Art & Adventure in Morocco
Alia Kate launched Kantara Tours in 2019 after more than a decade running her Moroccan rug business, Kantara. Over the years, she established long-lasting relationships with women weavers throughout Morocco and crisscrossed the country many times on rug buying trips.
Her knowledge of the country, local customs, and current events goes hand in hand with her knack for the local languages-- French, Arabic, and Tachelhit.
With Kantara Tours, Alia curates the best experience for her guests, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into both rural and urban living, history, and the rich Amazigh cultural heritage.
Along the way, Alia introduces travelers to Moroccans -- friends who are skilled artisans, knowledgeable guides, small business owners, academics, farmers, musicians, artists and more.
She designs these tours, drawing on her many years of experience leading international service-learning trips with Global Works Travel where she also serves on the Advisory Board. In 2019, she joined Smithsonian Journeys as an expert lecturer on their tours.
ABOUT KANTARA TOURS
Kantara's Signature Tour is a 12-day adventure for 8 to 15 travelers, offering authentic and memorable experiences throughout Morocco-- from the imperial cities, to the majestic Atlas Mountains, to the Sahara desert and back again.
On this tour we experience the complexity and beauty of the country, as well as the warmth and hospitality of Moroccans. From day one, this tour offers guests an unparalleled experience in Morocco that is born out of not only Alia's many years of travel in Morocco, but also her familial connections with Moroccans throughout the country.
Starting in Marrakech, the Signature Tour is designed to give travelers a taste of Morocco in all of its complexities. From the impeccably preserved imperial cities of Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech, to the vast, rural landscape of the Sahara. This tour captures both ends of the spectrum and everything in between. Along the way, we meet with local rug weaving artisans, explore history and tradition with Moroccan guides, and take part in musical and food ceremonies.
HIGHLIGHTS: Welcome dinner and exploration of Jmaa el Fna
Arrive in Marrakech in the morning and get settled into the Riad hotel, close to the Jmaa el Fna. Our first official meeting point will be at dinner that evening. After dinner, we’ll stroll through the Jmaa el Fna square for a quick glimpse into how the marketplace transforms itself and comes alive at night with food stands, musicians, henna artists, storytellers, and spicy ginger tea and dessert stands.
Marrakech offers insight into the history of rural to urban migration in Morocco as well as the Western retelling of the Moroccan aesthetic. Most Moroccans who live here can trace their family history to the rural Atlas mountains and speak some of the Amazigh languages. For guests who plan to arrive early, we suggest they visit the Majorelle Gardens, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Macaal Museum, or Dar Si Said Museum as we will not have time to visit all of these wonderful places on our tour.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Marrakech riad in the old medina, walking distance from the Jmaa el Fna. This Riad will have a spa in which you can book a traditional Moroccan style hammam.
HIGHLIGHTS: Tajine cooking class and guided tour of Marrakech medina
Learn to cook traditional Moroccan meals like Tajines and couscous with a local organization that helps disadvantaged women gain work experience by training them in job readiness skills and the preparation of Moroccan food.
Follow this up with a guided walking tour around Marrakech’s medina and a visit to Dar el Basha museum. In the evening guests are free to explore Marrakech’s medina on their own; folks can either eat at the pop up restaurants that fill the square every night, or choose to eat in some of the restaurants surrounding the square.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Marrakech riad in the old medina
HIGHLIGHTS: Guided tour of Kasbah in Telouet, sunset in Ait Ben Haddou, traditional lunch along Morocco's famous Tizi n' Techka road.
After breakfast, we’ll pass through the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and head to the heartland of the Amazigh people. Along the road, we will stop for traditional Moroccan lunch, tour the ancient Kasbah of Telouet where we’ll learn about the Glaoui tribe’s role in shaping Morocco’s history.
Telouet is an old Glaoui town, about 25km off the winding Tizi N’ Techka road between Marrakech and Ouarzazate and features one of the most beautiful ancient, tribal Kasbahs. The Glaoui tribe was a well-known nomadic and warring tribe from this part of Morocco and their Kasbah is replete with fortressed walls, intricate tile-work, and incredible views.
That evening we will stay in neighboring town, Ait Ben Haddou, known for its fortresses and most recently for many film and TV shows, including Game of Thrones.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Traditional hotel in Ait Ben Haddou equipped with pool. This hotel is on the main road of Ait Ben Haddou and is a short walk to the UNESCO world heritage site.
HIGHLIGHTS: Visit to local weaving cooperative, lunch with artisans, free time to explore Ait Ben Haddou.
In the morning, we will drive to a nearby women’s weaving cooperative that uses natural dyes in their traditional Glaoui/Ait Ouaouzguite weavings. We will eat with local artisans and experience the weaving process from start to finish. This will be followed by a free afternoon to relax by the pool or explore the ancient medina of Ait Ben Haddou and hike through the streets to the top of the old city which provides the best view for the valley below.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Traditional hotel in Ait Ben Haddou.
HIGHLIGHTS: Hike in Boumalne gorge, travel through Morocco's route of one thousand Kasbahs.
Drive through Ouarzazate, where Morocco’s film industry is based and continue onwards through the Valley of Roses until we arrive at the Boumalne Gorge. We will stop along the way for lunch, to visit an artisan that makes traditional daggers, to experience the Kasbahs along the Route des Milles Kasbahs, and to stretch our legs for a sunset hike upon arrival in Boumalne Gorge.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Family hotel at the top of the Boumalne gorge.
HIGHLIGHTS: Camel trek, dinner in the dunes, stargazing
Early morning optional hike in the Boumalne Gorge for folks who want to take in the scale of the gorge from the river bed. We’ll eat an early lunch before heading to the desert, arriving just in time to catch a sunset camel ride. We’ll spend the evening glamping in the desert under the full night sky. There will be drumming and music around a campfire at night.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Luxury desert camp with running water, private, en suite showers and bathrooms,
HIGHLIGHTS: 4x4 ride out of the desert, traditional Moroccan desert lunch
Optional early morning wake up to catch sunrise in the dunes followed by our return to Merzouga, riding out of the dunes by 4x4 and back to civilization. This is a drive day as we make our way back up through the Middle Atlas Mountains. We’ll be staying at a hotel with a pool this evening to relax a bit, and enjoy a good meal before continuing on to Fes the following morning.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Moroccan-owned country-side hotel with pool and paths that lead to nearby pond.
HIGHLIGHTS: Visit to women's weaving cooperative, lunch with the artisans.
We’ll visit another women’s weaving cooperative in the Middle Atlas region, and eat lunch with the artisans, before continuing on towards Fes where we’ll check into our hotel. Free time in the evening to wander through the medina streets, and find a dinner location. Consider booking your dinner at Najat Kanaache’s Nur Restaurant.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Traditional Moroccan riad in Fes' old medina
HIGHLIGHTS: Guided tour of Fes medina, including Jewish quarter, ramparts, and pottery cooperatives.
We'll take a tour of Fes’s old medina and wander through the narrow streets that are a UNESCO world heritage site, en route to the leather tanneries, the Karaouine mosque, and Bouanania Madrassa. Our final meal in Fes will be at the restaurant and cultural meeting place, Cafe Clock. There will be free time in the afternoon for souvenir shopping, and independent exploration of Fes’s ancient medina.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Traditional Moroccan riad in Fes' old medina.
HIGHLIGHTS: Visit to Volubilis and food market in Meknes.
Depart Fes for Rabat and stop at Meknes and Volubilis along the way. Volubilis is an ancient town of Roman ruins. The Romans were some of the original colonizers to arrive in Morocco and their city is well preserved here. Once in Rabat, we’ll relax into our final hotel, and have the evening free to explore the city.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Modern hotel in Rabat's new city within walking distance of the old medina and a short walk to the beach.
HIGHLIGHTS: Visit to Rabat's sights and final dinner.
Rabat is the capital of Morocco and the fourth largest city in Morocco. We’ll visit the Tour Hassan burial site, Morocco’s first Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened recently in Rabat, as well as the old Roman and Arab ruins of Chellah, just outside the city walls. The afternoon and evening will be free for walking down on the beach, exploring the Kasbah des Oudayas, or last minute shopping along the Rue des Consuls before gathering together for a final meal.
ACCOMMODATIONS: Modern hotel in Rabat's new city
Depart from Rabat or Casablanca airport. Or guests may opt to extend their stay. Rabat is a perfect launch point for folks who would like to stay in Morocco and continue to explore. As of very recently, thanks to the high speed train, guests can make day trips from Rabat to Tangiers. Or venture down to Casablanca and visit the Hassan II mosque, Rick's Cafe, and Africa's first Jewish museum.
Please note that this tour has a moderate activity level. Travelers should be comfortable standing or walking for extended periods of time; we average 3-5 miles a day, whether we're on guided tours in the medina of Fes or Marrakech, or walking through mountain villages, passing ancient Kasbahs on our hikes through the countryside. In both urban and rural areas, the ground is often uneven and rocky. Additionally, travelers should be prepared for light walking in the desert sand dunes, climbing uneven stairs without handrails, and longer travel days.
Kantara's Signature Tour starts at $3,150 for 12-days for a group of nine to 15 participants.
For those traveling alone, there will be an added $500 single occupancy surcharge. Double occupancy rooms may either be arranged with one large bed, or two smaller twin beds.
Accommodations are in four- and five-stars locations that vary from riads (traditional Moroccan homes with interior gardens or courtyards), to auberges (Moroccan style inns), to more contemporary hotels. In the Sahara, we catch the sunset as we ride into our luxury desert camp on camels, just in time for a night under all the stars, a delicious tajine meal, and a most peaceful night of sleep.
When we're in the Imperial cities, such as Marrakech and Fes, we'll stay in the medina, which consist of the traditional walled-in neighborhoods. In Rabat, we'll change things up and stay in the new city. That way you leave Morocco with a taste for both the traditional and modern.
“Traveling with Alia is a dream. From the moment we met up in Marrakech I knew I was in good hands, Marrakech felt like I was visiting her home city, she new people everywhere, we would bump into friends she’d me on previous trips as we wandered the Medina. Watching her negotiate and navigate Morocco speaking Berber, Arabic and a little French was truly spectacular.”
"What a very special experience! I felt like a guest, not a tourist, the warm welcome, the generosity of the women, seeing all aspects of the craft, learning a little about the women, the walk up the hill passing the communal oven were all unforgettable. I appreciated the women allowing Theresa and me to go into the kitchen to try to help a little; the homemade food was among the best we had during the trip."
"On your trip, when we met Moroccans, I felt I was more than just a tourist, maybe a guest, maybe a friend of a friend. The women in the rug cooperatives clearly felt you were special and treated us that way as well. Their home-cooked meals made me feel like an honored visitor. Their meals were a high point of my Moroccan food experience. I liked feeling that I was contributing to the success of their mission, that our trip fit into some larger picture."
"I can't imagine a better tour guide than Alia. Her deep knowledge of the country, depth of her associations with the people at each of our stops, and language skills were unparalleled. The tour was well-organized and Alia's knowledge of each of our stops provided us with an excellent foundation on what we were about to see. She was very friendly and attentive to everyone in our group, which resulted in a feeling of confidence and reassurance about the tour."
"Kantara Tours provides an in-depth personal view of Morocco by incorporating visits to villages and interaction with the people of Morocco while including must-see sights in major cities such as Fez and Marrakech. Alia takes extraordinary care in her selection of guides and activities to provide both a broad and deep view of the country. A special, once in a lifetime experience."
"Traveling with Alia is the best way to immerse yourself in a country's people, culture and history short of knowing the native language."
The Signature Tour is the standard option, but it's not the only option. Whether you're looking for travel advice for your upcoming vacation, a custom-curated itinerary, or a business partnership, Alia's got you covered. If you're seeking more input over the itinerary or you have specific travel needs in mind, browse through the options below.
Alia teams up with Global Works Travel to offer educational tours in Morocco to high school and college students. She has worked with Global Works for over 8 years, leading international service-learning trips for students around the world. Together, we will tailor the trip itinerary to specific learning outcomes.Learn more about student tours
We'll work with you to custom design a trip around your vision for your trip to Morocco-- the number of people, destinations, activities, tour length, etc. This is ideal for travelers who have already visited certain Moroccan cities and want to explore regions, for family tours, or smaller groups.
Rounding out her experience in Morocco, Alia has over five years of on-the-ground location services for film, TV and creative professionals shooting in Morocco. If you are in search of a fixer for an upcoming shoot, reach out for more information and rates.