I had the good fortune to scout this amazing and varied country in January 2020 right before the pandemic closed down travel opportunities all over the world for a time. This country in northwestern Africa is hard to describe. I say to my fellow Californians that it is about the size and population of this state, with varied terrain stretching from lush green farmland in the north to the massive, snow-covered Atlas Mountains (some peaks rising to 14,000 feet), and finally the great Sahara Desert to the South, replete with sand dunes and camels. Morocco is a cultural crossroads, with a strong French influence, and even though it’s predominantly Muslim, there are Jewish and Christian traditions. Unique foods and handicrafts tantalize all the senses. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite places with you.
This photo tour itinerary encompasses Marrakech, Fes, Northern Morocco in the blue washed town of Chefchaouen, and we also spend two evenings in the Sahara, giving participants more opportunity to capture the pink and purple hued sunsets and sunrises over the dunes. You will also tour and photograph the massive King Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. In Marrakech you will visit the famous Djemaa el-Fna Square, perhaps the greatest open-air spectacle in the world. Traveling back in time, you will see snake charmers, musicians, magicians, acrobats, and dancers. Fes is an ancient city, with its miles of narrow alleys in its spectacular medina – where time seems to have stood still and photographs beckon around every corner. You will see veiled women and laughing children, donkeys pulling carts, and vendors carrying huge mounds of bread on trays above their heads.
Combining the history and natural beauty of this rich and fascinating country with first-person encounters, we will visit native villages, ancient medinas, and craft workshops, sharing experiences and sipping mint tea, symbolic of the warm, sincere Moroccan generosity. Hotels are comfortable, as is the private, air-conditioned coach for land transportation. An expert local Moroccan guide will add his unique touch to this extraordinary trip, sharing his insights into and his love of this exotic land.
February 16 Home
You will depart on an overnight flight from the U.S. to Casablanca, Morocco. We recommend your arrival to be tomorrow (February 17), by 11AM, in order to take part in the planned events.
PLEASE NOTE: Your airline ticket will need to be issued Home/CMN and return RAK/Home. Also, Betty likes to arrive a day early to get over jet lag. She invites you to do the same, which would mean departing February 15, landing the 16. If you like, she will take you on a brief photo walk to a market close by (additional night hotel stay estimated $250 single/$290 double).
February 17 Casablanca
You will be transferred from the airport to the hotel upon arrival. Those who arrive in time will have an interior tour at 2PM inside the King Hassan II Mosque, perhaps followed by additional photography outside the mosque in late afternoon or evening light. North of the medina and rising up on a point above the Atlantic Ocean, the mosque is the largest Muslim religious monument in the world after Mecca. King Hassan II Mosque, built at a cost estimated at $750 million, is entirely funded by citizen donations. It was completed in 1993, after 6000 Moroccan craftsmen worked on it day and night for five years. Enjoy your welcome dinner after the photo shoot. Overnight CASABLANCA. (D)
February 18 & 19 Chefchaouen
From Casablanca, arrive late this afternoon in the Rif region of Northern Morocco and the town of Chefchaouen (shef-shau-en), built into a mountainside. The town was founded in 1492 by Moorish exiles from Spain, often called Chaouen by Moroccans. Chefchaouen was known as the hashish capital of Morocco and has been a favorite haunt of backpackers for years. Hash has been grown since the fifteenth century, and is called Kif, the short version of the Arabic word for pleasure. It is now known as the ‘Blue City’ for its abundance of blue paint. Our accommodations are set in a cute hotel in the hillside just above the town, away from the hustle and bustle of the medina, yet walking distance to the areas we will be photographing.
In the medina, people sell all sorts of vegetables and fruits amid the narrow, cobbled alleyways of whitewashed walls and blue doors. Chefchaouen offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The local goat cheese is also popular. Pack mules are still led throughout the streets carrying many handcrafted goods and supplies, as they have for centuries. The eager merchants are more than willing to discuss their merchandise and engage in the time-honored art of negotiation. Notice the small squares, ornate fountains and ochre tile. Overnight CHEFCHOUEN HOTEL (B, D; B)
February 20 & 21 Fes
After sunrise photography in the mountains, have breakfast and drive to Fes. Your escorts will take into account the interests of the group and stop for photographic opportunities they feel appropriate and timely. Exquisite brass, leather, pottery and textile shops beckon.
Fes is arguably the symbolic heart of Morocco, as all the great dynasties to pass through Morocco have left their mark on the city; it has, however, retained its Arab identity. The medina, Fes el-Bali, is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world. Its narrow, winding alleys and covered bazaars are intricate in their design and are awash with brilliant colors – a veritable assault on the senses as you squeeze past recalcitrant donkeys and submit to the sounds and smells of this jostling city. The dye makers, hills of spices, tannery vats, and palaces of merchants will beckon us. During a visit to a tannery we can watch the tanners as they work in the varied colors of this land. Your lodgings in Fes are just within the medina walls, providing an excellent location for photography. Overnight FEZ RIAD. (B, D; B, L)
February 22 & 23 Erfoud – Merzouga
Today your destination is the Sahara where you will have two days to capture the sunset and sunrise over the dunes. After enjoying lunch en route, continue to Erfoud, an oasis region at the edge of the Sahara. Here you will transfer to Land Rovers, taking with you the necessities for the next two days at the lodge in the middle of the desert. You may have the option of staying in a desert tent, “glamping” in luxury, or stay in a boutique hotel complete with swimming pool that overlooks the dunes. The next day you are invited to enjoy Sudanese music and dance at Khmlia, where we learn about life in the Sahara (participants can take donations of school supplies for the Sudanese school). If there is time this afternoon, enjoy your camel ride for sunset photography, or perhaps rise early for sunrise. Camels will carry you up and down the Erg Chebbi, Morocco’s only genuine Saharan Erg – a huge, drifting expanse of sand dunes that typify much of the Algerian Sahara.
Being in this remote region for two evenings we may find time for reviewing a few of your images and discussing favorite photo procressing techniques. The dunes themselves are fascinating, especially as the sun reaches the horizon and the colors change from pink to gold to red. This will be your most extraordinary and unforgettable desert experience. Overnight AUBURGE DU SUD. (The group can decide to stay together in one location or divide in to two groups, one staying in the boutique hotel, the other in typical Berber Tents complete with indoor plumbing, each area has their own dining tent. (B, L, D both days)
February 24 & 25 Skoura
Your destination for the next two evenings is a renovated kasbah hotel, providing an ideal location for private photography in the early morning and late afternoon. Before you reach Skoura there will be a lovely photo opportunity at a partially abandoned kasbah in the Dades Gorge where you can capture the simplicity of what was once a traditional Moroccan home. The setting of your lodge is in the middle of a palm grove with lush greenness and olive tree branches, and the hotel also offers a garden all its own. Skoura provides a respite from the busy medinas of Fez and Marrakech, with the snow-covered Atlas Mountains providing a picturesque backdrop. Betty may provide photography presentations during the middle of the day at the hotel. Overnight KASBAH SKOURA. (B, L, D both days)
February 26 & 27 Marrakech
Continue on to one of the most famous cities in Morocco, Marrakech. Late in the afternoon (time to be announced) you will meet everyone in the hotel lobby for a brief introduction and off you go to your first photo shoot at the famous Djemaa el-Fna Square, perhaps the greatest open-air spectacle in the world, where one can see the colors and feel the pulse of Morocco.
Traveling back in time 2,000 years, we’ll see snake charmers, magicians, acrobats, and dancers, delighting children and adults alike. Then enjoy another day in this imperial city that has been almost continually occupied since Neolithic times, and was once the Berber capital. Capture glimpses of daily life as we stroll the narrow streets. As time permits you may visit the Jardines Majorelle garden with huge bamboo trees and palms, swaying over beautiful pathways. The garden was founded by famed French clothing designers Yves St. Laurent. Overnight MARRAKECH RIAD. (D; B, L)
February 28 Home
You will depart on your flight from Marrakech, Morocco (RAK) to your home. (B)
Note: This itinerary has been carefully constructed to assure participants the best Morocco has to offer. However, should events arise that are beyond our control, itinerary, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.
Land cost: $4395, based upon minimum of 8 paying passengers in shared accommodations, maximum of 12. Small group supplement $400 based upon minimum of 4 – 7 participants,
Single room supplement: $695 (available on first-come, first-served basis). We try to accommodate single travelers who request single accommodations, as well as single travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, we are unable to find a suitable roommate, or you are in a single for another reason, you will need to pay the single supplement.
The land cost includes:
• Land transportation: All group ground transportation in Morocco. A driver and a guide bilingual in Moroccan and English will escort you.
• Accommodations as listed in itinerary, based on two people sharing a room.
• Meals as indicated in itinerary, (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner).
• Photo instruction as needed.
• Miscellaneous fees and service charges: All porterage fees that are included in the itinerary; service charges, hotel taxes, and park entrance fees.
• Predeparture information: You will receive information on all aspects of the tour, including packing recommendations, plus readings on the history, culture, and ecology of Morocco.
The land cost does not include: International air fare; transportation and transfers for those not traveling with the group; air tax; foreign airport taxes; excess baggage charges; passport fees; meals not listed in the itinerary; personal medical and travel insurance; any activities not specified in the tour itinerary, or those listed as optional; all items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone charges, beverages; film and processing, medical expenses, and room service; tips for meals not included in the itinerary; for exceptional service – optional or additional tips to hotel staff such as porters or wait staff is always appreciated. Upon the completion of your trip, gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary.
Please contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge will be added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight days with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties.
Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds
A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due. If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:
• 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
• 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
• 60 days or less before departure or any time after departure: NO REFUND.
Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.
Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.
We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure). Your tour could also be cancelled or cut short due to reasons out of Strabo’s control and Strabo cannot be held responsible.
Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.
There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program.
For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlets, which outline their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. There are various levels of coverage you should be aware of before making your purchase. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll-free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.
Fitness and Health
The trip is not strenuous, and anyone who is reasonably fit and in good health should be able to participate. The international flight from JFK/New York City is six and a half hours. Some days the group will spend several hours in a vehicle traveling between destinations. Rest stops and photo stops are planned approximately every two hours.
The maximum altitude you will reach on this trip is about 10,000 feet above sea level, while sitting in the coach. If you have any questions about your ability to participate in this trip, please contact Strabo Tours at 607-756-8676 for more information. You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.
If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607)756-8676.