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Expert: Sue Rollin Sue Rollin

Marrakech

Founded almost 1,000 years ago by the Almoravids, an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty, Marrakesh is one of the great cities of the Maghreb. By the 12th century the city was thriving and had become the capital of the Almohad caliphate, a mighty empire which stretched up across North Africa and into Spain. Imposing walls, made from the rust-hued earth of the surrounding plains, were constructed to protect the city, simultaneously providing it with a moniker – the Red City. Within these walls, under the strong architectural influence of the Almohads, construction continued apace. Fine gardens and palaces were laid out and mosques, such as the awe-inspiring Koutoubia, rose from the ground. The city was a major centre of trade, religion and culture and although this boom-period eventually met its decline, a second resurgence came in the 16th century, under the reign of Saadian sultans who further embellished the city with jewels such as the El Badi Palace.   Despite the fact that, or perhaps because, Europeans were not freely allowed to enter the city until the late 19th century, a romantic European fascination with Marrakech has always endured. French colonisation during the first half of the 20th century brought not just the language (still widely used) but also a stream of glamourous Western visitors, some of whom, such as artist Jacques Majorelle, left their own indelible mark on the city. The rediscovery and restoration of Majorelle’s garden and villa by the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent in the 1980s is just another glittering example of the potent allure of Marrakesh to the outsider. Stroll labyrinthine alleyways laced with the aroma of spice and perfume, take in architectural wonders of heart-stopping beauty and surrender to the timeless romance of this captivating city, where Africa, Europe and the Middle East converge.

7 days from £3,740pp Departure Dates

Your Tour Includes

  • Return flights from London to Marrakech
  • 6 nights’ bed and breakfast at the 4-star Riyad el Cadi
  • 4 evening meals and 3 lunches
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • Services of your expert lecturer and Tour Manager
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
Experts
Sue Rollin

Sue Rollin

Sue Rollin specialises in the ancient and Islamic Middle East, India and the Mediterranean. An archaeologist, historian and linguist by training, Sue lectures for the Arts society and the V&A and has led Study Tours in Spain, Sicily, Morocco, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Sue speaks Spanish, Italian, French and German. She is co-author of two travel guides: the Blue Guide to Jordan and Istanbul: A Traveller’s Guide.

Itinerary

Overview

Fly from London to Marrakech. Transfer by private coach to our accommodation, a beautifully converted riyad in the heart of the medina (old town). A short introductory walk around the neighbourhood, time and light permitting,  followed by dinner in our hotel.

Includes Dinner

Overview

After breakfast we head out for a full day of exploration around the city on foot. Pass through the famous souks, kissarias and foundouks, intoxicatingly crammed with spices, dried fruits, jewellery, rugs and ceramics. Our first destination is the Marrakech Museum, housed in a 19th-century palace. The restored building is a fine example of Andalusian architecture and is filled with traditional Moroccan objects. Passing through the Jemaa el Fna, the city’s main market square, we approach the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque. The interior is closed to non-Muslims but the fabulous exterior, with its soaring and ornately decorated minaret is an uplifting sight and one of the landmarks of the city. Our day concludes at Le Jardin Secret, designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, with contrasting Islamic and exotic courtyards. In the evening, we enjoy dinner together.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Marrakech Museum

Overview

After breakfast our exploration of Marrakech continues. Pausing to admire the spectacular 12th-century Bab Agnaou, one of the city’s nineteen gates (babs), we continue to the Sadiaan Tombs. This series of sepulchres and mausoleums was built to house the remains of leading figures from the Saadi Dynasty, who ruled Morocco between 1549 and 1659. Following the fall of the dynasty, the tombs were permanently sealed, remaining hidden until their rediscovery in 1917. Just a short walk away is the El Badii Palace. Built on the order of Saadian Sultan Ahmed el Mansour in the late 1500s, the opulent construction is believed to have contained more than 350 rooms, with courtyards, gardens, pools and pavilions. Its name translates as ‘the incomparable’ and although the site stands largely in ruins today, it is not hard to image the splendour that once was. The afternoon is yours today for independent explorations but we regroup in the evening for a meal together.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Bab Agnaou

Overview

All day excursion to Andre Heller’s Anima Garden and the beautiful Ourika Valley in the High Atlas. Opened in 2016, the Anima Garden combines imaginative planting and bold sculptural intervention to wonderous effect. Spectacular views to the often snow-capped Atlas Mountains beyond can also be enjoyed here. After an included lunch, we explore the Ourika Valley. The region is inhabited by Berber people – an ethnic group indigenous to several North and West African nations – and we will have the opportunity to see some traditional Berber villages. Our last stop is an argan oil cooperative, to see how this precious oil, prized for centuries by the Berbers for its health and beauty benefits, is extracted and processed. Return to Marrakesh, where the evening is free for independent relaxation.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Included Highlights

Ourika Valley

Overview

Enjoy a morning’s Moroccan cookery course, followed by lunch, your own cooking of course! Well-nourished, we continue to our afternoon destination, the Dar Si Said, home to the National Museum of Weaving and Carpets. Housed in a 19th-century mansion, the collection illustrates the history and social significance of carpet-making. Highlights include a gloriously decorated wedding chamber and a tranquil courtyard garden. The rest of the afternoon and evening are yours for independent exploration, to venture into the souks and barter for exotic souvenirs or settle yourself in a café on the edge of the Jemaa el Fna with a glass of sweet mint tea – as the afternoon fades to dusk, the sight of this enormous market square coming to life is intoxicating.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Included Highlights

Dar Si Said

Overview

The morning is dedicated to Yves Saint-Laurent, starting with a private guided visit of the Villa Oasis, the much-loved family home shared with Pierre Bergé, acquired when they purchased the garden and the sanctuary to which they would retreat repeatedly throughout the remainder of their lives. It is also the site in which the couple’s ashes are spread. This is followed by a visit to the Majorelle Gardens, a rhapsody of intense plantmanship. Originally the vision of French landscape painter Jacques Majorelle (son of the celebrated Art Nouveau designer Louis Majorelle), the gardens were saved from ruin in the 1980s by the couple. Majorelle’s former studio is now home to the Berber Museum, showcasing the rich culture of Morocco’s indigenous people through some 600 artefacts.  Before an included lunch at the foundation, we also visit the Yves-Saint Laurent Museum.  We continue to the Bahia Palace, a masterpiece of 19th-century Moroccan architecture which sprawls across 20 acres. Remarkably well preserved, the unrelenting opulence of marble-tiled courtyards, stained-glass windows, delicate stuccowork and silk-hung walls is a sight to behold. Finally, a walk through the Mellah, the old Jewish quarters of the city, offers a fascinating insight into historic religious segregation in Marrakech. The Slat Al Azama synagogue is the spiritual heart of the enclave and there will be time to admire and explore this 15th-century masterpiece. In the evening, a farewell dinner together marks our final night in the city.

Includes Breakfast

Includes Lunch

Includes Dinner

Included Highlights

Bahia Palace

Overview

This morning our final visit of the tour takes us to the Thiemann Cactus Nursery, the largest succulent collection in Africa, a verdant oasis in the desert just a short distance from Marrakech. Continue to the airport for our flight home.

Includes Breakfast

Single Room Supplement from £350.00 (7 days).

Accommodation

You will stay for six nights bed and breakfast at the Riyad el Cadi.

Riyad El Cadi

A typical Marrakech Riad: at Riyad El Cadi. A tour through courtyards, staircases and corridors of seven traditional houses forming the Hotel Riyad El Cadi gives a good impression of the ancient and pure forms of traditional Moroccan architecture. Riyad El Cadi is situated in the heart of the Medina (Old Town), at the end of three cul-de-sacs. Thanks to these three entrances and the very central location in a secure part of the old town, you can reach all destinations in the Medina within a very short time. The El Cadi Riad Marrakech is not a hotel with indistinguishable rooms, but a guesthouse where all rooms are individually created.

Hotel Facilities

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General
  • 4 Star
  • Outdoor Swimming Pool (Seasonal)
Room
  • Air Conditioning