Morocco is every tourist’s dream. It is exotic, exciting and unpredictable. It is a land of outstanding beauty – both the rugged and picture postcard kind – attracting adventure enthusiasts, seekers of the unusual, foodies and the regular ‘been there, seen it’ types. Vast stretches of desert sands compete with the fabulous beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, deep wooded valleys and orchards. The tall craggy Atlas Mountains contrast beautifully with the green and flower bedecked Rif Mountains. Morocco is also blessed with weather that is wide and varied.
Many of the sights, sounds and activities on offer are in or fairly close to Morocco’s cities.
To the Berbers Marrakech is the “Land of God” and it is easy to see why. The nearby Atlas Mountains dominate the skyline and the true Sahara is not far away. To Europeans, Persians and Asians, it is still Morocco. Marrakech’s magic is its seamless blending and fusing of myriad influences and cultures. For instance the elegant and towering Koutoubia Minaret, so symbolic of Marrakesh, it is a mix of Moorish and Andalusian architectural styles. So are the 16th century Saadian Tombs, the Private Museum and Bahia Palace.
The raucous calls of food stall owners vie with the castanets of the water-sellers. The attention-grabbing snake charmers, acrobats, dancers and other entertainers battle potion-sellers at the world famous Djemaa el Fna Square. The aroma of spices wafts through the air along with scent of the mouth-watering street food that stays with you long after you have left the country.
The labyrinth souk alleyways are crammed with shops and stalls selling everything from hand-crafted Moroccan goods such as babouche slippers, woodworks, brass works, ironworks, bronze works, jewellery, kaftans, carpets, spices, and pottery. You will find the best leather, antiques and hand crafted gold jewellery. Amidst all this, there are beautiful landscaped gardens filled with fruit trees and flowering shrubs.
Agadir is considered the gateway to the tall rugged Atlas Mountains, which are only a short distance away. Tucked into their rocky folds is the breathtaking and untouched beauty of Paradise Valley. The word Agadir in Berber means “wall enclosing a fortress or town”. Part of the original fortress still remains at the top of the hill just outside the current city.
Agadir has gained a reputation of being a resort town with visitors from all over Europe descending upon it. One of its major attractions is a fabulous 10km long beach/bay and a carefully planned waterfront promenade. The weather is magnificent all year round and so is the surfing. This in turn has spawned a large surfing community of schools and camps. Agadir offers plenty of cafés, bars and live music and the evenings are great for unwinding after a hard days touring.
If ever a place really deserved the adjective ‘legendary’ it is Fez! More than 1200 years old it was the ancient capital of Morocco and is home to the world’s oldest university – Qarawiyyin. Its ancient roots still exist in the walled city and the twisting, complex maze-like lanes of the medina Fez el-Bali. Here goods are still transported by donkeys and handcarts adding to its timeless atmosphere.Fez has the best examples of ancient Islamic arts and architecture preserved in the 14th century Bou Inania Madersa (a college), two forts (Borj Nord and Borj Sud), the Merenid Tombs and the Moulay Idriss II tomb.
Tangier is where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. This beautiful city, also known as White City, has been the playground of millionaires and the retreat of writers for over a century. It exudes charm and sophistication aided by beautiful beaches and a vibrant beach café culture.
Tangier’s various cultural influences abound in its architecture and nightlife. There are many excellent restaurants serving a wide range of cuisines, street cafés, attractive bars and interesting cabarets. The Grand Socco is a great market where you can get nearly everything you could think of and the surrounding Mendoubia Gardens are an inviting place to spend an afternoon.
Not far out of town are the Caves of Hercules. It is supposed to be the place that the mythical hero rests while on his labours.
Casablanca is a European city transplanted to North Africa. The architecture is a mix between French Colonial and Moorish. It is a very cosmopolitan and liberal place with French still widely spoken. Originally built by Berber fishermen in the 10th century it has been visited and ruled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Portuguese and the French.
Casablanca is Morocco’s largest city and economic capital. One of its most notable features is the Hassan II Mosque and its 210-metre minaret is the world’s tallest. Another man-made marvel is the port, which is the largest artificial port in the world. With all of this and the mild Mediterranean climate Casablanca attracts visitors all year.