Day 1: Marrakech - Ait Benhaddou – Kalaa des M’gouna ( Rose city ).
From your Hotel or the airport in Marrakesh, we will set off for the Dades Gorges. Passing through Tizi-n-Tishka in the high Atlas Mountains we will then visit the UNESCO World heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou which has also been the backdrop for many films including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Alexander. After lunch we’ll enjoy the beautiful natural landscapes and historical monuments of Taourirt Kasbah in Ourzazate, Skoura and the Valley of the Roses, famous for its annual Festival of Roses. Our first overnight will be spent
Those who are romantics at heart are likely to swoon at the opportunity to visit Kalaat M’gouna, especially in the spring. This city in the Dades Valley is famous for one thing: roses. Kalaat M’gouna means Valley of the Roses and the city itself is named after the nearby Mount M'goun.
In the late spring months, the city is literally covered in roses. A pink carpet as far as the eye can see dots the otherwise brown landscape. It is believed that pilgrims who arrived in Morocco from Saudi Arabia brought Rosa Damascena, the variety of roses that are grown in this region, with them in the 10th century, and they continue to play a part in the city’s culture today.
If you visit during the first week in May, you can observe the annual rose festival. There is never a set date for the festival as it depends on the harvest season. Expect a lot of local Berber musicians playing traditional instruments and dancing (you can search for more of this on our blog about Morocco). There is also a parade and numerous booths set up by artisans and food vendors. Garlands of roses are sold by local children for a very small price.
Tons of rose petals are harvested every year to be made into rose water for culinary and beauty purposes. It can take many tons of petals just to make a few liters of rose water. Roses are picked by hand and then transported to small distilleries in the area to be processed. There are also factories in Casablanca that buy much of the harvest. If you decide to purchase rose water from the numerous sellers of this prized product, keep in mind the water should be clear in color. There are many synthetic versions of the product that are usually pink in color. True rose water is not pink.
There are many opportunities around Kalaat M’gouna to simply enjoy nature. It is possible to go for a short walk or a much longer hike in the mountainous terrain. Near Kalaat M’gouna is the town of Bou Thaghrar, a small but inhabited Berber settlement. There are many old dwellings that are now in ruins as well as a river that winds through the settlement.
Visitors can stay overnight in Kalaat M’gouna but the city is only 85 miles from Ouarzazate, which makes it an ideal day trip. One hour east of the city is the Todgha Gorges near the city of Tinerhir. This canyon was carved out of the mountains by the Todgha River and is a popular destination for rock climbers. There are many Berber villages nearby as well including the famous city of Imilchil where the yearly wedding festival occurs.
Day 2: Dades Valley- Merzouga via Todra Gorge
Today's target point is arriving to Merzouga which is known for the highest sand dunes in North Africa. THE DESERT! It is called Erg Chebbi Sahara desert and it is about 20 kms long and 5 kms wide and is a unique, multifaceted environment. On our way, we will have the chance to see many oases such as the oasis of Tinjdad. We will continue our tour passing through the little Berber towns of Mellab and Touroug. Arrive to Rissani where we will have lunch. After this break, we will continue our way enjoying the green oasis of palm trees of Ziz –Tafilalet and the black Hamada before arriving to Merzouga to spend the night in a Riad.
Day 3: Merzouga area, culture and tradition
After breakfast, you will go all the way round the dunes via the oasis of MERZOUGA, the nomadic depository, KHAMLIA village (Blacks’ village You’ll visit the Gnawa people, originally slaves brought from Sudan, to experience their music and lifestyle. Not far away there’s the lake of Merzouga, with its bird populations, you’ll leave for Rissani. Once called Sijilmassa, this was the meeting place for the salt caravans, coming from Timbuktu in Mali. Here you’ll walk through the souk, selling spices, vegetables and cloths. After a lunch pizza in Rissani you will travel back to your riad where where your camel will be awaiting you. After a glass of mint tea. After lunch we will make our way to start our camel trek. All unnecessary luggages can be left in safe rooms at the hotel. The 90 minute camel trek will take us to a Berber camp in the middle of the Erg Chebbi sand dunes, the highest in North Africa. The camp consists of several comfortable Berber tents equipped with mattresses and linen, a restaurant, a kitchen. The evening will consist of dinner followed by entertainment provided by Berber drums.
Day 4 : Merzouga – Fez
Before sunrise, we will wake to climb the sand dunes for fantastic photo opportunities of the sunrise on the horizon. We will then make our way back to the hotel for showers and breakfast before setting off for Fez. En route we will pass through Arfoud, Errachidia, the Ziz Valley, Meditlt, the cedar forests and monkey troupes of Azrou, and Ifrane, before we drop you back at your riad/hotel in Fez.