We will land in Casablanca, stay one night and travel to Fez. On our return we have two nights so that we can tour the Hassan II mosque. In Casablanca we will stay at the Melibur Apartment Hotel.
In Fez we will staying at the Riad Alkantara.
In Marrakesh we stay at the Riad Palais Sebban.
In Essaouira we stay at Le Medina Essaouira Hotel Thalassa Sea & Spa.
Photography notes from articles indicate:
Do's and Don'ts
There is some magnificent architecture in Casablanca. On the way in, we can have a walk around for some night scenes, but we have more time on the way out.
We fly from Vancouver to Paris, and then to Casablanca.
We arrive in Casablanca for the start of Ramadan, which is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims observe this as a month of fasting. This takes place from dawn to sunset. During this time Morocco cancels daylight savings time. This is done to accommodate prayer times. From the reading on this we can expect cannons to blast and announce that it is time to eat. The markets and streets will have special foods that are made and prepared during this time.
Restaurants and cafes do stay open, and tourists eat during the day. Monuments, historical sites, and other attractions may adjust their hours and have shorter times when they are open. Some say this will be similar to eating in Spain, will meal preparation not starting until after sunset meal, and dinner would not commence before 9:00 pm.
Photography should be interesting. Some articles indicate Moroccan people do not like having their picture taken, and to ask permission first. Others indicate that in public areas, Moroccan people may ask for money before or after you photograph them. A fair payment is 10 Dirham ($1.35 CDN). Then again, articles note that snake charmers sit waiting for tourists to photography them and typically push for much more (100-200 Dirham - $12 to 27 CDN). Advice is to say no, and revet to the 10 Dirham amount! "Arguing only escalates the issue, smile and walk on!". Oh, this will be an interesting trip!
In Casablanca we want to take a tour of the Hassan II Mosque which was designed by Michel Pinseau, a French architect. It is massive, and can hold 25,000 worshipers inside and the courtyard can hold another 80,000. This is the third largest mosque in the world, and the only one in Morocco which allows non-muslins to enter the building. There are set tours and we are looking forward to seeing Hassan II.
Our second destination is the town of Fez. This is the second largest city in Morocco. It has two old Medina quarters. The largest, Fez el Bali is a World Heritage Site and is one of the world's largest urban pedestrian zones
Articles note th Medina of Fez is an amazing place for photography. Walk the streets, and be prepared to just wait in one spot and capture the changing scenes that will pass by. We are staying at the Riad Alkantara and the hotel is booking a photography guide for us.
The Medina has narrow twisty streets, with mopeds heading in every direction. It is common to pay a guide or driver to make your way through this area.
Lots of history here, the red walls of the city date back to 1122 and the red sandstone should be great for my photography. There is an old fortified city with vendors and Medina (stalls). Time has been booked with two local professional photographers, Véronique & Marc. Also, a day tour to the Atlas Mountains and valleys is booked.
With over forty years of work by artist Jacques Majorelle, is an oasis in the middle of Marrakesh's busy streets. Away from the noise and bustle of the souks and the Medina,here is a place for a relaxing stroll around these small but intensely charming premises, where paths are shaded by palm trees, exotic plants and traditional architecture dot every corner, azure blue mosaic and bright yellow tiles delight the senses, and cactus plants, lotus flowers, and water lilies paint a vivid landscape. The garden open daily from 9:00am until 5:00 during the time we will be there.
The Ecomusee Berbere is found inside the Jardin Majorelle, and highlights Berber culture in the region. It has a general collection of art and artifacts, as well as rotating exhibitions. Once a painter's studio, the small space now provides an intimate home to videos detailing Berber daily life, mannequins in traditional dress and jewels, and informative blurbs on indigenous people and their histories. Worth the visit to really gain an appreciation of Marrakech and the rural townships surrounding it. No photos are permitted inside the museum. The museum has handouts with English translations of its history and main exhibits, at no extra charge. You can purchase your entrance ticket at the same time as tickets to Jardin Majorelle. (Tickets for the museum cannot be purchased separately.)
A short walk from the Jardin Majorelle, the Medina of Marrakesh is one of the city's biggest draws and the grandest of all Berber marketplaces in Morocco. A swarming center of commerce, the souks at the Medina sell goods ranging from carpets to leathers, pottery to jewels, lanterns to spices, and more. Plus, snakes, monkeys, and donkeys with laden carts are added to the mix of traffic. Visit to have a mint tea, browse traditional wares and food, and soak up the colorful stalls and surrounding architecture. Remember to haggle! Take care. Publications say thieves in this area, on foot or on motorbike. Keep careful hold of your items, and be especially vigilant when taking out your wallet or mobile phone. As the Medina can be a bit dizzying, your hotel can recommend a guide for your excursion. Guides often work with sellers, and will take you to specific stalls. Sellers in shops and stalls can be very aggressive. Feel free to browse. Don't engage sellers unless you really want to buy something. Taking photos of or with an animal (a pet monkey or snake) will cost you. Haggling is a tradition of the souks. If you do not like a price after bargaining, feel free to walk away. Often, this will get your price lowered. But be fair!
This is the heart of the Medina, and serves as a main square. There arearestaurants. Sweet cakes and ginseng teas sold at stalls make for a wonderful after-meal desert, and rooftop restaurants and terraced stalls offer equally tasty treats. So sit down to a meal among the snake charmers and storytellers of Jemaa el Fna! You may also want to pay a visit to Jamaa el Fna by nightfall, when it is at its most crowded and lively! A great time to see the stalls and grab a bite for dinner. Be sure to clarify the price of everything before ordering. If any item has an unlisted price, ask. Nothing is free, including bread/water.
The Royal Palace of Marrakech is a complex with a rich history dating back to the 12th century. Visitors cannot enter the palace complex. No photos of the palace walls are permitted, for security reasons — guards will prevent you from taking any.
Close to the Royal Palace, the ruins of El Badi Palace date back to the 16th century, when it was constructed as a seat of power and luxury. Though it fell into disuse and was stripped of many of its adornments, the courtyards and main rooms are still well-kept, and a visit to the palace will take you back in time and fuel your imagination. The courtyards, gardens, and pools afford a rare, peaceful atmosphere, and visitors are welcome to visit the historical museum on-site, the underground tunnels weaving beneath the palace by lantern light, or to simply stroll the hallways and walks. Be sure to take a moment to step out onto the terrace, where a stunning view of the Atlas mountains await.
To round off a day of palaces, end on the Bahia Palace, which still retains much of its grandeur. With arching courtyards, heavy wooden doors, and complex mosaic floors, the Bahia is an ideal place to soak up the best of Marrakech's architecture. A splendid place to take photos, the Palace also caters to history and culture buffs by providing an informative tour of the grounds at no extra charge.
Built in 1230, the Kasbah Mosque is considered a National Historical Monument, and one of the most important Mosques in Marrakech. Located in the city center, the towering minarets are impressive at any time of day, but it may be best to do the Mosque visit during daily prayer times, when the doors are thrown open and visitors can sneak a peak at the architecture and decoration within. You cannot enter the Kasbah if you are not a practicing Muslim.
Situated behind the Kasbah Mosque, the Saadian Tombs hail from the 16th century and were returned to their former glory and beauty after being re-discovered in the early 1900s. The mausoleum contains the intricate burials of over fifty members of Saadi Dynastic royalty, as well as an attractive garden area containing the grave sites of servants and soldiers. The highlight of the mosaic masterpiece is in one of the central three rooms, where the sultan's grandson Ahmad al-Mansur is buried. Columns raise the roof high above the marble detailing and cedar steel, a true monument not to be missed. The tombs are prowled by stray cats. While the cats are generally ambivalent, if you do decide to approach one, be careful, as they are wild and may bite or scratch.
Across from the Saadian Tombs stand the ancient defensive walls of the Marrakech Ramparts. Its 19 gates afford primary access to the city, and the tall pink walls that spread far around the area speak of Merrakech's military history. The gateways are the primary focus of a visit to the ramparts, and the ornate Bab Agnaou gateway stands nearest to the tombs, with a façade of brick and stone forming a decorative horseshoe arch that makes it most impressive.
The Koutoubia Mosque, the largest Mosque in Marrakech, is a stunning sight by night or day. While it is floodlit by nightfall, by day its arching windows, beautiful gardens, burbling fountains, and stony facade can be appreciated to the fullest extent. Its minaret stands at over 250 feet tall, and can be seen from almost anywhere in Marrakech, leading the way to the Medina, and proving an architectural wonder. A short stroll around the Mosque is a refreshing and leisurely way to take in one of the city's most important structures. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Mosque, but the garden grounds are free for anyone to stroll around.
The Ben Youssef Madrasa functioned as a theological college throughout the 14th century and into the 1960s. Today, its halls, classrooms, courtyard, and dorms — decorated in gorgeous geometric and floral patterns of cedar, stucco, and marble — welcome visitors. A quiet, shaded place to rest and take in Morocco's scholarly and religious past, and to feel what it must have been like to learn in this venerable space. A combination ticket to Ben Youssef and the nearby Marrakech Museum is available. Recommended if you have the time to explore both.
is the Jewish district of the city in Marrakech. The area is dominated by the beautiful, archaic Lezama Synagogue, and visitors to the area can also explore the historic Jewish cemetery, the myriad spice vendors Mellah is known for, the handmade lantern workshops, and take in the local cuisine. A visit here will afford a different view of Moroccan architecture, as the buildings have balconies and feature the Star of David in their construction. An interesting look at another aspect of the city.
A great place to wrap up the day, the Marrakesh Souk is a den of artisans. Like other souk, sellers have a variety of goods, and some of the joy of visiting the market is in wandering around and comparing what is on sale. A dizzying concoction of streets and alleys, this is a fine place to shop for souvenirs and get your final fix of Moroccan wares.
Our fourth location will be Essaouira, located on the coast. The Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is described in some articles as being bright and breezy. The white and blue medina, the inner citty is enclosed with a sand-coloured ramparts and stones gates (Babs).