Category Archives: Morocco Tour

The Hotel Villa de France in Tangier, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Grand Villa France Hotel Circa

Grand Villa France Hotel Circa

The Moroccan port city of Tangiers (also known as Tangier, or Tanger in French) sits on the Straits of Gibraltar, staring right across the Mediterranean Sea at Spain. Sitting just east of Africa’s most north-westerly point, it has been a key point of exchange between the African and European continents for centuries.

Between 1923 and 1956 (when Morocco gained independence), Tangiers was at the center of a 144 sq mile international zone under the joint administration of France, Spain, and Britain (and later Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States). This international status and the post-war wanderlust of many European and American travelers resulted in a large and diverse expat population of writers, artists, smugglers, bon vivants and fortune-seekers living alongside Tangier’s indigenous populations of Moroccan Arabs, Berbers and Riffians from the neighboring Rif mountain range. Foreign residents included Beat Era American authors, Paul Bowles, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

However, even before the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco and the Tangiers International Zone, the seafront frontier town atmosphere of Tangiers attracted its fair share of celebrity residents. One such visitor was French fauvist painter, Henri Matisse.

Hotel Villa De France Tangier

Hotel Villa De France Tangier

Matisse’s 1912 work, Window at Tangier, is a painting of the view from his window in room 35 at the Hotel Villa de France. Originally built in 1880 by Luciano Bruseaud, the Villa de France was the residence of the head of French diplomacy before becoming the main building of the hotel. It featured impressive gardens stretching to Tangiers’ Anglican church of Saint Andrew. The hotel became the favorite of an élite clique of international visitors during the period of the International Zone: French and British aristocrats, German diplomats, military officers and even clergymen are said to have stayed there for a drink or a few nights. The Villa de France only lost its pre-eminent position when Scottish businessman Lord Bute opened a larger and more sumptuous rival in 1930: the Hôtel El Minzah. The decline of Villa de France began after the end of World War II and the dissolution of the International Zone, and by the late 20th century it had long become outmoded and was in desperate need of renovation. The hotel was closed in 1992 and remained shut for more than 20 years.

Protests against the threat of demolition in favor of modern property development are said to have reached the ears of King Mohammed VI. Villa de France was finally classified as a historic monument in 2003, befitting its grand architecture and function as the urban memory of Tangier. The renovation and expansion began 3 years later to the tune of around 100 million Moroccan dirhams (US$ 10.5 million).

Grand Hotel Villa De France  Dining Room

Grand Hotel Villa De France Dining Room

The Grand Hotel Villa de France was officially re-opened in September 2014, after a soft launch over the preceding summer. Along with its erstwhile rival, El Minzah, it is now owned by Iraqi-born British businessman, Nadhmi Auchi. The aim of the renovation has been to maintain the character of the original architecture, while acknowledging Tangier’s pinnacle of the 1950s and 60s, in a modern 5* hotel setting. Room 35 has been reserved as an homage to Matisse. The renovation is sympathetic to the original charm of the 19th century design, while incorporating traditional Moroccan craftsmanship and modern amenities (such as independent apartments and a new pool).

Today, as in yesteryear, the new Grand Hotel Villa de France enjoys unfettered and impressive views of both the Tangiers medina, the Mediterranean and its own extensive gardens. Sitting on a hill above the city, it is the perfect escape from the bustle below – either for a drink on the beautiful terraces, or for a longer stay.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Hotel Villa De France or a Tangier Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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Luxury Desert Camp Merzouga, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Merzouga Sahara Desert Camp

Travelers to Morocco are guaranteed a once in a lifetime experience as they head off in the Morocco’s Desert Dunes. Morocco’s Merzouga’s Erg Chebbi Dunes boasts a variety of unique flora and fauna to explore along with its Desert villages which can be explored by camel or 4×4 wheel drive. Morocco offers a wide range of desert camps however there are only a handful of Luxury Desert camps to be found. Each part of Morocco’s great Sahara desert has a few Luxury Desert camps that offer a worthwhile stay.

Available exclusively through Travel Exploration Morocco is a Sahara Desert Luxury Camp situated southeast of the village of Merzouga. Located just one hour drive from the city of Erfoud, our Luxury camp is in the heart of the impressive Saharan sand dunes, away from the areas visited by tourists.

Merzouga’s leading Luxury Desert camp can be experienced on on a one night or two night basis. Travelers who wish to stay at a Merzouga Luxury Desert camp can experience a camel trek in the Erg Chebbi Dunes that lasts for thirty minutes to an hour, have a three course dinner with option of wine under the stars and then overnight in luxury bivouac tent reminiscent of colonial times.

The luxury tented camp consists of large bedroom tents and a big restaurant tent. The bedroom tents offer hotel room comfort and can comfortably accommodate a king size bed, a spacious double bed, or three wide single beds. Ensuite facilities include hot shower, WC, and  sink. The restaurant tent has five tables, and offers traditional meals prepared by our chef, and served by candlelight.

The Private Luxury camp in Merzouga’s Erg Chebbi Dunes will be the highlight of your Moroccan experience. What else could be more memorable than a night under the stars after a sunset camel ride and a dinner next to the fire camp while entertained by a local folkloric band? Our isolated luxury Sahara desert camp is far more exclusive and private than the larger communal camps in Erg Chebbi.

Running water is available, and electricity is supplied by a small generator installed at a distance from the camp. The camp is fully covered by colorful Berber carpets and cushions. Arrival to our camp is via a short camel ride. A special welcome is organized for our guests with welcome drinks and a local folkloric band.

Our luxury Sahara desert camp is an adventure not to be missed if you want to get the right feeling of nomadic and rural Morocco!

For More Information about Luxury Sahara Desert Camps in Merzouga & Desert Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Star of David Essaouira

Morocco is one of the ancient intersections of civilization. Boldly situated on the far northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco’s expansive shoreline stretches from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean. The cultural diversity of contemporary Morocco reflects its historic vantage point as a gateway to Europe and the world. Morocco’s heritage offers visitors an encounter with an exotic society and its customs, an incomparable cuisine, and a shopper’s paradise of magnificent markets.

Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours offer a unique combination of Jewish History, Culture, Architecture & Gardens for the sophisticated traveler. In the northern reaches of Africa, the 2,500 year old Moroccan Jewish community has a magnificent and little-known history and culture rooted in Africa and the Muslim world. A moderate, pro-western country, Morocco offers millennia-old lessons in peaceful co-existence.

Travel Exploration has a wide range of  Jewish Heritage Tours to Morocco with varied itinerary offerings from Imperial Cities Jewish Heritage Tours to those that venture to Morocco’s great South.  Jewish Heritage Tours to Morocco are all inclusive of historic synagogues, cemeteries, architectural sites, and natural surroundings of each region along with options to attend a Jewish service or have dinner at a Rabbi’s home. Also offered are Casablanca Jewish Heritage Tours.

The Journey through the Maghreb’s most private Jewish and public heritage places is a must for American Jewish travelers. Jewish Heritage Tours of Morocco are an ideal way to discover sacred sites that have left an indelible mark on Moroccan Jewry. Expert licensed Historical guides on Morocco’s Jewish Heritage will impart history and information in great detail that tells a story of Moroccan Jewish culture and heritage.

Temple-Beth-El-Casablanca

A Snapshot of 10 Jewish Heritage Sites Visited on the Jewels of Jewish Heritage Imperial Cities Tour:

1. Jewish Mellah, Marrakech & Marrakech, Cemetery

2. Jewish Synagogue, Marrakech

3.  Ibn Danon Synagogue, Fes

4. Jewish Mellah, Fes

5. Jewish Cemetery

6. Tomb of Solica, Fes

7. Maimonides, Fes

8. Old City of Jewish Seffrou, Fes Region

9. Beth- El Synagogue, Casablanca

10. Jewish Musuem, Casablanca

For More Information about Morocco Jewish Heritage Tours

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

 

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Getting to know Morocco for the first time, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Marrakech Gnaoua Musician

Marrakech Gnaoua Musician

Morocco has a diverse and vibrant culture close to Europe just 13 km from the coast of Spain yet with growing ties with the Middle East where the oil rich Gulf countries are investing substantially in Morocco’s tourism industry.

Morocco also has close contacts with Africa. It is at the crossroads of many cultures absorbing  the  commercial dynamism of the West  in building its growing  tourism industry with  enhanced infrastructure such as  auto routes , trains, airports and ports whilst maintaining its  ancient traditions and  Arab and Berber culture. It still has an aura of ancient oriental mystery and originality whilst also being highly accessible and attractive to tourists.

Tourism has more than doubled since 2002, to nearly 10 million visitors in 2011.  Under the Vision 2020 Plan King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual visitor numbers to 18 million by 2020. It is the only country in North Africa to have successfully maintained its tourism industry in the face of the global recession.

Morocco is a stable and peaceful country . It is the only country in North Africa to have enacted a new constitution in response to the  Arab Spring and King Mohammed VI remains central to the lives of his subjects.  It is important for tourists to respect Morocco’s traditions and culture.

Morocco is a Muslim country committed to allowing other religions to practice their religion freely , particularly Christianity and Judaism which are recognized as  religions of the book, to practice their religion freely. Morocco is a conservative society but its people are very welcoming, friendly and easy going. During Ramadan whilst you can always have a meal in restaurants in the tourist cities it is best not to eat and drink in public during day light hours as muslims cannot eat or drink or smoke until they break the fast when the sun goes down.

Moroccan men treat their café is their local club where they meet socialize and discuss business while drinking coffee or mint tea and watching the world pass by. If you buy pastries or cakes in a bakery it is ok to eat them in the café at no extra charge.

Moroccan Royal Couscous

Moroccan cuisine is renowned for its delicacy and abundance with traditional tangines, couscous, mechoui (lamb) salads and desserts and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. In the main cities there are also French and european cuisines available, a multiple choice is available.

Most Mosques are closed to non believers however you can visit the impressive Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, the Berber mosque at Tin Mel outside Marrakech on the way to Ouarzazate, the former Islamic college the Medersa Ben Youssef in the Marrakech Medina and  the old Medersas in Fés Bali, the Bou Inania  and the El Attarine . These sites will give you some idea of the glories of Moroccan Islamic architecture.

Most Moroccans in the cities speak French as well as Arabic or the Moroccan dialect Darija. The French Protectorate was established in Morocco in 1912 and lasted until 1956.  French remains the language of business whereas Darija is spoken in the street and at home, Darija itself is a mixture of languages including French words and Moroccans happily switch from one language to another in conversation. Spanish is spoken in the north and south as there was also a Spanish protectorate. However there has been a marked increase in the number of young people speaking english as it is taught in schools. Those working in tourism will probably speak good english and the business centers of Casablanca and Tangiers  also has more english speakers.

On a first trip to Morocco it is important not to try to do too much in a limited amount of time. The ancient  Medinas  of Fes el Bali of Marrakech can be combined by other nearby locations in the case of Fes, the imperial city of Meknes and the ancient  roman ruins of Volubilis, or in the case of Marrakech, the nearby  fishing port and beach resort of Essaouira, no hassle and cheaper than Marrakech it is just  two hours drive away, Agadir can be combined with the Sous Draa valley with its Kasbahs  or the desert town of Ouarzazate. Further South  you can visit the desert at Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi sand dunes. Tangier can be combined with  trips to Tetouan and Chefchaouen Morocco’s blue and white town and the Rif mountains.

There is an infinite choice which is a tribute to Morocco’s development of its tourism industry and you should try to plan your trip with your travel agent.  On your first visit it is best  to avoid driving hire cars yourself as Moroccan traffic is very different from driving in Europe or  America. A car or 4X4  with a good Moroccan  driver is a better  bet or  you can  travel on Morocco’s ONCF railways  in first class airconditioned carriages.

Many tourists like to stay in small guest houses called Riads to be close to the ancient Medina which have been restored by local  berber craftsmen . Roof top views offer an insight in to the life of the Medina.

In Marrakech,  Vanessa Branson’s Riad El Fenn has prime views of the Koutoubia Mosque minaret lit up at night with a laser beam nearby , whilst  five-star La Sultana overlooks the Atlas Mountains.

Palais Faraj, Fes

Palais Faraj, Fes

In Fes  three riads are Dar Roumana, a traditional restored Anadlusian palace style Riad with library and Chef that specializes in Moroccan cuisine, Dar Roumana is well-located in the central medina, Riad Maison Bleue and Riad Fes are other luxury guesthouses comprising e beautifully restored riads. They both have a pool and Spa.

Others prefer  the many fine hotels in the modern part of town many of them from well known international hotel  with restaurants,  swimming pool and gym and there are a number in most cities. The choice is yours. The Accor group has Sofitel properties located in Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, there is a Four Seasons in Marrakech and a new, modern boutique hotel in Fes called Palais Faraj.

When visiting the souks in Marrakech and Fes  for the first time you can pay an official tourism  guide from the government  ONMT tourist office who can help fend of hustlers and take you to shops of interest, although he may take a commission from the shop which will be added to the price you pay. You may want to memorise the Arabic phrase “La Shukran” , No thank you.

After the first visit when you know your way around in the souk and the maze of the medinas of Fes and Marrakech you can enjoy the adventure but be sure to keep to the side of the narrow streets and derbs, as the narrow alley ways are called, to avoid motor scooters and donkey carts who may cry “andak!” which means watch out.

For More Information about a Morocco Tour or traveling to Morocco for the first time. 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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