Oases and palm groves ( 3 - 4 days)

kasbah ait bennhadou - Copy

This 3 day Morocco desert tour takes us over the Atlas Mountains and reaches Sahara's dunes by the second evening to return to Marrakech via a different route.

Our itinerary crosses the High Atlas at 2300 meters high, visits UNESCO world site Ait Benhaddou, the Kasbahs of the south, the Biblical adobe villages, serpents along mythical Draa Valley, stops by the oasis, walks through the palmgroves, deciphers century old Qoran's and Arab treaties, bakes emerald pottery at Tamegroute, uncovers honey- combed ksours, rides a camel into the Sahara, sleeps in the desert under the starriest sky, awes at the extravagant Pasha's residence - all highlights of a bespoke trip of Morocco.

Click here to see detailed map

DAY 1: Marrakech - Telouet - Ait Benhaddou - Agdz.

As the private tour of Morocco leaves Marrakech, the distant haze begins to resolve itself into a jagged mountain range - the High Atlas mountains, jutting abruptly from the plain. Our route follows the same one caravans used centuries ago, to bring into Marrakech slaves, gold and precious wood from the other side of the ocean of sand, the Sahara.

[... in the sands of that country is gold, treasure inexpressible. They have much gold and merchants trade with salt for it, taking the salt on camels from the salt mines. They start from a town called Sijilmasa... and travel in the desert as it were upon the sea, having guides to pilot them by the stars or rocks in the desert. ] ( Tohfut-ul- Alaby by anonymous author, 12th century)

Beautiful scenery and small villages built in tiers succeed among oak trees, walnut groves and snow patches as we brave the pass Tizi n Tichka pass at 2260 meters high. Scent of thyme fills the air. We then dwell into back roads, to shortly reach Telouet and former pasha's palace dominating the village, a fortified citadel that is both a microcosm of an empire and its demise. Pacha Glaoui had managed to overshadow the sultan by controlling most of nowadays Morocco and decided to erect a palace in the middle of nowhere, where his family had originated from. He had employed the most skilled artisans to build and decorate his main residence and, in its golden age, armies, stables and Christian slaves were confined within its walls while a flourishing Jewish community was managing the nearby salt mines. 

Leaving Telouet behind, our journey crosses spaghetti western backgrounds to then follow the canyon. The gardens by the river bed melt into colourful mosaic and decaying kasbahs stand witnesses of an age soon resolute. Late afternoon. Then it's the right time to visit UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou, the postcard- like adobe citadel. A fat, red sun, only underlines the beige tones of the mud- and- straw mixture and through the covered passages and stone walls, the past filters itself into the present. You will be offered guidance but the best is to just lose yourselves in its alleyways. There is always a new way to reach its peak, from where the snowcapped Atlas Mountains framed by the denim blue sky will steal your breath away. If the climb up hadn’t already... As we pass through Ouarzazate, we can stop and visit the famous film studios where recently scenes of Game of Thrones were shot. 

Soon after leaving Ouarzazate behind, the road climbs, twists and turns its way through dark orange calcified ridges, before breaking through the scarp at the pass of Tizi n'Tinififft and descend onto the lush palmgrove of Agdz. Right after the pass you catch a first glimpse of the valley and the oases, the green swath of palms snaking up into the haze bordered by the Kasbahs, adobe guardians rising as if from the earth where the green gives way to the desert. There is no road sign but somehow you become aware you have entered a different land, Le Grand Sud. Dinner and accommodation inside the palm grove. 

DAY 2: Agdz - Zagora - Tamegroute - Erg Lihoudi /Erg Chigaga.

Draa Valley , with its numerous oases, Biblical villages and kasbahs, used as overnight stops by the caravans until not too long ago is the beginning of the 'caravan highway' connecting for centuries Timbuktu, Gao and the kingdoms of Ghana and Mali to Barbary ( present day Morocco).

[As a result of the conquest of the states of the Sudan, the Sultan of Morocco received so much gold dust that envious men were all troubled. So from then on Al- Mansour only paid his officials in pure metal and in dinars of proper weight. At the gate of his palace 1400 smiths were daily engaged in making pieces of gold. This super abundance of gold earned the sultan the surname Adh - Dhahabi ( the Golden).] ( Al Iffrani- 'Histoire de la dynastie Saadiene au Maroc', 18th century).

Have a guided tour of the palm grove after breakfast. Then, cross over the palm grove and visit the Black People village, descendants of the Harratin, the black slaves from across the Sahara. Stroll around the eerie kasbah of Tamnougalt to then follow the route along Biblical villages all the way to Zagora. More ancient than Zagora is Amezrou, nearby. The important Jewish community had left behind the silver jewelry craft and the adobe synagogue. Later on, in Tamegroute, visit the library which hosts a fine collection of Qorans printed on gazelle hide and 12th century old works on mathematics, medicine and history. What makes Tamegroute famous though, is the typical green glaze cast inside the local earth ovens. Roof tiles, jars, dishes and pottery produced here are traded in souks from Tangier all the way to Agadir. The last stretch of the day will take us from Zagora to M'hamid, where the tarmac ends. The first dunes, Erg Lihoudi, are only a 30 minutes drive away. For those that want to experience the true desert, the more remote  dunes of Erg Chigaga await in the distance, a 2 hour off- road driving from Mhamid. As you approach the dunes, you will be met by our camel man and trade the 4x4 for camels to arrive at the desert camp by the time the sun dips onto the horizon. 

While the staff of the camp unloads your luggage and sets up your dinner, you climb onto the highest dune you can find. And lose yourself. Right now, there is nowhere else you would rather be. Have your dinner in front of your private tent, by the camp fire. At night, dazed by the millions of stars glittering above, the silence is so thick you feel you could cut a strip and wear it as a scarf, as you fall asleep.

DAY 3: Erg Chigaga - Foum Zguid - Tazenakht - Ait Benhaddou - Marrakech or Erg Lihoudi - Zagora - Ouarzazate - Marrakech.

Should you have missed the sunrise… well, try not to. After toddling across sand dunes, our trip reaches the perfectly flat Lake Iriki, nowadays completely dry, casting the fata morgana mirage... Later on, we will have tea with a family of nomads and search for fossils. Then, we take on the hamada, the much dreaded stony desert, to finally reach Foum Zguid. Farewell Sahara, hello tarmac. Have lunch by the pool at a local lodge or a casual snack in the village. On the way to Taroudant, we pass through Tazenakht, a carpet weaving center and center of Berber carpets trade. Later on, we complete the loop and get back to the route we left behind after visiting Ait Benhaddou on the first day ( if you can add an extra day or two to the itinerary, our Caravans Dust tour continues on to Taroudant and the Atlantic coast before returning to Marrakech. 

We will then start our way back crossing the High Atlas. Few people know it but this road was first laid out by the French Foreign Legion back when Ouarzazate was no more than a French army outpost. The journey serpents its way through the abrupt valleys and mountain peaks and our custom Morocco tour arrives in Marrakech late in the evening.

You may choose to follow the original tour itinerary as described on the website or have us create a tailor made itinerary around you. Please note that all our tours of Morocco are private and that stops are accommodated along the way as often as you desire, for you to visit a site, take a stunning photo or stretch your legs.

We believe our guests deserve to be spoiled and stay only at the best properties while on a customized tour of Morocco. We spend a great deal of time and effort to anonymously test and hand- pick the best boutique and luxury hotels, Riads , eco lodges and Kasbahs across Morocco. These select properties are constantly monitored and updated. Each one of them is inspired by and reflecting the culture, architecture and cuisine of its location. They do not fit into a rigorous star rating system, so we have named them Dreamers, Privilege and Divine, to best resume their nature. Once we receive an enquiry, we provide a day- to- day customized Moroccan itinerary with the names of the accommodations suggested at each overnight.

Please find below the resumed itinerary (driving times don't include stops):

Day 1: Marrakech-Telouet- Ait Benhaddou- Ouarzazate- Agdz ( 5 hour drive).
Day 2: Agdz- Zagora- Erg Lihoudi/ Erg Chigaga ( 4 hour drive)
Day 3: Erg Chigaga - Tamegroute- Ouarzazate- Marrakech ( 8 hour drive). 

Feel free to let us know if you would like to include a site/ activity of your own in the itinerary. If you don't know where to start some ideas are:

- visit the nomad grottos and Berber granary;
- visit a traditional ksour and have lunch inside a local family's home;
- pottery workshop class in Tamegroute;
- Moroccan cooking class with introduction to Medina's street food;
- traditional Moroccan hammam ( steam bath) with eucalyptus soap body scrub;
- trek in the High Atlas mountains.

Below you will find our rates based on two persons travelling together, with the relevant accommodation option:

Dreamers: 445 €/ 475 US $/ 385 £ per person ( double room & private desert tent);
Privilege: 645 €/ 710 US $/ 500 £ per person ( junior suite & luxury tent with en suite shower and toilet);
Divine: price available on request.

Pricing is tentative and can vary slightly at different times of the year. If you book your tour to take place in December, January ( outside end of the year holidays), February, July and August, you will be charged our low season rates. We can only quote an exact rate once we have agreed on the precise itinerary, accommodation option preferred, the extras you would like to include and the duration of the journey. Discounts apply when 3 or more persons share the vehicle(s). You can also choose to mix different accommodation ranges within the same circuit.

Our rates include:

- private use of the English fluent driver- guide & modern air- conditioned Toyota 4x4;
- boutique/ luxury hotel accommodation for 1 night;
- Sahara camel trek and private double tent for 1 night;
- 2 three- course- meal dinners and 2 breakfasts for 2 persons;
- airport or hotel pick- up and drop- off;
- private visit of the palm grove with local guide;
- refreshing drinks inside the vehicle all along the itinerary;
- local English speaking guides;
- admission fees to all local sites and attractions;
- 24 hour travel assistance ( with Privilege and Divine accommodation);
- gasoline and transport insurance;
- VAT and visitors tax. 

 

If you can add an extra day or two to the itinerary, our Caravans Dust tour continues on to Taroudant and the Atlantic coast before returning to Marrakech.

 

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Caravans Dust ( 4 - 6 days)

kasbah ait benhaddou

This 5 day private Morocco tour leaves Marrakech over the Atlas Mountains and reaches Sahara, returning via the Atlantic coast, packing in just 5 days more landscapes, activities and local traditions than any other similar length tour. 

The itinerary follows the old caravan  route from Marrakech into the Sahara's dunes, returning via an off the beaten track route over the majestic Atlas Mountains or by the Atlantic coast via Agadir or Essaouira.  No other tour packs so much diversity in just 5 days as we take in breath taking wild nature and the local culture of the Berber, Jewish and Bedouin people.  Our route will take us past valleys, canyons, palm groves, lakes, rivers, woodlands and mountains. We will explore mysterious Ksours and kasbahs, Berber granaries and grottoes, have tea with the nomads in the Sahara, walk in the shade of palm leaves, cross the Sahara desert, uncover 12the century old Tinmel mosque and shed off the desert sand on the Atlantic coast.

Click here to see detailed map

Day 1: Marrakech- Tizi n Tichka- Telouet- Ait Benhaddou ( 4 hour drive)

As our 5-day tour leaves Marrakech, the distant haze begins to resolve itself into a jagged mountain range - the High Atlas mountains, jutting abruptly from the plain. Our route follows the same one caravans used centuries ago, to bring into Marrakech slaves, gold and precious wood from the other side of the ocean of sand, Sahara.

[... in the sands of that country is gold, treasure inexpressible. They have much gold and merchants trade with salt for it, taking the salt on camels from the salt mines. They start from a town called Sijilmasa... and travel in the desert as it were upon the sea, having guides to pilot them by the stars or rocks in the desert. ] ( Tohfut-ul- Alaby by anonymous author, 12th century)

Beautiful scenery and small villages built in tiers succeed among oak trees, walnut groves and snow patches before arriving at the Tizi n Tichka pass, at 2100 meters high.  Once over the pass a totally different picture is unveiled: the lunar landscape of the Anti Atlas. Scent of thyme from the bushes around fills the air.

Just after the pass, the tour leaves the tarmac and goes off road to then reach Telouet and former pasha's palace dominating the village, a fortified citadel that is both a microcosm of an empire and its demise. Pacha Glaoui overshadowed the sultan by controlling most of nowadays Morocco and  decided to erect a palace in the middle of nowhere, where his family had originated from. He had employed the most skilled artisans to build and decorate his main residence and, in its golden age, armies, stables and Christian slaves were confined within its walls while a flourishing Jewish community was managing the nearby salt mines.

Leaving Telouet behind, our Moroccan itinerary crosses spaghetti western backgrounds to then follow the canyon. The gardens by the river bed melt into a gigantic green serpent imprisoned between the barren light brown walls of the canyon, only to escape out into the horizon. Here and there, decaying kasbahs stand witnesses of an age soon resolute. Late afternoon. The right time to visit UNESCO site of Ait Benhaddou, the postcard- like adobe citadel. A fat, red sun, only underlines the beige tones of the mud and straws mixture and through the covered passages and stone walls, the past filters itself into the present. In spite of the local ‘guides’, the best is to just lose yourselves in its alleyways. There is always a new way to reach its peak, from where the snowcapped Atlas Mountains framed by the denim blue sky will steal your breath away. If the climb up hadn’t already. Dinner and accommodation next to Ait Benhaddou. 

Day 2: Ait Benhaddou- Ouarzazate- Agdz- Zagora ( 3 hour drive)

After breakfast, our trip crosses Ouarzazate, made famous by its film studios where scenes of 'Game of Thrones' and 'Gladiator' were shot. As we leave Ouarzazate behind, the road skirts through desolate arid landscapes.  Soon after, the road climbs, twists and turns its way up into the bare dark brown mountains, before breaking through the scarp at the pass of Tizi n'Tinififft and descend onto the lush palmgrove of Agdz. Right after the pass you catch a first glimpse of the valley and the oases, the green swath of palms snaking up into the haze bordered by the Kasbahs, adobe guardians rising as if from the earth where the green gives way to the desert. There is no road sign but somehow you become aware you have entered a different land, Le Grand Sud.

Draa Valley, with its numerous oases, Biblical adobe villages and kasbahs, used as overnight stops by the caravans until not too long ago is the beginning of the 'caravan highway' connecting for centuries Timbuktu, Gao and the kingdoms of Ghana and Mali to Morocco. 

[Until the beginning of the 17th century the Taghaza- Timbuktu road, pre- eminent in the gold trade and still more important as a cultural highway appears to have been the greatest of the routes across the desert. At any rate, up to the 1880's the Saharan trade was a factor of considerable importance in the economy of Morocco] ( E.W. Bovill - The Golden Trade of the Moors)

We will stop at Tamnougalt and roam through the eerie kasbah before crossing over the palm grove and stopping to see a small untouched community of Harratin, likely descendants from traded slaves. Further on, you can also admire megalithic rock paintings depicting animals and hunting scenes. Our itinerary today concludes with reaching the tranquil town of Zagora. A mock serious road sign spelling 'Timbuktu – 52 days by camel' still greets the visitors. Even though some guide books and travel agents want to have you believe the desert starts here, the Sahara and its saffron dunes are waiting patiently in the distance, the first real dunes a 2 hour drive away. We will stop for accommodation and dinner in a beautiful guest house nested in the palmgrove nearby.

Day 3: Zagora- Tamegroute- Mhamid- Erg Chigaga ( 3 hour drive).

In the shade of an ocean of palm trees, locals get the best out of their fertile land as olives, pumpkins, quinces, apples, pomegranate, wheat  and barley all grow aroused by the ancestral system of irrigation. We more than recommend a guided tour of this unique habitat. The nearby village of Amezrou, carries on the Jewish tradition of silver crafting and the local adobe Jewish synagogue still stands. We will stop for a break in Tamegroute where century old Qorans and Arab treaties on astronomy and sciences are neatly arranged behind glass windows at the local library.  The same village carries a pottery tradition known throughout Morocco and it is of interest to witness the shaping and baking of the emerald pots and dishes inside traditional earth ovens. Crossing Jbel Bani, we wave hello to Mount Tagine on our right and, before long, we reach M’hammid, where the tarmac ends - the last village before the Sahara. 

The next two hours of our tour make full use of the four wheel drive as rocky desert gives way to gravel and then sand dunes, past the occasional water well and oasis. The anticipation built doesn’t quite prepare you for the spectacle ahead of you: sleepy yet shifting leviathans of sand as far as the sight can stretch, dotted by the occasional desert camp. These are the dunes of Erg Chigaga. Here, we can arrange for you to be met and taken by camel ride to the camp for the last bit of the way. While the staff of the camp is unloading your luggage and preparing your dinner, you climb onto the highest dune you can find. And lose yourself. As the sun slowly sets over the dunes, there is nowhere else you would rather be. At night, dazed by the millions of stars glittering above, the silence is so thick you feel you could cut a strip and wear it as a scarf as you fall asleep. Dinner and accommodation in a private tent.

Day 4: Erg Chigaga- Foum Zguid- Tazenakht- Taroudant ( 7 hour drive).

(If you have an extra day at hand, it is worth spending an extra night in Tata inside a 500 year old noble house to then reach Taroudant on the evening of the next day following one of the most dramatic and off the beaten track roads in Morocco).

Should you have missed the sunrise… well, try not to. If yesterday was about getting away from civilization, today is about getting back to it. After toddling across sand dunes, our trip reaches the perfectly flat Lake Iriki, nowadays completely dry, where the Draa river used to form its estuary. Later on, we will have tea with a family of nomads and search for fossils. Then, we take on the hamada, the much dreaded stony desert, to finally reach Foum Zguid. Farewell Sahara, hello tarmac. On the way to Taroudant, we pass through Tazenakht, a carpet weaving center and center of Berber carpets trade and then Taliouine with its magnificent Kasbah. This is also where the best saffron is grown throughout Morocco.

Arriving in Taroudant, there is hardly anything more relaxing after the desert trip than a plunge in the refreshing pool and/ or ridding off the sand inside the in- house hammam ( steam bath) at the local guest house. As the lights start to twinkle, in the gardens the scent of jasmine perfumes the air while dinner is set. Dinner and accommodation inside the medina of Taroudant or in the palm grove nearby.

Day 5: Taroudant- Tizi n Test- Tinmel- Asni- Marrakech or Taroudant- Agadir- Marrakech ( 4- 5 hour drive).

Taroudant lies in the middle of a fertile agricultural plain that crashes into the foothills of the Anti Atlas while nudging the Sahara in the south. Also called sometimes ‘Petit Marrakech’ due to its similar looking walled old town, it is in fact older than its northern sister. Its walls were built by the Saadi sultans back in 16th century when the city was their capital and the main base to attack Portuguese invaders on the nearby Atlantic coast. In this quiet town where most folks go around on their bycicle, hop on a caleche and have a tour around the city walls or wander the souks best known for silver, honey and argan oil and imagine how Marrakech used to be 30 years ago. 

Back on the road we are now taking up the imposing High Atlas this time reaching the Tizi n Test pass at 2100 meters, surrounded by snowy peaks. After the pass, our Moroccan itinerary serpents its way through the mountains and scattered Berber villages. At first sight just another Berber village, Tinmel is the birth place of the Almohad dynasty, who was to rise and shape a great empire in the 12th century stretching from Senegal all the way into Spain and Algeria. The open air mosque was built on the model of the mosque in Cordoba and the remains are worth a visit. Later, as you cross Asni, to your right you can wave hello to Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in Nothern Africa and have a late lunch at Richard Branson's nearby Kasbah Tamadot.

If you prefer, you can also return to Marrakech via the highway from Agadir, after having enjoyed some time on the beach just north of Agadir. The beaches around up- and- comingTaghazout are embraced by a warm sea current, local restaurants offer inventive fresh fish cuisine and you can swim in the Atlantic most of the year. Agadir is only a 1 hour drive from Taroudant and 3 hours on the highway to Marrakech. Arrive in Marrakech in the evening. Drop off at your riad/ hotel for the night, the train station or the airport. End of the tour.  

You may choose to follow the original tour itinerary as described on the website or have us create a customized Moroccan itinerary around you. Please note that all our tours of Morocco are private and that stops are accommodated along the way as often as you desire, for you to visit a site, take a stunning photo or stretch your legs. 

We believe our guests deserve to be spoiled and stay only at the best properties while on a customized tour of Morocco. We spend a great deal of time and effort to anonymously test and hand- pick the best boutique and luxury hotels, Riads , eco lodges and Kasbahs across Morocco. These select properties are constantly monitored and updated. Each one of them is inspired by and reflecting the culture, architecture and cuisine of its location. They do not fit into a rigorous star rating system, so we have named them Dreamers, Privilege and Divine, to best resume their nature. A day- to- day customized Moroccan itinerary with the names of the accommodations suggested at each overnight will be provided at the time of the enquiry.

Please find below the resumed itinerary ( driving times exclude stops ):

Day 1: Marrakech - Tizi n Tichka - Telouet - Ait Benhaddou (4 hour drive).
Day 2: Ait Benhaddou- Ouarzazate - Agdz - Zagora ( 3 hour drive).
Day 3: Zagora - Tamegroute - Mhamid - Erg Chigaga dunes ( 3 hour drive).
Day 4: Erg Chigaga - Lake Iriki - Foum Zguid - Tazenakht - Taroudant ( 7 hour drive).
Day 5: Taroudant - Tizi n Test - Tinmel - Asni - Marrakech ( 5 hour drive) or Taroudant - Agadir - Marrakech/ Essaouira ( 4 hour drive). 

Feel free to let us know if you would like to include a site/ activity of your own in the itinerary. If you don't know where to start some ideas may be:

- organic honey tasting experience;
- visit the nomad grottos;
- Moroccan cooking class with introduction to Medina's street food;
- be introduced to the architectural wonders of the Anti Atlas granaries;
- take a class in Moroccan pottery;
- trekking/ mountain biking in the High Atlas/ Anti Atlas;
- learn about life in the palm grove, the khetarra irrigations, the pottery craft, the olive oil press;
- bake bread with the village ladies on almond corks.

Below you will find our rates based on two persons travelling together, with the relevant accommodation option:

Dreamers: 695 €/ 745 US $/ 600 £ per person (double room and basic tent);
Privilege: 1090 €/ 1170 US $ / 940 £ per person (double junior suite & luxury tent with en suite shower and toilet);
Divine: rates are available on request.

Pricing is tentative and can vary slightly at different times of the year. If you book your tour to take place in December, January ( outside end of the year holidays), February, July and August, you will be charged our low season rates. We can only quote an exact rate once we have agreed on the precise itinerary, accommodation option preferred, the extras you would like to include and the duration of the journey. Discounts apply when 3 or more persons share the vehicle(s). You can also choose to mix different accommodation ranges within the same circuit.

Our rates include:

- private use of the English fluent driver-guide and modern air-conditioned Toyota 4x4;
- boutique/ luxury hotel accommodation for 3 nights;
- Sahara camel trek & private basic/ luxury tent for 1 night;
- 4 three- course- meal dinners and 4 breakfasts for 2 persons;
- airport or hotel pick- up and drop off;
- caleche ride and/ or visit to the souks in Taroudant;
- refreshing drinks inside the vehicle all along the itinerary;
- admission fees to all local sites and attractions;
- 24 hours travel assistance ( with Privilege/ Divine option);
- gasoline and highway tolls;
- transport insurance, VAT and visitors tax.

Most of our guests prefer adding an extra day to either allow for some relaxing time by the beach in Essaouira or trekking in the Atlas Mountains. We can also break the distance in two on Day 4 if you think the drive is too long.

 

 

 

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Sun Trails

14 Avenue Hassan Seghir

Casablanca 20000

Phone : +212 638 636 719/ +212 666 915 384

Skype: sun_trails_morocco

We are open 7 days a week from 9 AM to 5 PM local Morocco time. For any last minute enquiry feel free to call us on the number(s) listed above.

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Boutique tours of Morocco

What better place than Morocco for a private tailor made tour ? It can be a day trip from Marrakech into the Atlas Mountains. Or a 14 day private luxury Morocco tour. And everything in between. With such a different culture and language, a boutique 4x4 Morocco tour with an English speaking local driver- guide guarantees the best holidays in Morocco. Choose one of the many 4x4 tours from Marrakech or another imperial city and you will discover the off the beaten track Morocco. Much more than excursions from Marrakech or Morocco desert tours, our 4x4 custom tours travel all across Morocco, covering Berber villages, majestic Kasbahs, enchanting palm groves or Touareg desert camps. From Ait Benhaddou to Chefchaouen, from Erg Chebbi to Taroudant and from camel rides in the Sahara to hardcore trekking Morocco can only offer. Browse among our 4x4 boutique tours of Morocco and book your favorite today !