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MHF Moroccan Tour 2010
THE MHF 2010 Moroccan Tour In Conjunction with DESERT DETOURS “FOOTSTEPS OF MOORS” AND “THE WEDDING”
By 709 AD, the Muslim/Arab armies had conquered all of Northern Africa and with their backs to the Riff Mountains they paused, and gazed across the Straits of Gibraltar to a new land.
On the African side of the straits, between them and Europe, there stood only the Visigoth fortress of Ceuta.
In 711 AD, Ceuta finally fell to the Moors [Arabs and Berber converts]. Immediately Musa-ibn-Nusair commanded his most trusted Moorish general, Tarik ibn Zeyad to assemble a modest army of seven thousand men and ordered him to conquer Spain in the name of Islam.
The Moorish fleet sailed across the straits and with little resistance seized a beachhead, their first territory on the European mainland.
When the Gothic King Roderick heard of the invasion he amassed an army six times that of Tarik ibn Zeyad’s and moved south to defend his kingdom. For over a week the two forces clashed in the grueling and bloody battle of Guadalete, at Río Barbate. Greatly outnumbered, the Moors at times lost faith, but their great and brave leader was resolute and from the front urged them forward. The horrific conflict claimed thousands of lives on both sides but finally ended with King Roderick dead and his broken forces routed.
In his victory Tarik became master of Spain and by 719 AD the Moors had conquered the entire area from the coast to the Pyrenees, and beyond.
Back where it all began a garrison was established at the foot of Mons Calpe, which the Moors renamed in homage to their general, Gebel Tarik, “The Hill of Tarik”. Although now in disrepair and forgotten the garrison’s tower is still there today, looking towards mainland Europe.
The name “Hill of Tarik” was subsequently corrupted by the Spaniards into “Gibraltar”.
For almost 800 years the Moors had an extraordinary impact on European cultural, socio-economic and political institutions. The Moorish occupation enlightened Europe and brought it out of the dark ages to usher in the Renaissance period.
This influence left an unmistakable mark on Spain, making it markedly different, even today, from the rest of Western Europe. The Moors not only brought their religion, but also their music, their art, their view of life, and their architecture...two of the greatest examples of which are the Alhambra in Granada and the Escorial in Cordoba.
Perhaps a more simple, graphic and tranquil sign of their lasting presence in Al Andalus [Andalusia] are the numerous “White Villages” that dot the sweeping countryside and rolling Sierras.
In fact our journey “Footsteps of Moors” begins at one such village, Alhaurin El Grande [The Garden of Allah] and continues across the narrow Straits of Gibraltar and over the distant Riff Mountains into deepest Morocco. We visit the ancient Imperial City of Meknes, trans the great Cedar Forest and cross the High Atlas, traditional home of the Berbers. On the desert plains where the Arab armies must have gathered and looked north we pause before ourselves turning back……….truly an epic journey “Footsteps of Moors”……………..And then “The Wedding”.
DAYS 1-5 [Formal Campsite]
Meet at Malaga Monte Park Campsite on Thursday 27th May.
You can arrive any number of days earlier by arrangement.
This is a rural campsite situated on the A404, about 6k east of Alhaurin El Grande and about 18k inland from Malaga. Details can be found at www.malagamontepark.com
We will remain at Malaga Monte Park for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday during which time you will be introduced to the nearby town/white villages of Alhaurin el Grande and Alhaurin Del La Torre, the Guadalhorce valley and the overlooking Sierra de Mijas.
Introductions and briefing will take place in the Venta [restaurant] adjacent to the campsite during the second evening [Friday] when a Spanish style meal and live entertainment will be provided by HeartFM [Spain] plus a well known artist.
A guided walk into the nearby Sierra de Mijas can be arranged for Saturday or Sunday [Depending on minimum numbers and FREE]. Again depending on minimum numbers, but at extra cost, a “Safari” style Quad Bike trip can be organised. This involves a 4-6 hour off-road guided ride into the Serria De Las Nievas then along the Rio Grande and includes refreshments on route and after. A similar horse riding tour can be organised.
For a more relaxing time you can visit the nearby towns/white villages of Alhaurin De La Torre or Alhaurin El Grande. A regular bus service runs to both towns from the campsite entrance……but we are working on the possibility, and it is very likely we will have, a FREE mini-bus service on standby for the 4 days.
Over this weekend Alhaurin El Grande holds it’s annual Feria which centres around a MASSIVE Fair and Community celebration. Events for the 2010 Feria have yet to be announced, but will likely follow earlier year’s programmes. For example, the 2009 feria featured huge covered street parties that included, at some locations, free drinks and food. A number of street parades were held around the town. During Saturday and Sunday evening Flamenco, live music and traditional entertainment was held in a number of very large marquee structures around the fairground, entrance was free! Within the Feria ground a large funfair runs into the early hours with the final evening [Sun] being brought to a close with a huge firework display [around 01.00].
For those inclined there is of course the inevitable Bull Fights, featuring well known matadors. This takes place in an erected arena adjacent to the fairground.
There was also an [unofficial] early morning “Bull Run” through parts of the town……Both are of course “Optional”.
During the weekend the Bull-Fighting arena was also used for a “Cuban Rodeo” and a Picador and Spanish style riding and horse display.
Departing Malaga Monte Park we head for a location near Algeciras. Distance is about 75k, mostly Motorway [Toll]. Travel as a group or individually.
Re-Group at a well known “Venta” close to Gibraltar [10k] so there should be time for a visit for those who so wish.
There will be a short Briefing/Reminder covering ferry and border details/formalities and a reminder of the days ahead in Morocco! Here we also issue required paperwork, documents, ferry tickets.
DAYS 6-16 [Wilderness and Formal Camps]
An early start as possible [first ferry] for the 45min ferry crossing to Ceuta that will leave ample time for cheap fuel top-up.
From Ceuta Docks there follows a short [5k] drive through the town to the Moroccan border.
Once in the border area your “Tour Guide” will collect passports and vehicle documents in order to take care of all border requirements and formalities. Border formalities can take approx. 1- 2 hours.
Clearing the border there will be a short [24k] drive to a formal campsite on the Moroccan/Med coast where you will meet your Moroccan Tour Guide/Assistant. There will be an introduction to Moroccan wine.
You have the rest of the afternoon/evening to explore the seaside town of Martil. The campsite has an excellent Moroccan style restaurant should you wish to dine.
A short drive [55k] to the “Blue” town of Chefchaouen.
There will be ample free-time spent in the town and surrounding area.
Our Moroccan assistants will prepare a “Berber” style breakfast before morning departure.
Chefchaouen is a picturesque town with a stunning medina set against the dramatic backdrop of the Riff Mountains. Chefchaouen is perhaps best known for its narrow alleys lined with white-washed homes with distinctive powder-blue accents…….
Wilderness Woodland camping location near the town of Moulay Iddris.
Evening with traditional [Berber] late night campfire food.
Entry [with guide] to nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis that cover over 40 hectares and are the best preserved ruins in Morocco.
Moulay Iddris is named after and is the resting place of the founder of Fes. Moulay Iddris is a very picturesque town and is today an important pilgrimage site for Muslims. The Roman ruins of Volubilis are said to be the best in North East Africa and cover over 40 acres.
After a short drive [30k] we spend two nights in the Imperial city of Meknes
Tour the souks, medina, palaces and much much more
Meknes is a stunning city, steeped in history. Its roots can be traced to an 8th century Kasbah, or fortress. It gets its name from the Berber called the Miknasa who settled there in the 10th century. One of the most casual and laid-back of Morocco’s Imperial Cities. Meknes offers an excellent opportunity to wonder at leisure and hassle free.
Wilderness forest camp [70k]. Wildlife [Apes], walks etc…..
Evening Campfire with Traditional food.
This wilderness location is in the Ifrane National Park: Located in the heart of the mighty Middle Atlas Mountains, the reserve incorporates the largest Atlas [and oldest and largest Cedar tree] cedar forest which is home to a thriving and very active population of Barbary ape. The only primate that is indigenous to the Mediterranean.
PLEASE NOTE………This section follows a truly breathtaking route over the High Atlas Mountains on roads and surfaced tracks that are little used other than by local Berber traffic. At this time Desert Detours are the only organisation that has the local knowledge [and permission] to use this route, much of which is through National Parkland.
The proposed and intended route at this time is: …………We will cross the Lower and High Atlas on surfaced tracks for some 175k. This route will take us through the Berber villages of El-Bjh and Zhique towards Imilshil [Probably the highest village in the Atlas] then, by crossing the highest navigable route over the Atlas via the breathy and infamous Legionnaires Pass, onto the stunning volcanic basin lakes of Isslet and Tisslet.
A divert to the South West towards Ait Tisga will lead us toward to northern end of the Todra Gorge.
It is proposed we visit “Fatimas Farm”, a stunning and secluded Berber hamlet [Biblical location] high in the mountains. We will also visit the volcanic lakes Isslet and Tisslet. We will camp at one of these locations.
Still in the Atlas, but after crossing the Ayachi Platue, we will overnight at a first class campsite on the outskirts of Tamtattouchte, a Mountain Berber village.
Expect some rousing Berber entertainment/music well into the night.
Depart Tamtattouchte as early as possible to drop down through the mighty 45k long Todra Gorge and Ziz Valley palm groves, exiting at Tinerhir.
Exiting Todra the route continues East along the Desert Highway via Tinjdad and Er Rachidia too Source Blue de Meski.
Mahammed had been with us for nearly 20 years and was not a young man when he first joined our team. For the last few years his son, Hammid Haddani, has taken over…….
Now Hammid is getting married!!!! There is no question that my own family, some friends and Desert Detours staff would not be there for this very personal and joyous occasion……. Mahammid is of High Standing in the Arab/Berber village of Meski so we expect this wedding to be something quite special. And YOU are invited.
To be invited to a Moroccan wedding is unique, an honor and something quite out of the ordinary……. So, what can you expect?
Every culture treasures the wedding ceremony in some way. Traditions and ceremonies differ in each land and Morocco is no exception. The traditional Moroccan wedding has quite an elaborate and meaningful process.
The wedding process can take up to seven days and there are many pre-wedding ceremonies that take place before the actual wedding.
Morocco is a place with a very rich cultural heritage and active traditions and many of these can be seen at Moroccan wedding ceremonies. The entire affair is quite expensive. It starts with the paying of a dowry that is spent on household items and furniture for the bride. If the groom’s parents are very wealthy, they will pay for these items themselves. The bride also receives golden jewelry and is sent presents of cloth, clothing and perfume from her groom every feast day. The courtship period can last from six months to two years.
Five days before the matrimonial event, necessities such as a mattress and blanket are taken to the bridal chamber. There the bride is given a bath in hammam which is a sort of milk bath that is meant to purify the bride. Her negaffa (female attendants) will supervise the event. The negaffa , who are older married woman, female friends and relatives, then set about beautifying her. After dressing her in an elaborately decorated wedding kaftan (usually white) they proceed to decorate her with heavy jewelry and darken her eyes with Koohl which looks a bit like thick dark eyeliner.
The group then proceeds to have a beberiska ceremony in which the hands and feet of the bride and her party are painted with henna. The bride's designs are always the most intricate and the various floral and geometric designs are meant to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck and increase fertility.
The grooms name is often hidden in the henna designs. The negaffa will usually take this opportunity to discuss the 'secrets' of marriage with the young virgin. In some ceremonies the bride will then be placed behind a curtain to symbolize her change of lifestyle. In more remote areas, this ceremony would only take place the day before the wedding. Often, a bride is not expected to do any housework until her henna has faded.
Once all this preparation is complete, food is prepared in excess to cater for unexpected guests and the festivities begin. In times past, the men and woman would celebrate these festivities at separate locations. At some point in the evening, the groom would leave to make his way towards the bridal party accompanied by a group of friends who sing, beat drums and dance. The bride would be lifted up on a circular cushion or table and the groom on the shoulders of his friends. The two would then be carried to the bridal chamber where they would be expected to consummate their marriage.
The bridal party would then examine their sheets for signs of blood to confirm the bride's virginity. The two would journey to their new home and the bride would circle her home three times before becoming the “Keeper of her Hearth”.
Overview of our time at Meski…………..
Even without “The Wedding” Source Blue de Meski is a memorable location. The distant desert horizon, the old ruined Kasbha, the sleepy village and the traditional way of life make this a very special place. Meski is off the beaten path and a very small tourist industry has grown up around the Source Blue, but it doesn't detract from either the beauty of the lake or the scenic natural surroundings. If fact it perhaps adds an additional element.
Because of the wedding and associated events our stay at Meski needs to be flexible, as does what we do in addition to the celebrations. There is plenty to do and some stunning places to visit nearby. Mazouga and the Erg Chebbie Dunes are just a few hours drive away. There is the “frontier” town of Rissani, The ancient Kasbaha’s at Boudnib and nearby Er Rachidia…………No excuse for being bored!
Source Blue de Meski is a natural spring, fed from an underground source exiting via a cave. The water fills a pool from where it feeds and irrigates the Meski Palmerie. The village lies just 17km south of Er-Rachidia and is close to the beginning of the Tafilalt region.
This will be something to remember………. Wait and see!
Your continued stay in Morocco can be as long as they like [Open return ferry ticket is provided]. Or from Meski you can of course join the support team on the more direct two day journey back to Ceuta. There are a number of options that will be discussed pre-tour and on location.
PLEASE NOTE. This is an early outline and proposed itinerary so therefore, although unlikely, it could be subject to some route change and/or additions.
The Footsteps of Moors and “The Wedding” is a one-off tour and will not be repeated.
The tour will start May 27th and be around 20 days with onward option.
Camping costs will be covered from 27th May and include first night back in Spain for those with the support team.
What IS included…….Open Ferry Algeciras-Ceuta-Algeciras. All Camp fees. Wilderness location permits and fees [National Parks]. A number of full menu meals, BBQ, Breakfast, Camp Snacks and Wine as indicated.
Entertainment when provided. Unlimited pre-tour contact/info. 24/7 Support Staff. Additional guides as required.
What is NOT included……..Fuel [about half UK price July 09], Food/Drink other than mentioned in itinerary, Optional events [these will be CLEARLY detailed].
All normal Desert Detours support, staffing, terms etc will apply and will be issued with your booking forms.
Pre-booking clients have unlimited access to Desert Detours for Q&A. Clients will be contacted and spoken to direct [Must provide land-line number]. An extensive pre-tour info document covering specific “Moroccan” matters will be issued on confirmed booking. Full advice and required documents and paperwork will be issued.
The cost of the tour is £750 Per Person.
25% Deposit on booking with balance NOT due until tour date.
Deposit paid to Desert Detours.
Single supplement will apply [Ask for details].
Oversize vehicles [RV,s] need to contact Desert Detours PRIOR to booking.
For Pre-Booking enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org and/or supply a LANDLINE telephone number for return call.
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