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MOROCCO - ITS GREAT CULTURAL WEALTH


A JOURNEY TO DISCOVER THE ANCIENT CITIES? IMPERIALS BETWEEN SOUQ AND PALACES WITH UNCHANGED CHARM, BETWEEN ANCIENT KASBAH AND GREAT VIEWS OF THE DESERT AND DELL? ATLAS

Our senses have been lost in wonderful landscapes, particular sounds and colorful scents.

1 day

1-September Italy-Marrakech

With the Royal Air Maroc flight AT 0941 we arrive in Casablanca and then with the AT 0413 flight of the same company to Marrakech at 2335 local time. From Menara airport transfer to the hotel, the Atlas Asni, centrally located on the renowned Avenue de France, in the residential district of Hivernage. We meet our guide Abi who will be? with us throughout the journey. (we know he's a very good professional) Given the time .... cold dinner.



2 day

THE ATLANTIC COAST

2 September-Marrakech-Ounagha-Essaouira-Safi (305 km)

Today 305 km await us! It 's just a taste of the distances we will travel in Morocco ..... Along the way, the R207, a stop in Ounagha for a visit to the Argan oil processing center. Dubbed desert gold for its color,? produced only in Morocco, with ancient methods, by women who hand down their gestures from generation to generation, far from any mechanized process. It is obtained from the fruit of a tree, the arganier, which grows only in the South East of the North African country, so deeply rooted in the daily life of rural populations that it has surrounded itself with legend.
Argan oil comes from a process that takes place entirely by hand with delicate steps that require great skill. and dexterity, gestures handed down from mother to daughter to treat and process the green or yellow berries of the arganier, in which there are almonds from which the oil is extracted.
Between June and September the women gather for the harvest and drying, what can? last from fifteen days to a month, to then move on to crushing the almonds. ? the moment of? asslay, roasting on fire, followed by grinding, thanks to a stone wheel called azerg.
(Bianca tries to emulate the workers ..)
Today 305 km await us! It 's just a taste of the distances we will travel in Morocco ..... Along the way, the R207, a stop in Ounagha for a visit to the Argan oil processing center. Dubbed desert gold for its color,? produced only in Morocco, with ancient methods, by women who hand down their gestures from generation to generation, far from any mechanized process. It is obtained from the fruit of a tree, the arganier, which grows only in the South East of the North African country, so deeply rooted in the daily life of rural populations that it has surrounded itself with legend.
Argan oil comes from a process that takes place entirely by hand with delicate steps that require great skill. and dexterity, gestures handed down from mother to daughter to treat and process the green or yellow berries of the arganier, in which there are almonds from which the oil is extracted.
Between June and September the women gather for the harvest and drying, what can? last from fifteen days to a month, to then move on to crushing the almonds. ? the moment of? asslay, roasting on fire, followed by grinding, thanks to a stone wheel called azerg.
(Bianca tries to emulate the workers ..)
Essaouira
Essaouira? surely the most? famous of the resorts? Moroccan seaside resorts on the Atlantic coast, as well as being a city? full of great charm: its splendid medina, part of the world cultural heritage since 2001 under the protection of Unesco. and the Kasba, the fortified citadel that defends the port. The city? it overlooks the Purple Islands, which protect it from the fury of the ocean. Essaouira has ancient origins, and in the past it was a city? fortress; in fact, its name in Arabic means wall. We throw ourselves into the fray between the stalls, even if? an intoxicating and stressful experience at the same time! Once this beautiful fishing village was known as Mogador, later the village became an important port.
The city? it was initially named after a Muslim saint, Sidi Mogdoul. Transcribed into Portuguese, the name was transformed? in Mogador. The port was later renamed Essaouira, a name deriving from Souira which means? Small Fortress ?. The whole area of ​​the port is beautiful, with dozens of stalls of fresh fish and shellfish cooked on the grill. The most suggestive part? north of Essaouira, where there are the ramparts and the Skala de la Ville: along the walkway there are all cannons in a row and arrived at the north bastion from whose terrace, where some scenes of Othello by Orson Welles were shot, you can enjoy a splendid view of the ocean, beautiful to admire ... but for us a bathroom there? ? inconceivable for the freezing temperature of the water! Interval with a lunch of course based on excellent fish and we resume the visit of the city. The main city artery? the avenue de l 'Istiqlal and then ... streets, streets and alleys where in the end? surprisingly easy to find your way around. Basically the center? divided into three parts: the Jewish quarter Mellah, the Medina and the Kasbah. The center (the medina)? made of intricate streets, whitewashed houses, beautiful and quiet squares, small artisan workshops. Then the kasbah is very beautiful, full of shops and bazaars, squares, squares and markets everywhere, really characteristic ..! Sea, wind, history, beautiful people, wonderful medina, we found Essaouira beautiful. Shall we get back on the road on the N1 to Saf? where we arrive in the evening at our hotel, the Golden Tulip. First impact, however positive, with Moroccan cuisine. Great!



3 day

3 September-Safi-Oualidia-El Jadida-Casablanca (220 km)

Saf?
Located approximately 100 km north of Essaouira, Safi? a city? of central-western Morocco, in the Doukkala-Abda region, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Important port since the sixteenth century, the city? ? today an industrial center and one of the major centers specialized in the processing of sardines. City rapidly expanding, it has a beautiful medina, which we visit, and bears traces of its Portuguese past.



Oualidia
Oualidia? a picturesque village overlooking a fabulous beach. From a landscape point of view, the position of Oualidia? great? in fact, placed on a hill, facing a vast lagoon that fills and empties according to the tides. Two islets protect it from the waves of the ocean that can only enter the lagoon through two narrow openings. Inside the water? calm as practically in few other places in Morocco.
A crescent-shaped beach and sandbars that appear and disappear with the tide complete the picture.
It looks like an idyllic place. Lo? for the beautiful view from the top of the town looking towards the sea and for the walk that you can? do on the wild dunes of the outer belt of the lagoon. One of the most? spectacular of all Atlantic Morocco.
Oualida beach? undoubtedly pretty and? true that the water? calm but at the same time the sea inside the lagoon always remains cold and does not particularly encourage great swims.
There are oyster farms, they say the best in Morocco. The restaurant where will we have lunch? located a few meters from the beach and I notice locals renting boats for a ride on the lagoon. We catapulted to book ourselves followed by other tourists in our group. There are groups of cormorants and other colorful bird species. On a promontory stands the summer royal residence of the sovereign Mohammed V. Needless to say, the lunch, obviously based on fish,? exquisite!

El Jadida
El Jadida, the ancient city? of Mazagan,? an elegant and refined city? of Morocco, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. Was it the Portuguese, during the period of their domination from 1506 to 1769, who built this city? initially fortified with five bastions. Today only four remain of which the most? visited are the bastion of the Angel, from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the city? and the San Sebastiano bastion which houses a disturbing chapel of the Inquisition.
Going up the main street of El Jadida is the Portuguese cistern. Fallen into oblivion, it was rediscovered by chance in 1916. Built in 1514 by the Portuguese, this underground room? perhaps served as an arsenal or warehouse before being transformed into a cistern to withstand the sieges.
This deposit overlooking the water allowed the Portuguese to escape in 1769. A well of light illuminates the center of this underground room supported by five rows of columns. A magnificent setting where films such as Othello by Orson Welles or Harem by Arthur Joff? Have been shot. Waiting for us c '? the local guide, a lively old man who in French illustrates the history of the site in an erudite way and in detail. Unfortunately we note with disappointment that the landscape towards the south? defaced by a chemical complex and an oil refinery near the colossal Port de Jorf Lasfar. Continue on the N1 to Casablanca. Dinner and overnight at the Kenzi Basma Hotel



4 day

4 September-Casablanca-Sal? -Rabat (100 km)

Casablanca
? a city? modern, without a particular historical heritage in which, next to the large buildings of modern architecture, there are groups of miserable houses.
Casablanca was founded in 1575 as "Casa Branca" ("white house") by the Portuguese, who had destroyed the city? of Anfa, which stood in the same place, in 1515. The Portuguese finally abandoned the city? in 1755, after the increase in attacks by the tribes? surrounding Muslims.
In 1911, passing Morocco under the French protectorate, the governor Lyautey worked hard? for the enhancement of the economy of Casablanca where already? in the nineteenth century the population of the area began? to grow considerably with the increase in maritime commercial traffic.
Casablanca was built in 1906 and had a population of 20.000. Nowadays all the activities take place here. except administrative ones
Since then, things have changed profoundly. The current population? of about 3 million inhabitants and Casablanca looks like a city? of southern Europe ..
Casablanca was an important strategic port during the Second World War. (Remember the famous movie with Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart?)
In Casablanca there is the Hassan II Mosque, the second largest in the world (after the Mecca Mosque). Its 210 meter high minaret,? the pi? high in the world and also performs the functions of laser beacon oriented towards Mecca visible dfa over 30 km. It was built to a design by the French architect Michel Pinseau to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of King Hassan II of Morocco, and was completed in 1993. It rises partly on the ocean, occupies 90.000 square meters, can it? host up to 20.000 faithful which rise to 80.000 with the square in front and? rich in marbles of different types and splendid chandeliers. It also contains a medersa (Koranic school) with library and conference rooms, in the basement there are rooms for ablutions and garages. We make the visit at 9 in the morning under the advice of our guide in order not to find too many crowds. The visual impact leaves us amazed! It is a hymn to Moroccan architecture and decorative art, rich in stuccos, zellij tiles, ornaments in painted cedar and details in marble, onyx and granite. The ablution rooms, which house 41 fountains,? an architectural gem. Two raised mezzanines are reserved for women: the "moucharabi" (carved and painted wood)? executed with extraordinary finesse. We are told that 2500 workers and 10000 craftsmen worked there from 1987 to 1993. The prayer room? covered by an opening roof weighing 1100 tons that opens in 5 minutes, which allows the faithful to bond with air and earth, completing the palette of natural elements with the nearby sea water by adding fire represented by 50 Murano glass chandeliers with a diameter of 10 meters! It is said ..... that it cost around 2000 billion euros!
Among the many photos taken, the most? beautiful shots of a group of women outside the mosque, obviously without their knowledge ...... We arrive at Place Mohammed V a valid example of the architecture in vogue during the French protectorate. The Prefecture, the Palais de Justice, the Consulat de France, the Cercle Militaire and the Post Office combine monumental French architecture with sobriety.
Moorish. The old medina with its narrow and winding streets? surrounded by walls of the sixteenth century contrasts with the city? modern. There? also a new medina (Quartier Habous) built since 1923 near the city? European to give a solution to the problem of urbanization tries to reproduce in an architectural key pi? modern but based on the traditional one, the atmosphere of the medinas of the cities? Moroccan with souks, artisan shops, souvenir shops for tourists. The Mahakma du Pacha or Pacha of the Palace of Justice? a parliamentary building that houses the Court of Justice and also functions as a private reception for public functions. Tourists are often shown in hopes of visiting this monument, but why? ? still in use,? often difficult to gain access. Does construction of this building begin? in 1948 and was completed in 1952. The architectural style? decidedly Moorish and inside we discover beautiful decorations in chiseled stucco, polychrome mosaics with geometric designs.
In Casablanca there is also a Catholic church: the church of Notre Dame de Lourdes built in 1953-56 whose reason of interest? given by the stained glass windows of Gabriel Loire, master glassmaker of Chartres representing Marian themes. The lunch, always based on fish, is consumed in a fabulous seaside restaurant: the Club Val d 'Anfa, located in a luxury area created in the 20s such as the Corniche d' Ain Diab. After lunch continue to Rabat but first visit Sal? which is located on the right bank of the Bouregreg river therefore more? north of the capital.

Sal?
Capital of the prefecture of the same name, in the Rabat-Sal? -Zemmour-Zaer region,? located on the Bouregreg river, near the capital Rabat to which it is? connected by the Hassan II bridge, forming an agglomeration that exceeds one and a half million inhabitants. During the Middle Ages it was a fortified port and shared the lucrative activity? of piracy with the nearby rival Rabat with which he entered? in conflict. When piracy was eliminated in the th century, the city? do you start? its decline, recovering in the nineteenth century. Our visit is limited to the Medina where along the main street Bab el-Khebbaz are the Kissaria and the souks, full of shops of artisans and merchants. Although it seems somewhat strange as a visit, but the sight of the Sidi Benachir cemetery leaves us full of admiration for its simplicity. and its decor.
Sal? ? hence the suburb of Rabat, but much less luxurious: for this Sal? ? called "land of subordinates". L? the craftsmen and the excluded ranks of the positions of administrative cadres live there. Much more? economic as regards the daily expenses especially food, is becoming the place that tourists reach more? easily. In 2006? started a project worth 5,1 billion US dollars which aims to enhance the Bouregreg and Sal? valleys, as well as the improvement of the coastal area of ​​the capital.
In the evening we are in Rabat at the Oumlil hotel.



5 day

5 September-Rabat

Rabat? the capital of Morocco, with about 600.000 inhabitants. The city? ? located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean between Casablanca and Tangier, on the left bank of the Bouregreg river, facing the city? of Sal ?. Rabat? the seat of the Moroccan government and the main center of traditional cuisine and architecture.
The history of this city? begins in a very distant time, already? Phoenician and Roman colony, its ancient name was Sala Colonia, a name still preserved by the city? twin of Sal ?, and that it originates from what it was called the
river on which it rises. The first stop is a quick (external) visit of the Royal Palace inhabited by about 2000 people which stands on the site of an 1957th century royal residence. Today the complex also houses the El-Fas Mosque and even a hippodrome. We move to the Mausoleum dedicated to Mohammed V, the sultan, considered a modern hero, who brought? Morocco to independence in 1755; many other symbolic places of the city are also dedicated to him. Just a few steps from the Mausoleum remain the traces of a project swept away by an earthquake in 80, which should have been, according to the intentions of King Yacub el-Mansour, an immense mosque, the largest mosque. great of Islam. Of this admirable project are still visible pillars and other ruins but above all there? imposing Hassan Tower, which must have been a minaret over 44 meters high; currently only remain, but more? that enough to convey the idea of ​​magnificence and of the king who, thanks to the internal spiral ramp, would have climbed to the top directly on his horse. In a way, the tower is reminiscent of the splendid Giralda in Seville, now the bell tower of the city's cathedral? Andalusian.
The walls of Rabat
At the end of the 5th century an imposing wall was built by the Almohads to protect the south and west sides of the city. The enclosure was composed of two long straight walls of an overall length of pi? of kilometers, of a thickness of pi? two meters and an average height of pi? eight meters.
In this way an area of ​​about 120 hectares was protected, which included the plain overlooking the necropolis of Chellah to guarantee the defense of the city. inferior. At the beginning of the 1400th century, Muslim refugees expelled from Andalusia moved to the kasbah and a part of the area surrounded by the Almohads, delimiting it with a new wall. Straight and flanked by towers, the Andalusian wall, which stretched over 5 meters, was on average 4300 meters high and one and a half meters thick. At the beginning of the 840th century a new outer bastion was built, for a total length of 4 meters. It extended the Almohad walls to the south, and crossed them to the west to the Atlantic Ocean, thus enclosing the walls of the Almohad. an area of ​​over hectares. This fortification was on average meters high and about one meter thick.
Like any city? Arab, the medina (the market, usually located in the historic center)? one of the beating hearts of the city. The Medina of Rabat dates back to the th century and, although less interesting than those of F? S, Mekn? S or Marrakech, it deserves to be visited.
We enter the Medina where there are spices, carpets, various handicrafts, all made even more? picturesque from the singular and orderly grid of streets from which? composed. Wandering around the various souks we are not attacked by traders, as practically everywhere in other cities, and above all you can feel the cosmopolitan spirit of the people of this city. The way pi? characteristic ? the Rue Souika, where there are numerous shops for food, spices and other kinds. At the end of the street you reach the area of ​​the Great Mosque. From here continue along the Rue des Consuls and arrive in the Souq as-Sebbat where there are numerous goldsmith shops. Beyond the Rue des Consuls is the flea market where? possible, helped by patience and luck, to find some interesting pieces. But the real jewel? the kasbah, the ancient part of the city? which rises inside the old ribat. It dominates the river and the ocean from the top of the cliff on which it is located, but above all? suggestive to enter through the mighty monumental Bab Oudaia gate, to find ourselves immersed in narrow streets and houses painted with white and light blue lime.
In these streets, in addition to the mosque, is peace and quiet? but also an excellent meeting place, the Caf? Maure overlooking the sea, where we enjoy an excellent tea? with mint and local sweets. We move south to visit the Chellah necropolis.
The necropolis of Chellah
The necropolis of Chellah? one of the most? beautiful necropolis of Morocco. It was born over a Roman settlement in the ancient city? di Sala, in turn built on the ruins of a Carthaginian village. The archaeological site contains the Merinid ruins of a necropolis with various domed tombs and the remains of a mosque with a beautiful minaret alongside. The site ? made even more? suggestive for the presence of a pond, considered sacred, and for the shrill cries of thousands of storks that live in the trees and ruins of this magnificent city? in ruins, which make it even more? particular a landscape so? unusual. We are greeted by a colorful character who dances to the sound of a drum beating himself. Stimulated and mindful of my youthful activity? drummer's music I join the Moroccan in an unexpected performance!
After lunch in a charming "Moorish" restaurant we set off for F? S with stops in Volubilis and Mekn? S.

6 day

6 September-Rabat-Volubilis-Mekn? SF? S (290 km)

Volubilis
Volubilis (Walili)? a Roman archaeological site, located at the foot of Mount Zerhoun, 27 km north of Meknes which extends for about 40 hectares only partially excavated. ? the archaeological site pi? known of Morocco and? included in the list of world heritage? of UNESCO. We admire imposing remains such as the basilica which has two opposing exedras, the capitolium dei Severi (in the Forum), temples dating back to the 2013st century, the aqueduct and the baths. Just before the west entrance there is an imposing triumphal arch built by Marcus Aurelius Sebastian in honor of Caracalla and his mother Julia Domna, as evidenced by their names carved on the pediment. Continuing to the left (towards the SSO) after the Forum and the basilica pi? to the south you reach the public baths. ? characteristic is the presence in numerous houses of mills and tanks for the production of olive oil. Four doors are recognizable, the main of which, connected to the road coming from Tangier, leads to the decumanus maximus which continues to the west entrance. Along the decumanus are the remains of numerous houses decorated with polychrome mosaics, some of which are in excellent condition. Among the most? important are those located in the house of Orpheus (Orpheus with a lyre enchanting the animals, Amphitrite on a chariot pulled by a hippocampus, the nine dolphins), in the house of the procession of Venus and in the house of columns. Bianca and I are the subject of a joke made by the local guide ....... The video made for the occasion? pi? effective of other explanations .... (See on Youtube "Carlo Amato channel": Journey to Morocco , second part)
Continue to Moulay Idriss.


Moulay Idriss
Moulay Idriss? a city? and an important religious site in northern Morocco. For many centuries? was a place of pilgrimage, thanks to the tomb of the founder of the city, Moulay Idriss el Akhbar, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. Moulay Idriss? considered the most? sacred city? of Morocco with the sanctuary of this saint making it the place of the pi? great pilgrimage of the country and is filled with Moroccans from all walks of life for the annual moussem in late August. The city? ? It has been open to non-Muslims for over 70 years even if they cannot enter the sanctuary. A wooden entablature placed at the entrance, under which the faithful pass by curving, indicates the status of consecrated ground or horm. In 2005, the Moroccan government decided to allow locals to convert their homes to boarding houses and begin allowing non-Muslims to sleep overnight in the city, something that had hitherto been prohibited. The city? ? also famous for its "nougat" which is sold on the stalls around the square and near the mosque which has the only cylindrical minaret in all of Morocco. And right in the square we see the various shades of this people, the donkeys and mules used as a means of transporting goods (and people), the colors of the women's clothes and the smells of spices. We set off again for Mekn? S.
Mekn? S
A first settlement of the city? of Mekn? s was founded in the th century on the Boukefrane river by the trib? berbera of the Meknassa, in a luxuriant area planted with olive trees, legumes and figs. During the reigns of the Almoravids, Almohads, Merinids, Wattasids and Sadians it experienced alternating events of decline and rebirth: it was more? sometimes sacked, razed and rebuilt. The golden period coincided with his election as the capital of Morocco in 1672, under the reign of Moulay Ismail, his benefactor, who recruited? workers and slaves to build grandiose monuments: walls, bastions, monumental gates, immense granaries, stables and a sumptuous palace that housed his famous harem (apparently he had about 500 wives and concubines and more? of 800 children). Only one dream of Moulay Ismail remained unfinished: that of being able to complete the perimeter of the well-preserved walls that surround the Medina. On the death of the sovereign, Mekn? S experienced a period of decline, lost the role of capital, transferred to F? S and Marrakech. Today the city? has more? of half a million inhabitants and the historic center, for its charm,? been included in the list of the heritages of humanity? of Unesco. We start the visit from Piazza el-Hedim (square of demolition and renewal) which acts as a watershed between the Medina, the Mellah (Jewish ghetto located to the west) and the Citt? Imperial. In the central area there is a splendid fountain, for? always off; all around there are many barber shops with nice and particular signs. Once, like Jama el Fna square in Marrakech, it was a meeting place for street performers, characteristic of a thousand and one nights. lost in recent years. From el-Hedim is captured in all its beauty and majesty? of the imposing Bab el Mansour gate, one of the most important in North Africa, which takes its name from the architect who built it, a Christian convert to Islam who enjoyed great prestige at the court of Ismail. The door, from which you enter the city? Imperial,? an adaptation of the classic Almohad style with decorative additions of different styles; ? made with white tiles alternating with various types of green glistening in the sun. Next to Bab Mansour c ?? the small door, Bab Jemaa en Nouar, of the same oriental style and charm as the Bab el-Jedid, near which there are the small shops of musical instrument traders. North of el-Hedim is the old Medina, the real beating heart of the city, full of colors, flavors and ancestral sounds. Like all the medinas of Morocco,? scattered with souks and bazaars divided into zones according to the goods on sale, from carpentry to fabrics, from henn? to the carpets. In the spice souk, chilli tops and saffron hillocks stand out from the colorful stalls selling everything: olives, cinnamon, oranges, even chameleons used as natural insecticides. In the Sekkakine souk the traditional kettle with a funny handle stands out; in that Bezzazine intensely scented wicker baskets created by skilled artisan hands. At the center of the Medina stands the Bou Inania medersa, founded around 1350 by the Merinian sultan Abou El Hassan, who also built the Chellah of Rabat. The student rooms with elegant dividers in finely carved cedar wood overlook the only internal courtyard. The walls are also decorated with zellij. Having obtained permission to visit some cells, can you? go up to the roof of the medersa from which you can enjoy a suggestive view of the Great Mosque and the green tile roofs, typical of Mekn? s. Inside the walls is the Koubba El Khayatine, once the reception room of the ambassadors at the imperial court. A little more? ahead, through a steep staircase, you reach the prison of Christian slaves, often employed in the realization of the megalomaniac projects of the sultans and, when dead from hardship, buried in the walls under construction. The largest monument important of the City? Imperial? l? Heri As-Souani near the Dar el-Ma (Water Castle) complex, known as? Ismail's stables ?. These are huge warehouses and granaries with high ceilings and three meter thick walls, in which food was piled up in case of siege or for periods of famine; and stables, it seems, for 12.000 horses. In the basement, plumbing systems were in operation to have water in every room. Unfortunately, most of the buildings, built with a very friable mixture of earth and lime, have suffered the neglect of time, so we can only guess their ancient splendor. Intact? instead the Agdal Souani, the vast rectangular basin that extends in front of the granaries for 4 hectares and which served as a reservoir for irrigation. Now ? leisure destination for the young people of Mekn? s. From the Ismail Stables you reach the nearby Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, inaugurated in 1677 and considered by Muslims, especially women, as a place that brings baraka (good luck). It can also be visited by non-Muslims, like all Arab sacred buildings, its walls are covered with stuccoes and mosaics that reproduce passages from the Koran and geometric designs; the floors covered with beautiful Mekn? s carpets and chiseled marble fountains. The beauty of zelij and stucco? remarkable in all areas of the palace which consists of a series of courtyards and rooms that culminate in the actual sanctuary in which? buried the sultan. The City? Imperiale also preserves the vestiges of other monumental palaces commissioned by Moulay Ismail: those of Dar el-Kobira, the first palace erected by the sultan, which had two mosques and more? of twenty pavilions. Then the Dar el-Makhzen, which has survived until today and became a minor royal residence (can you imagine its majesty? from open-air arcades), so? not open to visitors. The Museum of Moroccan Arts, located in the Dar Jamai palace dating back to the th century, is worth a visit: it contains artifacts of all kinds, in particular those that contributed to the fame of Mekn? S: ceramics, embroidery (made by the nuns of the local church of San Francesco), caskets, moucharabieh (gratings made with overlapping wooden strips so? to create rhomboidal holes and from which you can? observe without being seen) superbly painted, Carpets of the Middle Atlas (especially those of the trib? by Beni Mguild with complicated geometries) and creations in? damaschinato ?, a traditional practice through which a silver or gold thread is beaten on an iron object to be decorated then placed in the oven where it acquires the typical black color. In front of the museum stands a beautiful fountain, a meeting point for women.

7 day

September 7-F? S

Capital of Moroccan craftsmanship, Fes proudly boasts a great tradition in activities. of ceramics, wood and leather. In this city? it seems to breathe a medieval air. Although it has adapted to modern life, Fes? been able to lose none of its traditions, and the lifestyle of its inhabitants not? changed a lot since the thirteenth century even if? linked to its French roots.
The structure of Fes? very simple, a Moroccan medina separates the two cities? Fes el Vali (old Fez) and Fes el Djedid (new Fes) from Ville Nouvelle.
Fes el Djdid? a beautiful place, full of royal palaces and fabulous gardens.
Fes el Vali? very chaotic, there are many markets, alleys, luckily we have a guide otherwise we will risk getting lost even why? all road signs are written in Arabic. The old medina, called F? S el-Bali (old Fes)? one of the most pedestrian areas? extended of the world, the city? built in the Middle Ages? a huge labyrinth of narrow alleys where there are no cars. Since then it seems that time has not changed things anymore? from time to time, the city? it lives in the past, almost as if it were an open-air museum. For these reasons F? S el-Bali? been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tourist itineraries of the souks (markets or markets) are well marked by road signs and allow a first friendly approach to the medina, before moving on to the deep exploration of the labyrinth, where to get lost? practically taken for granted. The souks are located on narrow streets that intertwine as in a network, often have covers to protect from the sun. We saw sellers of live hens, rose petals and goat heads and shop windows with exposed dentures .....
The souk of the tanners
The site is located in Wadi Fes and? characterized by acrid odors, but? definitely fascinating why? allows you to see the whole behind the scenes of the tannery world. We are given a sprig of mint before entering this neighborhood: it must be smelled when the smells of the leather work become too nauseating. The tanneries of Fes are renowned in Morocco. Showara, the pi? important, ? divided into 2 areas: that of the white ammonia tanks, used for the first treatment of raw hides and that of the colored tanks, used to color the skins left to soak for 4 days. During the week you can see people working with their feet and body in the centuries-old tubs in a Dantesque setting! In the shop linked to the tanneries an infinite display of bags, belts, the famous "slippers" and other leather objects. In Place el-Seffarine, the workshops of the artisans who work objects in brass and silver overlook, in a deafening din!

The monuments of the "Florence of the Maghreb"
Mosques, buildings inlaid with ceramics and decorated with Arabic writings constitute the majority of the attractions of this city? Moroccan. Among the mosques the most? famous? the Karaouiyine built in 857 by Fahima, daughter of Muhammad al-Fihri and is visited for its incredible decorations and for its large size, able to accommodate 20 thousand faithful. Today ? part of the University? of Al - Karaouiyine, founded in the th century? the "P? ancient educational institution around the world.
Medersa Bou Inania
The Medersa Bou Inania? a pearl, a sumptuous masterpiece that testifies to the wealth of the ancient city? imperial of Fes.
The Zaouia of Moulay Idriss II
Only to Muslims? granted the entrance to this sacred building, place of teaching and at the same time of worship, famous why? contains the remains of the saint Moulay Idriss II, the founder of the city? of Fes. On this grave? easy to find women bent over to pray.
Royal Palace
The mammoth royal palace (Palais Royal)? attached to the new Medina, the door of pure gold suggests exaggerated interiors, what for? can't they be visited? I am of the king.
Fes el Jedid - New Fes
The new part of Fes, called Fes el-Jedid, actually dates back to? to the thirteenth century, when it was built at the behest of Sultan Abu Youssef Yacoub to install his most troops there. trust me. The Medina? surrounded by mighty walls interspersed with wonderful doors.
Of this part of the city? we visit the Jewish quarter (Mellah) inside which is the Habarim Synagogue and the Jewish cemetery. Unmissable lunch in a typical restaurant in the medina.
Our guide then takes us to visit a workshop where splendid fabrics and scarves are made on ancient looms to form the famous turbans. A crash course and we learn to wrap our heads in silk or cotton scarves.
We also make a visit to the Museum of Arts and Crafts of wood, located in the beautiful Foundouk el-Nejjarine, an ancient caravanserai, which houses the entire collection on its three floors. Morocco has different types of wood, which are then found in inlaid works and other cabinet-making objects.
The neighborhood artisans make furniture and objects all in cedar, rosewood, argan, pine, oak. The motifs of the moucharabieh are often used on chairs and armchairs. In the late evening we return to the Medina and witness in the street the celebrations dedicated to a bride carried on the shoulder on a kind of glittering sedan surrounded by a multitude of people. Very funny and special show! Tomorrow the Middle Atlas and the dunes of Merzouga await us.

8 day

8 September - MIDDLE ATLAS -
Midelt-Erfoud- (365 km) -Dunes of Merzouga (Erg Chebbi desert)

After breakfast departure for Ifrane. The dominant feeling upon arrival in Ifrane? that of coolness. Wide avenues, green spaces, European-style villas, you will discover here an unknown aspect of North Africa. Springs and lakes abound in this region in the center of a cedar scrub. The pointed-roof chalets surprisingly evoke Switzerland. A break of infinite sweetness. To the south-east, on the N8 road to Azrou, countless extinct volcanoes form a landscape from the harsh horizon reminiscent of the lunar craters. A few kilometers after the last houses the road plunges into a lush and green nature, all around grow tall pines and green lush meadows stretch out,? here begins the majestic Cedar Forest. Let's calmly savor the atmosphere of this locality. what in the winter months? often covered by snow, strange but true in fact, here in Azrou and in nearby Ifrane, there are some of the most? beautiful ski slopes of the Atlas Mountains which, in winter, attract thousands of visitors. Along the way we see nomad camps with khaima, tents made of goat and camel hair fabric that offer protection against the cold and heat. The interior of the curtains? split in two. One part, which generally contains a kitchen and a frame reserved for women and children, the other separated by a screen,? intended for men and guests. A stop for lunch in Midelt in a beautiful restaurant, and we continue the journey to Erfoud admiring suggestive landscapes that in some places remind us of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Erfoud? known as the "Gateway to the Sahara", near the Erg Chebbi dunes, where we will go in the afternoon with an off-road vehicle.
Many films have been shot in the area, some of the most popular. famous are: Prince of Persia - 2010 - Director Dick Richards, The Mummy - 1999 - director Stephen Sommers; March or Die - 1977 - Director Dick Richards. While many Ksars (fortified villages) have existed for centuries, Erfoud? It was built new by the French around 1920. In the surroundings of Erfoud there are many open-air quarries of Cretaceous marine fossils which can be bought at a good price and we stock up! The hotel, the Palm 's Hotel, amazes us for its magnificence and with our usual luck in this field they assign us a suite of 60 square meters ... with a welcome of a scorpion (harmless) at the entrance! Short rest and then ...... the desert or rather the oasis of Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi await us! From the hotel aboard a 4X4, the pink dunes that rise in the middle of a desert of stones and sand, extend for 30 km and rise to a maximum height of 250 meters. L? Erg Chebbi, known as the great pink dune or gateway to the Sahara,? the only true Saharan erg. It is a magical landscape, the dunes offer a changing and fascinating scenery when the sunlight dyes them with colors ranging from gold to red. We arrive after a nice bucking on unpaved roads to the starting point for our adventure on the back of a dromedary. I mount on the first one to make good video and photo shoots and I realize that we are alone under the sky. Unexpectedly, we are invited to reflection and introspection: we are enveloped by the silence of the desert. Legend has it that the dunes of Erg Chebbi are the punishment of Allah who buried? a wealthy local family with a sandstorm why? had refused hospitality? to a poor woman and her son. A small climb to a dune, not without difficulty? for the very hot sand and the effort it takes to move, then on the top an amazing view. We return to base camp and witness the spectacular sunset. But the surprises don't end. It is night when we return to the hotel and suddenly the off-road vehicle stops. A breakdown? A kidnapping? But no, none of this. Our guide tells us to get off and roll our eyes. What a spectacular starry sky! The Milky Way stands out in spectacular sharpness! Bianca and I are moved to tears, well yes ?!

9 day

9 September-Erfoud- Rissani-Valle del Dr? A-Zagora (310 km)

Departure in the morning immediately after breakfast for the Draa valley along the N12 the R108 and then the N9. We skirt the palm grove of Tafilalt, an oasis that was once a popular stop for the caravans that arrived here exhausted after weeks in the desert. Today the inhabitants of Tafilalt thanks to the oasis: the 800.000 date palms that grow here are famous for their fruit. Symbol of happiness and prosperity? dates are present in many rituals. The last inhabited center of some importance in the south-east of Morocco? Rissani, city? of origin of the current ruling dynasty of Morocco and locality? of great historical importance. It was founded in the seventh century by the tribes? Zenet as an important stop on the caravan routes. This town located on the edge of the Sahara marks the end of the paved road and the beginning of the tracks that lead to the desert.
The current inhabited center preserves some evidence of its glorious past as capital and city. holy. Among these stands the Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif, father of that Moulay Rachid who was the founder of the Alaouite dynasty. The mausoleum, closed to non-Muslims,? it was quickly rebuilt after its destruction in 1955 following a flood of the Ziz River. Before entering the Mausoleum, our nice guide Abi lets himself go to vocal externalization in the Neapolitan dialect! Too strong!
Another attraction of Rissani? its souk, organized into neighborhoods. The parking lot for donkeys is funny, behind which the spaces occupied by the markets for sheep and goats, legumes, spices and dates open up. In the shade of the pink arches, women dressed in black crouched on the ground present their Berber silver jewels, scattered over large colored tassels. Under palm-leaf canopies and in narrow alleys of clay walls, jewels, daggers, carpets, pottery and gleaming date pyramids are on offer. We resume the journey along the roads of the Moroccan deep south through vast plateaus surrounded by hills. We cross the villages of Alnif, Tazzarine and Nekob before reaching the Draa valley and arriving in Zagora. We make a stop to admire the Kasbah Oulad Othman built in the eighteenth century former home of Caid Larbi, an important Draa caids, who was an ally of Glaoui during the first half. of 20? century. The kasbah? been completely renovated in the pi? pure tradition of southern Moroccan architecture. Another stop at the ksar Tissergate located 8 km from Zagora and surrounded by powerful walls, between which narrow covered alleys slide to protect passersby from the onslaught of the sun,? one of the best preserved in southern Morocco. We arrive in Zagora and stay at the spectacular Hotel Palais Asmaa.

10 day

10 September-Zagora-Ouarzazate (200 km)

Zagora,? The door of the desert ?. A hand-painted road sign shows a Tuareg and an arrow to nowhere and the inscription: Timbuct? 52 jours, that is? the time it took for the Bedouin caravans to reach the mythical city? African from the other side of the immense Saharan expanse. Zagora? a city? located in southern Morocco and? the capital of the province of the same name which is located in the Souss-Massa-Dra? region. Specifically, it is located in the Draa River valley and borders the sandy Ilkhikhn n-Sahara desert. Do the inhabitants of the area belong to some of the tribes? Berber of the Atlas and Tuareg, the famous "blue" men.
Today we go up the Draa valley. The Draa River, whose course? permanent in this stretch, it feeds a luxuriant palm grove 200 km long on the sides of which there are numerous Berber kasbahs, enchanting residences built in clay, stones and straw. Uninhabited, neglected, these stately homes are literally dissolving. Yet they are full of charm, elegance, lightness, scenographic taste. The construction materials are poor, but the final result? rich and ornamental research produces complex geometric decorations that lighten the walls and towers, giving the whole a graceful appearance. Inside, the rooms often follow one another, illuminated through narrow windows, to see outside without being seen.
Here is the luxuriant palm grove. A short tour allows us to understand the intricate and complex system of an oasis and three-layered cultivation, the largest one. the top of which has the function of providing shade to the lower ones: above all the palms, under the fruit trees and on the ground the vegetables. And now two spectacular sites.
Ait Benhaddou is located in the valley of a thousand kasbahs and? one of the localities? pi? spectacular views of the Moroccan Atlas. Its splendid Kasbah looks like a fairytale castle made of sand overlooking the immense rocky desert with different pastel shades. The kasbah? from the sixteenth century and from here passed the caravans carrying salt from Marrakech to the desert bringing back gold, ivory and slaves. Its walls are well preserved and often used as a film set for films such as The Tea in the Desert, Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah and Ges? of Nazareth. Today, six families live in the kasbah who earn their living from agriculture and tourism. On the top? a player with a strange monochord violin welcomes us.
In traditional houses there is no running water and all the inhabitants get their supplies from a drinking water fountain located in the center of the town. A little more? in the rises the city? new, with modern kasbah-style houses, water in the house, a mosque and a school.
The kasbah de Taourirt, a complex interweaving of pis walls? red ocher and crenellated towers that make up a fortified sanctuary? a magnificent view. Former residence of the pasci? of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui,? undergoing restoration thanks to a Unesco program. Nestled between a backdrop of breathtaking mountain landscapes and the Sahara Desert, Kasbah Taourirt? one of the most? beautiful kasbahs of Morocco. In the evening we are in Ouarzazate at the Hotel Karam Palace.

11 day

11 September-Ouarzazate-Skoura-El Kelaat m'Gouna-Boumalne Dades-Tinherir- Todr Gorges? -Dades Valley-Ouarzazate (380 km)

OUARZAZATE
The city? modern? very quiet and small. The old town, with its typical alleys, is located at the foot of the Kasbah of Taourirt, the residence of the Pasci? of Marrakech. Does it owe its notoriety? in the presence of the Atlas Corporation Studios where numerous films have been shot. South of the city? c '? the desert.
From Ouarzazate to Boumalne extends the arid valley of the Dad? S, dotted with kasbahs and unique fortified villages.

SKOURA (Kasbah Amridl)
Surreal atmosphere, it seems like a journey back in time, you always have the feeling that at any moment a fairy tale character jumps out, instead real women and children appear, it seems impossible that there are people capable of living in certain places and yet there I'm.
The cos? these `` houses '' have no other light than that coming from the entrance door that opens into very narrow alleys, no light n? water and none of that? what for us? essential.
Yet they are always smiling and welcoming, ready to offer you everything? they possess. Undoubtedly it is an experience to do that leaves an indelible and therefore unforgettable mark.




El Kelaat m'Gouna
This town whose name means "fortress", is located at an altitude of 1450 meters in the heart of the rose plantations. In the tenth century the pilgrims returning from Mecca brought with them? the ROSE DAMASCEA in Morocco. These pungent-scented flowers have developed remarkable resistance to the dry, cold climate in which they are grown today. Every summer the flower harvest produces between 3000 and 4000 tons of petals which are brought to the two local distilleries. One part is used to produce rose water for local use, the rest is processed and exported for the perfume industry. Naturally Bianca has an abundant supply of products ....

We arrive in Tinerhir where we visit a carpet factory.
The origin of the Berber carpets dates back to the Paleolithic period by tribes Berber of North Africa. The carpets so? created were named after the tribe? of belonging. Handmade Berber carpets are still a thriving industry today in many rural areas of Morocco and other North African countries. Many Berber families in fact earn their living by manually producing carpets and selling them in local markets or by art dealers and tourists. The language of Berber weaving? among the pi? complexes of the textile world. Often when a woman weaves a carpet it also acts as a means of communication for those close to her. The drawings contain important thoughts, ideas, hopes and fears. Often the symbols refer to the natural environment, fertility, birth, womanhood, rural life, so on. how to spirituality? and beliefs. In fact, many weavers believed that rugs had the power to ward off evil. The presentation of the goods? preceded by the preparation of an excellent t? mint that is offered to us with great kindness. Then a character that I would define "multicolored" for the colorful clothes he wears, shows us the production of the factory and we buy two small rugs that we will put on display at home.

After Tinerhir? the vault of the magnificent Todra gorges, which close as the walls rise in height (reaching 300 m!). The Todra Gorges are located about 15 kilometers from Tinerhir in an extremely scenic valley, full of palm groves and Berber villages, to get in touch with the simple but hospitable Moroccan people of the southern region they form a spectacular crack in the rock, creating a deep canyon that reaches the height of 300 meters, with the vertical walls that get closer and closer. to form a narrow passage of only 10 meters, crossed by a stream with crystal clear waters, frequented by Berber people who draw water, graze goats or simply rest in a natural and healthy atmosphere. The restaurant that hosts us for lunch overlooks the waterway, allowing me to take exceptional photos. In the evening we return to Ouarzazate.

12 day

12 September-Ouarzazate-Tichka Pass-Marrakech (220 km)

The road from Ouarzazate to Marrakech? a series of curves that lead to the pass of Tizi-n-Tichka (pass of the pastures) which with its 2260 mt? the pi? high of Morocco. It's very cold ..... Lunch in a particular restaurant with two musicians twirling the bow they wear on their headdress how? use in Morocco and we continue. We arrive in Marrakech also known as the "city of fun" and we settle in the same hotel as the Atlas Asni.
The importance of Marrakech? such that Morocco takes its name from this city. For more? for two centuries, this Berber center built on the meeting point between the Sahara, the Atlas and the Antiatlas was the seat of a great empire. IS? the second city? pi? large of Morocco and its population? constantly increasing. It has a very developed industrial area and? the nerve center of the organization and market pi? significant of Morocco. The pi? interesting of the city? ? the old one, surrounded by walls of red earth and rich in monuments including the Koutoubia mosque, a wonderful example of Moorish art with its 70 meter high minaret and recognizable from afar at any time of day: noon when? just a silhouette against the sun and in the evening in the spotlight. We immediately go to the main square of Marrakech, Jemaa el Fnaa, the gateway to the Medina with its inextricable tangle of alleys and paths.
The square, crowded with humanity? multiethnic of Arabs, Berbers, Africans and tourists from all over the world,? a caravanserai that has kept intact the flavors of the past with the fire eaters, the acrobats, the snake charmers, the traveling musicians and the women who decorate with henn ?. During the day the square? a huge market with stalls selling everything but in the evening it changes and the merchants' stalls give way to kiosks with benches where? You can eat freshly prepared food while listening to buskers. From above, on the terrace of the Caf? France we enjoy the fantastic scene. Let's go back to the hotel, a full day awaits us tomorrow.

13 day

September 13-Marrakech

Interesting visits today. The Dar Si Said museum? entirely dedicated to Moroccan craftsmanship. Installed in a large mansion dating from the late 200th century, most of this museum's collection comes from Marrakeck and the south of the country. A little more? 1880 meters south of Dar Si Said is the Palais de Bahia, one of the largest buildings. interesting places in Marrakech. Here is the nice presentation of the building that you can? read on the website of the Tourist Board. “This architectural madness, ordered in 160 by the grand vizier, was dictated by an obsession: to prevent brides and concubines from meeting. This great ancient mansion? an architectural labyrinth and not by chance. Any expert eye will detect? the complexity? of the tangle of courtyards and gardens, woven around 8 rooms, on 4 hectares: the Moroccan architect of the time had to solve a diplomatic puzzle, imposed by the grand vizier. The powerful Sidi Moussa in fact decided to have this palace built for his favorite mistress, hence the name of Bahia, "the beautiful". Was he supposed to welcome his 24 wives, his concubines and their countless children? without these women meeting! A challenge whose construction lasted? ten years, monopolizing the best artisans in the realm and expropriating many neighboring co-owners? Nothing today? remained of the original furniture, the thing that strikes perhaps most? are the richly inlaid and painted ceilings, the internal courtyards and the shady and welcoming garden. Only the large courtyard and a small part of the interior and the courtyards? open to the public, the rest? reserved for the royal family and totally inaccessible to us mere mortals.
The Saadite Tombs are one of the most popular attractions. advertised in Marrakech. There are two small mausoleums connected by a flourishing garden that symbolizes that of Allah scattered with tombs and dominated by tall spectacular palm trees. The mausoleum pi? Interesting ? the first that meets and hosts three rooms of which the main one? crowned by a dome supported by twelve columns in Carrara marble with stalactites decorated with gold leaf with the tomb of the Saadite sultan Ahmed el Mansour, who died of the plague in 1603. The other mausoleum has larger proportions. modest and? composed of a room with three loggias and a prayer room. And now we expect dinner and the show in a very scenographic restaurant where between one course and the other we witness the dance of the "plate" in which the dancer dances while balancing on the head a plate with a teapot and 10 candles and dance of the belly. A very cheerful atmosphere also for the musical entertainment of two nice players. We are very late ....

14 day

September 14-Marrakech

After breakfast at the hotel, we go to the road that leads to the Koutoubia where the buggies are stationed to go around the city? and the coachmen reach out to convince us to get on ... We agree with the driver of n. 248 that at a bargain price "sells" us the tour of the walls .... Are we more and more? immersed in the climate of Arab bargaining! We continue our tour towards the Suq: today a day of great shopping ... We return to Djemaa el Fna square for a last visit and then we enter the Medina. The souks of Marrakech are among the most? fascinating of the Maghreb and are arranged according to the goods that are sold there. Today you can buy the best goods there. varied, from fabrics to jewels to slippers to crocodile skins! Are there activities around the center of the commercial area? craftsmanship traditional prerogative of the people of the countryside: blacksmiths, saddlers, basket weavers and food sellers. Lunch at the hotel and well-deserved rest. In the evening, unforgettable hours await us.
Amazing night of show at the Chez Al complex? ? a magical fable of Moroccan legends and folklore. Upon arrival trib? Berber welcome us with their songs and sounds accompanying us to Caidal tents where a five-course menu awaits us with the main dish of a lamb cooked on the grill with a unique flavor! During dinner we are enlivened by music and songs of Berber groups with Zayane and Guedra dances.
Four hours between dinner, singing, thrilling parades, belly dancer, reckless horse stunts. We see a flying carpet hovering in the sky against the sky background! The end ? the electrifying show that, recreating the fierce battles in the desert, formations of knights in traditional dress simulate rifle charges in the arena in front of a delirious audience.
The final pyrotechnic inscription in the background "CHOUKRAN MAA SALAMA" (THANKS, GOODBYE) excites us and we bid farewell to Morocco where:
Our senses have been lost in wonderful landscapes, particular sounds and colorful scents.

Audio Video MOROCCO - ITS GREAT CULTURAL WEALTH
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