Spain and Morocco Tour: In the Path of Medieval Islam
Spain to Morocco Tour: Visit Granada, Cordóba, Sevilla, and in Morocco, the four Imperial Cities of Rabat, Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech.
Study Leader TBD
Why take the Spain and Morocco Tour?
- In southern Spain, tour four UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- In Morocco, tour four UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Limited to 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Granada.
Day 3: Tour Granada.
Day 4: Tour Granada. Transfer to Córdoba.
Day 5: Tour Córdoba.
Day 6: Tour Seville.
Day 7: Ferry to Tangiers, Morocco. Tétouan.
Day 8: Tour Chefchaouen.
Day 9: Tour Fes.
Day 10: Volubilis.
Day 11: Tour Rabat.
Day 12: Tour Marrakech.
Day 13: Tinmel Mosque. Tour Marrakech.
Day 14: Tour Marrakech.
Day 15: Fly back to the USA.
In 711, an army of Arabs and Berbers landed on the Iberian Peninsula, and over the next seven years, through diplomacy and warfare, they brought most of present-day Spain and Portugal under Islamic control. For more than 700 years, until the Christians retook the land in 1492 (Reconquista), Muslim dynasties ruled al-Andalus, and, during this time, there was a blossoming of philosophy, arts and sciences.
Contemporaneously, new political and religious movements were rising in the western Maghreb, now
Morocco, and these activities affected both northern Africa and Spain. The relatively peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, and the interplay of cultural ideas, brought a degree of civilization to Europe that matched the heights of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance.
Travel with Far Horizons on this 15-day tour of southern Spain and Morocco. Learn how the spread of Islam changed the medieval world. Our itinerary includes Granada, Córdoba, Sevilla, and in Morocco, the four Imperial Cities of Rabat, Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech.
Tour Leader – TBD
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 2: Arrive into Granada. Overnight for two nights in the small Hotel Palacio Santa Inez, located in the charming Albaycín district of Granada, on a hill facing the Alhambra. Gather this evening for our welcome dinner. (D)
Day 3: In the 13th century, the last Muslim dynasty of Spain, the Nasrids, made Granada its capital and our all day walking tour takes us to several notable medieval sites. We will walk through the Puerta Elvira and into the old Islamic quarter, the Albaycín, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, narrow winding streets and ancient walls are reminders of its medieval past. We will go into the Church of San Salvador, encircling the courtyard of the original Great Mosque of the city, and see the Church of San Juan de los Reyes, with its still standing minaret. In the afternoon, we visit the Madraza that once housed an Islamic school and currently is used by the University of Granada. Nearby, the Cathedral of Granada, built over a former mosque, imprinted Christianity in the former Islamic capital. Not far is the Capilla Real which was constructed to house the remains of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, who unified Spain and conquered Granada, the last Muslim enclave in the peninsula. Then it’s on to the Iglesia del Sagrario, a church partially built over a mosque, and the 15th century Silk Merchant’s Exchange. The Corral del Carbon is the oldest remaining Muslim structure in the city and the only surviving Islamic corn exchange on the Iberian Peninsula. Our day will end at the Church of San Nicolas for the view over the Alhambra at sunset. Dinner is on our own to discover one of Granada’s excellent restaurants. (B/L)
Day 4: This morning’s highlight is Granada’s stunning Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built on a hill with commanding views of the city and the plain beyond. It became the Nasrid dynasty’s royal city and the residence of the kings and their court. The Koran continually repeats the idea that heaven is a garden with running water and Generalife Gardens was a remarkable endeavor to create paradise on earth. On our drive to Córdoba we will see remains of the Muslim world scattered around the landscape. In Alcalá la Real, Qalat Beni Sa’id is now known as Fortaleza de la Mota. This castle was a strategic medieval stronghold that was the scene of frequent battles between the Muslims and Christians. We will end the day at Madinat al-Zahra, the extravagant palace-city built by the 10th century ruler for his favorite wife and widely considered to be one of the most significant early Islamic archaeological sites in the world. The site museum is the recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Continue to Córdoba and spend two nights in the Casas de la Juderia within the old city walls in the Jewish quarter. (B/L/D)
Day 5: Córdoba will forever bear the imprint left by Roman, Islamic and Christian rulers. It rose to become the most sophisticated city in Europe and, along with Constantinople and Baghdad, was one of the three cultural centers of the medieval world. The original Roman walls were maintained by the Muslim and later Christian rulers, and extensive portions of these fortifications still stand today. Our all day walking tour of the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will reveal the city’s layers of history. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos was a Moorish palace taken over after the Christian re-conquest. It was the summer home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the site of their meeting with Christopher Columbus before his famous voyage. La Mezquita, or the Great Mosque, a UNESCO World Heritage Monument, was begun in 786 on the site of a Roman temple and Visigoth church and is the third largest mosque ever built. Water was brought into palaces and mansions and also taken to the fields for irrigation by a complex system of channels created by the Moors whose agricultural architecture was unparalleled. The Albolafia Noria, or waterwheel, is the last vestige of an array of mills and dams built on the Guadalquivir River in Córdoba between the 8th and 10th centuries. A maze of narrow streets leads to the oldest district, the Judería or Jewish quarter; it stands on the area formerly occupied by the Moorish medina and contains the most characteristic monuments in the city. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 6: An early departure takes us to Seville, once the most strongly fortified city in Europe. We will drive by the 12-sided Tower of Gold, once part of the defense walls constructed by the Almohads, and three of the remaining city gates. Then we visit two outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We begin in El Real Alcázar, a royal palace considered the most beautiful on the Iberian Peninsula. Constructed on top of an Almohad fortress, it is an outstanding example of Mudéjar architecture, a style and decoration heavily influenced by Islamic workmanship. This bastion remains an outstanding testimony to the civilization of the Almohads as well as that of Christian Andalusia. Built in the 15th century on the site of a former Almohad mosque, Seville’s cathedral was meant to demonstrate the city’s power and wealth after the Reconquista. It is the largest Gothic building in Europe and houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Attached is La Giralda, a former minaret that is a masterpiece of Almohad architecture. Now functioning as the bell tower of the church, this elegant tower is considered the finest of the three great Almohad minarets (the other two are in Rabat and Marrakech). There will be time to climb to the top for a view over the city. Drive to Tarifa and overnight for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 7: Board an early morning ferry to Tangiers, Morocco, and upon arrival, transfer to Tétouan. Of particular importance in the Islamic period, from the 8th century onward, the city served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia. After the Reconquista, it was rebuilt by refugees who had been expelled by the Spanish. The Andalusian influence is clearly displayed in the art and architecture. We will spend the afternoon on a walking tour of the old city. The Medina of Tétouan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is surrounded on three sides by 3 miles of towering walls with seven gates. Although one of the smallest in Morocco, it has been relatively untouched by the outside world over the centuries. Carved into the hillside overlooking the medina, the Jewish Cemetery contains some of the most elaborate tombstones in the region. Continue on to the town of Chefchaouen and overnight for one night in the Ryad Lina. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Explore Chefchaouen, a lovely town with buildings painted in many hues of blue located in the heart of Morocco’s Rif Mountains. Many Moriscos and Jews settled here after that Spanish Reconquista in 1492. We will enjoy a short walking tour of this lovely village, and then have lunch in a local restaurant, before continuing through the mountainous landscape to the Royal City of Fès where we spend two nights at the Palais Medina Spa & Hotel. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 9: Founded in the 9th century, Fès is an outstanding example of a medieval town created during the very first centuries of the Islamization of Morocco. Our day will be spent exploring the medina, or old city, completely enclosed by formidable walls and a maze of narrow streets filled with private homes, shops, palaces, mosques and fountains. We will enter two madrasas, lavishly decorated theological colleges. Bon Inania Madrasa is considered the finest and features fabulously carved cedar wood interiors, classic Zellig tile work and a stunning marble courtyard entrance. Madrasa el-Attarine was completed in 1325 and displays exquisite carved stucco designs along with a specialized technique of tile cutting called taqshir. We will examine the spectacular entrance of Dar el-Makhzen, the Royal Palace, and the outside of Kairaouine Mosque which is closed to non-Muslims. It was established in 859 by a wealthy refugee woman from Tunisia and was expanded by the Almoravids in the 12th century. As we wander through the souk, or market area, we will stop to see the tanneries, a Fès institution little changed for six centuries. Leather workers can be seen pounding animal hides with their feet or dipping skins into huge stone vats of colored dyes. The process will make us appreciate our leather jackets! Nearby Fondouk el-Nejjarine, now the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts, is a Fès landmark, an exquisitely restored former caravanserai that once provided food and shelter to traders during the 18th century. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 10: Depart Fès and drive west to see two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Meknès and Volubilis. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknès became a capital under Moulay Ismaïl who, in the 17th century, turned it into his capital using a blend of Andalucian and Islamic styles. This impressive Imperial City is enclosed by high fortification walls with nine large and beautiful entrance doors. Here, we will visit the mausoleum of Moulay Ismaïl, considered one of Morocco’s greatest rulers, and Heri es-Souani, the sultan’s royal stables constructed to house twelve thousand horses. Then it’s on to Volubilis, an important 3rd century BC outpost of the Roman Empire. Continue to Rabat and overnight in Villa Mandarine, a former mansion encased in lush gardens and groves of orange trees. (B/L/D)
Day 11: Rabat, the third of the Four Imperial Cities of Morocco, has been the country’s capital since 1956, and we will spend the morning seeing some of the city’s highlights. The Kasbah of the Udayas was settled by refugees from al-Andalus and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will enter the immense fortifications through the enormous 12th-century Almohad gate of Bab Udaya, and wander the narrow residential streets lined with whitewashed houses. Housed within a luxurious 17th-century mansion, the Udaya Museum displays traditional arts. Begun in the 12th century by the same Almohad ruler who build La Giralda in Seville, the Hassan minaret and immense unfinished mosque has become Rabat’s emblematic landmark. After lunch, drive to Marrakech where we will spend four nights at Les Jardins de Koutoubia. (B/L)
Day 12: Marrakech, the last of the Imperial Cities we will visit, lies in a lush plain with the snowy High Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. The city was founded in 1062 by the Almoravids, and ultimately this Berber Dynasty expanded to include much of the Iberian Peninsula and present-day Algeria. The ancient section, the medina, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. We will spend today visiting many of the important sites. Set in a gorgeous complex of gardens, the 16th-century dynastic tombs of the Saadiens are among the finest examples of medieval Islamic art, not only for the dazzling stucco decoration but also for the finely carved cedar ceilings. Koutoubia Mosque is the largest in Marrakech and is celebrated for its splendid minaret, the oldest of the three Almohad minarets left in the world today. We will walk by the entrance façade of the Royal Palace, and stop to see the remains of the Badi Palace. Although stripped of its finery, enough remains of the palace to appreciate the grandeur that once would have been revealed. Built in the early 12th century, Koubba Ba’adiyn is the oldest building in Marrakech and the only Almoravid edifice to survive intact in Morocco. The decorative art represents Almoravid art at its peak. We will jump to the 19th century when we visit Bahia Palace, an excellent example of the style of the wealthy who lived at that time. Marrakech is noted for its many fine gardens. Majorelle Garden was the artistic achievement of Jacques Majorelle, and in 1980 the property was sold to Yves Saint-Laurent who restored it. We will stroll through luxurious foliage with streams and water lily-filled pools strikingly enhanced by cobalt blue walls to the Islamic Art Museum that houses North African artifacts from Saint-Laurent’s personal collection. (B/L/D)
Day 13: In the 12th century the Almohad movement, another of the waves of caliphates that crossed into Spain, originated with Mohamed Ibn Tumart, a member of a Berber confederation of southern Morocco. This morning we will travel along a winding road through stunning landscape into the Atlas Mountains to Tinmel, a small village where Ibn Tumart proclaimed himself mahdi, the spiritual and military leader of his followers. The 12th-century mosque, listed on the UNESCO tentative list, was built to commemorate the founder of the Almohad Dynasty. Return to Marrakech with the afternoon free to explore the souk. Gather this evening for our final dinner together. (B/L/D)
Day 14: As we continue our explorations of Marrakech, we begin in Madrasa Ben Youssef, formerly an Islamic college named for the Almoravid sultan who expanded the city. An impressive example of Moorish architecture, it is evocative of the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcázar in Seville. The Marrakech Museum is housed in the 19th century Dar Me’nebhi Palace and displaying a fine array of Jewish, Berber and Muslim artifacts. Since the rule of the Almohad and Almoravid dynasties, the Medina of Marrakech has been surrounded by an unbroken circle of city walls, more than 10 miles long and containing 19 gates. The most imposing entrance is Bab Agnaou, constructed in the 12th century by the Almohads and once the entrance to the Almohad Palace. For sunset, we will drive along the fortification walls and see several of the city gates. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 15: Transfer to the airport and fly back to the USA. (B)
CALL (per person, double occupancy) all hotels, meals as noted on the itinerary, entry fees, service of a local English -speaking guides, ground transportation and gratuities.
Single Supplement: CALL. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International airfare into Granda, Spain and out of Casablanca, Morocco; a separate donation as outlined; passport or visa fees; airport taxes; beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; alcoholic drinks; telephone, email, and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Note on Donation: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural projects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $750.00 and the separate donation check for $150.00 (made out to the designated project) are required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent initial trip documents. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $450.00 per person. Cancellations received less than 120 days before departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the tour, we will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Hotels and Meals
Most lunches and dinners will be in small, local restaurants. And where possible, overnights will be in carefully chosen traditional and characteristic hotels located in the historic areas of each city that will range from three- to five-star. The hotels listed in the brochure may change; the ambiance will not.
Travel in this part of the World
We will be on our feet much of each day walking up, into, and around sites extensively, and the historic areas we will be visiting often have cobble-stone streets. When boarding and leaving the Spain-Morocco ferry, each person will be responsible for his or her own luggage. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, there will be no one to assist you. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that could exceed two miles or more each day. A flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.