Destination Morocco: A Journey for Every Type of Traveler

Destination Morocco: A Journey for Every Type of Traveler

For many travelers the question isn’t if you’ll be traveling or when you’ll be traveling. It’s a matter of where you’ll be traveling. Where do you want to go on your dream vacation? Where should you spend your beach getaway to relax after a hectic month at the office? Where will you be taking that once-in-a-lifetime family trip? If you’re reading this, you probably already know where you’re going: Destination Morocco! (more…)

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…)

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…)

The Sultan Moulay Ismail: Morocco’s Much-Feared, Long-Lived Ruler

The Sultan Moulay Ismail: Morocco’s Much-Feared, Long-Lived Ruler

The long history of Morocco is filled with characters that seem to leap off the page. Perhaps none more so than the Sultan Moulay Ismail. At once feared and respected, villainized and lionized, this Moroccan sultan literally stood head and shoulders above other world leaders. His tall, lithe figure cut bright through his palaces—particularly on beheading days when his flowing saffron-yellow robes reflected the high noon sun of the Middle Atlas, framing his dark features. The sultan’s wrath, his justice, inevitable, like the fire-rimmed eclipse of the moon gliding over the sun. (more…)

JBT’s Ultimate Guide to the Quranic Schools of Morocco

JBT’s Ultimate Guide to the Quranic Schools of Morocco

The long, storied history of learning and scholarship in Morocco is often surprising to first time visitors, and even to some longtime inhabitants. In fact, Morocco boasts the world’s oldest university – the University of al-Qarawiyyin (also written as: Al Quaraouiyine or Al-Karaouine). Recognized by UNESCO and the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest university, al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant family who immigrated to Morocco from modern-day Tunisia. (more…)

Winter Activities in Morocco

Morocco in winterIconic images of Morocco—golden sand dunes, colorful marketplaces—tend to remind us of blazing hot summers. In reality, Morocco’s winters set the stage for fantastic travel experiences. The country’s Mediterranean climate involves mild winters with cool temperatures and more rain than at other times of the year. Without the summer crush of tourists, beach resorts feel like private getaways between November and March. Meanwhile, southern Morocco is perhaps at its best.

The Atlas Mountains experience cold and snowy winters. Except for those looking for traditional winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, the mountain ranges are a more dynamic location during warmer months. Winter, however, gives the mountains’ few visitors a chance to say that they skied in Africa. (more…)

Megdaz, Morocco: Hidden in the Mountains

Megdaz, MoroccoMegdaz is a village in the Atlas Mountains known for its high-altitude setting and distinct architecture of Morocco. The High Atlas (as they are also known) are the highest mountain range in North Africa, often called “the roof of Morocco.” They form a natural barrier approximately 750 kilometers (466 miles) long that separates Saharan Morocco from the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. Located high in the Tessaout Valley, Megdaz lies almost 2000 meters (6500 feet) above sea level. Hiking enthusiasts rave over the lush environment watered by the Tessaout River and fertilized by the river´s mud and silt.

Apart from the scenic natural beauty of the village, visitors might be most interested in the reddish earthen fortified structures built as family homes, barns and defensive forts, referred to as a greniers collectifs in French, or ighrem (ih-RHEM) or agadir (ah-gah-DEER) in Berber. The structures look impossibly tall and strike an impressive silhouette. The architecture features multiple floors and large flat roofs, which are used for drying grain in the fall and for sleeping outdoors during hot summer nights. Thick earthen walls insulate the homes from both the scorching sun in the summer and from the bitter cold in the wintertime, when snow often cuts the village off from the rest of the mountain towns. (more…)

Birdwatching in Morocco

birds in MoroccoIf you’re an avid birdwatcher, you might want to consider a trek to Morocco. The country’s mix of varied landscapes, including mountains, wetlands and deserts, offer travelers opportunities to see an eclectic mix of rare and endangered bird species. The country has developed a reputation as one of the major birdwatching centers of North Africa.

Morocco’s friendly attitude to tourism draws bird-lovers from around the globe seeking to catch a glimpse or snap a photo of one of the more than 480 species that make the country their home at least part of the year. Visitors should plan their trips during the prime birdwatching seasons, which will vary some with the different species and the regions across the country. The weather in Morocco is normally mild, so you can be assured of plenty of sunlight.

Travelers to Morocco can also hit a number of hotspots for birdwatching. The country’s numerous preserves, parks and other dedicated sites help to showcase the populations of species like wheatears, larks, raptors, warblers and large numbers of resident birds and migratory species. (more…)

Best Fishing Villages in Morocco

blue boats essaouira moroccoIf fishing is your passion, the fresh and salt water beaches and lakes of Morocco offer the pure mountain air and the warm, Moroccan sun making these charming villages the most memorable fishing and vacation venues in the world.

The fishing industry in Morocco is a leading foreign exchange earner and considered the largest fish market in Africa. What is a source of economic wealth for the locals has also become a boom for tourism attracting Europeans, Americans, Canadians and other world travelers. The three best villages in Morocco that embody everything you want in a vacation destination, beautiful beaches, amazing cuisine and the best catch for any hungry fisherman can all be found in Asilah, thirty minutes from Tangier; Ifrane, a French-built, chalet-style town; and Essaouira, where you can feast on the freshest fish in the world.

The quaint fishing village of Asilah exudes a Mediterranean-style charm, true to its relatively recent Spanish history. Situated on a cliff overlooking the North Atlantic Coast, Asilah is an intimate yet sophisticated walled town with galleries lining the narrow streets. Every year artists and performers descend on Asilah during the prestigious International Cultural Festival where they leave behind brightly painted murals on the whitewashed walls. (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…)

Exploring Amizmiz, Morocco

Amizmiz moroccoUnlike some well-trod villages on the backpacker circuit, Amizmiz (AMZ-meez) has retained its character thanks to its relative obscurity and resistance to modernization. This settlement of about 10,000 people in the foothills of the High Atlas does not boast world-famous landmarks. Instead, the focus is on its residents’ everyday life, the same as it has been for centuries. Travelers wanting to immerse themselves in the real life of a Moroccan town, unspoiled by mass tourism and nestled in beautiful surroundings, will find the charm in Amizmiz.

Getting There

Though it is not a well-known destination, Amizmiz is only about 59 km southwest of the city of Marrakech. As it lies in the foothills of the High Atlas, traveling to Amizmiz from this direction does not require traversing high mountain roads. In fact, taxis in Marrakech can make the journey in about an hour, as can private cars. Buses, leaving regularly, rarely take more than an hour and a half. (more…)

Morocco’s Northern Port Cities

tetouan moroccoMost people who venture to Morocco know about the famous port cities like Tangier, Casablanca and Rabat. The well-researched traveler (hopefully reading our blog!) has also most likely heard of Agadir, Essaouira and maybe even Safi. There are standard tourist stops in all cities but there are many other lesser known things to do and see in these big cities as well as smaller, lesser-known port cities.

The northern port cities are those bordering the Mediterranean Sea and portions of the Atlantic coast. These cities stretch from the Morocco/Algeria border to Kenitra on the Atlantic side. Whether visiting the northern or southern cities keep in mind the busiest times of year are in the summers when they are flooded with tourists and Moroccans alike. The down season is in the winter/rainy months. If you’re seeking anything other than just a sun tanning experience, the winter months might make for a great visit because of the cooler weather, fewer tourists and lower prices. If your visit finds you on the northern coasts of Morocco, here are some port cities and activities you might want to explore.
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Ifrane National Park 101

monkey morocco africaIfrane National Park is a superb place in Morocco to enjoy the great outdoors and one of only a few spots where you can meet the Barbary Macaque, the endangered primate. This park is probably the opposite of what a lot of people have in mind when traveling to Morocco.

Located in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Ifrane National Park covers 51,800 hectometers of the largest cedar forests in Morocco and the world as well as rivers, lakes and volcanic plateaus. Visitors to the park will find more than 200 species of birds (including storks, flamingo, ducks and woodpeckers), 30 species of reptiles, Barbary apes, sheep and much more. It was created in 2004 to control hunting and to protect cedar trees and the diminished number of animals in the park. It is located between the towns of Ifrane and Azrou in the West Central Middle Atlas, about 60 kilometers south of the imperial city of Fez.

Ifrane National Park is open with no entrance fee and accessible year-round, seven days a week. You can visit the park during any season of the year with the guarantee to have a great experience. Trails take you into cedar forests, near volcanic plateaus, across green pastures and atop mountains where you can enjoy true peace and quiet. (more…)

Surfing in Taghazout, Morocco

taghazout morocco surfingOriginally a quiet fishing village, Taghazout has become one of Morocco’s surfing hotspots. If you’re flying in, the quickest way to get to Taghazout is from Agadir’s international airport. Once in Agadir, you can hire a grand taxi for the thirty-minute drive, catch a local bus at the airport or grab a bus from the larger Inezgane bus station just outside Agadir. From Marrakech, you can get to Taghazout in less than three hours, although if you’re taking local transport you’ll most likely need to go through Inezgane.

Beginners can enjoy learning to surf at Taghazout all year, but intermediate and advanced surfers will want to take advantage of the larger surf from September through April. Many European surfers head south to Taghazout during the winter for the good waves and warmer waters. Several beaches around Taghazout are good for surfing; Anchor Point, Killer’s and Boiler’s have the best waves for advanced surfers. (more…)

Exploring Al Hoceima, Morocco

Al Hoceima MoroccoThe Rif Mountains and the Mediterranean beaches are what make of Al Hoceima one of the most attractive and enticing cities in Morocco. Entering the city, you may think you are arriving in a very common Moroccan town with cube-like buildings, cafes and a few hotels. Despite this, the natural setting around Al Hoceima is makes it seem much more remote than most people probably imagine.

Al Hoceima, also known among the locals as Biya, is located on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco. It was colonized by the Spanish for more than three decades during which it was called Villa Sanjuro. You can still see the Spanish architectural influence throughout the city in spite of the growing number of new buildings. Many residents of Al Hoceima still speak fluent Spanish as their second or third language. Most of the population are Berbers from the Bucoya tribe who speak Tamazight, a Berber dialect. (more…)

Traveling in Morocco’s Deep South

Sahara Desert MoroccoAmong Morocco’s most iconic destinations, traveling to the Sahara Desert of Morocco is among Morocco’s iconic things to do. Most travelers who visit the Sahara opt for an experience among the Erg Chebbi dunes in eastern Morocco. Near Erfoud and Merzouga, travelers tend to start this excursion from Marrakech or Fes.

If you’re an adventurous traveler who wishes to see less traveled parts of the Sahara, consider wandering further south to the Erg Chigaga dunes, south of Zagora and Tagounite. In both areas, you can create a classic desert experience by hiking the dunes, riding a camel, eating local food, sand boarding, camping and star gazing. (more…)

Winter Sports in Morocco

snow Morocco skiingAlthough Morocco will never be a winter sports destination, there is still some winter fun to be had if you travel to Morocco. There are a few snow skiing resorts in Morocco, but don’t expect the latest in high-speed lifts or quality rental skis. Instead think 1980s straight skis and donkey trips to the lifts. Skiing in Morocco is about experience rather than skiing killer lines although the skiing industry in Morocco is growing. It isn’t every day that you can find some snow to ski on this close to the equator.
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Day Trips from Tangier, Morocco

The short ferry ride from Europe to Tangier has made this port city a popular entry point to the country and a convenient base for exploring northern Morocco. During a day trip from Tangier you can drive along the Mediterranean coast or the Atlantic coast.

Tétouan

Located about an hour’s drive from Tangier via CTM bus or grand taxi, Tétouan is an excellent place to learn more about Morocco’s colonial history. Having served as capital of the Spanish Protectorate from 1912 to 1956, the city’s architecture features a blend of Moroccan and Andalusian influences. Its medina has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its unique display of craftsmanship, and it is regarded as one of the best-maintained historical sites in Morocco. After strolling around the three-mile long walls of the old city, you can head to the National Institute of Fine Arts or dine in a Spanish-era cafe. (more…)

An Introduction to Zaouia d’Ifrane

Zaouia d'Ifrane MoroccoIf you are planning a trip to the Middle Atlas in Morocco, make sure you don’t miss the Berber village of Zaouia d’Ifrane. The area, located in the province of Ifrane, is known for its cedar and oak forest, waterfalls and beautiful plateaus and cliffs. The town was named after its famous shrine, or zaouia, built around the tomb of the marabout Sidi Boubker Mohammed. For many, it is enough to know that the Zaouia d’Ifrane is part of the town of Ifrane, which will guarantee all visitors an exceptional experience.

The village is visited by tourists throughout the year, due to the numerous activities it offers. Famous for its mountainous environment, many visit to hike and bike in the region. For others, watching the waterfalls while picnicking and resting is what makes a visit to the Zaouia d’Ifrane so special. Walking throughout its dense and rich forest offers a great range of views, from the stunning mountainside to the picturesque waterfalls. Its lush fields offer the perfect camping sites on which to pitch your tent and explore the area. (more…)

An Overview of Azemmour, Morocco

Azemmour MoroccoWith a population of around three million, Casablanca in Morocco attracts visitors because of its fame (thanks to its namesake movie), attractions and international airport. Although the city offers a wealth of culture, history and entertainment, some travelers like to escape the bustle with a detour off the beaten path.

Travel an hour or so south down the Atlantic coast from Casablanca and you’ll reach the quiet city of Azemmour—a short day trip or overnight jaunt from the big city, or a convenient stop when traveling northward from the popular coastal town of Essaouira. Like much of the coast, temperatures here are relatively mild, with highs lingering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). (more…)