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Imperial Cities and Desert MR

Visiting: Morocco
Tour Duration 15 Days
Reviews for Imperial Cities and Desert 5 out of 5 based on 21 ratings.

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Tour notes

Each departure date has it's own dedicated tour note, detailing all you need to know about that tour. Whether you've already booked, or weighing up your options, please choose carefully the relevant itinerary for you.

We have the following different versions of the Imperial Cities and Desert tour available at present.

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4.5 Jeanie, 15/05/15

Please review your overall experience and what your highlights were

Visit to medina in Fes with local guide Little Mo who had us laughing all the way and visit to the village house with incredible view of the Atlas mountains.

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5 Veraine Mews, 12/12/14

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

Meeting a family from the nomadic Bedouin Tribe in the Toudra Gorge and being invited into their dwelling (a small cave hewed into the mountain side, that one must crouch down to enter). Such warm hospitality was shown, with the patriarch making and serving us 'Maghrebi' a traditional Sweet Mint Tea. Afterwards, I felt privileged to sit with his two sons in their make-shift 'goat hair' tent while they happily munched on biscuits we'd bought up for them. Although we didn't speak the same language we enjoyed just 'being' together.

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5 Sarah Crisp, 10/07/14

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

The train journey from Casablanca to Meknes via Rabat, especially the latter section.Seeing the iconic images of the famous tanneries of Fez. The camel ride to the desert camp and sleeping under the stars.

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5 Vanessa, 10/04/14

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

Hard to choose ONE from so many memorable experiences, to be honest, but one of the best was wandering around the ancient medina of Fez; it was easy to imagine that many aspects of life in Morocco had changed little over hundreds of years and to see the artisans and craftsmen working in traditional ways.

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3.5 , 06/01/14


David S

Tour Name

Imperial Cities and Desert

Tour Code


What Was The Highlight Or Most Memorable Moment Of Your Tour

The highlights were the stunning cities of Rabat, Meknes, Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira along with the smaller places of Ait Benhaddou and Rissani near Erfoud. Rabat was a nice introduction to the country and it is a great shame that there is no time (with the group flight) to explore Casablanca. On the downside were the late arriving time at Ait Benhaddou (sadly leaving merely about one hour to explore the place before darkness), a pointless visit to Imlil after a very long drive again to have one hour of daylight for a short walk about this village, and the poor hotels in Imlil (freezing cold in the dining room) and in Essaouira where (incredibly) had we wanted a 2nd cup of coffee at breakfast, we had to pay for it. Nice location in Essaouira, but lousy attitude by the hoteliers.

Tour Leader Name


How Was Your Explore Tour Leader

Ali proved to be an effective tour leader, which is needed on a tour like this where retail therapy opportunities can distract several of group and the many photo opportunities can distract others. So shepherding skills are needed to keep tabs on all the group members. Settling into the hotels and managing the daily routine were efficiently carried out. Ali had a very good working knowledge of English as well as keen sense of humour. He had a regular driver who was very competent and friendly. Throughout the tour we had a number of local guides and although they were very good in general, the best ones we had were in Meknes and Rissani. Those who went by camel to the desert camp were entertained by the musical skills of Ali and the driver (along with the drivers of another tour!).

What Tips Would You Give To Someone Else Booking This Tour

In the medinas, beware of the ‘medina juice’ flowing on the floor – wear trainers. Many Moroccans do not like to see a camera raised in their general direction. This was particularly noticeable in Essaouira where the older generation would raise pieces of cardboard in front of their faces and the younger generation would use a combination of screams (NO PHOTO!) and profanities. Even with asking only one person allowed a photo (in exchange for money – of course!). In the winter months you will need warm clothing because as soon as the sun goes down, the temperature drops significantly. For those who have a need for retail therapy, an expandable bag is an essential. I believe haggling and bartering are the skills required here.

Do You Have Anything Else To Add

Breakfasts in the hotels were basic as were the rooms, but most of the hotels are ripe for refurbishment. WiFi was available in all hotels, but for most, only in the reception area – oddly, in Fez, the WiFi area was at the very back of the hotel. Morocco is not a cheap country; often prices were similar to the UK. ATMs - plentiful in all towns but they can quickly run out of money. Many restaurants do not serve alcohol, but several will allow wine to be taken in by customers. In winter months the hotel swimming pools are either empty or a little chilly for that early morning dip! Only 2 optionals on this trip, both of which are worthwhile. Royal Air Maroc appears very low in my list of favoured airlines – the outbound flight was delayed by the very slow boarding procedure; food was poor

5 , 12/09/13


Patricia Mackey

Tour Code


What Was The Highlight Or Most Memorable Moment Of Your Tour

Fez was an amazing city and when I look back at my photos I can't believe all the sites we managed to fit in. Walking though the Medina, looking down on the tanneries and sipping mint tea in a rug shop all made it feel like we were gaining an authentic Moroccan experience

Tour Leader Name


How Was Your Explore Tour Leader

Aziz was fantastic. He was enthusiastic about his country as well as knowledgeable. He provided us with the right amount of information to let us understand the Moroccan customs without bombarding us with too much data.

What Tips Would You Give To Someone Else Booking This Tour

I went in August and some times it was hot! Wear a hat and don't get dehydrated! Also if you are going to sleep in the desert while the Sahara be prepared to try and sleep in a sand storm while listening to camels fart.

Do You Have Anything Else To Add

Great pre-tour information provided by Explore. The only negative comment was regarding the flight. We booked both our land and flights with Explore but because we flew out the day before the start of the trip we were classed as only having booked a land only package. This meant that we weren't on the group flight from Marrakech on the way back. For some reason had been put on a really early departure from Marrakech to Casablanca meaning we had a five hour wait in Casablanca before getting the same flight as the rest of the group (who were put on a later flight from Marrakech) to London.

5 , 15/08/13



What Was The Highlight Or Most Memorable Moment Of Your Tour

Too many to mention, the camel trek across the Sahara and sleeping under the stars in a Berber camp. The few hours we wandered the Fez Medina culminating in the magnificent Tannery ( I even bought some bright yellow slippers). The shear contrast from the Mediterranean north to the Sahara in the south. Breathtaking.

How Was Your Explore Tour Leader

Mohammed has to be tour guide of the year for me he was simply outstanding - with a group of 7 Australians, 1 American and us 4 Brits he had his hands full but more than managed. His knowledge and enthusiasm made him a joy to travel with buy the end of our holiday he had us all shouting together 'Don't just travel, Explore!

What Tips Would You Give To Someone Else Booking This Tour

Pack light as you will just want to spend spend spend! Buy you gifts before you travel to Marrakesh as they are cheaper and the shopkeepers less hostile ( lol). A good pair of walking shoes for the gorge are 100% needed. The rest in the words of our tour leader 'Don't just travel! EXPLORE!!!

5 Suzanne, 07/03/13

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

Aziz helped me make a Moroccan snowman using the snow we brought down in my cashmere shawl from the Atlas Mountains in Imlil. Very fun for a homesick Canadian, although the Brits were giving me some evils...

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5 Julian Simmonds, 01/02/13

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

The rich green farm land in the North, the Desert Camp and Camel ride, Todra Gorge and having Lunch in the Fish Market in Essaouira.

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5 Branwen, 09/11/12

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

The highlight would have to be the camel trek into the desert, whcih was an amazing experience.

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5 John George, 18/06/12

What was the highlight or most memorable moment of your tour?

The hotel bar at Meknes

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0 R & P, 14/06/11
An excellent tour; highly recommended. If possible arrive early enough to have time in Casablanca before the tour starts. We had 3 great days in Casablanca by ourselves (recommend the Hotel Amoud) before joining Explore. The Explore accommodations were good for a "budget" tour; had two "iffy" places but we changed rooms. Be prepared for gastro problems; most of our group came down with something. Although antibiotics can be purchased at Pharmacies in Morocco, we would recommend that you take some along with. Don't let this warning put you off taking the trip, just be prepared! Highlights were many: The Todra Gorge hike, the camel ride/Berber tent camp (excellent), Volubilis ruins, the granaries/stables at Meknes. the souks of Fes and Marrakech, wonderful Essaouira. The 4 wheel drive desert trip (optional) was OK but you don't really take on any sizeable dunes (as we had expected). The Explore leader Ali was excellent and the many local guides added that "local flavour" and knowledge to our experiences. Be prepared for a "busy" tour; fitting as much as possible into the day. Loved it! (MR - 27th March 2011)
0 Gina, 17/05/11
An amazing tour which covered so many aspects of Morocco.  The train trip was brilliant and very relaxed.  We were lucky in having lovely weather with only one morning of rain which didn't affect us at all.   However by the time we arrived in Marrakesch it was 42 degrees and very uncomfortable on the walking tour in the afternoon.   If you don't like too much heat then think carefully what time of year to visit.   When I was downloading my photographs it really made me stop and think how much we had seen and experienced.   Ali our guide was lovely and so helpful and knowledgable.   Some of the hotels could do with some refurbishment, particularly the one in Marrakesch.   The hotel in Essaouira was in a brilliant location but shame it didn't have a cool garden to escape the heat.  However, because we didn't stay anywhere very long it wasn't too much of a problem.   All in all a beautiful country with some amazing sights and sounds.  My highlight was the 4x4 desert drive in a Landrover, just brilliant.   My downside was 60% of the group, inluding me, suffered with a gastric problem at one time or another so do be really really careful with hygiene, etc, we all thought we had been, but still got caught out.   Did not spoil the trip.   Would thoroughly recommend but saddened to hear of the explosion in Marrakesch which will probably put some people off travelling to Morocco. (MR - 27th March 2011)
0 H, 11/02/11
Great overview of the entire Country. We saw the main cities, smaller towns & Desert. Being an adventuresome traveller, I thought this was a slow, too relaxed trip.  But everyone else seemed to be happy. I think that since its such an easy, quick flight from UK, many on this tour are happy to just relax and see whatever the guide tells them.  My favorite meals were ones that I did on my own, although most of the group meals were very delicious, but more touristy than I might have liked.  It was a great way to see the main sites of Morocco, but if you want get a bit off the beaten path, you will have to ditch the group. I skipped out on many of the organized visits to shops, which occured daily.  But Fes, Marrakesh, Ait ben Haddou, & Essouira, are amazing places, as were all the other stops in between. (MR - 23rd October 2010)
0 Jane and Martin Eshelby, 01/12/10

There were so many highlights on our trip to Morocco and so much to do and take in. It was a great experience with a good group of fellow travellers. What ever our guide Ali suggested, we all said “yes”. He was an excellent guide with a great sense of humour and kept the show on the road without any hitches. We were impressed with our bus driver and his assistant as we travelled 2,600km over the two weeks.

We had lovely weather without a cloud in the sky, which enabled us to see all the sights in their full glory. Stunning sun sets in the desert at Merzouga and from the fortified Berber village restored by UNESCO at Ait Benhaddou. We loved the food and Ali arranged a first EXPLORE visit to a Berber family house for a lunch of beef and vegetable tajines with whey as an accompaniment. We really enjoyed our free day in Essaouira spending nearly all morning watching the fishing boats and fish being landed and loaded into lorries with local ladies carrying baskets to gather up the fish that escaped the fish boxes. (MR - 24th October 2010)

0 Jennifer Martin, 18/11/10

Trip highlights were the camel ride to watch the sunset (very uncomfortable and a bit scary but magical and serene at the same time!) and the option of camping out in a Berber-style tent in the desert where we enjoyed local singing accompanied by a variety of drums (including our guide who had a hidden talent!) by the campfire and watched shooting stars in the night sky.

Watching the fishermen land their catches in the port of Essaouira (and smelling how fresh it was!) and then eating the best seafood in Morocco was another great experience.  Unexpectedly on arrival in Casablanca we had 3 days of torrential rain (the guidebooks didn't mention that!) - it felt at bit like home from home and not what you expect in a desert country!

This trip was a great way to experience a culture that was completely different to my own.  I only wish I'd brushed up on my French prior to departure as I hadn't appreciated that it was the language spoken most after Arabic - however its amazing how much you can remember from school (no matter how long ago that was!) and how you can still manage to communicate. (MR -10th October 2010)

0 R&J C, 12/11/10
This was an incredibly varied trip - from ornately carved mosques, to flying goats, to a desert sandstorm. We had a series of excellent local guides and a brilliant tour leader from whom we learned so much about Islam and Berber culture. Towards the end of the trip it was good to have a break from the hurley burley of travelling by spending two nights in Essouira where five of us went to a hammam in the suburbs used by local people (including our shy driver) - then on to Marrakesh for full-on markets, monkeys and minarets. (MR -16th May 2010)
0 R.F.C, 14/10/10
The enormous variety of cultural experiences on offer was wonderful, from the  visits to  cities such as Fes, Marrakech and  the Roman city of  Volubilis, to a Hamman, the Kasbahs and  Medinas . All were very well supported by keen ,informative guides. Particularly memorable elements were the desert experiences (camel ride, camping)  and theTodra gorge walk (and meeting with a Berber family) , the Hammam and the fish lunch in  the Essaouira  market organised by Ali, our very helpful and friendly tour leader. It was good to experience  a range of transport ( train, tour bus, - and camel !). and the  scenery (mountains, deserts and oases was a constant delight. The possibilitiies for eating were varied and all was very reasonably priced. The co-existence of the modern and the traditional, the Islamic and the French colonial elements was fascinating as was evidence of the colonial past. If you are in two minds about taking up any of the extra trips, my advice would be to go for them: they all proved very memorable aspects of the trip. (MR - 16th May 2010)
0 H.M.C, 22/09/10

First time we had been on an organised tour with other people and first time for me out of Europe. Brilliant. Excellent tour guide- Youssef and excellent local guides driver and assistant. Highlights include Fes,, sunset in Sahara, "Berber barbecue", agricultural market, visiting places like women's argon cooperative and sheltered workshop for disabled, going walkabout with guide in places we would not have ventured on our own. Group generally worked very well with good mix of nationalities and ages couples/ singles.  Advice-ask for mint tea without sugar! Glad we read up a bit before and during the trip- Rough Guide to Morocco as recommended by Explore but also read and watched "Sheltering Sky" and read some other Moroccan based or written books.  So good -off on another Explore trip in 3 weeks. (MR- 31st May 2009)

0 Patrick Norwood, 21/09/10
A very good trip to do if you are going to Morocco for the first time - it covers all the obvious cities plus the desert, Atlas Mountains and kasbars. The weather was nice at that time (late March/early April) and the accommodation was generally good. We also had a lovely guide. I can't think of anything special you need to take - just pack all the usual things you would for a hot Explore trip. (MR- 28th March 2010)
0 Ann & Roland Masset, 20/09/10
The night and days spent in the desert - 4x4 ride into the desert and visiting a Berber home, communicating with a Berber mother and her children; the camel ride into the high dunes to watch the sunset;  the night spent in the desert with a meal, singing and dancing around the campfire with Berber musicians and then rising to watch sunrise.  The visits to many cities - Fez sticks in the mind (keep within sight of your guide  because one alleyway looks like any other!) Don't forget the imodium and DO look after your passport - one of our group thought it was safely stored but it wasn't beyond being stolen in an open air town market. Travel lightly so you have room for all those silk scarves you will be tempted to purchase. (MR- 1st November 2009)
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