Moorish Mosaic

Discover the splendours of Marrakesh and Andalusia, tracing a rich art and cultural history reflected in magnificent architectural ensembles.

Delve into the intricacies of Islamic and Berber culture across the Maghreb and explore the world built on Islam in the shadow of Europe, from the White City of Casablanca’s European heritage and French influences to the rambling souqs of Fez.

Journey across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain’s Andalusia and take in the gothic architecture of Seville and the Islamic influences of Cordoba and Granada, and discover how Europe and the Islamic world are intimately entwined.

This tour spans diverse regions and landscapes, including refreshing coastal regions in both Morocco and Spain, and the high Atlas Mountains and fringes of the Sahara Desert in Morocco.

 

This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways flights via Doha to Casablanca. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Arrive in Casablanca in the afternoon and transfer to your hotel for check-in (transfer included in tour price).

Steeped in romantic mystique and intrigue, Casablanca’s dramatic whitewashed Hispano-Moorish homes lie scattered amid Art Deco jewels. Its ancient Arab quarter and new medina with an undeniable French influence mark the passage from past to present.

Join Brian and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing at 19:00, followed by a special welcome dinner at the hotel.

(D)

This morning, explore Casablanca and visit Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Africa. Then, enjoy a city tour of some of Casablanca’s most enchanting sites, including the Mohammed V Square, with its Hispanic-Muslim architecture and Art-Deco influences, and Marché Central, a bustling market where the true tastes of Morocco are on offer. Drive along the Boulevard de la Corniche, which offers stunning views of Moroccan beaches on one side, and panoramic city views on the other.

After lunch, travel south into the Moroccan hinterland to the legendary city of Marrakesh. Founded in 1062 by the Almoravid Sultan Yusuf ibn Tashfin, Marrakesh was to become one of the Islamic world’s most important artistic and cultural centres.

(BL)

Following a morning talk by Brian, enjoy a full day exploring Marrakesh, the most famous of Morocco’s historic capital cities, and namesake of the country itself. Explore the Menara, a green-roofed pavilion surrounded by sublime gardens and tranquil waters with rugged mountains in the background. Visit the 16th century Saadian Tombs, the ornately decorated resting places of the Saadian princes, and continue to the El Badi Palace and see the magnificent ruins of this 16th century architectural masterpiece.

In the afternoon, explore the 19th century Bahia Palace and continue to the Musee Tiskiwin, showcasing Berber art and culture.

This evening, dine at a restaurant near the famous Djemma El Fna Square, the heart of Marrakesh, whose market comes to life at dusk with fresh food stalls, musicians, dancers, fortune tellers, magicians and snake charmers.

(BD)

Begin the day with a visit to the enchanting Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint Laurent. This beautifully landscaped garden is filled with exotic plants set against a backdrop of cobalt blue Moorish architecture. Follow with a visit to the new Yves Saint Laurent Museum, dedicated to the life and work of the famed couturier.

Then visit Dar Si Said, the Museum of Moroccan Arts, a monument to Moroccan mâalems (master artisans).

The afternoon is at leisure to continue your exploration of Marrakesh at your own pace.

(BL)

Journey across the spectacular Tizi n’Tichka Pass to the magnificent Aït Ben Haddou, a striking example of the desert architecture of southern Morocco. This ‘fortified city’, or ksar, lies along the former caravan route between Marrakesh and the Sahara. Apart from a handful of families which still live there, the town is largely deserted, and its emptiness, along with its setting in the whispering tranquillity of the desert, gives it a special ambience.

Continue to Taourirt Kasbah in the centre of Ouarzazate, the erstwhile residence of the El Glaoui family, the Berber tribe who were the titular rulers of Morocco during the French protectorate while the sultan of today’s ruling Alaouite dynasty was in exile.

(BD)

Today, travel along the Dades Valley, the ‘Valley of a Thousand Kasbahs’. Typical of Saharan Morocco, the Berber kasbahs (fortresses) are a stunning sight to behold in the midst of the stark desert landscape, some beautifully restored, others slowly receding back into the sands from which they were raised.

Continue to Erfoud, before transferring into 4WD vehicles to witness a spectacular desert sunset at Merzouga. This small village is perched on the edge of Erg Chebbi, one of Morocco’s largest dunes, which rises spectacularly from a sea of sand on the fringes of the Saharan Steppes.

(BLD)

Wake up early (if you wish) to watch the sun rise over the silent desert, and then travel north from Erfoud to Fez via the agricultural town of Midelt, a market centre for apples, walnuts, plums, apricots and pomegranates.

Before arriving in Fez, visit Ifrane, a hill station built during the French protectorate era and dubbed the ‘Geneva of Morocco’, where alpine chalets grace the Middle Atlas Mountains.

In the late afternoon arrive in Fez, the holiest city in the Islamic world after Mecca and Medina. Founded in the late 8th century by Sultan Idris I (the first ruler of independent Morocco), this ‘Athens of Africa’ has been one of the world’s great centres of government, philosophy, medicine and, most notably, religion ever since.

(BL)

Following a morning talk, enjoy a full day in the Medina of Fez, or Fas el-Bali (Old Fez), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city is an enticing maze of winding alleys filled with mosques, madrasas (schools), restaurants, inns and bustling souqs (markets). Start with a visit to the Madrasa Bou Inania, built by the Marinid ruler Abu Inan Faris between 1350 and 1357, and said to be the finest of the theological colleges in Fez. Continue to the Dar Batha Museum, housed in a century-old Hispano-Moorish palace and displaying an excellent collection of traditional Moroccan arts and crafts.

In the afternoon, visit the Jewish Quarter, including the Jewish Cemetery and Habarim Synagogue, and enjoy a walk along the ramparts of the city wall.

(BL)

Today, enjoy a day trip to Volubilis and Meknes. Enjoy a morning visit of the ancient city of Volubilis, one of the Roman Empire’s most remote outposts, renowned for its remarkably preserved mosaics.

Continue to Meknes, the 17th century capital of Sultan Ismail ibn Sharif, and enjoy some free time to explore the medina of Meknes. Return to Fez for dinner in a local restaurant.

(BD)

Depart Fez for the port city of Tangier. En route, visit the enchanting town of Chefchaouen, nestled in the Rif Mountains of Northern Morocco. Perched on the hillside, the flat-roofed houses of Chefchaouen are famous for their brilliant blue walls which magnificently reflect the colour of the expansive skies. Enjoy a tour of this calm, spiritual town which is home to more than 20 mosques and sanctuaries.

In the afternoon, continue north to Tangier. Commanding the Straits of Gibraltar, Tangier has been coveted by the great powers of Europe and North Africa for millennia, and its port has been one of the most contested in the Mediterranean. Today, Tangier remains a critical crossing point between the continents of Africa and Europe.

(BD)

Spend the morning exploring the sites of Tangier and visit the architectural echoes of its ancient past and recent history. Begin your exploration of the city in the footsteps of Matisse, with morning tea at the Grand Hotel Villa de France, one of the artist’s well-known haunts in Morocco. Walk through the Old City, visit the fortified kasbah and the Petit Socco square in the old Medina.

In the afternoon, board the ferry and sail to Algeciras in Spain before transferring by coach to Seville (ferry included in tour price).

Seville is the fourth-largest city in Spain and the capital of Andalusia. Located on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville is a spectacularly beautiful city which combines the fascinating vestiges of Moorish culture, medieval and baroque Christian monuments, and grandiose remnants of the 1929 Exposición Iberoamericana with a thriving modern industrial urban centre.

(BL)

After a talk by Brian, spend the morning exploring the historical heart of Seville with a walking tour of the Santa Cruz quarter. Originally a thriving Jewish district, it was taken over at the end of the 14th century by Christians who converted the synagogues into churches. Visit the immense 15th century Gothic Cathedral and admire La Giralda, initially built as a minaret which became the Cathedral belfry, which today houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Visit the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses a stunning collection of Spanish visual arts from the medieval period to the 20th century.

(B)

Today, explore the Real Alcazar, the royal residence dating from 1364. The ornate Moorish-inspired rooms are decorated with complex patterned tile and plasterwork, complemented by extravagant gardens laid out with terraces, fountains and pavilions in a diverse range of multicultural styles.

Visit the Murillo Gardens and see the Torre del Oro (‘Tower of Gold’), which formed part of the Moorish walled defences of the city, and the 18th century bull-ring, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza.

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to continue your exploration of Seville at your own pace.

(BL)

Depart Seville and travel to Cordoba. Visit the Mezquita (Great Mosque), which embodies the power of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula. Dating from the 8th century, the Mezquita evolved over centuries, with many additions and elaborations, especially in the 10th century (under Hakam II) and during the 16th century, when the cathedral with an Italianate dome was built in the heart of the reconstructed mosque.

After lunch, continue with a stroll through the Juderia, or Jewish quarter, to visit the Old Synagogue. Finish with a visit to the gardens of the Alcázar (fortress) of the Christian Monarchs.

(BL)

Enjoy a morning at leisure to further explore Cordoba at your own pace.

Then, depart Cordoba and travel to Granada. First occupied by the Moors in the 8th century, Granada reached a Golden Age under the Nazarid Dynasty (1238-1492). Following the end of the Reconquista in 1492, Granada blossomed in full Renaissance splendour.

Begin your exploration of Granada with a tour of the magnificent Granada Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, both built in the early 16th century on the orders of the Catholic Monarchs to herald the return of Christianity. The Gothic-style Royal Chapel was completed in 1517 and served as a royal mausoleum. The Catholic Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand, and their immediate successors, are buried under magnificently sculpted Renaissance marble tombs.

(BL)

Following a morning talk, visit the Alhambra (red fortress) occupying a dramatic hilltop position overlooking the city of Granada. Built in the 14th century by the Sultans of the Nazarid, the Alhambra was the last Moorish stronghold in Spain until 1492. Designed to reflect the very beauty of Paradise itself, the Alhambra comprises gardens, fountains, streams, a palace and a mosque, all within an imposing fortress wall, flanked by 13 massive towers.

Enjoy a special farewell lunch with Brian and fellow travellers before visiting the 14th century Generalife (‘the garden of lofty paradise’), the country estate of the Nazarid rulers and one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens in the world. The Generalife features the Water-Garden Courtyard, thought to be the best-preserved example of medieval garden design in Al-Andalus.

(BL)

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Make your way to Granada Airport for suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia and New Zealand via Barcelona and Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.

(B)

Per person, twin-share

AUD 12,950

Single supplement*

AUD 2,650

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

24 February 2020

Tour code

AG2009

Fitness level

Moderate
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airline

Qatar Airways
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Visa

Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Morocco and Spain.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines with dinners
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Airport/hotel transfer on arrival
  • Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Brian Ladd
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
  • Hotel/airport transfer on departure
  • Airport porterage
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)

 

Your hotels
Casablanca – Hyatt Regency*****
Marrakesh – Sofitel Marrakesh Lounge and Spa*****
Ouarzazate – Berbere Palace*****
Erfoud – Xaluca Maadid****
Fez – Hotel Sahrai*****
Tangier – Hilton Tanger City Center Hotel & Residences*****
Seville – Gran Melia Colon*****
Cordoba – NH Collection Amistad Cordoba****
Granada – NH Collection Victoria****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.