From Matisse in Marrakech to Dali in the Desert – Tours of Morocco in January 2024.
©Aussies In Morocco Tours™
We are pleased to offer the following 8 day/7 night Art tour in early January 2024, and again in mid-January 2024, starting in Marrakech and finishing in the desert.
Cara will accompany you on these group tours. If you however prefer to do it as a private tour at this or another time, we are all ears!
This is neither a lecture tour nor a painting one. Rather, it is a tour that focuses on the sensory and on the experiential.
As January is milder weather in southern Morocco, these tours focus on the south and we will not be exploring the Delacroix of the north.
For both January tours – bookings close
September 30, 2023
with a $500.00 prepayment by July 31, 2023
The pricing table appears at the conclusion of this itinerary.
Please also read our blog posts here, for example about traditional accommodation to have some idea of what you are in for, so that your expectations equate with reality.
Pre-tour you will be sent digital books of the works of Matisse and Dali for you to access during the tour. We recommend you bring an ipad with you on tour, with the books uploaded to it.
Matisse @ Marrakech
December 31-January 2 or January 14-16
December 31: Marrakech (Sunday) or January 14 (Sun)
Meals: Dinner (D)
Arrive Riad Houdou (or equivalent) for New Year’s Eve in Marrakech. Another option is Riad Chocolat with its vibrant Provencal vibe, very reminiscent of Matisse. Dinner at the riad to bring in the new year.
These are traditional incense or perfume bottles in the souk. You can easily imagine how the colours of Morocco influenced Matisse.
January 1: Marrakech – Ourika – Marrakech (Monday) or January 15 (Mon)
Meals: Breakfast (B) & Lunch (L)
To Ourika in the Mountains, 30 minutes outside Marrakech, for a lunch prepared for us by a personal chef in the Garden of the Soul (Anima Gardens) which includes various artworks including sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Pablo Picasso. (Not available on a private tour except as an extra.)
If you are interested in purchasing a carpet that reminds you of a Matisse, let us know the night before and we can arrange for a visit to a lady with loads of integrity and brains who sells them for local women. Yes, you could buy it from her online too, but that wouldn’t resonate with the same memories would it? Matisse was profoundly influenced by the decorative elements of Morocco especially in his efforts to use colour as pure expression. One only need compare his painting to traditional Moroccan carpets to see this.
Otherwise, we can enjoy a glass of Moroccan tea with our feet in the river, and anything else that our Ourika guide recommends and that you would like to experience, such as visiting an ochre-coloured Berber village, before returning to base in Marrakech. Your evening is your own. There are various excellent restaurants in Marrakech if you want to go out for dinner. Alternatively, a quiet night in, with something cold and light for dinner in your room and a chance to catch up on any personal tasks, might be just the ticket.
Whatever you decide to do, please leave the night food markets for tomorrow night, for what we hope to be a special experience.
Anima (“Soul”) Garden. It is not a big garden, but it is charming and full of art.
January 2: Marrakech (Tuesday) or January 16 (Tues)
Meals: B & D
Today a professional guide will take us to the garden and palace at Le Jardin Secret, the Chichaoua Tea Room for a tea and Riad Yima for art work of Hassan Hajjaj. (We have written about him in our blog post “Colours, Naturellement”.) Hopefully we will also have time to visit Dar El Bacha, a former palace now art gallery with a highly recommended coffee house, for a light lunch (not included). We will talk about the options with our guide before confirming what is best to include and the route to take. Afternoon we can take you back to the riad, perhaps for a hammam and massage (probably the last opportunity to do so and not included as part of this tour fee), or you can continue with the guide to the famous Majorelle Gardens.
For our final night in Marrakech we go on a guided food tour of the night markets. With acrobats, snake charmers, musicians, water sellers, storytellers, henna tattoo charlatans, be prepared to have your senses blasted. From high up at one of the cafes facing the square, where once they beheaded people and sold slaves, it looks like a galaxy of twinkling stars has come to earth to do its shopping and the sounds are unforgettable.
An apothecary’s wares for sale. It is also a bit like a painter’s palette board isn’t it.
Dali @ the desert
Matisse: Valley of the Roses
January 3 (Wednesday) or January 17 (Wed)
January 3: Valley of the Roses (Wednesday) or January 17 (Wed)
Meals: B L & D
Journey to the Valley of the Roses.
We wouldn’t say that either of the artists whose footsteps we are following were particularly well known for painting roses specifically. All painted flowers, in Matisse’s case in vases often adjacent to an open window and often overlooking the sea. However, as we discuss in the blog post “Colours Naturellement“, Matisse seems to have come under the influence of the muted yellows, oranges and greens of the south of Morocco as his art evolved towards use of those colours and away from the bright colours of the Fauvism of his earlier period.
Whilst in the Valley of the Roses we will be staying at one of a thousand ochre coloured Kasbahs that dot the landscape in the south: Kasbah Itran (or equivalent). On the way we will visit Ait Ben Haddou, famous ancient village on a hillside and UNESCO world heritage site. We will have a picnic close by of food prepared for us by the Riad at which we stayed in Marrakech. We will probably buy bottled water or stop for a tea with the locals along the way, so we can use their western restrooms.
The roses season is May but you see lots of the Damask roses blooming in the Valley of the Roses at other times.
Dali @ the Dunes
Dali: Hassilabied (“White Well”)
January 4 & 5 or January 18 & 19
January 4: The Dunes (Thursday) or January 18 (Thur)
Meals: B & D
Arrive at the dunes. Go to Khamlia and the café known as Chez les Artistes for lunch with its strange and fantastic metal creatures reminiscent of Dali’s desert psychoscapes. Quick stop off at a luxury riad to drop bags, freshen up and have a tea, then enjoy a camel ride into the dunes where in the late afternoon camel trains cast shadows like those long-legged elephantine creatures from a surrealistic Dali painting. Stay at a luxury camp. Further details to be provided upon request.
At the camp you will be treated to a display of African music that is part of the soul of the local inhabitants.
January 5: Hassilabied (Friday) or January 19 (Fri)
Meals: B L & D (only at our accommodation)
Return to the riad. There are a couple of options for today. Firstly you could do a tour of the desert, where you might see abandoned villages, ancient animal engravings, an oasis, lonely graves, stones to show a solitary shepherd the direction of Mecca for praying, gigantic art installations which recall Chirico and drink a tea (perhaps with acacia sap) with the nomads. Lunch will be a BBQ provided by us, in the shade of an acacia tree. OR you can stay at the riad, lounge around the pool, learn how to cook a tagine with the riad cook and have some local ladies do henna tattoos on you for a small fee.
For those travelling in January 2024 you are in luck because as it is a Friday, that is the day families traditionally have couscous after attending prayers at the local mosque. If you want to experience a meal of couscous with a local family in a mud dwelling close by, with a modest gift of money to the family in return, let us know in sufficient time beforehand. If you elect to do this, please dress modestly as respect for the older members of the family. Also conversation is likely to be limited due to language, but the feeling will be hospitable.
Dinner (and breakfast the next morning) at the accommodation is covered, or we can take you to another riad close by for dinner (this cost is not included) which has very good reviews for its restaurant (note it is quite new, and we think our accommodation is better managed, although by the time of this tour it will have been in operation for a few years). On private tours, this alternative dinner option is only available by direct arrangement between you and the other riad, the name of which we will provide upon request.
Note that we will also gauge interest before determining if a stargazing session tonight on the riad rooftop via telescope, together with a recounting of ancient Berber stories associated with the stars, is doable. The boreal sky of the northern hemisphere is very different from the night sky we see in the southern hemisphere, so it is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of you. There would be an additional cost for this, payable on the day and minimum numbers would be required. We won’t charge a fee on top; just cover the cost of the star guide. (Please note this is not available on any private tour unless you are able to make the arrangement directly via riad management).
The glorious shapes and patterns in the dunes arising from the wind and the shadows. For Dali the desert symbolised the Maternal, that is within us all.
January 6 or January 20
January 6: Erfoud (Saturday) or January 20 (Sat)
Meals: B & L
Travel to Erfoud. Stop at the Rissani markets on the way to visit the apothecary and see evidence of some its dark past, such as old slave chains that are still there. Arrive at La Rose du Desert (or equivalent) and settle in your bungalow or better quality room before enjoying a welcoming BBQ in their lovely date palm garden. (The welcoming BBQ is not available on the private tour. However they have a modest restaurant there.) This will in effect be our final meal together. Traditionally the last meal is supposed to be the highlight of the tour. Instead this meal will be a quiet, low key affair as we absorb all that we have experienced and ready ourselves mind and body to conclude this full-on, albeit abbreviated, time together and take our next steps in life.
In the afternoon we can take those of you who would like to see it, to the fossil museum. It is a simple museum, but the fossils, such as the skull of a sabre-toothed tiger are impressive and Indiana Jones-type fossil hunting is a big deal in this part of Morocco. We may, with a big emphasis on may, be able to arrange for you to go to a local hammam. However, we advise you don’t depend on this and recommend that you ensure you have had any hammam and massage the riad at which we stay, by the time we leave Marrakech. Otherwise you can have a quiet afternoon at the hotel, getting ready for the following day’s departure. If you want dinner you can arrange to have it at the hotel restaurant. It is nice, simple food – just remember to give them enough forewarning to prepare as soon as possible, as we are still on Moroccan time for a short while longer.
January 7: Departure (Sunday) or January 21 (Sun)
Airport transfers to Errachidia – approximately one hour’s drive – from which flights only go to Casablanca .
Although our tour ends at Errachidia, if you are not intending to catch a connecting flight out of Casablanca, but would rather spend more time in Morocco (even if it’s only overnight in Casablanca for example), let us know and we are happy to help you with the arrangements. If you have extra time, as an optional add-on, you could be driven from Erfoud to the imperial city of Fez via Midelt, to spend a few days exploring its medieval medina and world renowned cuisine. Just let us know if you would like to add that as a private tour to your Footsteps of Matisse & Dali tour with us.
If it is your first time in Morocco and you think it unlikely you will return, we advise that Fez (and Marrakech) are highlights not to miss.
Tour fee per person assumes you are sharing a room with one other (due to limits of traditional accommodation): $3,920.00 unless you catch the early bird price. Price is based on a party of 10-12 which includes Cara, a guide, and at least one driver.
Private tour prices on application as depends on the number of your touring party. If a couple, see the pricing table at the conclusion of this itinerary.
Another sculpture from Anima Garden in Ourika, outside Marrakech
Et voila, the end of an adventure of a lifetime! Or maybe just the first instalment?
For more information about Matisse and Dali in Morocco please look at our blog posts here and here. Please remember that tips, entrance fees, alcohol and flights are not part of the Tour fees. If we don’t mention something is covered by the tour fee, best to assume that it isn’t. Sometimes for example we refer to a venue for lunch in this itinerary but do not cover the cost of lunch at that venue. You need to check each day of the itinerary to see precisely what meal costs we specify are covered.
Your diary checklist
July 31, 2023:
$500.00 due for group tours, to secure highly sought after accommodation at this time of the year. Fully refundable if any group tour to which it relates does not proceed, but not otherwise.
September 30, 2023:
Bookings close for both group tours.
(30% deposit payable to secure booking, less the $500 already paid).
September 30, 2023:
Early bird discount for payment in full of January tours.
October 30, 2023:
Final payment due for both group tours.
Note: all prices are shown in Australian dollars.