Icons of Sahara: An Immersive Luxury Tour to Egypt and Morocco

A 13 day trip to Egypt & Morocco 
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Morocco and Egypt, countries separated by the Sahara, bring a colorful history of civilizations of elegance and enchantment. One is bustling and bright, created by the artisans and arouse every single one of your senses. The other is desolate and imposing, ancient relics a majestic showcase of power and early mastery. Their legacies may lay in different eras, but Egypt and Morocco both celebrate the diaphanous beauty of desert civilization and this handcrafted luxury tour to Egypt and Morocco will explore the best of it all.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Casablanca, Hassan II Mosque, Rabat, Volubilis, Meknes, Fes, Medieval Medina, Nejjarine, Ifrane, Azrou, Marrakech, Koutoubia Mosque, Bahia Palace, Menara Gardens, Cairo, Giza, Pyramids of Giza, ancient Memphis, Saqqara Pyramid, Solar Boat, Great Sphinx of Giza, Aswan, River Nile, Philae Temple, Aswan High Dam, Kom Ombo Temple, Edfu Temple, Luxor, Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut Temple, Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Casablanca to Rabat – Beauty and Boutique Styles

The Casablanca Corniche glistens in the morning light, a window onto the oceanfront on the very west of the Sahara. One of the world’s largest mosques is nearby, its compass point the 220-meter minaret that stands proudly above the city. Take a look inside, admiring the calligraphy and harmony of design and enjoying the tranquility of the style. After landing in Casablanca, you will take a quick tour of these two sites, perhaps fueled by the thick local coffee before the one-hour drive to Rabat, the first of Morocco’s imperial cities you will visit. Well worth the extra drive, Rabat is abounding with boutique alleyways and the legacy left by the artisans. Check in and relax, the rest of the day at your leisure in this blissful little city.  

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour, dinner

Day 2: Meknes to Fes – Morocco’s Sublime Artisanal Cities

Each of the imperial cities has its own color usually revealed through the sloping tiled roofs and decoration that lines the whitewashed mosques. Each of them also promotes the work of artisans, not applying any taxes to local products and crafters, while heavily taxing outside goods and designs. So a beautifully carved ornamental ceiling in Rabat looks different to a ceiling in Meknes and Fes, both in color and design. Likewise, the calligraphy on the side of a mosque has a contrasting hue in each of the cities. Such an approach means that around 15% of the cities’ populations are in the artisan trade, from creating mosaics to embroidering leather, laying wood to designing windows.

Spend the morning in the maze-like lanes of Meknes, admiring the contrasts of design and the fabulous doors that stand out on streets barely wide enough for a donkey. Take lunch here on a cobbled main square that looks out onto the decaying remains of a palace, before stopping off at the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Arriving in nearby Fes, you will notice that the color is blue, symbolizing the water and the sky, two integral parts of desert life. The rest of the day is at your leisure, and the classic experience is to sip tea on one of the rooftops, absorbing the urban soundtrack that floats up from the maze of lanes.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Fes – Imperial Delights of the World’s Largest Walled City

Founded in 790 AD, Fes is an epic portrayal of lifestyle unchanged. Start by understanding the scale by driving up and into the hills surrounding the town and looking down on the extent of the world’s largest walled city. Once inside the maze, it almost always feels like you are lost with every narrow street looking the same at first glance, nothing ever straight. The guide knows where to go, and you will explore the highlights of the medieval Medina, ending in the small neighborhood of Nejjarine, where a magnificent fountain is your cue for a meze lunch characterized by all the typical Moroccan flavors: hummus, cinnamon, couscous, ginger, saffron and more. The afternoon and evening are at your leisure as Morocco is a surprisingly relaxed country and the more time you take, the more you uncover.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 4: Fes – Crafts and Cultures in the Labyrinthine Souks

While the imperial cities hold a dozen centuries of history, they are continually kept up to date by the artisans. Time does not stand still, and crafts certainly change, but across all four of the cities, the design is based on the idea that there is no substitute for handmade quality. Spend today with artisans, from those that create fragrant spice mixes to those that paint intricate henna. Follow the scent of cedar wood to wood carvers, then take an in-depth private tour of the tannery, the smell of leather growing stronger. Colors are everywhere, and sounds compel you to keep exploring, while on this day tour there is always another opportunity to share a glass of tea with someone you have just met.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 5: Marrakech – Immersed in the Atlas Mountains and Berber Lifestyles

A spine of mountains rises ruggedly from the desert, the peaks glistening with snow throughout the winter months. Following a winding mountain road, you will explore this calming wilderness as the vistas extend towards sand dunes out on the horizon. This is the land of the Berbers, and you will stop at two delightful little villages.  In the first, you will be invited into a home for lunch, and then you will stop at a handicrafts cooperative in the other. Continue your drive and traverse the trees of the mid-Atlas range, arriving in Marrakech for a relaxed evening. Your guide will point out a wonderful little cafe terrace for watching the sunset, two stories above the snake charmers and traditional musicians that work the main square.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 6: Marrakech – The Dazzling Sights and Sounds of the Pearl of the South

The Koutoubia Minaret reflects the morning sun, a symbol of Marrakech from which a hauntingly beautiful call to prayer rings out. It is the only building in the old city permitted to rise above the height of a palm tree, something that means Marrakech has lots of staggeringly tall palms amongst a wide urban labyrinth that is almost impossible to navigate. Hiding amongst the souks and sounds are sublime gardens, important tombs, astonishing palaces and Islamic schools holding seven centuries of history. This is the red city, paint made from local clay, the colors faded to a rosy tint beneath the relentless desert sun. You will spend the whole day discovering its highlights, and like always, there is lots of time to stop, rest, drink a sweet glass of tea and converse with strangers.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 7: Marrakech – Hot Air Balloon Ride Above the Desert and Moroccan Cooking Class

Only from the air can you make out the enormity of old Marrakech as the red roof tiles stand above endless swathes of clay brick and tightly-packed souks. You can also admire how the city has conquered the Sahara with so many green gardens opening out from the maze. From your hot air balloon, you can also view the colors of the desert and how it sparkles through red and yellow and orange. Your morning ride is followed by a private cooking class with the chef taking you first to the market for an understanding of the spices, and then showing you the fundamentals of Moroccan delicacies which are known across the world. Later in the day, a guide will help you to navigate Djemaa el Fna, a square that bustles with acrobats, story tellers, musicians and an exotic caravan of life from the Saharan middle ages.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Marrakech to Cairo via Casablanca – Pyramids on the Other Side of the Northern Sahara

The daily flights from Casablanca to Cairo take just under five hours, and you will cross the entirety of the Sahara Desert from west to east. Earlier in the day, it is a 45-minute flight to Casablanca from Marrakech. Touch down after this day of travel, and you will be transferred to a hotel that is barely a mile from the ancient wonder of the world. Although it will be past dusk, the Great Pyramids of Giza are lit by spotlights in the evening, providing a mesmeric view from the hotel rooftop. Immediately, you will sense the change in atmosphere between the countries. The cities of Morocco are low and widely spread, enveloping you with the subtleties of their sounds and smells while the monuments of Egypt are towering and imposing, showcasing the dramatic grandeur of both scale and design.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic and international flights, airport transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Cairo – Exploring Ancient Memphis and the Legacy of the Pyramids

Pass the Great Sphinx of Giza, afforded such space as it rises like a phantom from the sand. Wander towards the pyramids and admire the simplicity of the design with such seductive construction that looms large, and when you stand at the base, their engineering seems impossible. As the Saharan sun reflects off the façade, you will enter the Grand Pyramid, exploring the epic size from the inside. Nearby, the smaller Mankaure Pyramid provides a more detailed insight into the myths and beliefs of the old kings, so much detail etched into the stone.

These pyramids are far from the only iconic sites that dot the desert on the outskirts of Cairo. Ancient Memphis stretches for 15 kilometers, and you will find the crumbling remains of temples and tombs, leftovers forever changed by the roaring Sahara winds. Among them is Saqqara, the first of the pyramids, edges rounded as the structure slowly returns to what it was before: Saharan rock and dust. It will be a full day of touring to get around these sights, but you will have a few quiet hours back at the hotel before a traditional dinner at a Bedouin restaurant.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Aswan – Seductive Temple of Philae and Sailing the Nile River

Fly one hour south, and the definition of oasis surrounds you with gardens and green groves rising on the banks of the River Nile. Aswan is peaceful and pristine, merging desert culture with an Arabic influence from further afield. Time moves slowly here, and nothing is ever rushed, certainly not an afternoon felucca sailboat cruise on the river. Earlier in the day, you will be introduced to Aswan by visiting Philae, a dramatic rock-cut temple that had to be rescued from the flooding created by Aswan. Explore the old part of the city, stopping for lunch and coffee on the banks of the river, and then set sail throughout the afternoon with flourishing island gardens among the potential places you can stop.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, airport transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: River Nile – A Relaxed Luxury Cruise, Stopping at Majestic Temples

It is your luxury Nile cruise that ensures your ambitious itinerary to Morocco and Egypt stays relaxed. After ten days spent exploring with your senses taking in so many new impulses, there is an unusual calm to cruising down the River Nile. Desert landscapes are admired from your private balcony with sand dunes and oases dotting the journey. When the boat docks, the sights are majestic, like the Kom Ombo Temple and a collection of mummified crocodiles, or a horse and carriage that takes you to the inspiring remains of Edfu Temple. This is the Nile cruise experience, serenity mixed with the sublime legacy of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Luxor – Tombs and Temples of the Valley of the Kings

As you cruise into Luxor, you will glimpse the astonishing columns and temples found in the world’s great open-air museum. Disembark in the morning, and 64 tombs await with the Valley of the Kings carved into the rock on Luxor’s West Bank. Around ten of them are open to visitors, the fame and glory of restored Ramses IV’s tomb matched by the nuanced design and musty smells of lesser-known kings. Enter one tomb, and then keep descending to another, where King Tut was once buried beneath it all. With its sculpted porticos, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple stretches over three floors, a stylish alternative to the more rugged styles of the kings. It will take a full day to really experience it all, completed by the staggering Colossi of Memnon, a symbol of Ancient Egypt’s power. Spend the night on the same Nile vessel, docked on the edge of Luxor.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Luxor to Cairo – Astonishing Sights of Luxor’s East Bank and Departure

Dozens of carved stone sphinxes surround you as hundreds of columns rise far above your head, topped off with intricate hieroglyphics and strange sculpted depictions of the gods. A temple complex opens out, and the detail is mesmerizing with the world’s largest ancient religious site requiring at least two hours of your time. You will be on Luxor’s East Bank, where the temples of Luxor and Karnak write a poignant epilogue to the last 13 days, so full of beauty yet so ineffable until you experience them first hand. After lunch, you will have use of a local hotel for freshening up before your flight back to Cairo, where you transfer onto a homebound flight. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, domestic flight, airport transfer, breakfast, lunch

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.