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.

Speaking of the desert, Merzouga is a popular stop for travelers who want to touch a sand dune. Several tour companies offer camel rides and camping in the desert from this Sahara village. The experience of an exotically jarring camel ride, the challenge of climbing a dune by foot and admiring the enormity of the desert makes the journey to Merzouga memorable and worthwhile.

Those who enjoy the adventure of getting lost in a whimsical destination should dedicate at least a day to exploring the winding alleys of Fes’ medina. Notoriously narrow and lively, the alleyways are packed with spice markets, crafts, workshops, hammams, mosques, fountains, restaurants, performers, locals, tourists and more. The area is also known for its tanneries, and the medina’s artisans allow visitors to view the techniques of working a hide into soft leather—a process they have changed little since medieval times. If you travel to Fes in early summer, try to be there for the Festival of World Sacred Music, usually scheduled in late May or early June.

To escape the bustle typical of Marrakesh and Fes, many travelers venture over to the coastal city of Essouira to enjoy its uniquely relaxed ambiance. The merchants in the town’s spacious medina leave shoppers to browse through handmade Berber baskets, colorful fabrics and artisan handicrafts relatively pressure-free. Exiting the medina through the harbor-side door reveals picturesque rows of blue fishing boats and swarms of seagulls overhead. Continuing in this direction leads you to the town’s well-lit beach and popular oceanside promenade. You can opt to explore more of the coast by taking a bus to Agadir, a larger city with more of a resort-like atmosphere. Buses go to several other destinations as well including Rabat, Morocco’s capitol, which is also located on the coast.

Written by Shelley A. Gable, instructional designer and freelance writer.

Photo by marcp_dmoz.