Hammams in Morocco: A Moroccan Woman Dishes the Inside Spa Scoop

Hammams in Morocco: A Moroccan Woman Dishes the Inside Spa Scoop

Public baths are an integral part of life in Morocco. On any given day you might see a group of women gathering outside the neighborhood hammam, a small plastic stool and bucket in hand. The hammams in Morocco come with their own set of unspoken rules, which for outsiders can be more than a little confusing. Here are a few tips to help you be ready for your own Morocco hammam experience. (more…)

The Ultimate Parent’s Guide to Morocco Travel

The Ultimate Parent’s Guide to Morocco Travel

Morocco is probably one of the most kid-friendly countries I have ever travelled. As soon as I started taking trains, buses, taxis and visiting the souks with my kid, an entirely different country opened up before my eyes. I hate to stereotype, but it really does seem to me that most Moroccans have an extra warm, fuzzy, soft spot in their heart for children. If you spend anytime with a Moroccan family, you can see how this might be. At home, the kids really do rule the roost. Read on for some great tips and insider notes as we bring you our Parent’s Guide to 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…)

The Ashura Celebration in Morocco

The Ashura Celebration in Morocco

Ashura in Morocco (often spelled: “achoura”) is truly a festival for kids… and kids at heart! The young ones get new toys, as well as the staple Darbuka (a goblet drum), Tbel (a large double-sided drum) and Berrada (a clay piggy bank). Kids go from playing music and eating healthy treats, called fakia, to playing with water.

But there is so much more to Ashura in Morocco than just drums and toys! Ashura is a perfect example of the Judaeo-Islamic tradition in Morocco, deeply rooted in values of tolerance and coexistence.

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The Maison de la Photographie (Photography Museum)  in Marrakesh

The Maison de la Photographie (Photography Museum) in Marrakesh

Le Maison de la Photographie (often the “Photography Museum” or “House of Photography” in English) is one of Morocco’s richest photography museums. Le Maison de la Photographie is tucked away deep in the old Marrakesh medina. You will have to make your way through the popular souks and walk through some twisting back alleys to find the beautiful riad where the museum is located. But even if you get lost on your way, the museum is well worth the hunt! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the heart of the Red City you will find a collection of photographs worth thousands upon thousands of words.  (more…)

UNESCO World Heritage Series: Ait Ben Haddou

UNESCO World Heritage Series: Ait Ben Haddou

I was traveling through the dusty south of Morocco, touring the Sahara with my guide, Hamid. He was trying to show me exactly where a particular scene in Ridley Scott’s epic film, Gladiator was shot. If you’ve seen Gladiator, you’ll remember Proximo (played by Oliver Reed, looking sufficiently Arab-ish) who purchases General Maximus (Russell Crowe). In one very memorable scene, Proximo says to the slaves, including the disgraced General Maximus: “I did not pay good money for you for your company. I paid it so that I could profit from your death.” (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…)

Visiting Morocco in Summer: A Survival Guide

Visiting Morocco in Summer: A Survival Guide

Morocco is an increasingly popular travel destination year-round. But as the seasons change throughout the year, so do the opportunities visitors have to experience Morocco’s culture and history. Whether you’re into water sports, mountain trekking, cultural experiences or historical sites – you’ll find that the optimal time for exploring all of these sides of Morocco can vary throughout the year. If you’re planning on visiting Morocco in summer there are a few things to keep in mind. (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…)

Four Skiing Experiences in Morocco

ski moroccoThe words “Morocco” and “skiing” don’t seem to go together, but did you know that Morocco is home to Africa’s highest ski resort? And, in addition to this record-setting resort, there are several other ski resorts throughout the Middle and High Atlas Mountains. If skiing is a hobby you enjoy, consider giving the slopes of Morocco a shot. While American and European ski destinations are expensive getaways in winter months, this is Morocco’s off season so prices are much more affordable.

The ski season lasts from December to March/April but conditions vary greatly depending on snowfall and temperatures. Unlike American ski resorts, Moroccan ski resorts don’t make artificial snow so skiing conditions are completely dependent on natural elements. Also, there are few grooming machines. Because of this, runs may be bumpy, powdered, packed or any variation of these. Ski lessons, rentals, chairlifts and run difficulty vary depending on the ski hill.

While there are many ski hills to cut your teeth on, these four destinations should be at the top of any skiers to-visit list.

Ifrane

Built during the French protectorate, this city resembles any Alpine village in Europe. Jebel Mischliffen is a small ski area a few miles outside of Ifrane. It was built in the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged. The runs are short and the chairlifts unreliable. This is a good ski hill for amateurs or families. If you’re nearby, it’s worth a trip to see the city and say you skied in Africa! (more…)

Morocco Skydiving 101

Morocco skydivingMorocco is known for its rock climbing and trekking, but when most people think of adventure activities in Morocco, skydiving doesn’t normally come to mind. But, for a place lush in beautiful scenery over the Central High Atlas, what better way to view the landscape than on a Morocco tour put together by experts that takes you thousands of feet up? Even though Morocco is lined with mountain peaks, it also has many wide-open spaces—making for a great drop-zone. Skydiving is a relatively new sport in the country, however, like many adventure sports, its popularity is picking up speed.

There are two major skydiving schools in Morocco to consider while making your travel plans. Located a short distance from Marrakech is the Beni Mellal Flying Club (PACMA), which offers a full-day experience for adventure seekers. Whether you’ve jumped many times or this will be your first experience, the PACMA team is ready to make your Moroccan skydiving experience memorable. Everyone that is interested in jumping must undergo a medical examination and then an introduction briefing. (more…)

Shopping at Morocco’s Mega Mall

shopping mall window modelsMorocco is known, of course, for its captivating marketplaces, full of twists and turns and treasures. As the country develops, it only makes sense for it to embrace the marketplace of the 21st century—the mega mall. Casablanca’s luxurious mall is a consumers’ paradise for well-to-do travelers and Moroccans looking for global brands.

Inaugurated in 2011 with a Jennifer Lopez performance and the presence of the royal family, the Morocco Mall can be found just outside of Casablanca. Glitz was not spared in its construction. Outside, a musical fountain reminiscent of Las Vegas welcomes visitors with water jets. Though palm trees reach into soaring atriums, and a two-story aquarium ties in with the mall’s coastal location, the mall’s interior would not be out of place in worldwide locations from Vegas to Singapore. With three floors and more than 600 stores, the Morocco Mall aims to be a one-stop shopping destination for North Africa’s elite.

International luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Prada line its storefronts with aspirational finds, alongside more modest but coveted Western franchises like Lacoste, Banana Republic and American Eagle. In addition to clothing, jewelry, electronics and specialty retailers, shops include the Marjane supermarket, the Galeries Lafayette department store and the FNAC store, which sell the latest in technology and entertainment. The Morocco Mall has also tried to mirror the country’s rich market culture with “souk-style” stores selling the work of artisans and artists. (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…)

Kalaat M’gouna, Morocco: A Town of Roses

morocco rosesThose who are romantics at heart are likely to swoon at the opportunity to visit Kalaat M’gouna, especially in the spring. This city in the Dades Valley is famous for one thing: roses. Kalaat M’gouna means Valley of the Roses and the city itself is named after the nearby Mount Mgoun.

In the late spring months, the city is literally covered in roses. A pink carpet as far as the eye can see dots the otherwise brown landscape. It is believed that pilgrims who arrived in Morocco from Saudi Arabia brought rosa damascena, the variety of roses that are grown in this region, with them in the 10th century, and they continue to play a part in the city’s culture today. (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…)

Asilah Arts Festival

morocco tilesLike most towns in Morocco, Asilah has a walled medina. But in Asilah, the walls are painted with colorful, elaborate murals. For the last thirty two years, the Asilah Arts Festival has rehabilitated and promoted the city of Asilah by fostering artists from around the world.

Asilah is a resort town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, only fifty kilometers from Tangier. For the first two weeks in August, the town explodes with culture while it hosts the Arts Festival. Artists use the festival as a way to exhibit their work for the public and exchange ideas with other creative individuals. Every year a group of painters collaborate and design a wall mural at the Medina. Visitors are invited to watch the work as it progresses.

Beyond paintings, the Asilah Arts Festival works to encourage cultural dialogue, exchange ideas and promote peace. Guests and speakers include politicians, journalists and writers who exchange ideas and inspire one another to create a global cultural landscape. (more…)

Gnaoua Festival D’Essaouira: June 20-24, 2012

Gnauoua Music Festival MoroccoFor the past 15 years Essaouira has been home to the Gnaoua World Music Festival. Every summer in June, for four days, the Gnaoua Festival welcomes famous musicians to participate, share their musical ideas and create one of the most elaborate concerts in the world. Starting in 1998, the concerts have regularly drawn crowds of more than 200,000 people. The festival provides not only a platform for musical exchange but a meeting point for open-minded dialogue between foreign artists and the transcendental Gnaoua musicians. It’s a place where Gnaoua music meets the rest of the world and exchanges ideas. This colorful patchwork of musical fusion provides a fantastic space for Gnaoua musicians to jam with jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock and contemporary world music masters in the coastal town of Essaouira.

Gnaoua music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber and Sufi religious songs and music. The musical style can be described as both a spiritual prayer and an important celebration of life. Like most music, much of Gnaoua’s style can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa. Today, its practice is concentrated in Morocco. (more…)

Morocco for Adventure Seekers

trekking hiking in MoroccoFrom luxury resorts and beachfront spas, to mountain lodges and sand dune hikes, if you can dream it, to shine up an old cliché, chances are good that if you can dream it, you can do it. For many, that dream includes adventure in Morocco. No matter your definition, whether getting lost in a winding medina, trekking the high peaks, camping amid sand dunes or just getting through your first taxi ride, Morocco provides ample opportunity for thrill seekers.

If the idea of hiking into the wilderness strikes your fancy, Morocco’s famous mountain ranges are the perfect place to test your skills. Novice hikers can take part in any number of day hikes from the innumerable mountain villages that dot the High and Middle Atlas. Imlil, just an hour from Marrakesh, acts as trailhead for those looking to ascend Jbel Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak. Setting out for just a few hours along the trail will lead you to remote villages, religious shrines and some of the most spectacular alpine views in the country. Azilal, in the north, lies in the foothills of the Middle Atlas and is a beautiful place to use as a base from which to explore the region. (more…)

A Day in Mirleft, Morocco

Beach in Mirleft MoroccoMost people Morocco travel to experience the richness of the culture, cuisine and natural landscape. But when thinking of surfing, Morocco almost never comes to mind. People’s jaws drop when they learn that Morocco’s southern coasts are some of the best surfing spots in the world.

Located on the southern Atlantic coast, Mirleft is a Berber town perched between sea and desert. It is known for its beautiful beaches, unusual rock formations and comfortable weather throughout the year. It is rare when you cannot go for a swim in Mirleft, even in winter. Mirleft, once the secret hideaway of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, is now attracting tourists from all over the world, particularly Europe. (more…)

Top Attractions in Meknes, Morocco

arches in Meknes MoroccoOften overlooked by tourists, Meknes, Morocco, is a culturally rich city with a modern twist—the best of both worlds. Here you can visit ancient palaces and tombs, and afterward head to a downtown cafe for an ice cream cone or milkshake.

Meknes, one of Morocco’s imperial cities, founded in the 11th century by Moulay Ismail, will give you a genuine sense of Morocco’s past. Home to multiple historical and cultural attractions, Meknes is surprisingly modern at the same time.

Located about 130 km inland, this northern city has a seasonal climate. But beware, one thing is the same year-round—the nights are cold. Daytime temperatures rise from anywhere between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius. So don’t let the summer months fool you. You’ll need a jacket even in August.

While touring the city, don’t miss Place el-Hedim. Built by Moulay Ismail for public executions and royal announcements, this structure is now the heart of the Medina. It’s the perfect place to kick your feet up and people watch. Visit one of the cafes within the square, where you can order some mint tea and listen to local musicians playing for tips. (more…)

Day Trips from Agadir

Man on motorcycle moroccoThe harsh truth: Agadir has a reputation of being a tourist trap. If you’re looking for the true Moroccan experience, most say this city will disappoint. But we’ve got good news—the traditional Morocco you may be searching for is just a short day trip away from Agadir.

Marrakech is a must-see destination if you plan on spending time exploring other cities in Morocco. History buffs, you’re in for a treat. This city is packed with culture. Explore the Medina and other souks sprinkled throughout the city. Prep your bartering skills and dive into the adventures of haggling down the typically high tourist prices. Pack a decent pair of walking shoes as well as an attitude ready for the commotion of Marrakech. A circle drive surrounds the souks, with taxis continuously picking up and dropping off customers. When you enter into the souk area you will see dancing Cobra snakes and monkeys on chains. Several wildlife organizations warn tourists to stay away because of the inhumane treatment of these animals.

In case the hubbub of busy city life isn’t what you had in mind for the day, there are plenty of relaxing getaways near Agadir as well. (more…)