Visiting Morocco During Ramadan

Visiting Morocco During Ramadan

Ramadan is the month-long Islamic holiday celebrated each year. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar pattern so every year Ramadan moves 10 days forward on the Gregorian calendar each year. This year, Ramadan falls largely through the month of March and will end in the middle of April. This is usually a high season for travelers visiting Morocco.

While some people balk at visiting during Ramadan, anticipating problems or inconveniences, there’s no reason to put aside your plans. In fact, for the culturally curious, Ramadan might just be the best time of year to visit! However, before you begin your trip, it is important to know a few things about Ramadan. Here are a few things that will likely affect your visit, hopefully for the better! (more…)

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Morocco

Morocco is home to an impressive 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites! These sites are dotted throughout the country, from expected places like Marrakesh and Fez, to Tetouan, a relatively untouristed northern city, and on to the desert lands of the Sahara. If you are a lover of history and culture, it makes a lot of sense to use these sites as pillars or totems for your own tour of Morocco.

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Street Food in Morocco: What You Can Eat on the Street Around the Country

Street Food in Morocco: What You Can Eat on the Street Around the Country

Morocco is a country that offers visitors an authentic culinary experience, where they can taste the richness of the country’s history and culture. A great way to explore the local food scene is to hit the streets and indulge in the vast array of street food. Street food is an integral part of the Moroccan culinary scene, where locals and tourists alike can enjoy a variety of delicious and affordable dishes. The smell of freshly baked bread, the sizzling of spices, and the aroma of charcoal-grilled meats waft through the air, inviting you to try the delicacies on offer.

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Christmas in Morocco: 3 Hidden Destinations

Christmas in Morocco: 3 Hidden Destinations

If you’re looking to get away when the temperature plummets and the snow starts falling from above, why not consider spending Christmas in Morocco? While many travelers from the Northern Hemisphere initially consider a European destination for their winter holidays, a multitude of savvy travelers are choosing to spend their holiday in Morocco. With it’s sunny skies, colorful allure, and variety of cultures and landscapes, Morocco is becoming one of the most sought-after destinations for travelers looking for some winter warmth. (more…)

Gay Travel in Morocco: An Overview

Gay Travel in Morocco: An Overview

When the LGBTQ+ communities were being persecuted in Europe, centers in Morocco like Tangier and Marrakesh were seen as safe spaces. Not only are they wonderful destinations in their own right, but the local populations have a sort of worldly ‘been there, seen that’ attitude of acceptance. In many ways, this remains true even today.

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Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Sahara Desert

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting the Sahara Desert

There are very few places on Earth that compare to the incredible landscapes you’ll see visiting the Sahara Desert. Running roughly north-south along Morocco’s eastern border with neighboring Algeria, the Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert. In fact, the Sahara covers an area roughly the size of the entire United States. Many travelers visit Morocco specifically with the intention of venturing off into the desert and spending a night under the stars. And we can’t blame them! A desert adventure is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t miss out on. (more…)

A Walk Through the Secret Garden of Marrakesh

A Walk Through the Secret Garden of Marrakesh

The historic old medina of Marrakesh can be overwhelming. The hot Moroccan sun beats down while vendors callout at passersby, hoping for a quick sale. Clanging metal rings out from the ironmongers souk. In the Jemma el Fnaa, the Gnawa rhythm of drums and shrill flute of the snake charmers break through the din. Scooters rip through it all, quickly zigzag through the crowds. It’s no wonder that The Secret Garden of Marrakesh comes as such a reprieve! (more…)

Three Days in Marrakesh: Where To Eat, What To Do and Where To Go

Three Days in Marrakesh: Where To Eat, What To Do and Where To Go

Three days in Marrakesh. This is the average most travelers manage to spend in the Red City. Whether you’re coming for work or pleasure, it’s almost impossible to not spend at least a couple of nights in Marrakesh. And for good reason! Marrakesh is a delight, a feast for the eyes as well as all your other senses. It’s familiar and exotic. Decadent and humble. Rustic and opulent. And it manages to be all these things, and much more, all at once. It’s a place that has to be seen to be believed. For whatever reason, two nights seems to be the magical number to spend in Marrakesh. (more…)

What is the Impact of Big Bus Tourism in Morocco?

negative impacts of mass tourism in Morocco, why riding tour busses is bad

In the 13th century, Morocco’s own Ibn Battuta, in explorer and intrepid traveler, was the first known traveler to connect distant the northwest corner of Africa to the far East. It’s taken nearly eight centuries, but the connection these days between Beijing and Rabat is strong. With stronger political ties, many are following the route of Morocco’s most famed exploring, making the journey from China to Morocco. And make no mistake about it, in just a few short years, this recent influx of Chinese travelers to Morocco has altered the landscape of some of the most popular destinations around the country, largely because of the number of travelers from China choosing big bus tourism over smaller, more independent and sustainable travel. (more…)

Marrakech is Magic: Into the Souks and Jemaa el-Fnaa

Magical Marrakech

There are places in the world where simply mentioning their name conjures up an image of romanticism, the exotic, a step into the magic of the imagination. The Taj Mahal, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal; Rome’s Colosseum, the symbol for the ‘Eternal City’ and the civilization of the Imperial Roman Empire; Stonehenge, the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, a sacred site beyond the memory of modern man. Say ‘Marrakech’ and a world of souks, snake-charmers and storytellers, kaftans and colour, tales from the Arabian Nights, the call of the muezzin summoning the faithful to prayer, unfolds like the unrolling of a luxurious Moroccan carpet.  “There are certain places on the surface of the earth that possess more magic than others,” said Paul Bowles, the American writer who lived in Morocco for fifty-two years. “And one of those places is Marrakech.”

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Morocco for the Arts Buff

orange art in MoroccoMorocco’s arts scene has a storied past to match its vibrant present. In the 1950s and ‘60s, expatriate writers and artists like Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs flocked to the so-called International Zone, a cosmopolitan, semi-autonomous region in Tangier, where they were inspired to share their creative insights with the world. Bowles’ 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky makes a particularly good companion for travelers to North Africa. For a native Moroccan perspective, check out Leila Abouzeid’s Year of the Elephant, a 1983 novel that was one of Morocco’s first to be translated from Arabic into English.

Morocco is also popular for lovers of music and dance. Although the ubiquitous belly dancing is not strictly speaking of Moroccan origin, you’ll spot it along with traditional folk dancing, especially at festivals, weddings and other celebrations. Wandering heddaoua are entertaining Berber storytellers who move from town to town reciting poetry to musical accompaniment. (more…)

Free Things to Do in Marrakesh, Morocco

morocco metal shopMarrakesh visitors with money to burn have no shortage of places to spend it, from luxurious spas to endless marketplace treasures. Happily, this vibrant city also has many free things to enjoy as well.

Djeema el Fna

Marrakesh’s symbolic heart, the Djemaa el Fna, is the city’s town square, and at any hour of the day, musicians, food vendors, acrobats and magicians can vie for your attention. Djemaa actually means “meeting place,” and this plaza has served as one for centuries. Lined with cafes and bazaars, the Djemaa el Fna certainly has many places to spend money, but a lot of the location’s fun involves walking or sitting and enjoying the carnival-esque atmosphere. (more…)

Things to Do in Tamdaght, Morocco

tamdaght moroccoBetween Marrakech and Ouarzazate is the small village of Tamdaght, a tranquil spot for relaxation and laid-back explorations. With the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop, this area, filled with almond tree groves, has pretty vistas that can be enjoyed on hikes. Camel treks and 4×4 tours allow visitors to more fully experience the landscape, but even easy strolls around a the palm trees let visitors enjoy the setting.

Tamdaght’s main attraction is its kasbah ruins, which are still unspoiled from mass tourism. Self-guided visits to the old kasbah give insight into the region’s history. Bird watchers will be especially interested in the huge storks’ nests that perch on the kasbah walls. Cliffs around Tamdaght reveal even more historical information, as cave dwellings still dot their sides. (more…)

Lalla Takerkoust Lake, Morocco

afagay desert morocco lakeOn the outskirts of Marrakech lies the Agafay Desert of Morocco. In the 18th century the area was settled by Saharan nomads who planted crops and flowers, changing the arid landscape into blooming fields during the harvest months. In the months when the plants are dormant, the Agafay Desert returns to a parched wilderness, giving travelers an idea of the great Sahara Desert. The Atlas Mountains sit behind the desert and provide water to the enormous manmade Lake Takerkoust, sometimes referred to as Lalla Takerkoust Lake.

At 5,000 hectares and seven kilometers long, the lake was built by the French in the late 1920s as part of a dam and irrigation project to provide electricity and water to Marrakech. The French, of course, insisted that the lake would enhance the area and add to its natural beauty. Today Lalla Takerkoust Lake is an ideal day trip from Marrakech for those who want to get out of the city and admire views of the lake, mountains, and desert, especially for those who don’t have the time or ambition to journey to the Great Sahara. (more…)

The Can’t-Miss Marrakesh Holiday

Some travelers have only a few days for their holiday to Morocco, yet want to experience the rich history of an imperial city, a taste of luxurious modernity and the serenity of the Sahara and nearby mountains. For these travelers, Marrakesh brings good news … you can experience it all.

The highlight of Marrakesh is its main square, Place Djemaa el-Fna, which hosts clamoring crowds by day and a flurry of festivities by night. To survey the evening’s bustle before joining it, opt for a traditional tajine dinner at a terrace cafe. The elevated view will help you inventory the maze of chefs offering local fare, rows of booths selling freshly squeezed orange juice and the circles of storytellers, musicians, artists and more. (more…)

Exploring the Draa Valley in Morocco

Draa Valley MoroccoLocated in the deep south of Morocco, the Draa Valley stretches from the city of Ouarzazate into the Sahara Desert. The Draa Valley is a stunning oasis home to Berber villages, sumptuous Kasbahs, streaming sand dunes, lush green plains, snow-capped Atlas Mountains, endless stretches of palm trees and the Draa, Morocco’s largest river.

During ancient times, the river of Draa crossed the desert and traveled hundreds of kilometers west until it joined the Atlantic. Today, most of this river has dried but its path still leads through one of the most fascinating landscapes in Morocco. (more…)

Top Cities to Visit in Morocco

Marrakesh MoroccoThose unfamiliar with Morocco may only know of one city—Casablanca (thanks to its namesake movie). Although the coastal metropolis offers several worthy attractions, other destinations also abound with local and foreign travelers.

Marrakesh delights travelers with an interest in tradition as well as those who prefer the comforts of modernity. History seekers flock to sites like the gardens of the 12th-century Koutoubia Minaret and the intricately designed Ben Youssef Medersa. Visitors can experience the city’s trendy side through its many nightclubs and luxury spas, or with a shopping trip to the boutiques of Quartier Industrial Sidi Ghanem. Regardless of your specific interests, plan to spend an evening participating in the festivities in Place Djemaa el-Fna, the city’s main square. Dine among the rows of dinner vendors on snail soup, sheep’s head and other traditional fare. Meander past melodies of oboes, drums, finger cymbals, chants, storytellers and henna calligraphers after dinner. Even pay a few dirham to try your hand at a carnival game. Explore beyond the city with a short excursion to the High Atlas Mountains or a night of camping in the Sahara Desert. (more…)

Superb Experiences in Morocco

Blue boats in Essaouira MoroccoWith such a rich array of historical sites, ancient traditions, geological wonders, cuisine, music and culture, it can be overwhelming to choose what to see and do when you travel to Morocco. Here are five must-have experiences in Morocco that will give you a taste of all that Morocco has to offer.

View Street Performers in Djemaa el Fna

For a first-time visitor, the streets of Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fna will be positively overwhelming. The name Djemaa el Fna is translated as “assembly of the dead,” but the place is one of the liveliest on Earth. The city’s main square is literally an open-air theatre with snake charmers, roving Gnaoua musicians and the halqa or street theatre. ?? (more…)

Art Museums in Morocco

Morocco door

Whether you are an art history scholar or a casual observer who appreciates something that pleases the eye, Morocco abounds with awe-inspiring art such as tile mosaics, intricately carved handicrafts, woven carpets and more. While you can encounter artistic displays throughout the country’s cities and villages, art museums often tell a story more clearly than publicly placed mantles or a paragraph in a guidebook. Below are a few of the art museums in which the exhibits tell a story. (more…)

Visiting the Museums of Marrakech

Marrkesh Marrakech MuseumA visit to Marrakech, or indeed much of Morocco, can be a dizzying experience for the senses. Luckily, this city matches its outdoor street ambiance with indoor splendor. Marrakech has a wealth of museums, sure to satisfy an enthusiast and appeal to a novice. Several are attached to or contain gardens, making them ideal destinations when needing a respite from the sun or the souks. (more…)

A Night in Marrakesh’s Place Djemaa el-Fna

Henna in marrakesh moroccoIf you’ve read even a little bit about Marrakesh prior to your tours to Morocco, you probably know that this cultural hub is bursting with activity, especially in Place Djemaa el-Fna, the city’s main square. For a first-time visitor, approaching the clamor of the square at sunset can feel disorienting. To survey the bustle before joining it, consider starting the evening with a terrace dinner.

Terrace restaurants surround the square, and most specialize in the traditional multi-course spread of salad, tajine or couscous and whole fruit dessert. You’ll pay a bit more to dine here than you would at ground level, but the balcony seating is absolutely worth the extra dirhams.

West of the square, the modestly lit minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque seems to mark a main entrance where a continuous current of silhouettes migrate toward the festivities. Motorbike headlights sprinkle the crowd, weaving through the shadows like dancing fireflies.

Following the migratory path leads your eye to long rows of dinner vendors under a cloud of steam. Though fuzzy from a distance, wandering toward the wafting scents of cumin later in the evening takes you down countless aisles lined with vendors on one side and tent-covered seating on the other. (more…)

Morocco’s Agafay Desert

desert in MoroccoThe Agafay Desert is located just an hour’s drive from the lively souks and dizzying maze-like market streets of Marrakech. Literally untouched by development, the Agafay offers quite the contrast from the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.

Visiting the Agafay Desert is a good option if you would like to gaze at some sand dunes and desert, but don’t have the time to travel all the way south to where Morocco borders the Western Sahara. In the spring, the Agafay is alive with blooming wildflowers. The rest of the year, the Agafay is parched and thirsting for water giving you just a taste of the aridness of the Great Sahara.

There are currently no train lines south of Marrakech so if you want to travel to the desert you will need to rent a car, catch a bus or take an organized tour. Quite a few tour companies offer multi-day ATV tours of the Agafay hills complete with tent camping and traditional Moroccan meals. These off-the-beaten path type of tours take you across sand dunes, over rocky buttes and through hidden canyons all offering splendid views of the Atlas Mountains in the background. (more…)

Top Attractions in Marrakech

Bahia Palace MarrakeshThe “Red City,” as Marrakech is known, is bursting with all the delights of a Moroccan metropolis. A visit here can be understandably overwhelming. While days, weeks and even years can be spent immersing yourself in the city’s charms (an estimated 10, 000 Europeans have retired here), here is a guide to the best the city has to offer.

If you see only one thing in Marrakech, let it be Djemma el Fna square. In the shadow of Koutoubia Mosque, the square is the pulsing center of the old medina. With its circus of performers by day and food stalls by night, the chaotic energy is as tangible in the air as the smell of cinnamon tea and lamb tajine. And though it seems like a spectacle designed only to separate tourists from their dirham, its cultural significance has merited a UNESCO designation as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. Watch how the shades of humanity change from the morning orange juice vendors to the afternoon snake charmers, water sellers, dancing Berber boys and chained Barbary apes. By evening it morphs into the busiest such square in all of Africa. The sights and sounds, the tastes and smells—indulge them all, and even if you only have a day, you will have truly known the bustling heart of Marrakech. (more…)