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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. Outside the red or ochre walls which give the city its nickname ‘the ochre city’, there is a modern Western city with boulevards echoing the period of French control of Morocco.
Then we explore 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 day trip through olive and Argan groves today to the Atlantic coast and the harbour town of Essaouira, with its 17th century Portuguese fort. The old medina is a UNESCO listed world heritage site.
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 Marrakech through the fertile coastal farmland, the vineyards and orchards of 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. 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 and the harbour.
A visit today to one of Morocco’s true gems: the blue city of Chefchaoeun, a Berber stronghold high in the Rif Mountains, founded by Moorish exiles from Spain in the 1490’s. Enjoy lunch or coffee in the tranquil main square. Back to Tangier this evening.
Seville [B] [D]
Our intercontinental journey takes 35 minutes today on our ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Spain. We arrive in the historic city of Seville (probably the setting for more operas than any other city).
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.
Granada [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, shaped successively by the Romans, Arabs, Jews and Christians. The Moorish Catholic cathedral was formerly, and obviously, a mosque until the expulsion of the Moors in 1492. Later, our ATR delivers us to Seville.
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.
Madrid [B] [D]
As our luggage is taken on ahead, 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 15,950 per person Twin Share.
Single Room supplement $AUD 2,500.
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.
The tour will be fully escorted from Australia by the Tour Director, Mr Stan Klan of Toowoomba, Qld, a published Australian historian and the Principal of Great Trains of Europe Tours. Stan has more than 30 years’ experience in history teaching and tour guiding.