Tangier is a history full of odd ducks and strange corners of history. You probably know that for the first half of the 20th century, it was a popular haunt for oil barons and shipping magnates, bankers and spies, thieves and artists. (more…)
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…)
Riding a camel across the undulating dunes of the Moroccan Sahara is unquestionably the stuff that holiday memories are made of. Any element of discomfort will fade into the distance, along with the recollection of any aching muscles when you shake the sand out of your shoes and remember the sunsets…
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 Jemaa el-Fnaa (also often: “Djema el-Fna” or “Jamma el-Fnaa”), is the historic main square of Marrakesh. It is a free and veritable outdoor theater that has existed for a thousand or more years. Any tour to Morocco would somehow be incomplete unless you spent an evening strolling through this incredible landmark to experience for yourself. (more…)
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…)
It’s a common refrain heard around the world: “It’s not easy being green.” In bright contrast to the Kermit dirge bemoaning the color green, the hillside town of Ouazzane, Morocco celebrates green. Greens of every tone are splashed across the medina walls and reflected in the fields and olive groves that surround the town. So, if you find yourself in this hillside medina on the edge of the Rif Mountains, the fact remains: It’s easy being green! Consider a road trip to Ouazzane! (more…)
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 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…)
Tangier rests on a strange, wayward little corner of Africa. It is a great accident of history and privileged geography, having been the first stop in Africa for many people from around the world, as well as many foreigner’s first experience with a muslim culture. It has played host for thousands of years. “Much of Tangier’s history,” Richard Hamilton writes, “is a chronology of foreigners and exiles.” In fact, one could do a tour of Tangier solely on these misfits of history. These exiles have long been welcomed to promenade along the famed terrace of soor magazine, where 150 year-old cannons thrust out, down through the chaotic souks and on to the long stretch of sand along the bay. (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
Does 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.
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…)
While 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.
In the ancient trading town of Asilah, Raissouni Palace is a towering symbol for the area’s renaissance. Until about 30 years ago, Asilah crumbled under centuries of neglect. Fortunately, hometown hero Mohammed Benaissa inspired others to take an interest in the community’s beauty and heritage, sparking a flood of rehabilitation efforts that have created the cultural capital seen today.
Asilah’s Raissouni Palace serves as an unofficial “palace of culture,” and it is a magnet for all things artistic, creative and historical. Yearly festivals, including a prominent string of events in August, let Raissouni become the town’s centerpiece.
Located in the northwest corner of Morocco, Asilah has strong Spanish and Portuguese influences, with a refined Mediterranean feel. Beaches (including the popular Paradise Beach) and pleasant city streets would probably attract appreciative fans even without the community’s impressive cultural aims. The 15th-century Portuguese ramparts surrounding the town have been painstakingly restored, and the town’s natural harbor is far more placid than the region’s legacy of piracy might have predicted. Conservation projects from the 1980s onward have pulled together a town with historical charm and some of the most festive cultural celebrations in the Muslim world. (more…)
Megdaz 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…)
Traveling with a tour guide can offer visitors a more personal perspective on Morocco’s sights, culture and history. Whether you intend to travel with a guide for an hour, a day, a week or longer, following the suggestions below can help you plan effectively and get the most out of the experience.
Confirm the itinerary and amenities in advance. What meals does the tour include in the price? What forms of transportation are provided? You should see these details clearly listed on your itinerary. If you have your heart set on surfing while you’re in Essaouira, for example, and it doesn’t appear on your itinerary, ask for it. Even if something you want to do isn’t a standard part of the tour operator’s package, they may be able to accommodate special requests if you ask in advance. (more…)
Morocco 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…)
Between 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…)