Mystical Morocco

Tour Intro

We will have a cordial welcome in this land with its irresistible allure and warm hospitality. We begin in Casablanca, enjoying time at a relaxed pace to get acclimated and time to photograph the souk (market) and King Hassan II mosque. Then drive north to the enchanting town of Chefchaouen, located in the Rif Mountains in Northern Morocco. Chaouen, as Moroccans refer to the town, nestles in the hollow of two mountains, from which it takes its name. Steep narrow streets with white and indigo lime-washed buildings, small squares, ornate fountains, and houses with elaborately decorated doorways and red tile roofs make this a delightful town. Esteemed as a holy town, with a population of just forty thousand, it has eight mosques and several monasteries.

Then it’s on to Fes, an ancient city, with its spectacular medina - where time seems to have stood still and photographs beckon around every corner. From Fes we move on to the Sahara, giving participants time to capture the pinks, reds and purples of the sunset and sunrise over the dunes, with a camel ride included. The tour ends in Marrakech, with its ramparts and colorful markets. There we will visit the famous Djemaa el-Fna Square, perhaps the greatest open-air spectacle in the world. We will see the colors and feel the pulse of Morocco. Traveling back in time, we'll see snake charmers, musicians, magicians, acrobats, and dancers.

Please join tour leader Ralph Velasco for this incredible cultural and photographic opportunity. Two or three of the evenings during the journey Ralph will be glad to hold photography education meetings and perform critiques for those that wish to have a review of their images. This is an amazing tour, one that has sold out the last six years (we recommend signing up early).

Tour Highlights

• Casablanca’s King Hassan II mosque and vibrant central market.
• Jemaa el Fna Square and the ancient city and souk of Marrakech
• The striking Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou
• An evening in the Sahara with a traditional camel ride at sunrise
• Chefchaouen & The Rif, with quaint blue-washed buildings
• The heart of Morocco, medina of Fes el-Bali
• Unique visits with our expert Moroccan guide

Tour Itinerary

April 26: Home
Poser Man

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Casablanca, Morocco

Depart on an overnight flight to Casablanca. Please note your international airfare will need to be booked multi-city: Home/CMN, RAK/Home.

April 27-28: Casablanca
Bracelets

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco

You can arrive anytime today prior to 4pm. There will be a introductory meeting at 6PM at the hotel, followed by a welcome dinner. The next morning there will be a photo shoot in the medina, as the locals set up their stalls. Afterwards Ralph will take you to the central market of Casablanca, where you can photograph the fresh produce and spices. After lunch there will be an interior tour of the King Hassan II mosque. Rising up on a point above the Atlantic Ocean, the mosque is the largest religious monument in the world after Mecca. A photography session outside the mosque before returning to the hotel. Overnight HYATT REGENCY or similar. (D; B, L)

April 29-30: Chefchaouen

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco

From Casablanca we arrive late this afternoon in the Rif region of Northern Morocco and the town of Chefchaouen (shef-shau-en), built into the mountainside. The town was founded in 1492 by Moorish exiles from Spain, often called Chaouen by Moroccans. Our accommodations are set in the hillside just above the town, away from the hustle and bustle of the medina, yet walking distance to the areas we will be photographing.

In the medina, people sell all sorts of vegetables and fruits amid the narrow cobbled alleyways of whitewashed walls and blue doors. Chaouen offers many native handicrafts that are not available elsewhere in Morocco, such as wool garments and woven blankets. The local goat cheese is also popular. Pack mules are still led throughout the streets carrying many of the handcrafted goods and supplies as they have for centuries. The eager merchants are more than willing to discuss their merchandise and engage in the time-honored art of negotiation.

The open-air market is one of the oldest and most charming, with steep narrow streets, paved with stones that have been polished by countless feet over the centuries.  The homes are painted white, azure blue, indigo, and purple and have blue shutters and elaborately decorated doorways. Notice the small squares, ornate fountains and ochre tile. Overnight DAR CHEFCHAOUEN. (B, D; B)

May 1-3: Fes

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco, Fes

After breakfast we begin our drive to Fes, Morocco’s oldest imperial city and the center of culture and religious learning. The next day we will enjoy a full-day guided tour of Fes, Fes is arguably the symbolic heart of Morocco, as all the great dynasties have left their mark on the city; it has, however, retained its Arab identity. The medina, Fes el-Bali, is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world. Its narrow winding alleys and covered bazaars are intricate in their design and are awash of brilliant colors – a veritable assault on the senses as you squeeze past recalcitrant donkeys and submit to the sounds and smells of this jostling city. The dye makers, hills of spices, vats of tanners, and palaces of merchants will beckon us. During a visit to a tannery we can watch the tanners as they work in the varied colors of this land. There is another day to return to the medina for your favorite photo locations, relax, shop or work on your images at the hotel. You can also have an optional hammam break (bath house). The last afternoon or evening Ralph will organize an image review and feedback session for participants so that he can gauge each person’s progress and help them to improve, if necessary, for the rest of the trip. Overnight KSAR RAYAN. (B, D; B, L; B)

May 4: Erfoud - Merzouga
Erfound, Morocco

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Erfoud, Morocco

This will be the longest day of driving and your guides will take in to account the interests of the group, stopping for photographic locations along the way. We travel to Erfoud, an oasis region at the edge of the Sahara. We will then travel a short distance by Land Rovers to our Berber tent lodging. The next morning is a special one, camels will be waiting to carry us to the Erg Chebbi (shadow of the dunes), Morocco’s only genuine Saharan Erg – a huge, drifting expanse of sand dunes that typify much of the Algerian Sahara. The dunes themselves are fascinating, especially as the sun reaches the horizon and the colors change from pink to gold to red. This will be your most extraordinary and unforgettable desert experience. Imagine yourself spending a peaceful night in the Sahara desert, being awakened in the dark of the morning by a Berber tribesman, mounting a camel, and, overlooking the ancient dunes, welcoming in a breathtaking Saharan morning at first light. This is just one of the remarkable adventures awaiting you on this trip.

Don’t forget to pack any essentials in your overnight bag, as there is limited room in our vehicles. Overnight AUBURGE DU SUD. (B, L, D) (Accommodations are in typical Berber tents with cots, mattress and blankets, next to the lodge with bathroom and community showers. Comfortable rooms may be available in the lodge, though these cannot be guaranteed - nor can a single room).

May 5-6: Skoura
Boy Sandbags Ait Benhaddou

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco

After an early breakfast, we will travel through the valley of a thousand kasbahs. Stopping in the town of Tinghir where you will meet a Berber family who owns the most impressive carpet shop. They will be more than happy to allow you to photograph them, as well as tell us the history of carpet making in this region. If you have any interest in purchasing rugs, this is the place to do it. Our destination, a renovated Kasbah hotel provides an ideal location in Skoura for early morning and late afternoon photography. Ralph will moderate a group photography critique one of these evenings. Overnight HOTEL KSAR KEBBABA or similar. (B, L, D both days)

May 7-8: Marrakech

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco

Continue on to one of the most exotic and best-preserved Kasbahs in the whole Atlas region; it has been used for scenes in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Jesus of Nazareth. The Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou is designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Marrakech follows the beat of an African drum. This imperial city has been almost continually occupied since Neolithic times, and was once the Berber capital. Traveling back in time 2,000 years, we will have our first introduction to the famous Djemaa el-Fna Square, perhaps the greatest open-air spectacle in the world, where one can see the colors and feel the pulse of Morocco. Drift with the smells and sounds of the snake charmers, magicians, acrobats, and dancers, delighting children and adults alike. The following morning have a guided tour of Marrakech’s medina, stop for an incredible lunch and marvel at the maze of Berber rug vendors, dried fruit and spice stall, leather and ironworkers’ shops. Overnight RIAD LES YEUX BLEUS. (D; B, L)

May 9: Marrakech - Home
Marrakech, Morocco

Photo By: Ralph Velasco

Photo Location: Morocco

After an early breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight home. (B)

Note: This itinerary has been carefully constructed to assure participants the best Morocco has to offer. However, should events arise that are beyond our control, itinerary, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.
 

Photo Leader

Ralph Velasco
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Ralph Velasco

A native of Chicago, Ralph Velasco has taught a variety of travel photography classes at a number of institutions, including Santa Ana College, Saddleback College, the UC Irvine Extension program and others. Ralph has a unique series of international cultural tours that provide hands-on experience for photographers of all levels, and you can learn more about these trip at PhotoEnrichment Adventures. Ralph tries to differentiate his photo tours by providing an overall cultural experience, which in addition to photography might also include the food, drink, music, dance, sport and other cultural aspects of a destination. Additionally, Ralph is creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, available for free on iTunes (be sure to download it before the trip). The app is an organizational tool that helps photographers of all skill levels to bring back a more well-rounded portfolio of images that truly captures the essence of any destination or subject.

Ralph was shortlisted for the prestigious 2015 Travel Photographer of the Year award and he was recognized as “Open Category Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County for two years in a row.  He’s the author of Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More, which is available for free on his website, and his latest eBook is titled Essence of a Place: A Travel Photographer's Guide to Using a Shot List for Capturing Any Destination. Ralph is a past member of the Circumnavigators Club, an elite group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled “around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of Earth’s meridians.”

“My goal with any tour is to help you to create a cultural portrait, both in images and in memories. For the photographer in you my style is to provide leadership and guidance that will get you in front of some of the most awe-inspiring architecture, interesting people and iconic sites and landmarks in the places we’ll be visiting, while at the same time explore more off-the-beaten-path locations. With our travel schedule in mind, we’ll plan to get out early in the day in order to capture each location in the best light, and before or after the tourist crowds overwhelm. The main goal of any trip is to help you to advance your capability to ‘see like a photographer,’ but also to provide an overall cultural experience that will not only reveal the location through your camera’s viewfinder, but also through your mind’s eye

Participants of all experience levels are welcome, and with any type of camera, and after an orientation I’ll provide advice about photography when asked, however, my style is to allow you the freedom to discover photo, and cultural, opportunities on your own, but to always be available to assist.

In my experience, the traveler who gets the most out of any international adventure is the one who is open to going with the flow and is flexible. I’m a photographer who insists on traveling light, and I shoot 100 percent digital. My feeling is that 75 percent of good photography is simply making an effort to put yourself in the right place at the right time, and we help you to do just that." ~ Ralph Velasco

Pricing and Details

US Dollars based upon minimum of 9 paying participants. There is a small group surcharge of $400 if 5-8 paying participants. All our program prices are based on double occupancy unless noted in exceptions.

Single rooms are subject to availability. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested, or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, you will be required to pay the supplement.

Testimonials

This was an awesome trip!!! There is so much to see in Morocco and such contrasts (coast to mountains to desert, medieval villages, to big cities) and I feel like we experienced a very good sampling of what the country has to offer. Everybody on the tour was very friendly and outgoing. Ralph has an excellent eye for shots that I would otherwise miss, and it was great to see things through his eyess. I enjoyed the image review we had, to get his feedback and also to see what others got. 

C. Mahoney

Imagine being on a crowded side street and your instructor stops by just to check in with you, to make sure you’re getting the shots you want and most importantly that you’re having fun learning your gear. Ralph never forgets that he’s there to teach. On the bus? A quick lecture. Waiting for a tour to start? A quick photo review. In the elevator? A question or two about the day, what went well for me and what would I like to work on for the next day. Truly, I’d travel to the ends of earth to photograph with Ralph.

Liz R.

More than my money’s worth. Would definitely come to another class by Ralph. I really appreciate the information that you gave. I’ve spent hundreds, probably thousands of dollars on books and online instruction over the past 2 and a half years, since I got back into photography, but for some reason, your class resonated with something in me and really opened me up. And my confidence was through the roof! Basically, if I don’t walk away with at least (3) things that I’m going to put into practice, I’ve wasted my money and my time, so I’m extremely happy with the instruction that I received from you and am obviously looking forward to spending more time under your tutelage. Even my family and friends have noticed the difference.

D. Cross

Ralph’s tours provide much more than an opportunity to take photos. His insight, wit and frequent comments help each individual improve the way he or she sees photo opportunities and the ability to translate the vision to a photograph. The tours are fun, productive and enlightening.

B. Stine

Additional Notes

Ralph has a unique series of international cultural tours that provide hands-on experience for photographers of all levels. You can learn more about these trips at PhotoEnrichment Adventures. Ralph tries to differentiate his tours by providing an overall cultural experience, which in addition to photography might also include the food, drink, music, dance, sport and other cultural aspects of a destination. Additionally, Ralph is creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch©, available on iTunes. The app is an organizational tool that helps photographers of all skill levels to bring back a more well-rounded portfolio of images that truly captures the essence of any destination or subject, and you’ll be using it throughout the trip, so if you have an iOS device, download that app now, it’s free.

He’s been awarded “Open Category Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County two years in a row and was selected to a list of the “Top 100 Travel Photographers in the World for 2014.” Most recently Ralph was shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious 2015 Travel Photographer of the Year award.  He’s the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye &
More.” Ralph is a former member of the Circumnavigators Club, an elite group of travelers whose charter requires that its members have traveled “around the world, in a single journey, having crossed every one of Earth’s meridians.”

“My goal with any tour is to help you to create a cultural portrait of the destination, both in images and in memories. For the photographer in you my style is to provide leadership and guidance that will get you in front of some of the most awe-inspiring architecture, interesting people and iconic sites and landmarks in the places we’ll be visiting, while at the same time explore more off-the-beaten-path locations. With our travel schedule in mind, we’ll plan get out early in the day in order to capture each location in optimum light, and before the tourist crowds overwhelm. The main goal of any trip is to help you to advance your capability to ‘see like a photographer,’ but also to provide an overall cultural experience that will not only reveal the location through your camera’s lens, but also through your mind’s eye.

Participants of all experience levels are welcome, and after an orientation I’ll provide advice about photography when asked, however, my style is to allow you the freedom to discover photo, and cultural, opportunities on your own, but to always be available to assist.

In my experience, the traveler who gets the most out of any international experience is the one who is open to going with the flow and is flexible.” ~ Ralph Velasco

"My feeling is that 75 percent of good photography is simply making an effort to put yourself in the right place at the right time." ~ Ralph Velasco
 

Terms and Conditions

Unless otherwise noted, this information applies to all tours.

Airfare

Contact Strabo Tours if you would like rates on International Airfare. Please note on your trip application form if you would like us to assist you with your airfare needs, a charge is added for this service. If making your own arrangements, it is important to discuss flight times with Strabo Tours before booking any airline tickets. This will avoid you having to pay airline cancellation penalties. Please contact Strabo Tours for destination airfare estimates, specific flight time arrivals, and departures.

The land cost includes:
  • Group transportation for tour events in the tour van.
  • Accommodations based on two people sharing a room, singles are assigned on a first come, first served basis.
  • Services of driver, English speaking cultural guide (if applicable) and photographic leader, during the tour.
  • Meals as listed in itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner).
  • Park entrance fees, day tours and excursions as shown in the itinerary.
  • Extensive pre-departure information and services.
The land cost does not include:

Domestic or International air fare; other airfare if noted in exceptions; air fare tax; airport departure tax; airport transfers; additional transfers or accommodations that may be required by those not traveling with the group; excess baggage charges; meals not included in itinerary; activities taken on your own; passport/visa expenses; personal medical or travel insurance; any expenses of a personal nature, such as room service, laundry, beverages not included with meals, medical expenses, photographic equipment, any activities not specified in tour itinerary or listed as optional, or any items not listed in what is included; fuel surcharges; exchange rate surcharges; upon the completion of your trip, modest gratuities to the local guides and the drivers are customary; tips for meals not included in itinerary.

Fitness and Health

The majority of trips are not strenuous (see exceptions below for particular destinations) and anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to take part in most of the activities. You may experience general fatigue due to the long flights and the change in time zones. You will need to be sufficiently agile to climb in and out of the tour van and be able to carry and manage your own equipment. We will frequently hike trails ranging from easy to moderate. Some hotels do not have elevators or air conditioners.

If you have any special needs or any physical condition that you feel might prevent you from fully participating, please contact Strabo Tours with your concerns (607-756-8676).

You should also be aware that medical services or facilities might not be readily available during all or part of your trip. This could include emergency medical care, presence of physicians, or adequate medication.

Exceptions:

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

The following destinations require more physical activity. Bhutan, China, Patagonia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, New Zealand, Scotland, Domestic tours. On the African Safari you will spend many hours in a vehicle on game drives, land travel will sometimes be over very bumpy and dusty roads. Galapagos Cruise accommodations are in upper and lower berths (bunk beds) only.

Deposits, Cancellations AND Refunds

A deposit of $750 ($500 on domestic tours) per person is required. Specific tours may require an additional deposit due to accommodation bookings or transportation requirements. If applicable these will be noted on your invoice. Payment in full is required when bookings are made less than 120 days before the departure date. Space is subject to cancellation by Strabo if payment is not received when due.

If a passenger wishes to cancel they must send notification in writing to: Strabo International Tour, Co., P.O. Box 580, Dryden, NY 13053; fax 208-545-4119. At the time we receive your notification, the following per person charges apply:

  • 91 days or more before departure: $300 cancellation fee ($150 fee on domestic tours), plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation.
  • 61-90 days before departure: $500 ($250 on domestic tours) minimum cancellation fee, plus Strabo’ costs, as well as fees that are charged by the suppliers providing the services included in your tour, and/or the airlines providing the air transportation. Fees may range from 25% to 100% of tour costs.
  • 60 days or less before departure or anytime after departure: NO REFUND.

Refunds for services that are voluntarily not used by you cannot be made.

Insurance

Each participant must be covered by medical insurance that is valid overseas.

We strongly urge you to evaluate your risk and to take out insurance on your trip. It is vital for you to realize that if you experience a delay or find it necessary to cancel or cut short your trip for any reason, you will lose part or the entire sum you’ve invested in it (see the section “Deposits, Cancellations and Refunds” in the trip brochure).

Travel insurance helps to minimize the risk of monetary losses you would incur in the event of a delay of your departure due to weather, airline strike, missed connection, etc., your inability to travel for reasons such as illness, injury, unforeseen financial complications and other personal circumstances, or if you were required to cut your trip short for medical or any other reasons.

There are restrictions and limitations on any insurance program. For this reason, please read carefully the enclosed pamphlet, which outlines their program of trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance. Trained agents are available to answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to call the toll free number in their brochure. It is to your advantage to apply for insurance at the earliest possible time, so don’t delay in making a decision.

Subject to Change

Itineraries have been carefully constructed to assure participants the best each destination has to offer; however, should events arise that are beyond our control, activities and hotel arrangements are subject to change without notice. The itineraries summarize typical areas you will explore. Since there is no possible way to visit all of them, your guides will plan each day considering the interests of the group and the weather at hand. Be assured that we will make substitutions that are as similar in quality and interest as possible.

Photo Release

Strabo International Tour Company, Inc. reserves the right and permission to use photographs of individuals on tour for use in promotional and publicity purposes. We also reserve the right to use clients photographs for promotional and publicity purposes, when submitted to Strabo International Tour Company, Inc.

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