A Moroccan Adventure
Saturday, March 5 to Saturday, March 12, 2022
Next spring, join a group of like-minded travelers to explore Morocco's history, architecture, art and food.
$4875 per person, with no single supplements to pay.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit Morocco, with cool temperatures and sunny days, and the first flowering trees begin to bloom. This trip will be led by popular P&P teacher of Middle Eastern literature Heba El-Shazli, and Sheila Campbell, who leads a number of our trips. Heba will introduce you to the customs, foods, literature, art and culture of Morocco as we visit its imperial cities. If you’ve ever dreamed of going to Morocco with someone who knows it intimately, this is your opportunity
We’ll begin our trip in Casablanca, where a gentle breeze tall palms greet you as you leave the airport. We’ll spend some time in Rabat, the country’s capital, and then in Fes, one of the Imperial cities. The souk there is thrilling, the food enticing, the mint tea is delicious, and – well, let’s just say you’ll probably want to buy something or other. On our drives from place to place you’ll see olive groves, cork farms, grazing sheep and bustling small villages. We’ll also skirt the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains.
We’ll spend most of our time in Marrakech, where we’ll explore the old city’s palaces and public squares, markets and cafés – plus some of the most beautiful gardens on the planet.
Morocco is famous for its foods – tagines, pastilla, kebabs and cous cous, among others. And in many restaurants, before your main course they’ll serve you a number of little plates of vegetables, salads and olives with traditional bread.
We’ll learn about Morocco’s history, including its time as a French protectorate, and the story of the Jewish population. If you speak French, you’ll delight in talking with some of the locals. We’ll also be accompanied by an English-speaking guide every day, so you’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and learn even more from someone who lives in the country
Please note that we may have to make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closures, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events. These are very full days, and there are some long drives (with lots of interesting stops, of course). All breakfasts are included, but lunches and dinners will be on your own unless otherwise indicated here.
Friday, March 4, 2022
Depart from home for your overnight flight to Casablanca. (Airfare not included in the trip price.)
Saturday, March 5, 2022
Arrive in Casablanca, where you’ll be picked up for your drive to our hotel, the Club Val D’Anfa, located just half a block from the beach, with views of the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on your arrival time, we’ll have an opportunity to visit a Moroccan couture dressmaker, Najah Benzalour Lahrichi, a friend of Heba’s, in the Maarif section of the city. There we’ll see beautiful contemporary and traditional jellabas. If you’d like one yourself, Heba can help you choose.
Meet in the hotel for introductions and orientation.
Dinner in the hotel is included tonight.
Sunday, March 6
After breakfast, we’ll drive along the beach to the Hassan II mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world. Non-Muslims are allowed in for a tour with English-speaking guides. The mosque was completed in the 1990s. Its vast space features marble floors, intricate tile designs and carved wooden ceilings. The courtyard overlooks the sea.
We’ll then drive for a bit over an hour to Rabat, Morocco’s capital, which rests where the Bouregeg River meets the Atlantic. Here we’ll have a chance to stroll through the Kasbah Oudaya, a Berber-era royal fort surrounded by formal French-designed gardens overlooking the sea. Today it’s a quiet area of shops and small cafés.
After lunch – tagine, anyone? – we’ll visit Le Tour Hassan and Mausoleum of Mohammed V. Construction of the tower was begun in the 12th century. Here lie the tombs of the father and grandfather of the current King of Morocco, in an elaborate design of marble, gold, onyx and precious jewels, and guarded by ornately dressed royal guards.
We’ll then continue our drive – about two and a half hours – on to Fes.
Monday, March 7
We’ll spend the day today exploring the walled old city, or medina, of Fes. With no cars allowed, we’ll see donkeys pulling wooden carts, shops with piles of vibrant spices, storehouses heaped high with hand-woven carpets in every possible color. We’ll begin the day at the King’s Palace, then visit a ceramics workplace before weaving our way into the medina.
The souk is lively with all kinds of products – ancient and modern – and gorgeous displays of fruits, vegetables, olives and dates; there’s even a camel meat butcher shop. We’ll walk into an ancient madrasa, a school for higher learning, then stop for lunch in the medina, after which we’ll explore the tanneries and their brilliantly colored leathers. (They’ll give you a sprig of mint to help mask the odor.)
We’ll meet in the hotel for a cocktail and conversation before setting out for dinner on our own.
Tuesday, March 8
After an early breakfast, we’ll set out for a full day’s drive to Marrakech. Our way takes us up into the Middle Atlas Mountains and along the base of the High Atlas. We’ll stop for lunch in the modern town of Beni Mellah, which is surrounded by orange groves and olive and fig trees. And, of course, we’ll stop from time to time just to admire the views and take a break.
We’ll arrive in Marrakech in the evening, so you may want to have dinner in the hotel tonight.
Wednesday, March 9
After breakfast, we’ll have a walking tour of Marrakech, called the southern pearl of Morocco. The landmark Koutoubia Mosque was built in the 12th century and towers over all of Marrakech. Among the places we’ll visit this day is the Palais Bahia, which contains richly tiled apartments surrounding a marble-paved courtyard with trees and pools. The decoration of the entire palace is simply splendid and will make you want to tile everything when you get home.
We’ll also visit the Jewish Quarter, called the mellah, and the historic Al Azama synagogue, a simple but very moving place where we’ll learn the story of Jews in Morocco. We’ll also stop by the Saadian tombs, some of the finest – and most lavish -- Islamic architecture in Morocco.
Later, if you’re in a shopping mood, we can visit the Marrakech souk, or the arcade of goldsmiths, who sell their jewelry by weight. Or you might just want to spend some time in a tea shop to rest up for our evening’s excursion.
This evening we’ll venture out to the incredibly lively central plaza of Jmaa el-Fna. It teems with musicians, performers, henna artists, the occasional snake charmer or monkey handler, fortune tellers and anyone else who has a product or service on offer. Food and fresh orange juice stands abound, scented with exotic spices and grilled meats and seafood, plus lots of sweet treats. If you love street food, this is the place for you. If not, you can still enjoy everything going on around you, and settle in for a restaurant dinner later.
Thursday, March 10
We’ll begin the day with a leisurely breakfast (on your own) in the gardens of La Mamounia, the prestigious hotel made famous by Winston Churchill, among others. It’s lovely to eat there among the olive trees and palm groves, listening to the birds sing a welcome.
Continuing our garden theme, we’ll then visit the Ménara, an imperial garden filled with olive and fruit trees around a large pool and framed in the background by the High Atlas Mountains. We’ll also stop by the El Badi Palace, the epic ruins of Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour’s once magnificent palace, set within sunken gardens and surrounded by epic ramparts whose decrepit towers boast panoramic views over the medina.
Finally, we’ll go to the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden designed by artist Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s. In the 1980’s it was bought by Yves St. Laurent, and today is full of tropical flowers, cactus and palms. There’s a small museum of Berber culture, dress and jewelry and--next door--the Musée Yves St. Laurent features his signature designs. The gardens also contain a delightful café and boutique offering brightly colored high-quality leather goods.
6pm We meet in the hotel for conversation and a cocktail.
Friday, March 11
We depart this morning for our drive back to Casablanca. Along the way, the coastal town of El Jadida offers a chance to visit a Portuguese citadel and underground cistern.
Dinner tonight (included) is at Rick’s Café. (No, it’s not old, but it looks just like the movie, the food is very good, and there’s a piano player – probably not named Sam.)
Saturday, March 12
We’ll drive you to the airport to catch your flight home.
Optional Trip Extension: Marrakech And Surrounding Sites
$2150 per person, with no single supplements to pay.
If you’d like to see even more of what Morocco has on order, you may stay on for an optional extension. We’ll leave Marrakech on a couple of day trips, but you won’t have to change hotels.
Friday, March 11
We’ll begin our day with a panoramic view of Morocco from a hot-air balloon. We’ll be picked up early for our dawn journey to the balloon launch location. (Bring a sweater; it can get chilly up there.)
On arrival, we’ll refuel with tea, coffee, and pastries, and watch the expert team prepare and inflate the balloon. Then we’ll settle into the sturdy basket for takeoff. Each basket carries up to 16 passengers, so there’s ample space to relish the sights as you fly. Gaze at the desert and admire the sunrise over the craggy valleys and mountains as we float over the Atlas foothills. Touch down and visit a tent to enjoy a Berber-style breakfast of delicacies such as flatbreads, pancakes, fresh fruit, and mint tea.
Afterwards we’ll go to La Maison Arabe for a cooking class conducted by dadas (traditional Moroccan cooks). We’ll learn about Moroccan spices and ingredients and together prepare an appetizer and main dish to feast on together, followed by a tasty dessert.
You’ll have the rest of the afternoon on your own – maybe to catch up on your sleep from the early morning!
Saturday, March 12
We leave early this morning for the drive to Essaouira, a picturesque fishing village on the Atlantic Coast. We’ll break up the outbound drive by stopping to see (and hold, if you’d like) the famous “goats in the trees,” which is exactly what it sounds like – little goats scampering up argan trees.
Of course we’ll have lunch along the seaside, and then visit the medina (old town), protected by 18th century ocean-front ramparts called the Skala de la Kasbah. Old brass cannons line the walls. Strong trade winds blow along the city’s crescent beach.
Many of the country’s woodcarvers and artists make Essaouira their home, filling it with art and culture. You’ll definitely be tempted to bring something home. On the coast, we’ll walk past cheerful blue fishing boats and their magnificent colorful nets on the dock. We’ll arrive back at the hotel after dark.
Sunday, March 13
After breakfast, we’ll begin our trip back to Casablanca. Along the way, the coastal town of El Jadida offers a stop for lunch and a chance to visit the Portuguese citadel and underground cistern.
In Casablanca we’ll have an opportunity to visit a Moroccan couture dressmaker, Najah Benzalour Lahrichi, a friend of Heba’s, in the Maarif section of the city. There we’ll see beautiful contemporary and traditional jellabas. If you’d like one yourself, Heba can help you choose.
For our last night in the country, we’ll have dinner at Rick’s Café (included). (No, it’s not old, but it looks just like the movie, and the food is very good.)
Monday, March 14
We drive you to the airport to catch your flight home.
The price of the trip to Morocco is $4875, based on single occupancy. There are no single supplements to pay. The optional extension is $2150. (Note that there’s a minimum group size of seven people for the extension.)
Here’s what’s included:
- Pick up at the Casablanca airport, and delivery to the airport at the end of the trip
- Seven nights in three beautiful Moroccan-style hotels (Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech)
- Hot ample breakfast buffet every morning, including eggs, meats, cheeses, fruits, pastries, yogurts and an array of breads and juices, plus Moroccan specialties
- Wine socials on three nights with book talk led by Heba El-Shazli
- Entrance fees for all group activities listed.
- Restaurant and dining recommendations.
- All transportation with our private driver, including tips
- A Morocco-based guide with us every day, including tips
What’s not included: lunches and dinners unless specifically included, transport to and from the airport if you arrive on days other than specified, tickets to museums and attractions not specifically mentioned in the itinerary, your flight to Morocco and back home and anything else not listed under “What’s included.”
Have Some Questions?
First, be sure to read all the Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions. If you have more questions, contact:
Wild Blue Yonder
She’s always happy to talk with you about the trip.
You can reserve your place on the trip with a $550 deposit, payable by check, made out to Wild Blue Yonder (mail to Wild Blue Yonder, 1001 Spring Street, Suite 623, Silver Spring, MD 20910). If you’d rather pay with a credit card via PayPal (there’s a 3% surcharge), let us know (email Sheila at SCampbell@wildblueyonder.biz) and we’ll send you a PayPal invoice.
What about Covid?
At the time this information is written (March, 2021), it looks like most Americans will have long been vaccinated against covid by the time of this trip in March, 2022. Clearly, of course, we can’t predict the future, and we don’t know what requirements for international travel may be in place then.
Your deposit holds your space for the trip. If we have any indication that it’s not reasonable to travel to Morocco next March, we won’t request your final payment, and we’ll refund your deposit in full.
Right now, Morocco is welcoming travelers from the U.S. so long as they have a negative PCR covid test within 72 hours of their flight. We’ll let you know closer to the date of final payments precisely what the requirements are at that time. Mask regulations are similar to those in the Washington, DC area.
A Few Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who should come on this trip?
This is the perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with if you like. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. We’ve often had mothers and daughters come together. You can spend time with each other and also have time to pursue your separate interests. The trip is also perfect for any small group that wants to travel together but doesn’t want the hassle of planning it all in advance.
Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.
Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each person. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, but of course you can share a room if you prefer.
Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group. There’s a 12-person minimum group size. Please don’t buy your plane tickets until we confirm to you that we have reached the minimum group size.
Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Heba El-Shazli is Assistant Professor at George Mason University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on international relations, politics, government and society of the Middle East, and political Islam. She’s an almost always sold-out teacher of Middle Eastern literature at Politics & Prose, and – of course – has traveled extensively there.
Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – often on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain, as well as for Politics & Prose. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she is a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art.
Q. Where do I fly?
You’ll fly into Casablanca’s airport. From Washington Dulles, Royal Air Maroc is the only airline that flies nonstop –but they only fly three days a week. (They codeshare with American Airlines.) So you’ll have to check their schedule against yours to see if that will work for you. For one-stop flights, you’ll probably have to change planes in Amsterdam (Delta) or Istanbul (Turkish).
Q. What will the weather be like?
It’s impossible to predict any weather accurately these days, but generally early March in Morocco is terrific for walking around – cool and sunny during the day, cooler at night. Rain is always a possibility, of course, but it’s not common.
Q. What to wear?
Wear what’s most comfortable, and pack layers. Jeans are acceptable almost anywhere, except for the very nicest restaurants. You’ll want to dress modestly in any mosque, with shoulders covered and skirts below the knee.
Most important: comfortable walking shoes.
Q. Is it safe to walk around?
As in any city or foreign venue, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings during the day and after dark. We’ll almost always be escorted by a Moroccan guide, and we won’t be going into sketchy areas.
The most prevalent issue is pickpocketing, which mostly happens in areas where there are crowds of tourists. Pickpockets are wily, so we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist. And never sling your handbag over the back of a chair; that creates a very tempting target.
Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We very strongly recommend it. Reasons for cancelling a trip can happen suddenly. Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Also be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely as well.
You’ll want to be insured for both trip cancellation and medical treatment and evacuation. Many insurers require you to enroll as soon as you pay your deposit, so don’t wait. There are many websites which offer comparison information about trip insurance.
Note that if you are on Medicare, it does not cover services outside of the United States, so you definitely will need medical coverage.
Q. Some friends are going to be in Marrakech while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions.
Q. When do I need to sign up by?
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come.
Q. If I want to stay on longer, can you arrange that?
Yes. We can arrange for you to stay on at any of our hotels at your own cost, although our trip will be over. If you’d like to arrive early, we can also make those reservations for you. We may not be there to greet you if you come early, but it’s okay if you want a day or two on your own before the official trip starts.
Terms and Conditions
Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, daily transportation as mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums and other cultural sites if with the group as listed in the itinerary, evening socials and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.
Registration and Payment
The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.
Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to email@example.com. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.
Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.
We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
Full final payment is due November 15, 2021.
Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before November 15, 2021, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after November 15, 2021.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.
Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip. Visas are not required for travelers with U.S. passports.
Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. Our trips require a reasonable amount of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you.
If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.
Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.
Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.
Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.
We love to read about the places we’re visiting, and we suspect you do too. Trip Leader Heba El-Shazli
has selected some books to enhance your travel experience.
Although there may be some discussion of books in our evening salons, there is NO required reading.
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of Harem Girlhood, by Fatima Mernissi. This is an enchanting memoir of a Muslim girl’s life in her family’s harem during and post the World War II era.
For Bread Alone, by Mohamed Choukri. This memoir is a tale of survival, as the author flees famine and extreme danger, scratches out a life of crime, and then is saved by his discovery of the power of literature.
Travels: Collected Writings 1950 – 1993, by Paul Bowles. In this collection of essays and articles, Bowles gives us a unique and intelligent sense of place.
A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco, by Suzanna Clarke. A couple who fall in love with Morocco decide to restore a beautiful house in the medina. Along the way they learn much about the country and its customs.
Secret Son by Laila Lalmi. This novel traces a young man’s life from deprivation to the lap of luxury – and its collapse. He then falls into a fringe Islamic group.
Leaving Tangier, by Tahar Ben Jelloun. This novel explores the experience of a young Moroccan man who emigrates to Spain to find a better life, but isn’t always successful.
In Morocco, by Edith Wharton. Writer Edith Wharton writes about her visit to Morocco following World War I.
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah. What would it be like to move to Morocco and restore a historic building? All the details are here: the joys, the irritations, the people, the jinns that inhabit the house.
The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles. A literary classic, this novel by Bowles exposes what happens when Americans don’t understand a culture foreign to them.
House of Spies, by Daniel Silva. Much of this adventure-filled spy novel, featuring the intrepid Gabriel Allon and his team, occurs in Morocco.
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, by Malika Oufkir. The daughter of a former aide to the King of Morocco describes the years spent in a desert penal colony with her family.
A Month in Marrakesh: Recipes from the Heart of Morocco, by Andy Harris and David Loftus. Part cookbook, part travelogue, completely enjoyable – and the measurements are American.
Copyright Wild Blue Yonder, Inc.
Wild Blue Yonder plans, organizes and leads group trips for bookstores, historic associations and other corporate and not-for-profit entities. All our trips are designed for the specific interests of the groups for whom we work.