MOROCCO - A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

Day 1 – Saturday 16th April 2016
Fly London to Marrakech with British Airways and on arrival we take our private transfer and check in to the Meridien Hotel for two nights on room and breakfast basis.

Day 2 – Marrakech
This morning we take a city tour. We visit the ruined El Badi Palace home to Sultan Ahmed el Mansour in the sixteenth century, with time to climb the ramparts allowing for great views across the city. Next, to the Saadian Tombs, hidden away by Sultan Moulay Ismail in the early 1600s these tombs were only rediscovered by a French aerial survey in 1917. On to Bahia Palace built in the 1860s, where we see beautiful carved stucco work and painted wooden ceilings that are remarkably well preserved. Our last stop will be at Maison Tiskiwin which houses a private collection of Moroccan and Saharan artefacts. After lunch we have free time to enjoy the gardens and pool of the hotel or wander the souk (BL)

Day 3 – The High Atlas
We load up our four-wheel drive vehicles to begin our journey. We leave the plain and cross the Pre-Cambrian strata of the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n'Tichka pass at a height of 2260 metres and then head to Telouet on the old caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. We stop for lunch and explore the crumbling ruins of the Kasbah Telouet. Then to the Telouet Salt Mines famous for its pinkish coloured salt and prized for its medicinal properties. Our next stop will be at the Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou now a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we enter the town and study the towers and Kasbahs and pise clay architecture within the giant fortification. We continue to Ouarzazate where we overnight in a comfortable Riad style hotel. (BLD)

Day 4 – The Draa Valley
Our first stop today will allow the opportunity to examine an extensive Stromatolite field. Passing Gebel Kissane we descend through Cambian strata into the Draa Valley at Agdz and view the vast palmeries with millions of date-palm trees. After lunch we leave the tarmac road and head to the site of Foum Chenna where we find many images of men on horseback in Libyco-Berber style. We find hunting scenes, warriors and animals pecked in the dark coloured rock, many dating back around 1500 years. We continue to Zagora and spend the night at a fine Riad set in spacious grounds. (BLD)

Day 5 – M'Hamid
This morning we follow a desert track to Ait Ouazik crossing an Ordovican landscape where we will see rock art of the Tazina style that dates back five thousand years. Polished boulders scattered over a large area reveal finely crafted engravings of oryx, antelope, rhino, ostrich, giraffe, geometric designs, spirals and hoop nets. We head back to the main road and continue south to M'Hamid. We overnight at Chez le Pacha hidden in the palm garden of Ouled Driss close to the town of M'Hamid once an important marketplace for nomadic and trans-Saharan trade. (BLD)

Day 6 – The Sahara
After breakfast we head off-road across a desert wilderness known as the hammada 'the black desert' towards the most dramatic dunes in the entire region at Erg Chigaga. These dunes rise in three hundred metre crescents and fill the horizon. We have a picnic lunch and time to wander in this great sand sea, home to the Ait Atta Berber nomads. We spend the night in traditional tented accommodation at a bivouac in the Erg Chigaga. This one night we have communal toilet and shower facilities and we have dinner in a large dining tent and will have the chance to enjoy the real desert experience of sitting on the dunes under a brilliant star lit sky. (BLD)

Day 7 – Salt Flats and Fossils
A long drive today over rough desert tracks to Foum-Zguid making several stops en-route. At the salt flats of the now dry Lake Iriki we have time to look at fossil beds and discuss the largely Paleozoic geology of the area and maybe even experience mirages. Just 15 to 20 years ago shepherds still brought cattle to this lake in the wet years but now all we see are salt pans and dried watercourses. We take lunch in Foum-Zguid and overnight at a local hotel built in traditional style. (BLD)

Day 8 – Rock Art
We head west to visit several rock art sites. During the course of the day we will visit sites at Ait Ouabelli, Aman Ighriben and Oued Mestakou. These sites have many carvings of animals including elephant, rhino, antelope, gazelle and long horned cattle all of which lived in this part of Africa at the time of drawing. Scattered on boulders, in wadi beds, ridges and on high cliff walls we will spend the day walking, searching and exploring. We will also examine marks on a number of rock outcrops: are these evidence for glaciation of this region hundreds of millions of years ago? We return to our comfortable hotel for overnight. (BLD)

Day 9 – Road to Taroudant
We travel through Tata and stop at an unusual dripstone formation known as the Messalit falls or 'mud falls', also known locally as the sea caves. As we follow the route of the River Tata through Berber villages, we pass from a Paleozoic into Pre-Cambrian landscape and have the opportunity to take in the breath taking geology. The often intensely folded rocks and their distinct stratification make this a truly stunning landscape. After leaving Igherm in the Anti Atlas, we descend into the lush plain in the heart of the fertile Souss Valley famous for its orange groves leading us to Taroudant. We have a look at the elegant town with its circuit of ancient walls and ramparts often referred to as little Marrakech. We check in to a quiet and restful Riad set in a plantation that was once a pasha's estate. (BLD)

Day 10 – Oukaimeden
After breakfast we travel through a valley set between the Anti Atlas on the south and the High Atlas to the north passing acres of Argan trees that produce the expensive delicacy known as Argan Oil.  The landscape continues to surprise as once again we climb a spectacular  mountain pass ascending through Cambrian and remnant areas of Pre-Cambrian terrain. We stop at a high point for coffee to admire the views looking back over the lowland we have just left behind. Lunch is at Oukaimeden, a ski centre in the Gebel Toubkal National Park. Here we find some unique rock art showing weapons, including shields and daggers, axes and spears and many small circular hollows known as cup marks possibly all dating back to 500 AD. On arrival in Marrakech we say good bye to our driving team and check in to our hotel, The Meridien, for two nights on room and breakfast basis. (BL)

Day 11 – Marrakech
Today is a free day to enjoy the delights of the hotel or take on some more city sightseeing. An easy stroll leads to Menara Gardens and then perhaps continue to the hectic Jemaa el Fna for some last minute shopping and street entertainment. (B)

Day 12 – Wednesday 27th April
We take our private transfer to Marrakech airport for our flight to London. (B)

Colin Reader is a chartered geologist who has been studying the geology of North Africa and the Levant to understand its influences on the region's early cultures. Today, we often regard the geology of a region as simply part of the 'stage dressing', but it's clear that for early cultures, the landscape had ritual importance.

B=Breakfast – L=Lunch – D=Dinner

 

MOROCCO - A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

DEPARTURE DATE  Saturday 16th April 2016

TOUR CODE AWMO 160416

STANDARD HOLIDAY PRICE: £2,550

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT: £205

 

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