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Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Travel to Morocco enthralls even the most experienced adventurer. Tradition infuses its labyrinthine medinas, overflowing with centuries-old customs and the colorful bounty of the Earth. Village oases seem to rise from the desert, mirage-like. And the mighty Sahara, a timeless sea of sand, stretches to infinity. The Romans found this land enticing enough to build the once-bustling city of Volubilis here.

In the intimacy of our OAT small group, we’ll meet the Moroccan people, experience their traditions, and taste the secrets of their flavorful cuisine. We’ll discover the beauty of mosques and sample regional specialties during Home-Hosted meals. And to get a true feel for the mighty Sahara that has so decisively shaped this culture, we’ll camp amidst its dunes for two unforgettable nights—and even explore by camel.

Casablanca Marrakesh Expand All
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    Depart the U.S. today on an overnight flight to Casablanca.

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    Explore Casablanca on a sightseeing tour

    Our OAT Trip Leader meets us at the airport in Casablanca this morning. Then we begin our transfer overland to Rabat, one of Morocco’s ancient imperial cities and its capital since 1913. We'll arrive at our hotel in the early afternoon, followed by some time at leisure.

    This evening we meet our fellow travelers who took the optional pre-trip extension to Tangier, Chefchaouen & the Berbers of the Rif during an orientation briefing. Tonight, we’ll enjoy dinner on a boat that is docked on the Bou Regreg river, which separates Rabat from the city of Salé.

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    After breakfast this morning, we have a brief introduction to the Arabic language before heading out on a guided tour of Rabat. We see the exterior of Rabat's Royal Palace and its impressive Bab ar-Rouah (Gate of the Winds), and visit the ruins and wild gardens of the Chellah, a 14th-century Merinid necropolis. We walk in the Andalusian Gardens, within the walls of the kasbah (fortress) of the Oudaya. We stop at the Hassan Tower, a huge unfinished mosque, built mostly at the end of the twelfth century.

    Enjoy lunch on your own in Rabat, and then the afternoon will be yours to make your own discoveries. Tonight, we gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, we leave Rabat and drive past the tree-covered slopes of Mount Zerhoun, which mark the beginning of the Rif Mountains.

    Then we’ll pass through the monumental gates of the walled city of Meknes, onetime home of the Moroccan sultanate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, we embark upon a tour of this ancient city of elaborate gardens and centuries of history, including the immense stables—a massive structure that once held 12,000 horses—that was built for the 17th-century sultan, Moulay Ismail.

    Then we enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing on to the Roman city of Volubilis, another UNESCO World Heritage Site; it’s one of the best-preserved Roman archaeological sites in North Africa. We explore the historic ruins, where—amongst the fragments of stone from ancient dwellings—we’ll behold a variety of well-preserved mosaics, and our Trip Leader can help us envision what life was like in ancient times. From this vantage point, we'll also be able to look out upon the panoramic, whitewashed vistas of the holy city of Moulay Idriss in the distance.

    Then we depart for Fez, arriving in the late afternoon. We check into our riad—a Moroccan home refurbished into an intimate hotel—and have a bit of free time before regrouping for dinner at the riad.

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    Following breakfast, we set out on a day of exploration in Fez. Led by our Trip Leader and city guide, we leave our bus, the 21st century, and all previous conceptions of urban design behind to enter the Fez medina, often considered the world's most well-preserved medieval city and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. We start by exploring the traditional Jewish quarter called Mellah, viewing the King’s Palace and the Nejjarine Fountain, and learning how Moroccan pottery is crafted at a local ceramics workshop.

    After taking in a panoramic hilltop view of the city, we enter the souks (markets) of Fez, walking through myriad tiny lanes. This ancient section of Fez is a maze of narrow streets, and one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world. Every inch of space is filled with bazaars, cafés, shops, and people. You can’t help but be amazed by the vibrant display of age-old urban tradition, and the intensity of life bursting around every corner.

    We have lunch in a local restaurant and then explore the medina some more before returning to our hotel.

    The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to continue exploring Fez. This evening, we’ll join a local family for a Home-Hosted Dinner and a chance to learn even more about daily life in this ancient city.

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    Our Sahara odyssey begins today, as we drive across the Middle Atlas mountain range, winding through beautiful pine groves and giant cedar forests. The contrast of the rich purple soil and the tall evergreens is magnificent. We cross a 6,000-foot pass in the mountains and head further toward the Sahara. This is a long, but fascinating transfer as we witness the varied geologic and ecological zones we travel through. Along the way, we’ll briefly stop in the ski resort town of Ifrane, and we’ll have lunch at a restaurant in Midelt.

    In the late afternoon, we descend into Erfoud, a small trading village that is the gateway to the vast Sahara Desert.

    This evening, we’ll enjoy dinner in our hotel.

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    After breakfast, we'll board rugged 4x4 vehicles and drive to the village of Rissani, where we visit a family home and learn about their traditional way of life. Then we head into the desert, where we enjoy a chance to hike on top of the dunes, and to travel the desert the traditional way—on the back of a camel. Lunch is served after the camel ride in a ceremonial tent facing some of the highest dunes in Morocco.

    Afterward, we journey to our private tented campsite, at a sea of sand dunes near Merzouga, experiencing the remote environment of the Sahara: No roads, no people except an occasional nomad, and total silence as we navigate the sandy tracks. Should we encounter some nomads during our drive, we'll stop to visit with them.

    We arrive at our campsite in the late afternoon, and gather around the dining tent for tea. Keep your journal handy as our Moroccan chef gives us a lesson in preparing Moroccan cuisine. Most Americans are familiar with couscous, a nourishing staple of Moroccan diets, but savory discoveries abound in this exotic cuisine: harissa, a fiery sauce made from hot red pepper, olive oil, and garlic; tajine, a slow-cooked stew named for the pot that it’s cooked in; and the crowning glory of bstila, squab pie made with 100 individual layers of flaky dough. We’ll come away with not only a delicious meal, but also some authentic cooking tips to take home with us.

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    Today, we absorb the feeling of the extraordinary desert environment. We are camped where few foreigners venture, along routes known only to the camel and goat-herding Tuareg nomads. If you wish, you can rise before dawn today to watch the sunrise in the Saharan dunes, before returning to the camp for breakfast.

    Afterward, our guide will lead a walk into the desert during the cool of the morning. We then take our 4x4 vehicles to visit nomadic families nearby. While here, we’ll enjoy a discussion about the famous “Blue Men” of the Sahara, a group of nomadic camel herders of the Tuareg people who originated in Timbuktu who have inhabited the desert for thousands of years; their name is drawn from the indigo-dyed robes they traditionally wear, and their caravans still cross the desert sands. We'll also visit the small desert village of Khamlia, where we’ll learn about the famous ritual music of the local Gnawa musicians.

    We return to our camp for lunch. This afternoon, join our local guide for elective hikes into the dunes, or enjoy free time to relax as you wish in this unique environment.

    At camp this evening, we learn about the basic tenets of Islam during a fascinating discussion. We spend our last night camping under the starry desert sky, where (weather permitting) the Milky Way appears uncannily clear and bright.

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    We awake this morning for one last walk before leaving the open desert behind, boarding our 4x4s for two brief stops: a Berber cemetery to learn about Muslim funeral customs, and an aqueduct where we’ll investigate a water canalization project.

    We’ll then rejoin the bus and continue to Tineghir, an oasis known for its artisan workshops, gold, fig trees, and date palms. En route, we’ll stop to enjoy a boxed lunch. Then we’ll cross the J'bel Sahro Range (at about 4,500-5,000 feet), taking in spectacular views of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains along the way.

    We’ll arrive in Tineghir and check into our hotel early this afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon and early evening are free. However, if you wish, our Trip Leader will arrange the following optional outings: After our days of “roughing it” in the desert, you can relax—in true Moroccan style—at a local hammam (bathhouse) that complies with Islamic laws of hygiene and purification; afterward, you can visit a Berber carpet cooperative.

    Tonight, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel.

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    After breakfast, we delve into the local Moroccan culture during A Day in the Life of Tineghir. We begin with a visit to a Berber market (open Saturdays and Mondays) where we learn about bargaining in their cash-only culture, then proceed to the oasis where local women harvest alfalfa and wash clothing in the river. We’ll talk with them about their traditional roles, and maybe have the chance to help them with their chores.

    From there, we enter Tineghir’s medina, where craftsmen create colorful bellows, as well as the sickles the women use to work the fields. We'll have a chance to try a little haggling, too, as we purchase food for our evening meal.

    Then, we visit the Dar Et-Taleb Education Center—a residential facility for rural students from Tineghir’s surrounding villages. Grand Circle Foundation’s support has helped fund the construction of much-needed showers, restrooms, and a soccer field that offers students some well-earned recreation. We’ll tour the facilities and learn about the mission of Dar Et-Taleb.

    Afterward, we’ll set off for a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family. Then we’ll return to our hotel, where we’ll have the afternoon free to relax. If you’d like, our Trip Leader will arrange for an excursion to Todra Gorge, where you can take a short walk and enjoy its stunning landscapes, where sheer red cliffs rise dramatically up to 500 feet on either side.

    Then, before dinner, our group will be invited to meet a local Berber woman who will offer a demonstration of a regional custom: henna painting. She will show us how she applies intricate traditional designs with paint made from henna plants, which are native to North Africa. The henna patterns are intended to foster a sense of closeness to God, and traditionally adorn a new bride's hands and feet. You may have a chance to choose your own design from among traditional patterns, including one popular design that is said to protect the wearer from the evil eye.

    We'll then gather beneath a Berber tent to enjoy a dinner made with the ingredients we purchased at the medina.

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    After breakfast at our hotel, we enjoy a scenic drive through the spectacular Dadès Valley. Afterward, we call at the home of a local Berber family. Here we share tea and observe how they transform their grain into delectable bread, known in Arabic as khubz.

    We continue our adventure with a visit to a kasbah outside Kelaat Megouna, where we’ll learn more about Berber culture from an imam (Muslim scholar). Over lunch, he’ll tell us about his role in the community and local wedding customs. We’ll also get the chance to ask him questions.

    Then we travel to the oasis town of Ouarzazate, originally created by the French as a garrison outpost in the Sahara. Upon arrival, we'll settle into our hotel and gather for dinner.

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    • Meals included:
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    We travel through the High Atlas Mountains today on our way to Marrakesh. First, we visit Aït Benhaddou, a picturesque, mountainside ksar (fortified city) that features one of the best-preserved kasbahs in the entire Atlas region. Scenes from the classic films Lawrence of Arabia and The Man Who Would Be King were set here, and Aït Benhaddou has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its striking example of southern Moroccan earthen architecture.

    Then, our journey continues through the High Atlas Mountains. We pause high above narrow green valleys for lunch at a local restaurant, and reach Marrakesh in the late afternoon, where we settle into our hotel.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own.

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    Discover the Djemma el Fna square markets in Marrakesh

    In the morning, we explore the legendary city of Marrakesh in a traditional horse-drawn calèche. We begin in Gueliz, the modern part of the city designed and built by the French in the early 20th century, then visit the Koutoubia minaret, the Saadian Tombs, the Moorish spice market, and the opulent Bahia Palace.

    Following our tour, you'll have time for lunch on your own as you explore the famous medina of Marrakesh, one of the ancient crossroads of North Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    This afternoon is at leisure and dinner is on your own.

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    You have the day free in Marrakesh, where past travelers have greatly enjoyed time for independent exploration. As in Fez, there is much to see, do, and buy in the bustling medina, and our Trip Leader will be able to offer you plenty of suggestions about where to go. If you haven't done so already, be sure to check out the high-energy street performers in the legendary Djemma El-Fna square.

    Or, you can choose to join our optional Marrakesh Museums tour, which features visits to the Jardin de Majorelle and Islamic Art Museum; the Ali Ben Youssef Medersa and Marrakesh Museum; a stroll through Marrakesh’s ancient medina, and lunch with some local Moroccans.

    This evening, we’ll come together to share our stories over a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast this morning, we travel to the airport for our flight to the U.S. Otherwise, begin your post-trip extension to Essaouira & Casablanca.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Overall Trip Excellence
83%
Trip Leader Excellence
91%
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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below. Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 8 locations in 14 days with two 1-night stays
  • One 9-hour transfer

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk 2-3 miles unassisted; expect 2-4 hours of physical activities on some days
  • You will need to access vehicles by ladder without aid

Climate

  • June to September are hottest during the day; mid-day temperatures can reach more than 100°F
  • In the Sahara, November-March can be quite cold at night and in the mornings
  • Daytime temperatures between May-August can be 70-80°F, and as low as 50°F at night
  • December-March brings heavy rain and thunderstorms

Terrain

  • Travel over cobbled streets and sandy, uneven, and bumpy terrain in the Sahara that can cause problems for travelers with leg or back issues

Transportation

  • We travel via air-conditioned bus (no toilet onboard), 4x4 vehicles, and camel

Accommodations & Facilities

  • We spend 2 nights in the Sahara in comfortable but basic canvas tents without heat or electricity, with a bathroom and shower outside your tent. The main camp is a 3-minute walk away
  • Hotels feature a variety of Western-style amenities and personal services
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Cultural insight

  • Fez's medina and Marrakesh feature dust and large crowds. Poverty and beggars here may be distressing

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then you may need a visa. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Hotel Mercure Sheherazade

    Rabat, Morocco

    Hotel Mercure Sheherazade is situated in Rabat’s city center, just a short walk from historic monuments like the Mohamed V mausoleum and Hassan Tower. On-site amenities include a spa, bar, and a restaurant specializing in international cuisine. There are 77 air-conditioned rooms at the hotel, each with a satellite TV, telephone, safe, and private bath.

  • Riad Dar Dmana

    Fez, Morocco

    The Riad Dar Dmana is a riad-style hotel, which is a Moroccan home refurbished to serve as a small, intimate hotel. The riad is located within the medina of Fez and has two on-site restaurants, which serve a variety of Moroccan cuisine options. Each room is uniquely decorated in traditional Moroccan fashion and features air-conditioning, free wireless Internet, and a private bath with hair dryer.

  • Kasbah Hotel Chergui

    Erfoud, Morocco

    Situated near our entry point into the Sahara Desert, the Kasbah Hotel Chergui features a restaurant, Jacuzzi, and outdoor swimming pool. Complimentary wireless Internet is available in each of the 100 air-conditioned rooms, along with a minibar, refrigerator, and private bath.

  • Private tented camp

    Merzouga, Morocco

    You’ll experience the life of an authentic desert nomad during our stay at a private tented camp at towering sand dunes near Merzouga, a small frontier town on the edge of the Sahara Desert. At the camp, you’ll stay in a walk-in canvas tent, complete with camp bed, mattress, sleeping bag with fresh linens, and pillow, and an attached tent with toilet facilities. There are separate tents for dining.

  • Hotel Kenzi Saghro

    Tineghir, Morocco

    The Hotel Kenzi Saghro offers 65 comfortable, air-conditioned rooms, each with its own private bath, telephone, and TV. The hotel features two restaurants, one Moroccan and one with international cuisine. In addition, there is a swimming pool, solarium, coffee bar, and lounge on-site.

  • Le Berbere Palace

    Ouarzazate, Morocco | Rating: First Class

    Conveniently located in the center of Ouarzazate, Le Berbere Palace has an outdoor pool, as well as two restaurants, a bar, and health club with a sauna. Each of the hotel’s 232 modern, air-conditioned rooms features a satellite TV, complimentary wireless Internet, minibar, refrigerator, and private bath.

  • Opera Plaza

    Marrakesh, Morocco

    The Opera Plaza is conveniently located in downtown Marrakesh, within walking distance of Djemaa el-Fna Square and the Koutoubia Minaret and gardens. The property features an outdoor pool, restaurant, bar, fitness center, spa, and bowling alley. Each of the 115 rooms is equipped with air-conditioning, a satellite TV, telephone, safe, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

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  • Atlas Almohades

    Casablanca, Morocco

    This modern, Western-style hotel is located in the business district in the shadows of the King Hassan II waterfront mosque. It’s a short taxi ride to Casablanca’s beaches and souks. A bar is located onsite and your air-conditioned room features TV with satellite cable, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Casa Hassan Guesthouse

    Chefchaouen, Morocco

    Perched on a hillside in the heart of Chefchaouen’s medina, this riad—a traditional Moroccan house built around an interior courtyard—has been converted into a comfortable, rustic guesthouse that features a hammam (Turkish bath), cozy dining room, and roof terrace with excellent views of the city and mountainsides. Each of its 8 unique rooms is colorfully decorated by local artists and includes an en suite bath.

  • Golden Tulip Andalucía Golf Tanger

    Tangier, Morocco

    Situated on the northern coast of Morocco, overlooking the gulf of Tangier, Golden Tulip Andalucía Golf Tanger features 142 air-conditioned rooms, each with a telephone, flat-screen TV, safe, and private bath. The hotel offers free Wifi, a fitness facility, spa, swimming pool, as well as several dining areas that offer a variety of menus.

  • Hotel Des Iles Essaouira

    Essaouira, Morocco

    Situated on the city’s main oceanfront boulevard, this hotel is adjacent to Essaouira’s historic walled section. Its 75 air-conditioned rooms each feature a telephone, TV, and private bath with shower and hair dryer. Amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, on-site restaurant, and bar.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2495
w/ standard air $3495

Partner since: 2004
Total donated: $105,034

Making a difference in Morocco

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel — which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Morocco, and what you'll experience during your itinerary:

A Day in the Life of Tingher Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Tingher Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

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A Day in the Life of Tingher Village

Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, Tingher Village. You’ll get to know the local people through conversation and sharing a meal together, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here—and not just the typical tourist’s version.

Meet the People of Tingher Village

Your Day in the Life experience in the village of Tingher will open your eyes to a whole new way of life. Nestled between mountains in the northwest and desert in the southeast, Tingher is alive from dawn until dusk. Here, the Berber culture—the indigenous ethnic group making up the bulk of the population—is the norm. You’ll weave your way through the cash-only market and try your hand at a little haggling while you’re at it.

You’ll then make your way to the local oasis where the women wash their clothing in the Todgha River and harvest alfalfa using sickles forged by craftsmen at the nearby medina. Perhaps you’ll even help the women with their chores and in turn learn more about the traditional roles they play.

Once the afternoon rolls in, you’ll sink deeper into the Berber culture. You’ll witness firsthand the making of local goods, including traditional metal crafts and handmade Berber carpets. You’ll even be invited into a local home and watch as Moroccan women perform an age-old custom—the application of henna as body art. Made into a paste from the leaves of the henna plant, the paint is meant to bring you closer to God. You may even have the chance to choose your own intricate design and, in the process, connect with one of the locals.

By the end of your Day in the Life experience, we hope you’ll come away with a real sense of what life is like in this remote region of Morocco—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call Tingher Village home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Morocco

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's  World Classroom  initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. In Morocco, you'll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included installing toilets and showers, constructing and renovating classrooms, donating bedding and computers, and much more.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Morocco

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's  World Classroom  initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: its children. In Morocco, you'll meet young students at a local school, supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included installing toilets and showers, constructing and renovating classrooms, donating bedding and computers, and much more.

"We were pleased to be a part of your support of a worthy grassroots cause in Morocco ... keep up the good work!"

Carolyn Eastman, 12-time traveler
Orleans, Massachusetts

Dar ET-Taleb Education Center

Partner since: 2004 • Total donated: $25,780

The eager and inquisitive students of Dar Et-Taleb will welcome you

Some young students in Africa have a long way to travel to school—if they attend at all. More than 160 young boys who wouldn't otherwise have access to education come to Tineghir's Dar ET-Taleb Education Center to live and study. Here, in this remote, undeveloped location, where the Sahara meets the Atlas Mountains, public facilities are limited. The Dar ET-Taleb Education Center is a locally supported group that provides boarding facilities and educational opportunities for children who would not be able to travel to school on a daily basis. The Foundation's support has helped fund the construction of much-needed showers, restroom facilities, and a soccer court—so the children can enjoy some well-earned recreation.

School in session:

July through April, with periodic closures for public holidays

Grand Circle Foundation

Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Morocco Sahara Odyssey

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Morocco Sahara Odysseyand save up to $1495 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

"Every day was an adventure; every day was a new and different Morocco … When you travel with OAT on this trip, you get to experience the sun rising over the Sahara in all its glory; you revel in the grandeur of the High Atlas mountains that remind you of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico; you experience and share in the warmth and welcome of the people, among all the other marvelous day-by-day discoveries. It is a safe country, where I did not feel uncomfortable walking alone down the streets or in the Medina. Though I could only remember two Arabic/Berber words, "Shokron" (thank you) and "Yalla" ("move along", thanks to our fabulous trip Leader Aziz Slimani), a smile and hand signals always conveyed my attitude and meaning. I highly recommend this trip to all, at any age. Lots of welcome walking along streets, Roman ruins, Medinas, and the desert dunes, that gave us just enough exercise to overcome all the delicious (not too spicy) food we ate at each meal!"

Anita Soracco, 9-time traveler, Porter, Texas

"Walking through the souqs and medinas transports one back to ancient times. Bargaining in the shops and stalls is half the fun and is expected. By the end of my post trip to Essaouira, after bargaining in a jewelry store for 30-40 minutes, upon leaving, the merchant told me that I bargained like a true Berber woman.

The two-night stay in the Sahara Desert was magical—sharing wine under the desert stars and sky with the group … The desert sunrises and sunsets were mystical—have your camera ready at all times."

Felicia Harrison, 5-time traveler, Beverly Hills, California

"The itinerary for this tour has been very well planned with lots of thought given to exposing us to a broad variety of experiences, contact with people of different social strata, learning about the different cultures that have played a part in Morocco’s development, and visiting the many fascinating ancient and modern sites in this hospitable country. Don’t miss it!"

Albert Vizinho, 17-time traveler, Fremont, California

"Ouarzazate very interesting, where many movies are made. We had lunch with an imam at his kasbah and performed a wedding with our guests. Having a beautiful henna design painted on my arm and hand was a wonderful experience. A Turkish bath was an experience that I didn’t have before. Tineghir was a beautiful show with the carpets displaying by our feet, but the tea ceremony was the best …"

Nicole Marjanowicz, 8-time traveler, Daytona Beach, Florida

Morocco as Muse

Ex-pat writers in Morocco

by David Valdes Greenwood

The romance of Morocco—camels, orange groves, palm trees—lingers around the edges of George Orwell’s view, beauty as undeniable as the hardship.

Paul Bowles, the American ex-pat writer most inextricably associated with Morocco in the minds of many Western readers, once described how it was that he first became hooked on the North African country he would eventually call home. “What I saw … awakened a wish to see more, a wish which seemed to grow even as it was being satisfied.” Morocco, with its blend of indigenous Berber traditions, Arab influences, and European arrivals, is at once sophisticated and exotic, a heady feast for the senses with a rhythm all its own. It's no wonder then, that, like Bowles, so many of the 20th century’s greatest writers were drawn there.

Marrakesh & Casablanca: Danger and delight

The first Western writer to make a splash with his accounts of Morocco was George Orwell—who found his time in Marrakesh both captivating and troubling. One of the most bustling cities in Africa, Marrakesh is also one of the oldest, continuously inhabited since the end of the Stone Age. Orwell was not an optimist by nature, though he was an idealist at heart. Having fought in the Spanish Civil War and then returned to his native England to treat a neck wound, he moved to Marrakesh to recover on the eve of World War II.

In “Marrakech,” a widely re-published 1939 essay known for its vivid description and powerful analysis, Orwell paints a portrait of local life. The essay opens with flies darting after a corpse and ends with black soldiers conscripted by the French, and scenes of poverty and racial inequity follow one upon the next in between. Each scene turns on its injustice: for example, when he feeds pieces of a baguette to a gazelle in a park, a stranger shyly points out that bread would also make a good meal for a hungry human. Even so, the romance of Morocco—camels, orange groves, palm trees—lingers around the edges of his view, beauty as undeniable as the hardship.

The same year as Orwell’s essay came out, French writer and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry published accounts of his time flying commercially and for the military in Morocco. Saint-Exupéry was at home wandering the streets of Casablanca, and often holed up in Le Petit Poucet, a popular bar. But his love of Morocco was put to the test when he crashed into the Sahara during a flying race. Instead of leaving Morocco, he used the environs that almost claimed him as the inspiration for his two greatest works: his memoir Wind, Sand, and Stars, and his celebrated children's book, The Little Prince, a few years later.

Tangier & Fez: From the Beats to Bowles

For many Americans, the city that put Morocco on the literary map was Tangier. Allen Ginsberg ... William S. Burroughs … Jack Kerouac. That roster sounds like the syllabus from a class on the Beat Generation of poets and novelists. With their desire to reject the norms of American culture, a shared penchant for recreational drug use, and interest in other traditions, the Beats were drawn to Tangier, which struck them as possessing the right mix of anti-materialism and distance from their own society. Burroughs was the first to arrive of this trio, inviting the others as he came to know them. The bar of the hotel Tanger Inn became the setting for poetry readings, late night debates, and many a drunken hour for the Beats.

Joining them at the bar was at least one new companion, Paul Bowles, who admired the men for their minds but didn’t like their writing that much—and never considered himself a Beat. Bowles, author of Sheltering Sky, is well known for his life in Tangier, but he also spent time in Fez, with its medina that ranks as the largest car-free plaza in the world. Fez was Bowles’ second home in the desert kingdom, and he often spent weeks or months at a time there throughout the five decades he lived in Morocco.

From the first trip in 1931, he appreciated the way Fez was holding on to the flavor of ancient eras. “Tangier had by no means prepared me for the experience of Fez, where everything was ten times stranger and bigger and brighter. I felt that at last I had left the world behind,” he wrote in his autobiography. Again and again, he returned over the years. “Fez was fascinating.… I spent much time wandering in the medina,” he wrote. “I love to wander. I love to spend months there …”

In the 1950’s, he began a novel set in Fez. “I wanted to write a novel using as backdrop the traditional daily life of Fez, because it was a medieval city functioning in the 20th century.” But civil unrest was beginning to crescendo, leading to Moroccan independence. As a result, he chronicled not the preservation of old ways, but the dawn of a modern age. The result was The Spider’s House, critically acclaimed as his greatest masterpiece out of more than 30 books.

From this book comes a great description of why Bowles—and his fellow ex-pats—felt a need to capture their Moroccan experience in words and then share them. “The only thing that makes life worth living is the possibility of experiencing now and then a perfect moment. And perhaps even more than that, it's having the ability to recall such moments in their totality, to contemplate them like jewels.”