This cultural and musical journey to the 18th Edition of World Sacred Music Festival of Fes will take you throughout the Imperial Cities of Morocco, exploring Rabat, Meknes and Volubilis before settling in Fez for 10 days to enjoy all the festival programs and other private activities, such as Sufi gatherings and local spiritual music emphasized on Fes in particular and Morocco in general. When the festival comes to its end then we will proceed to Marrakech for more discoveries. You can end your journey in Marrakech or choose to extend your trip from one of our extension packages.
Day by day itinerary: June 4, to June 19, 2013
You will begin your exotic journey on a direct, overnight flight via Royal Air Maroc carrier. With exceptional service and Moroccan hospitality, you will enjoy beverages, a delicious dinner, and a complimentary movie on your six and a half hour flight.
Once you land at the Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca, your guide will meet you at your arrival gate to take you immediately to check-in to your hotel in Rabat. This is a wonderful short drive of about 45 miles through the lush farms and exotic plants.
You will reach Rabat, a city styled in a spaciously elegant European grid, yet slightly aware of its modernity. Rabat and its twin city Sala Colonia are separated by only a river but are historically worlds apart. They have an ancient legacy that spans hundreds of generations. Each civilization that has inhabited each of the cities has left its mark, resulting in a wide variety in architectural styles, including those from the Phoenician and Roman eras.
You will spend your day discovering the delights that Rabat has to offer. Your guide will take on a historical and lively tour of the Jewish quarter, the Mellah in the Heart of the city starting at Place Sidi Makhlouf. The 12 century ramparts are best seen from this landmark. Walk up to Bab Chellah in the medina and cross Sidi Fateh St. This will lead you to the traditional Souk Laghzel (Yarn market). Your guide will introduce you to the importance of this guild on textile role in the Moroccan society.
Later, you will cross to the citadel of the Oudaya Kasbah entering from its 12th century main gate to explore an extraordinary Medieval Moorish marvel overlooking the delta of Bourgreg River. You will have the opportunity to visit the old-fashioned Moorish gardens, stop in a traditional coffee house for mint tea, and in between explore the Oudaya museum of tribal arts and crafts. A docent will introduce you to traditional Berber Textiles.
You will continue your quest exiting the Oudaya Kasbah and up the hill to visit the Hassan Tower and Mohamed the V Mausoleum, an emblem of the real Moroccan architecture at its finest. You will reach the Royal Palace and the Necropolis of Chellah at the end of your tour. Finally, you will return to the hotel for dinner and other accommodations.
Today is the day of time travel! This journey will take you from imperial Rome to the ninth century A.D. Unlike the movies, this temporal voyage will take almost the entire day. (Of course there will be stops along the way.)
The first stop will be the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. Volubilis was a critical city in the imperial Roman department of Mauritania (modern day Morocco, and the Western Sahara) during the reign of Caracalla. Volubilis is impressively well preserved and the genius of Roman urbanism is still intact. The two central integral streets in every Roman castrum, the Cardo and Decumanus, are prominent. The cardo is the boulevard which runs north-south and the Decumanus, east-west. The intersection of the two is the heart of every roman city. There you will find the ruins of the ancient forum.
Jumping forward in time and just few minutes away is the venerated citadel of Moulay Idris, founded in the 8th century by Moulay Idris Al Akbar, grandson of the Prophet Mohamed (s.a.w.s). This citadel is considered to be both the cradle of Sufism to Moroccan society as well as the first Islamic capital for the premier Arab dynasty. The city was created primarily for the indigenous population that migrated with Moulay Idris from the Middle East.
You will drive around 15 miles to the next stop, the imperial city of Meknes. Meknes is a 17th Century city built by Moulay Ismail to rival Fez. It is also considered to be the Versailles of Morocco.
Finally, you have reached your destination, the ninth century city of Fez. In the evening, you will get a taste of the greatest of the Imperial Cities. You will visit the sights on the outside of ancient walled city, including the ramparts, the gates, and the Borjs (Moorish Forts). After this introductory aperitif to Fez, you will dine in your hotel and prepare for day three: Fez!
Undeniably fascinating, Fez stimulates the senses with its haunting yet beautiful sounds, visual splendor, and evocative smells. The most ancient of the imperial capitals and the most complete medieval city of the Islamic world, Fez is reminiscent of a city suspended in time, unfazed by the constantly evolving world outsides of its walls. Fez owes nothing to the Western world, save electricity.
Time spent in Fez will reveal much about the sophistication of the Moroccan artisan, providing an unparalleled learning experience to those who cross its path. Your morning will be spent visiting the Medina. Our specialized guide will take you on a historic discovery of the city of Fez starting at the King's Palace and its Meshwar with ramparts and majestic gates.
Next, you will explore the Jewish quarter, a 15th century citadel with all its Moorish maze architecture and medieval glory. Visits to Sephardic synagogues and mausoleums of holy Rabbis will be the highlights of this part of town.
Then, we will drive to the Merinides hill to visit their necropolis. Here you will enjoy the best panoramic view on the old walled Medina, brimful with its countless minarets to call for the prayers in a city that has responded to these calls for 12 centuries. Drive down the hills to the gate of Bab Guissa to leave your vehicle and enter an ancient world. Fez has preserved its Medina as it was centuries ago. Not even a bicycle is able to be used as tool of transportation. Only donkeys, mules and horses are able to help moving all what the city produces and needs as supplies.
The first guilds you will immediately encounter are the cobblers, the saddlers and black smiths interlaced by some caravansaries for tribesmen who come from the surrounding areas to trade and supply their needs. Down the hill to Juteya you will encounter all sorts of crafts but noticeably carpenters and leather workers as one of the traditional tanneries is not far. This walk will lead you to El Ashabine square with its variety of activities. From there, you will wind your way to the Sgha square which will lead you to Attarine then Souk el Henna and the Mausoleum of Moulay Idris, the founder of Fez. Next to it, you will visit the Nejjarine square with its famous fountain, its guild of carpentry and the museum of folk arts at the Fondouk.
You will walk to the tannery and on to visit the great Mosque university of Al Quarrawiyyine, passing by Shemma'ine, the market of dried fruits. After that, you will visit the Medersa Attarine and walk to Sbetryyine, a guild of book binders, which will lead you to the Seffarine Square, where the tapping of metalworkers is still deafening passerby as it was the case for centuries. You will break for lunch then continue exploring the marvels of Fez Medina. These will highlight the Dyers souk, Foundouk Tetouani and the shrine of Sidi Ahmed Tijani.
You will end your walk at foundouk Lihoudi where a local Fez family will host you for traditional mint tea in their home. In the evening, you are invited to the Festival's Grand Opening.
Today is a day to explore nature, Moroccan culture from the insider perspective and the spiritual healing of Sufi Saints landmarks. In the morning, you will travel to the Hot springs of Moulay Yacob. Located in a small, charming Berber village at the foothills of the Rif Mountains, the springs are famous for their healing powers.
Legend affirms that Moulay yacob was a Sufi master with the power of healing different diseases, especially muscular and skin disorders. The sanctuary is in the heart of this hilly village where you find herbalist and traditional healers still curing locals and visitors as the tradition holds. In their small workshops and even in the streets around the sanctuary, these healers are still selling herbs and pouches of compounds in the same manner as medieval times.
Across the valley from the village you can spot a mausoleum crowning the hill called Lalla Shafia (meaning literally "The Healer Lady"). It was indeed her name as a saintly healer who was handed this secret power of healing from her father Moulay Yacob. Even today, many women come from remote areas in North Africa seeking her Baraka (blessings). It is a venerated area and a spa for the poor and the wealthy.
The traditional baths are down the hill where these hot springs pump 138 degree hot water from as deep as 470 feet below. There is of course another spa bath with all modern amenities, where you can enjoy all kinds of treatments or simply bathe in an indoor domed pool, which gets its hot water straight from natural springs. After a picnic lunch, you will return to Fez for the afternoon concerts, followed by dinner at your hotel and the Festival's evening events.
Your morning will be spent on an excursion to the Rif Mountains, where you will visit the Sidi Ahmed al Barnoussi shrine. You will enjoy a typical couscous picnic lunch over the red poppy fields with local scribes. Traditionally, this couscous lunch is considered to be a Sadaka, which is an offering to feed the scribes, the guests and the passersby.
Upon your arrival to the shrine in the peaks of Mount Zalagh, you will be met by the Jajouka musicians and dancers, who will enchant you with haunting melodies of their oboes and drums – a ceremony that you will treasure for the rest of your life.
Sidi Ahmed El Bernoussi (Zerrouq) was born in Fez in 1482 and died in 1534 AD. He took from many scholars and sheikhs of his time mainly in the Quarawiyyine School of Thoughts, especially Sidi Abdellah Fekhar and Lalla Oum Hani Abdoussia. He traveled on a Sufi journey to Mekkah, where he studied. Then, he traveled to Cairo to learn from many sheikhs. He was a master in Tafssir, numerology and alchemy. He contributed to the Moroccan intellect a vast number of books and essays. His best work is the foundation of Tassawuf and the meanings of the attributes of Allah.
Many of his disciples have followed in his footsteps and became eminent sheikhs as Sidi Al Hattab al Kabir, Imam Shaarani and the Quotb Abul Hassan Bekri. He was a scholar, an imam, a moufti, a poet, a sheikh, a fequih and a faquir. At the end of his life, he left Fez for Sabrata west of Tripolis, the location of his burial site.
His school and retreat sanctuary is still in function in the out skirts of Mount Zalagh overlooking the Old city of Fez. His Mureeds are still holding on the tradition faithful to his wadhifa up to our days. No sheikh in this tariqua has ever claimed his Sirr. So, Sidi Ahmed El Bernoussi remains the sheikh of his mureeds even now. After lunch, you will have a tea ceremony and close with blissful prayers. You will return to Fez for the afternoon festival activities, dinner, and the evening's events.
Today is devoted to taking a leisurely break from the busy pace of this journey. You will have the entire morning at your leisure, free to do whatever you please in the city or simply to relax in your hotel to reflect on this marvelous experience.
In the afternoon, you will attend the afternoon concerts, followed by dinner and the Festival's evening events. Later on, for those who feel resilient and wish to explore more, a Sufi master will open the doors of his home to share with you a Sufi gathering for dhikr and chants in the Harraki Order way. This Sufi gathering is only for this Sarah Tours group, as it is not open to the public. This brotherhood dates back to Sidi Abu Lhassan Chadhuli, born in Morocco but buried in the Idab desert in Egypt. He was a disciple of Cheikh Abdeslam Ben Mashish. The current Cheikh, who is responsible for the renaissance of the brotherhood, is Imam Sidi Nour El Houda Ibrahimi Andalouissi Chadhuli.
Afterwards, you will enjoy dinner at the hotel. Then, you will experience the evening events of the festival.
The morning will be spent at your leisure, and after lunch, you will journey to the afternoon concert at Dar Batha. The evening concerts will be at Bab Makina. After the concert, Sarah Tours will offer a night of Issawa healing music. Come and experience the Hadra circle dance to heal the world with the Sufi drummers of Issawa Tariqa. The Aissaoui Order has the most exciting drumming with invocations to Allah praising all prophets and saints. Their slogan states: "Come to visit Moulay Al Hadi Sidi Ben Aissa, warrantor of his visitor's wishes." The adepts of this order use in both their private and public meetings the key phrase: "God is eternal." "Allah Da'em".
Your morning again will be at leisure. An excursion to Sidi Harazem thermal springs is offered in the afternoon. Evening festival concert will be at Bab Makina. This will be a relaxing day.
In the early morning, you will enjoy a sunrise Sufi ceremony offered over the Merinides dynasty necropolis looking East for a dramatic sunrise over the sleeping giant of the 9th century Medina. Return to the hotel for breakfast and relax. Your day will include an optional day trip to the ancient Jewish city of Sefrou. Predating Fez by a thousand years, Sefrou once played a vital role as the last stop for the sub-Saharan caravans transporting goods to the European markets. There, you will visit the shrine of Sidi Lahcen Al Yussi, a venerated Sufi master who was considered the guardian of Sefrou. In addition, you will visit the mausoleums of other Rabbis, as well as the city's synagogues. On your return trip to Fez, you will visit the ancient Christian village of B'Halil, which is known for its distinctive troglodyte dwellings. Upon your arrival at Fez, you will attend the Festival's evening events.
In the morning, you will attend a lecture, followed by the Festival's afternoon events at the Dar Batha museum. Dinner will be at the hotel, followed by the evening Festival events at Bab Makina, the court of the King's palace.
You will spend your morning visiting the Andalucian part of the Medina on the eastern side of the river, where you will learn the history of the settler Moors, who arrived from Spain during the 13th century. Learn about their lifestyle that is still intact today. Shop for music instruments and other artifacts of your interest as the Andalusian market known for these artifacts. The Festival's afternoon concerts with take place at Dar Batha, followed by dinner at the hotel and, afterwards, the Festival's closing ceremony.
You will spend your day discovering the rural environs of the Atlas Mountains' Berber villages, wards, and nomadic settlements. Covered with evergreen pines, tall cedar trees, and poplars, and laced with flowing streams, your first view of the Middle Atlas will appear oddly un-Moroccan. Passing by Imouzzer, with a quick stop at the Swiss-like town of Ifrane, you will soon come across the first real town of the Middle Atlas, Azrou.
Azrou is an important market center for the region's Berber tribes, located at a major junction of mountain routes. Your driver will take a little detour in a cedar forest to introduce you to one of the oldest inhabitants of this region, the Barbary apes. This may also coincide with the encounter of a nomadic family at its temporary encampment. As nomads are very hospitable people, whenever we encounter them we are all invited at least for a mint tea under their tents.
At Khenifra, the Middle Atlases give way to the High Atlas Mountains, whose peaks are visible through the haze, soaring to over 12,000 feet. After lunch, you will descend the Atlas Mountains finally arriving in the foothills which overlook the magnificent oasis city of Marrakech Alhamra. Some of the aforementioned stops will include visits to Berber villages, scenic views, and traditional markets. You will conclude your day with dinner and other accommodations at your hotel.
You will devote your morning to the exploration of Marrakech's many historical sites, starting at the Menara, a magnificent pool surrounded by flowerbeds, reflecting the image of an exquisite Moorish edifice. It was constructed in 1866 for dignitaries, who enjoyed glorious sunsets with the ethereal Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. The pool also functions as an innovative irrigation system that is serving dry life in the desert.
Your tour will cover many impressive sites, including the Koutoubia Minaret (which is identical to la Giralda, a tower found in Sevilla, Spain), and the Saadien tombs, which demonstrate Moorish architecture at its best. The tombs consist of sixteenth-century mausoleums, which had lain walled-in and undiscovered until 1917. Next, you will explore the gardens of the Agdal then the Marjorelle. Finally, you will return to your hotel for dinner and other accommodations.
Your guide will drive you to the airport in Casablanca to connect with your flight back home.
18th Annual World Sacred Music Festival & Tour
- Round trip flights between New York and Casablanca
- Accommodation in your hotel, including half board (breakfast, dinner)
- Land Transportation to specified events in a deluxe motor coach
- Assistance from Sarah Tours guides and tour leaders
- Fees for monuments, museums
- Festival concert tickets and activities
- Sufi music gatherings in Moroccan homes in the Medina of Fez
- Baggage handling and restaurant taxes
Cost per person based on double occupancy:
Accommodations in 3 star hotel: $2,885.00
Single Supplement: $ 485.00
Fez: Hotel Tghat
Accommodations in 4 star hotel: $3,185.00
Single Supplement: $ 565.00
Fez: Hotel Pickbutros or Riad Yacout
Accommodations in 5 star deluxe hotel: $4,335.00
Single Supplement: $ 680.00
Fez: Palais Jamaï Hotel, or Riad Fez
Retreats & Expeditions in the Sahara
- Man & Traditions (5 days): $ 875.00
- Great South & Kasbahs (6 days) $ 975.00
- Spain, Legendary Andalucia (8 days): $ 950.00
Our expeditions and retreats are a marvelous way to discover the beauty and mystic qualities of the Sahara desert's oases and Kasbahs, as well as the plateaus of the Atlas Mountains. Traveling at a slow pace, in time with the rhythm of nature, you can take the time to drink in and appreciate your surroundings. Traveling with a camel caravan, you can walk, leading your camel by its harness, or ride high on its back. The caravan, conducted by a professional chief and his assistants, who will transport your tents and all other necessities for your journey, will progress four to five hours per day.