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…)

Hassan Tower and Mohamed V Mausoleum in Rabat, Morocco

Mohammed V Mausoleum drawing in Rabat. This sight is next to the Hassan Towers as well in Rabat.Guarded at all times by elaborately dressed royal guards and fez-topped security personnel, Rabat’s two most visited sites stand opposite each other along the magnificent Bou Regreg river. Hassan Tower (or Tour Hassan) and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V are two of Morocco’s most mystical places: one is an incomplete project of majestic proportions and the other stands as a masterpiece of modern Moroccan architecture, holding inside the grand tombs of past kings. Wander through the ruins of columns and enter the ornamental grandeur that is the exquisite mausoleum to discover a part of Moroccan history that will forever remain incomplete.

Kasbah des Udayas (Oudayas Kasbah) in Rabat, Morocco

Kasbah des Udayas (Oudayas Kasbah) in Rabat Morocco. This is an illustration of this fortified part of the city.Set in Morocco’s capital on the mouth of the Bou Regreg river, the Udayas Kasbah (or as it’s also known, Oudayas Kasbah) is one of the country’s most unique sites. Originally built in the 12th century and renovated many times since throughout the centuries, it has been home to Arab tribes, Andalusian immigrants, and some of Morocco’s most powerful sultans. Walk up the steps leading to the imposing gate of Bab Oudaya and discover the winding streets of the Kasbah that will take you to Rabat’s oldest mosque, beautiful gardens, and an exquisite museum.

The Heartbeat of Rabat – A Walk Through the Sights

Rabat Kasbah LaneI lean on a wall at Café Maure in the Kasbah of Rabat, looking across the river to Salé, Rabat’s smaller twin which took its name from the Sallee Rovers, pirates who terrorised the Atlantic shores as far as the south coast of England. Today there is only one boat with a single occupant sat on the flat water of a heavy grey day, without a single ray of sunshine to lighten the sky or a breath of air to disturb the river’s surface. Around me, a young man lays out cushions on the bench seating that follows the line of the wall, ready for another day of mint teas, honeyed pastries, tajines, and couscous. While we all love bright blue skies and white fluffy clouds, especially on holiday, a day like today can make you pull in the horns of sightseeing, and simply enjoy what the day brings.


Exploring Sala Colonia (Chellah) in Morocco

chellah moroccoVisitors flock to Morocco to experience Morocco’s imperial cities, scenic mountain ranges and seemingly endless waves of sand dunes. What you might not realize is that Morocco also has ancient sites where you can meander through Roman ruins. If you are visiting Rabat, the nation’s capital, you can visit the Roman town of Sala Colonia, which is also known as Chellah, just by taking a few steps beyond Rabat’s city walls.

The Roman town is surrounded by its own set of walls, made of the red stone common for that area. The few entrances to the premises possess the form of the region’s characteristic arch, with the main entrance marked by majestic pillars near the northern end of the west wall. Once inside the walls, you see ruins of buildings built before 1100 AD, including seemingly isolated pillars and rocks with readable ancient carvings. (more…)

Top Ten Things to Do in Morocco

morocco tanneryMorocco is a country with a variety of sites to visit, whether you’re into history, adventure or relaxation. Unfortunately, those with limited time must find a way to focus their trip in order to hit the hot spots. Hundreds of books claim to supply a core list of “top ten sites.” However, among these endless lists, there are ten truly, undeniable activities that would make a Morocco holiday complete. Each of these activities is so quintessentially Moroccan that, by experiencing all of them, you are guaranteed to have a completely authentic Moroccan experience.

1. Wander in Marrakesh’s Djemma El Fna

Marrakesh’s Djemma El Fna square is Morocco’s centerpiece. Within this square in Marrakesh, there are exotic performers, Moroccan chefs cooking in open air food stands, small shops welcoming you into the Marrakesh Medina, distinctly Moroccan cafes and high-end Moroccan restaurants. Djemma El Fna square is a crowded meeting place in Marrakesh that encapsulates fine Moroccan foods, crafts and culture. Surely, any trip to Morocco should include a stop at the square, which is also conveniently located near many historic mosques and palaces. (more…)

Morocco’s Southern Port Cities

blue boats moroccoThe southern port cities begin south of Kenitra and go to the Moroccan/Mauritanian border.  These cities all border the Atlantic coast and have a varied mix of colonial influence. The northern cities have heavy French/Spanish influence while the southern cities have a French/German influence. Several of these cities are best known for their ocean activities and lively nightlife.

Rabat and Sale

Rabat is the capital of Morocco and Sale is the twin city opposite Rabat. While primarily serving as the head of the government there are a few unique tourist opportunities. The Hassan II memorial and mosque on the Atlantic Ocean are a quick visit. Outside of Rabat are the Chellah and Sala Colonia. These are ruins from the Roman period. The ruins can be toured and yearly there is a jazz festival held at the site called Jazz au Chellah. If you are looking to spend some time in the area Sale might be a good place to put down roots. This city is mostly a commuter city but accommodations will be cheaper than in Rabat proper. On a historical note, Sale served as a haven for the infamous Barbary pirates who formed The Republic of Sale. Sadly, little exists documenting this time. (more…)

Merja Zerga Nature Preserve

grey heron bird moroccoAs a habitat for more than 100 species of birds, Merja Zerga Nature Preserve in Morocco is one of the most important wetland sites in North Africa. The large tidal lagoon is fed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Oued Drader, a freshwater stream. The area has been designated as a biological preserve and has served as host site for the Ramsar Convention, an organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands worldwide.

The area surrounding Merja Zerga was populated during Phoenician times and during the Roman period. During the Islamic period, a religious leader named Moulay Bousalham established a base there. Now, the small village that is nearest the preserve is named after this Muslim holy man. It’s a quiet, agricultural area whose main crops include strawberries and watermelons. (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…)

Day Trips from Casablanca

Tile art at Volubilis - day trips from CasablancaSay the name “Casablanca,” and, for most people, it will conjure to mind all the romance and swagger of the 1942 classic movie. Hollywood may know glamor, but the allure of Morocco’s largest city is not fixed in its history. Instead, it is the epicenter of Morocco’s 21st century economy. The Casablanca (see our Casablanca city guide on our Morocco blog and travel guide) of today isn’t the sleepy expat town of film fame (which was actually shot entirely on a studio lot in Los Angeles), and travelers should expect the bustle one would associate with North Africa’s largest port and an industrialized city of 3 million people.

It is home to two international airports, so many travelers will find that Casablanca is their first taste of Morocco. Explore the can’t-miss sites of the city, such as the impressive Hassan II mosque and the art deco architecture of New Town, and then consider visiting some other nearby attractions that make for an easy day trip from Casablanca. The Roman ruins of Volubilis, the medieval Portugese fort at El Jadida and the capital city of Rabat are all within an easy train ride, and the cities of Marrakesh, Fez and Tangiers are accessible within a day’s travel from Casablanca. Even if your time in Morocco is limited to only a few days, Casablanca makes an excellent modern hub for day trippers looking to whet their appetite for traditional Moroccan culture. (more…)

Day Trips from Rabat

While Rabat, Morocco, has not necessarily established itself as a major tourist destination, this pleasant metropolitan city is a great home base for exploring Morocco’s more modern sites. Morocco’s capital city lacks the hustle and bustle of other Moroccan cities, making it a great place to stay for families traveling with children. Rabat’s medina is rather quiet yet authentic so you take your young ones shopping in the souks without too much worry about losing them in the crowds

There are plenty of sites to see in Rabat like the ancient city of Sale Colonia and Rabat’s most famous landmark, Le Tour Hassan, plus there are many popular historical sites within an easy traveling distance from Rabat. (more…)

Day Trips from Fes

ruins at volubilis moroccoFez (also known as Fes) will charm you with its culture tucked into every tightly woven street corner, but it can be nice to escape—even when you’re enjoying this fascinating old city. If you’re aching to break through the city walls for a day, we’ve got you covered.

Some of the most popular day trips from Fes include Meknes and nearby Volubilis, as well as the capital of Morocco, Rabat. It’s time to plan your Morocco itinerary … you’ve got lots of places to explore! (more…)

Popular Coastal Cities in Morocco

walking in the sunset in moroccoMorocco may conjure images of sand dunes, dusty mountain trail heads and steamy medina alleyways, but that doesn’t mean those are your only travel options. In fact, not only does Morocco have an extensive coastline to explore, but its coastal cities are some of the most beautiful in the country.

Whether you’re looking for sand or surf, a holiday in Morocco can provide it all. Here are some of the must-see cities on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

Sidi Ifni – In the far south you’ll find Sidi Ifni, a former Spanish port city that still wears much of its history on its sleeve. The town’s art deco architecture is one of the main tourist draws, but don’t overlook the dramatic seaside cliffs and roaring surf below.

Mirlift – Just north of Sidi Ifni is the tiny fishing village of Mirlift. Easily reached by taxi or bus from Tiznit (15 km down the road), it’s an easy day trip, and one that promises a mellow atmosphere. Stroll along the wide sands, collect shells and beach glass or explore the caves on the northern edge of the beach. (more…)

Highlights of Rabat, Morocco

Rabat Morocco

Located on the North Atlantic coast, Morocco’s capital of Rabat has a more unhurried and laid-back feel to it than Casablanca, the country’s cosmopolitan business hub or the frenetic bustle of Fez’s walled city. Plagued by pirate attacks through much of its history, Rabat was often overshadowed by Morocco’s other imperial cities of Fez, Meknes and Marrakesh, but it has served as the country’s capital continually since 1912.

Le Tour Hassan & Mausoleum of Mohammed V

Rabat’s most famous landmark is Le Tour Hassan (or Hassan Towers)  a 44 m (144 foot) tower built during the reign of Almohad ruler Yacoub el Mansour in the late 12th century. The tower was meant to be built even higher, but construction on it was stopped at el Mansour’s death in 1199. Surrounded by greenery and tiled fountains, Le Tour Hassan and the adjacent mausoleum grounds make a nice place for photo opportunities and afternoon walks. Resembling a small palace, the mausoleum houses the remains of Moroccan kings Mohammed V and Hassan II. (more…)

10 Reasons to Vacation in Morocco

morocco things to doWhen you travel, do you like to poke around palaces, indulge yourself in history at a museum or sip coffee at a local café? Do you prefer to take part in extreme sports or wander through the wilderness?

The beauty of Morocco as a vacation destination is that it’s a country diverse in adventure, culture and heritage, and regardless of your travel style, you’ll find something here that suits you. Whatever your preferences when it comes to travel, here are ten good reasons you’ll want to make Morocco your next holiday destination:

1. Trekking experiences are plentiful. The main mountain ranges in Morocco are the Rif Mountains, Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti Atlas Mountains. The Rif Mountains, located in the northern section of the country, are covered with cascades, forested land and caves. Expert trekkers will find more challenging terrain in the High Atlas Mountains. (more…)

5 Must-Have Experiences in Morocco

Camel Tour in MoroccoMorocco: Home of fabulous cuisine, beautiful languages, a unique culture and stunning historical sites. With so much to see and do in Morocco, it can be hard to pick the best experiences. If you’re looking for an interesting mix of adventure, education and culture, here are five Moroccan experiences you absolutely shouldn’t miss:

  1. Visit Ait Benhaddou. This desert fortress (also known as a kabash) is located in the Draa Valley and was built to protect the locals from outside invaders. The city has a frozen-in-history feel with its building designs dating back to the 11th century. It’s little surprise, then, that Ait Benhaddou has been used as a backdrop for several Hollywood films, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator. (more…)

Monuments & History in Rabat Morocco

Acting as Morocco’s capital city for since the French protectorate, which ended in the 1950s, Rabat is more of a laid-back coastal town more than it is a booming metropolis like its much bigger sister city, Casablanca. The capital city has a lot to offer, especially in the way of monuments and historical sites worth visiting. Additionally, Rabat has a medina that is worth exploring. While it is minute when compared to the Fez Medina, for example, it is hassle-free and you can get real bargains on Moroccan crafts and even Berber rugs.

While Rabat is booming in an economic, political, and administrative sense, it is a place where learning and the arts are highly respected. The monuments here speak of an ancient and fertile past that links the country to both the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. When the Romans moved into the area to create what would become their farthest colony south of Rome, they left artifacts and ruins that can still be visited. Eventually, Arab rulers took over the city and built a fortified kasbah that they called a ribat, which is where modern-day Rabat got its name. When the Almohad Dynasty moved in around the twelfth century, they rebuilt the kasbah and used it as their war base while taking over the south of Spain.

The Citadel of Chellah Gardens

While Rabat has many impressive monuments and sites to see, the most beautiful are the Chellah Gardens that are open daily to the public. In the springtime, the flowers inside the garden are blooming with colors and heavenly scents. Unlike Menara Gardens in Marrakesh, which were never inhabited, the Chellah was left completely empty by the 1200s because more people were moving to the more popular city of Sale, which is separated from Rabat by the Bou Regreg River.

The Sanctuary of the Chellah Gardens was used as royal burial grounds. The Almohads who had the door decorated and inscribed with Arabesque calligraphy created the remarkable entrance into Chellah. The Roman ruins of the Chellah Gardens, much like the ruins of Volubilis are also open to the public and many travelers are surprised at how freely tourists can roam around the area. With minimal observation from the workers and security working there, it is up to travelers to make sure they respect certain areas.

The Sanctuary of the Chellah Gardens are the true home of the Islamic artifacts that were uncovered here. A minaret made of stone is a nice centerpiece. The Abou Youssef Mosque is now in ruins and was a small structure to begin with. However, the area is near the royal tombs, where Abou El Hassan and other historical leaders of importance are buried.

Mohammed V Mausoleum & the Hassan Mosque:

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is also a mosque was, strangely enough, designed by a Vietnamese architect who wanted to capture the more traditional Moroccan art techniques, while still asserting an air of modernity. The Mausoleum is one holy place that foreigners and non-Muslims are allowed to enter.

The Hassan Mosque in Rabat was started as an ambitious project to be one of the largest mosques in the world. The mosque was designed to be a symbol to the success of Morocco over its battles with Spain. Like the Kairouine Mosque in Fez does, this mosque would have held tens of thousands of worshippers. However, it was brought down and left unfinished when the Lisbon earthquake also brought down several structures along Morocco’s coast with it. The structure is unique and each of its different faces gives way to a different type of architecture, namely a motif called Shabka that is still popular today.