UNESCO World Heritage Series: Volubilis

UNESCO World Heritage Series: Volubilis

There are many good reasons for the inquisitive traveler to visit Morocco. The High Atlas Mountains and their hiking trails. The old cities of Fez and Marrakesh with the largest traditional markets in all of Africa. And of course the impressive Roman ruins dotted throughout the country. Yes, you read that right. Roman ruins! In Morocco! The Roman ruins of Volubilis, Morocco, the finest of all the Roman ruins to be found in the country, are at once important for their Roman connections to the region, but for so many more reasons than that. (more…)

Halal Travel for Visitors to Morocco

Halal Travel for Visitors to Morocco

Halal tourism is a relatively new term and style of travel. It refers to meeting the needs and desires of Muslim tourists by providing services and amenities that Muslim travelers desire. There is no standard definition of defines an experience as falling into the category of halal travel, but several components stand out. In the most recent poll by Crescentranking, one of the first companies to provide rankings of Muslim-friendly destinations, they listed Morocco as the sixth most “halal friendly” travel destination. (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…)

Morocco Travel for the Cosmopolitan Visitor

morocco restaurant clubDoes your ideal vacation prioritize art galleries and architecture over adventure? Would you rather sip cocktails than scale sand dunes? Does your travel itinerary look better with art deco-style buildings, museums and discos? Then Morocco is calling you.

Casablanca

Travelers have long ignored Casablanca in favor of more exotic locales, but what the city lacks in Islamic monuments and labyrinthine souks, it makes up for in its dizzying nightlife, a burgeoning art scene and a hodgepodge of architectural styles. Casablanca’s inhabitants, known as Casablancais, are known for being more Western in their attitudes. You can find men and women together in restaurants and bars dressed up in the latest global trends.

In the 1930s, art deco style was all the rage in Paris and New York, famously represented by the Paris Métro and New York’s Chrysler Building. The style caught on in Casablanca, and you can see some of the many art deco buildings in the Place Mohammed V and Place 16 Novembre. Galleries abound, featuring both Moroccan and international artists, including Le Studio des Arts Vivants, Galerie Atelier 21 and Loft Gallery, along with Amber Gallery, located in the high-end suburb of Mohammedia. The non-profit group Casamémoire runs a variety of projects including an exhibition space housed in an abandoned slaughterhouse on the edge of town. (more…)

How to Travel with Kids in Morocco

morocco kidsWith its lively markets and landscapes straight out of motion pictures, Morocco is a magical place in children’s eyes. The compact size of the country and friendly people make traveling with kids enjoyable and rewarding. Though children might tire of typical adult pursuits in Morocco—watching Mom and Dad haggle over carpet prices can’t be too exciting—the fascinating sights and sounds of everyday life makes wanderings both educational and entertaining. Like other countries in the region, Morocco is a very child-friendly culture, and you will likely find hotel and restaurant staff doting on yours.

Consider limiting the scope of travel to one region of the country to avoid long car trips; those endless landscapes that look romantic to adults could seem just, well, endless, to kids in the back seat. The bustle of imperial cities like Marrakech and Fez is anything but boring, and all children will likely find the dunes and camels of the Sahara fascinating. And the easy lifestyle of beach towns on the Atlantic helps families combine downtime in the sun with exposure to a new culture. Destinations particularly popular with families are Essaouira, Agadir, Marrakech and the stretches of the Great Oasis Valleys or High Atlas Mountains that let kids run around in the great outdoors. Older children and teenagers can participate in easy treks and even camping under the stars in the desert. (more…)

Tips for Traveling to the Rif Mountains

rif mountains moroccoWhile many people travel to Morocco on a tour for its imperial cities and vast sand dunes, visitors who appreciate scenic landscapes will also enjoy the country’s mountain ranges. The Rif Mountains, situated in the northernmost part of the country and parallel to the Mediterranean coast, offer picturesque panoramas and trails that can satisfy adventurers seeking a challenging trek as well as sightseers who prefer a casual stroll. Regardless of your preference, consider the following tips when planning your visit.

 

 

 

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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…)

Travel Tips for the Anti-Atlas Mountains

anti atlas mountains moroccoLocated in southwest Morocco, the Anti-Atlas Mountains are far off the beaten path and can deliver an unspoiled experience for travelers willing to make the journey. This range derives its name from its big, better-known northern neighbors, the High Atlas Mountains, where walking and trekking in Morocco was made popular; “Anti-Atlas” means “Lesser Atlas.”

This range is hardly lesser, however, except when it comes to a tourist population. Within the mountains, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the landscape and glimpses of Berber village life without a crush of other visitors. The Anti-Atlas range extends all the way to Ouarzazate, where many choose to begin tours of the Sahara Desert, so many itineraries combine mountain and desert. (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…)

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…)

Trekking the Jebel Sahro

trekking jebel sahro moroccoNot far from the High Atlas Mountains are the mountains of the Jebel Sahro. The starkness of this range belies the beauty found there. Although this area is not as well traveled by trekkers it is well worth the trip. The landscape is awash in mesas with flat tops, deep gorges and pinnacles that have been twisted from volcanic activity. The view includes expansive almond groves and date palms.

Because of the terrain, planning a trek in this region comes with many options. Regardless of which direction you choose to walk, you’ll be met with satisfying scenery. You can launch your Sahro trek from any one of three points. Two towns in the north make good starting points, Boumaine du Dades and Kelaa M’Gouna. You can also take off from the southern village known as N’Kob. There are several Moroccan tour operators in these three cities that provide services. (more…)

Whale Watching in Morocco

whale watching wildlife moroccoThe Strait of Gibralter, the narrow strait that separates Spain from Morocco holds a high concentration of marine animals including several species of whales and dolphins. The strait separates the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean and has a unique geography, which enhances phytoplankton growth and offers an overabundance of food that attracts whales to the area.

This body of water produces a very slow exchange of water between the Atlantic and Mediterranean and this results in a rich environment to sustain a diverse variety of marine life. The Strait of Gibralter is home to the pilot whale, sperm whale, orca whale and fin whale as well as the bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin and common dolphin. (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…)