We are joining Merrick Jewish Centre’s On the Road to Morocco hosted by Rabbi Charles and Betty Klein April 19 – 29, 2020
*Round trip Air Moroc from JFK Airport, NY–Casablanca–Return. Tour includes: Casablanca – Fes – Rabat – Marrakesh – Meknes – Volubulis.
Day 1: Sunday, April 19
Departure from USA an overnight flight to Casablanca, Morocco
- Arrival at Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport, to be met and assisted by ITC staff (today's program depends on arrival time)
- Cosmopolitan Casablanca has roots dating to the Roman settlement of Anfa. The port became a key trading post for the Sultan in the 18th Century and was greatly expanded during the French protectorate. Recent years have seen efforts to restore the once crumbling medina. Nearby, you will see various art deco facades.
- You will be escorted to town
- Visit the Temple Beth-El in Casablanca. While the city boasts more than 30 synagogues, Beth-El is considered the centerpiece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its beautiful stained-glass windows and other artistic elements attract many tourists of all backgrounds. This temple was completely refurbished in 1997.
- Lunch at SOC Restaurant "Chez David"
- After lunch, visit to the French-built Quartier Habbous, constructed to relieve overcrowding in the medina. Today, the Habbous is a mix of shops and parks just outside the city center.
- Tour to the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, or El Mellah Museum, the first Jewish museum in a Muslim country. The exhibits tell the story of a community that once numbered 250,000 strong. The museum documents over two millennia of Jewish heritage. It encompasses the Imperial Cities, as well in the lesser- known Berber Jewish communities which are spread through the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara. We will be given a guided tour of the museum by the museum's curator.
- Speaker: Museum Curator Zhor Rhehil
- Check in at the Casablanca Hotel. Rest and refresh at your hotel.
- Meeting at the lobby then departure to the Restaurant
- Dinner at Cercle de L'Alliance
- Overnight: Le Casablanca Hotel
- Breakfast at your hotel
- This morning, visit the Narcisse Leven Primary School. If available, we will meet with the students and teachers.
- Lunch at Cercle de L'Union
- After lunch, we will now head inland to Marrakech. Total driving today is about 3 hours. Enjoy a guided tour of the Medina and see the Bab Agnaou, Marrakech's most beautiful door. Continue to the Bahia Palace. Bahia (palace of the beautiful, the brilliant) is a 19th century palace located in Marrakech on eighty hectares of land and is considered a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture. The Palace is also one of the major monuments of the country's cultural heritage, and a major tourist attraction in Marrakech.
- We continue on to tour the Mellah of Marrakech, considered to be one of the largest in Morocco. It never ceases to surprise and impress its visitors!
- Visit the Salat El Azama Synagogue and the Rabbi Hanania Hacohen Cemetery. It is also the burial place of Rabbi Mordekhai Ben Attar and Rabbi Pinhas Hacohel. We will be received by Chazzan Issac Ohayon, the individual responsible for the cemetery's maintenance. He will hold an informal discussion on Life in Morocco.
- Check in: at Hotel & Riad Barriére Le Naoura Marrakech. Located at the gates of the medina and few minutes from the souks and a 15 minute walk to the Mellah. The Hotel offers absolute tranquility.
- Rest and refresh at your hotel. Then meet in the lobby for dinner.
- Dinner at Yacout Restaurant. Yacout Restaurant is a landmark of Marrakech. It was among the first opened in the medina around twenty years ago by Mohamed Zkhiri, who still manages this sumptuous venue. The decor is enchanting with private rooms and a breathtaking terrace view of the Medina and the Koutoubia Mosque. Yacout features traditional Moroccan cuisine with a menu incorporating an amazing succession of spices and flavors. With its world class service, it will be an evening to remember!
- Overnight at Hotel & Riad Barriére Le Naoura Marrakech
Day 4: Wednesday, April 22
- After breakfast, head to Dchiera Aghouatim (“Big Family”), a small Berber village. (about 40 minutes) Here we will have a private kosher, outdoor cooking class hosted by a famous local chef. Prepare your own traditional Moroccan kosher dishes and enjoy them for lunch! Learn about Moroccan spices, including Ras al Hanout, the definitive spice of Moroccan cuisine. Bake bread the traditional Moroccan way using an earthen, wood-fueled stove. The organic vegetables used in your dish are grown in the garden on site!
- While your kosher tagine is cooking over the fire, take a walk (about 20 minutes) across a wide valley, where sheep graze, wild cactus fruit grows, and the days go on seemingly untouched by modern life. We will wander through the village and visit with the local villagers who are happy to talk about the history of the village and their daily life.
- After lunch, say your farewells to the cooking class staff and villagers and head back to Marrakech
- Rest and refresh at your Hotel
- When you are ready, head to the Desert of Agafay for the evening
- The Desert of Agafay is an arid, rocky area that is ideal for a taste of Moroccan desert culture. Located just an hour’s drive from Marrakech, it is literally untouched by development. Agafay offers quite the contrast from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. You will be welcomed with Moroccan wine and a scarf like those worn by Saharan nomads. Enjoy a Sunset Camel Trek
- Rest and refresh before dinner
- Enjoy a festive dinner under the tents
- After dinner, head back to the Hotel
- Overnight: Hotel & Riad Barriére Le Naoura Marrakech
Day 5: Thursday, April 23
- Breakfast at your hotel and then attend a reception with the Jewish community.
- Meet with Jacky Kadoch, head of the Jewish community of Marrakech at the Bet El Synagogue. Bet El is located in the new section of the city. He will brief us on the history of the Marrakech Jewish community, including its culture and heritage.
- After our briefing, visit the Jardin Majorelle. The garden was a gift to Marrakech from Yves-Saint Laurent. Purchased from the painter Jacque Majorelle, the garden is adorned with Majorelle blue, the color named after him. Continue to the Yves-Saint Laurent Museum, opened in October 2017. The museum highlights the life work of the designer and his connection to Marrakech. Wander through the Dar Si Said Museum of traditional crafts, housed in a 19th century palace. The museum exhibits masterpieces of the folk art of Marrakech and nearby Berber villages. Visit the ruins of the vast Bahia Palace. Continue to the Dar el Bacha Confluences Museum in Marrakech. Dar el Bacha Confluences Museum is located in Marrakech Palace Pacha Glaoui, one of the most beautiful palaces of the red city. Also called “the governor's palace”, or Dar el Glaoui, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Lunch on your own
- After lunch, visit the opulent Saadien Tombs, the mausoleum of a great dynasty which once ruled North Africa. The site has some of the most eye-popping mosaic work in Morocco. See the beautiful architectural Secret Garden, a recently restored complex showcasing Islamic art and architecture. The garden and adjacent buildings date back 400 years.
- Then, break up into smaller groups with guides to explore the endless souks of Marrakech. Each trade and specialty clusters together over the alleyways and squares. We will be hosted by Richard DeMayo, an American designer who has called Marrakech home for almost 20 years. We will have access to local workshops and wholesalers which are closed to the public, but are special contacts of your host. Along the way you may want to stop in one of the Argan cooperative shops. Argan oil is gaining notoriety for its cholesterol reducing qualities and use in beauty products.
- Make a stop at Djemaa el Fana, the main square at the heart of Marrakech's medina. In the late afternoon, food stalls appear next to rows of escargot sellers, snake charmers, musicians and story tellers. See the Koutoubia Minaret as it dominates the skyline of Marrakech. The 12th century monument is a masterpiece in Moorish architecture.
- Return to the hotel to rest and refresh then meet in the lobby for departure to dinner
- Dinner at Mrs. Ohayon's Home with members of local Jewish Community who will join the group to discuss their life in Marrakech
- Overnight: Hotel & Riad Barriére Le Naoura Marrakech
Day 6: Friday, April 24
- After the buffet breakfast we will head in land to Fes. (estimated time of departure 8:00am)
- Lunch on route, on your own the 16th century. Visit the Jewish Cemetery and walk through the Mellah.
- Rest, refresh and prepare for Shabbat
- Reception with the local Jewish Community
- Kabbalat Shabbat services and dinner with members of Fes Jewish Community, who will join us to discuss their life in Fes
- Overnight: Palais Medina Fes HotelUpon our arrival in Fes, take in a panoramic view of the Medina from high above at Borj Sud Fortress, a prominent fortress built in
- Check in at Palais Medina Fes
Day 7: Saturday, April 25
- After breakfast at the hotel, optional Shabbat Morning Services at Ben Saadoun Synagogue
- Shabbat Lunch at the Hotel
- After lunch enjoy a walking tour throughthe Mellah of Fes. We will visit the historic 17th century Ibn Danan Synagogue. The oldest existing synagogue in the city, Ibn Danan underwent a restoration as part of a UNESCO project in 1999. we will cross through an area known for its goldsmithing, and continue across the street to Fes Jadid, passing ancient homes to the entry called Bab Semmarine. The entryway was built by the Marinid Dynasty in the late 13th century. Continue through the famous public Jnane Sbil gardens to the Blue Gates of the old city (known as Bab Bou Jeloud). Follow a different route back to enjoy the scenery.
- Return to our hotel, and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure
- Dinner at Leisure
- Overnight: Palais Medina Fes Hotel
Day 8: Sunday, April 26
- Following breakfast we will visit the Medersa Bou Inania. The name Bou Inania (Bū'Ināniya) comes from the first part of the sultan's name Abou Inan. The medersa (school) functioned both as an educational institute and as a congregational mosque, much like a private boarding school of today. This is the only medersa in Fes with a minaret. Opposite the main doorway, is the entrance to the dar al-wudū (ablutions house) for washing limbs and face before prayers. Left and right of the central court there are classrooms.
- We then visit the University of al-Qarawiyyin – also written Al Quaraouiyine or Al-Karaouine. According to UNESCO and Guinness World Records it is the oldest existing, continually operating educational institution in the world.
- They also name it as the first degree-awarding educational institution.
- Lunch on your own
- After lunch, we tour the Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts. The museum is in a wonderfully restored fondouq (rooming house), a caravanserai for travelling merchants who stored and sold their goods below and took lodgings on the floors above. Centered on a courtyard, the rooms are given over to displays of traditional artifacts of craftsmen’s tools, chunky prayer beads, Berber locks, chests, and musical instruments. Everything is beautifully presented, although the stunning building gives the exhibits a run for their money. The rooftop cafe has great views over the medina.
- Next we will learn a bit about the Moroccan leather industry as we continue to the iconic Chouara Tannery. Chouara Tannery is one of the three tanneries in the city of Fez. Built in the 11th century, it is the largest tannery in the city and is located in the Fes el Bali, the oldest medina quarter of the city. Since the inception of the city, the tanning industry has been continually operating in the same fashion as it did centuries ago. It’s best to head up to the balconies of one of the shops that will welcome you with a sprig of mint and a memorable view.
- Return to the hotel to rest and refresh, then meet in the lobby for departure to dinner
- Dinner at Sahrai Hotel
- Overnight: Palais Medina Fes Hotel
Day 9: Monday, April 27
- After breakfast we head in land by bus to Rabat. But before leaving Fes, we make one more stop at one of the famous tile and ceramic factories. Ceramics and tile production are, and have been, world famous for centuries. This is partially due to the unique soil composition of Fes, which is perfect for the production of these artistic creations. The other part of course, is talent! See from start to finish how these wonderful mosaic tile creations are made, and have an opportunity to bring home a souvenir before continuing on from Fes.
- Along the way to Rabat we will make the following stops: Meknes – the Imperial capital of Sultan Moulay Ismail, founder of the ruling Alaouite Dynasty. Explore Meknes’ massive granaries and stables, ornate city gates and the grand Place El Hedim. Next we see the Bab Mansour, one of the most amazing gates in the world. It was built at the beginning of the 18th century and completed in 1732 by Moulay Abdallah, son of Sultan Moulay Ismail. It was to be the grand entrance to the Imperial City of Meknes.
- Then we visit the Dar Jamaï Museum, a palace of powerful Viziers that now houses a collection of antique ceramics and crafts
- Moulay Idriss – a scenic hill town just a few minutes from Volubulis. In the center of town is the Shrine of Moulay Idriss I, the man who brought Islam to Morocco. Though the shrine is not open to non-Muslims, one gets fantastic views from strolling the narrow streets above. Lunch on route, on your own.
- Volubilis – the ruins of the late Roman era capital of the province of Mauritania. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Volubilis overlooks the fertile plains of the Meknes region near the foot of Mt. Zerhoun. Intact mosaics, restored arches and olive oil presses give one a sense of the importance of this outpost on the fringes of the empire. Visit the Triumphal Arch, Basilica, Diana and the Bathing Nymphs. Upon arrival to Rabat, you can start exploring the main attraction highlight of the city: Visit Hassan Tour (AKA Hassan Tower)
- Rabat’s iconic landmark, is the half- finished minaret of a planned mosque whose remnants attest to its ambitions. Drive by the Royal Palace, the residence of the current reigning king Mohamed VI, and see the luxury of this sprawling palace. Visit the Kasbah des Oudaias – built by the Almohad Dynasty in the 12th century, is worth serious exploration. Stroll the narrow streets to the Andalusian gardens that sit on the site of the former palace and are something of a town square – especially in the summer months. Continue to Chellah, the roots of which go back to Phoenician times.
- The Romans and the corsairs of later eras operated from this fortress located above the banks of the Bouregreg River. Today, Chellah is a collection of ruins, a citadel and lush gardens.
- After the visits in Rabat, continue on to Casablanca Upon arrival, check-in at the Kenzi Tower Hotel. The Kenzi Tower Hotel is a true emblem of Morocco that asserts its stunning position in the 28 story B tower of the Twin Center of Casablanca. The 5-star hotel is located in the trendiest and most vibrant downtown setting of Casablanca.
- Rest and refresh at your hotel
- Farewell Dinner at The Kenzi Tower Restaurant in the 27th floor with a pianist
- Overnight: Kenzi Tower Casablanca
Day 10: Tuesday, April 28
- After breakfast at your hotel, start your day by visiting the massive Mosque Hassan
- II. Completed in 1993, the Mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 worshippers making it the second largest in Islam today.
- Lunch to be determined
- After lunch, you will be escorted to Casablanca
- Mohammed V International Airport for your departing flight back to the USA