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Our tour commences today on arrival at Marrakech International Airport. Transfer to our hotel inside the Casbah. Welcome drinks and dinner [D] in the hotel.
This morning we commence our exploration of this fascinating city, one of the four former Imperial capitals of Morocco. There is a modern Western city with boulevards echoing the period of French control of Morocco, then to the old city where the 12th century Koutoubia mosque’s 77 metre minaret dominates the city skyline. We end at the Djemaa El Fna - the vast square in the heart of the old city. Hawkers, snake charmers, buskers… enjoy.
A lazy morning for further exploring or to enjoy this oasis, with the snow-capped Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. This afternoon our sightseeing tour takes us through the labyrinthine souks and medinas. Bargain seriously for fabric and jewellery.
Fes [B] [D]
Moroccan Rail is certainly the best in North Africa, and today we take our First class seats in an air-conditioned carriage for a journey from the desert landscape of Marrahesh through the fertile coastal farmland, the vineyards and orchards and Meknes to another of Morocco’s former imperial capitals, Fes.
Fes was founded around 900AD and its medina - old city - is UNESCO heritage listed. Our sightseeing begins at the historic and beautiful Blue Gate this morning, and takes us to the very heart. Don’t lose sight of the guide; you may never find your way out! Fes is considered the spiritual capital of Morocco: it has madressas - universities - that are a thousand years old, and a synagogue dating from the 17th century.
A day to visit the souks and bargain for local leather goods and jewellery. The Medina al Bali, with many kilometres of winding pathways and thousands of shops, is one of the largest pedestrian-only urban areas on Earth. Be sure you have the hotel name written in Arabic to show to any teenager when (not if) you get lost. For a 20 dirham coin ($2) he will escort you home to the hotel.
Tangier [B] [D]
On Moroccan Rail again today, back through the vineyards of Meknes to the most northerly point of Morocco - Tangier, on the Straits of Gibraltar. Its location at the mouth of the Mediterranean and its colourful history since its foundation by Carthage in the 5th century BC, make Tangier a truly cosmopolitan port city.
For the first half of the 20th century Tangier was an international zone partitioned between France, Spain and Britain. It is said to have been a hangout for spies, drug runners and international intrigue, and also the original setting for Rick and Ilsa and Sam in ‘Casablanca’. The Hollywood moguls felt that the word Casablanca was more mellifluous (Would you go to a movie called ‘Tangier?’). Our city sightseeing takes in the medina & the harbour.
A day in the souk for shopping and to visit the area where mosques, synagogues and churches rub shoulders happily. In the afternoon take a stroll along the sandy beach or the harbour-front or pay an art pilgrim’s visit to the ruins of the Grand Hotel Vila de France, loved and painted by Delacroix and Henri Matisse.
Granada [B] [D]
Our intercontinental journey takes 35 minutes today on our ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain. Spain’s rail system is amongst the best in Europe, and we take our first journey from Algeciras to Granada, the jewel of Andalusia.
Andalusia was under Moorish (Muslim) control from the 8th century until the expulsion of both Moors and Jews by the Christian monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.
Perhaps the greatest gift to the world from this period is the UNESCO listed Alhambra, with its inspiring Moorish architecture and beautiful squares, gardens and fountains. It is the focus of our city sightseeing today.
Today, we enjoy the magnificent Generalife Gardens. Then in the afternoon wander the timeless streets to absorb the unique history of Granada. The Gothic Catholic cathedral containing the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Grand Via and the Hospital Real should be included in your strolling.
Seville [B] [D]
We take the high speed ATR train today, and stop over for a visit to Cordoba on the way to Seville. Our city sightseeing includes the UNESCO listed historic centre of Cordoba. Later, our ATR delivers us to Seville.
A Moorish city, Seville was conquered by the Christian king Ferdinand III in 1248. The Moorish architecture still dominates the city. The two centuries following Columbus’ voyages were the Golden Age of Seville as all trade from the Americas passed through Seville. Buildings from this era - the cathedral and the Plaza de Espana - feature in today’s city sightseeing.
We visit the Islamic Alcazar Palace this morning, and the remainder of the day is free for shopping.
Madrid [B] [D]
The high speed AVE train takes us to Spain’s new (since 1561) capital, Madrid. Located in the borderlands between the historic enemies Aragon and Castille - joined with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella - Madrid was favoured by Philip II who moved his court here.
Our city sightseeing tour introduces us to historic palaces and glass skyscrapers, Real Madrid’s soccer stadium and an active bullfighting ring. It is a sprawling city of almost 7 million, a modern European capital.
One of the world’s great art galleries is the Prado in Madrid. Spain controlled Italy and the Netherlands long enough to gather a magnificent collection of Flemish and Italian Renaissance art.
Our high speed AVE train delivers us quickly to Spain’s second largest city Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. it was founded by the Romans, and has a proud spirit of independence from the rest of Spain. Catalan is the first language; Spanish the second.
This morning’s sightseeing begins with visits to the Mirador de Colon and the Placa Reial and winds up at Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Família cathedral.
Barcelona [B] [D]
Barcelona lends itself to aimless wandering and people watching, and La Rambla ranks with Paris’ Champs Elysees as the best place in Europe to do it. Later, take the funicular to the top of Montjuïc for a fine view of Barcelona and its harbor. Farewell Dinner tonight.
Our tour ends after breakfast this morning.
$AUD $13,950 per person Twin Share.
Single Room supplement $AUD 2000.
Cost includes 4 star hotels with buffet breakfasts, other meals as indicated, airport transfers, all entrances and sightseeing, tips for local guides.
DEPOSIT: $AUD 2,500 with booking, final payment 3 months before travel.
Also enquire about competitive and ‘early bird’ airfares.