basque in the Moroccan sun. This 1001 Arabian Nights tour will off complimentary visits to Coastal Rabat, a medina sunset walk, and a  journey to Fes, one of the oldest medieval cities in the world. Families will venture in a 4x4  across the Middle Atlas Mountain region to the Sahara Desert to see glorious sunsets just before dusk as you camel trek through the Erg Chebbi Dunes, the highest and most golden in Morocco, overnight under the Moroccan stars. An off-road trip is part of this Morocco family adventure where you will discover the old road of the caravans via the 19th-century trade routes, walk through the mazes of beautiful Kasbahs, and take an excursion to the Valley of Roses and the Dades Gorge. This family tour would not be complete without one of the most important off-road trips in the country where you will visit the region of Bouthgrar and enjoy a tea ceremony with Nomads in caves. Your Sahara guide and Berber driver will be your private escort throughout this trip as your family becomes modern-day explorers in the South discovering the vast valley's palm groves, the medina's of Marrakech and the Atlantic Coastal town of Essaouira.


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