Fes, the Sahara Desert, Marrakech, & Essaouira
Join our caravan of intrepid expolorers for an Exhilarating and Profound Journey
into the Sounds of Sacred Music, Sufi Mystical Practice, and the Culture of Morocco!
- Attend 6 memorable days and nights at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
- Explore the ancient imperial cities of Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech
- Learn traditional chanting with Sufi teachers
- Take a camel trek into the Sahara Desert and spend a night in bedouin tents under the stars
- Relax in the white-washed port city of Essaouira
Set foot on the Road to Morocco and join our caravan of pilgrims and explorers heading for the fabled city of Fes and this, the 23rd annual World Sacred Music Festival. Founded in 1994, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music welcomes and celebrates distinguished musicians inspired by the world’s great faith traditions. Past festivals have included such diverse talents as the whirling dervishes of Turkey, African World Music superstars Miriam Makeba and Youssoun’Dour, Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, and American soul singer Ray Charles. This year’s line up of performers has not yet been announced. This page will be updated as soon as we know the festival schedule.
Steve Scholl will lead our small group (no more than 14 persons) along with local guides and spiritual teachers.
Our journey begins in Fes (Fez). Here we will step back in time, winding our way through the maze of streets and alleys of Fes el-Bali (Old Fes), a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most faithfully preserved medieval medina in the Arab world. In Fes el-Bali over 200,000 Fassis (residents of Fes) live without any motorized vehicles behind walls originally built in the 9th century. This is a city for walking, where we will encounter the tantalizing aromas of spices and tanjines (traditional Moroccan dish) or the stronger scents of the tanning quarter (keep a sprig of mint close to your nose), while exploring the souks (markets), mosques, hammams (public baths), gardens, palaces, and historic ruins of this magical place. Fes, like all of Morocco, abounds in sound; music fills the streets along with the hammering of metal, the shouts of vendors, and five times daily the chanting of the muezzein from the minaret, calling the faithful to prayer.
While in Fes we will attend lectures with leading spiritual, cultural and political figures as part of the World Sacred Music Festival’s Colloquium. We will attend private sessions with Sufi shaykhs to learn the practice of zikr, the chant practice of Sufism. Day trips will include options to hike in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, a visit to the imperial city of Meknes, relaxation and rejuvenation in the hammams, and walking exploration of Fes el-Bali. Our immersion in the city includes time for shared study and exploration of Fes along with ample opportunities for you to wander off on your own, to follow your personal interests and to discover dramatic and extraordinary aspects of the imperial city of Fes. We highly recommend novelist Paul Bowles suggestion that when in Fes to “lose oneself in the crowd — to be pulled along by it — not knowing where to and for how long … to see beauty where it is least likely to appear.”
After 7 days of concerts, lectures and explorations of Fes, we will journey on our charter bus overnight and over the Atlas Mountains ariving at dawn in Merzouga and the Sahara Desert. We will check into our aubrerge (a desert B&B) for rest and refreshments and later in the day we will mount our camel caravan and trek into the depths of the dunes to a bedouin tent camp. We will spend the night in the Sahara Desert under the stars sharing stories and songs with our bedouin hosts. In the morning we will remount our camels, trek back to our auberge for breakfast then board our bus for the southwestern drive back over the Atlas Mountains on the road to Marrakech and Esaouria. Stopping for a night in the High Atlas city of Ouazazate. This is the land of the kasbahs (citadel cities) and ksars (fortified cities). The following day we will stop at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ait Benhoudou, which has been the setting for many films, including “Gladiator,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” and “The Man Who Would Be King” among many others.
Next we will head south to the port city of Essaouria, famed for its artisans and crafts; and then on to the fabled city of Marrakech, founded in the 11th century. Marrakech is known as the Red City for the color of its fortified walls and is home to the world famous Jemaa el-Fna, the magnificent plaza at the head of the Old City of Marrakech where storytellers, jugglers, snake charmers, henna artists, and musicians gather for commerce and entertainment.
Marrakech is our last stop and flights home are best made from the Marrakech International Airport.