Beaches and Berbers, medinas and mosques, souks and sand dunes … Morocco has variety and an exotic feel that has fascinated travellers since long before the hippies arrived. Affordable and only a short ferry from Spain, Morocco’s mix of traditional and modern strikes the perfect balance between the intensely exotic and comfortingly familiar. Made for a movie set, cities like Fez, Marrakech, and Casablanca evoke images of medinas, spice markets and couscous, while the geographic extremes – from the Atlas Mountains to beach resorts to camels in the desert – make it eminently photogenic. The mad circus of Marrakech’s Djemaa el Fna square, packed with incense, salesmen and snake charmers, is so bizarre and entertaining you’ll be looking for the hidden camera.
Where to Visit:
When you travel to Morocco the best places to visit include the imperial cities of Marrakech, Fes and Meknes. This is where you find wonderful bazaars, palaces and bustling town squares. Morocco is also famous for its beaches and some of the best seaside towns include Essaouira, Tangier and Asilah. Morocco also has natural beauty. You can hire a camel and trek through the Sahara; climb North Africa’s highest peak; or stay in a traditional Kasbah in the fascinating Dades Valley.
Situated at the foot of the Atlas mountains, the imperial city of Marrakech is large, noisy, full of history, and beautiful. There’s a lot to see and do in Marrakech. Highlights include the central square of Djemma el Fna; the Saadian Tombs, Marjorelle Gardens, and the souqs (bazaars). Staying in a traditional Riad will really enhance your visit to this fascinating city.
The most complete medieval city of the Arab world, Fes is a strange and appealing mix of middle ages meets the modern world. The extraordinary medina city of Fes El Bali is worth a few days walking in itself. Other highlights include the Merenid tombs, the Royal Palace and the Mellah (Jewish quarter). Fes was Morocco’s capital for more than 400 years and is still considered the religious and cultural center of the country.
Situated in the Rif mountains Chefchaouen is a small town in a big landscape. Popular with independent travellers (perhaps because it is the cannabis capital of morocco) but not yet spoilt by them. Highlights include hiking, swimming in streams, sipping a drink on the main square (Outa el Hammam) and enjoying the beauty of the white houses and their brightly painted doors.
The Moroccan coastline has miles and miles of beautiful beaches, and most of them are clean and safe for swimming. The sun seekers usually arrive in Agadir all year because the temperature usually stays well above 60 degrees, and Agadir’s long, wide beach is filled with four and five star hotels. If you want to enjoy a small Mediterranean resort try Al Hoceima Beach, it’s great for long strolls, the water is clean, and the beach is surrounded by olive gardens, and the Rif Mountains serve as a backdrop. If you want to surf orparaglide try Mirhleft, which is a handful of small quiet beaches. One of the isolated beaches in Mirhleft is Albergo de la Plage; you can be alone and enjoy the solitude and the nakedness of this Moroccan paradise. The other beach area is Essaouira, which is still considered the most laid back beach in Morocco. The town is filled with upscale guesthouses and restaurants that served fine cuisine, plus the year-round windsurfers add a special dimension to this Bohemian playground.
The best time to experience Morocco is mid-March to the end of May. The country side is lush and green, and the summer heat has not covered the country and the people in beads of sweat. Autumn is the next best season; September through November is a great time to enjoy the beauty of this tantalizing country. Daily sunshine ranges from nine to ten hours along the Atlantic during spring and summer, and six hours in winter. The farther south you travel the sunnier it gets. The North coast has a Mediterranean climate, which means Tangiers is hot and sunny between May and September, and the rest of the year it’s warm with occasional period of rain. The Atlantic coast and Casablanca see a lot of rain in winter, and in the south as you approach the Sahara theclimate gets drier.
The temperatures in most cities stay from 64 degrees to 74 degrees during spring and autumn, and 70 to over 100 degrees in the summer. Winter temperatures range from 55 degrees to 72 degrees depending on the city and its location.
Moroccan cuisine is an incredible blend of Arabic and European tastes. There are French, Chinese and Indian restaurants in all the cities, and American food is available in some of the cities.
Here are some of our favorites. If you want to try a blend of French, Thai and Moroccan cuisine, try Bo and Zin in Marrakech. A great tapas café and bookstore is Café du Livre in Marrakech, and Casa Garcia in Tangiers is a fabulous restaurant filled with antique furniture, authentic keepsakes and textiles. Dar Zuina, which means pretty house in Arabic, is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal in the quiet seaside town of Asilah. If you want fantastic fish and traditional Moroccan dishes try La Caravelle in Rabat, and La Maison Bleue in Fez has a romantic garden and serves excellent Moroccan dishes.
ATM machines are in all the big cities, and many of them accept the major credit cards, although there is a five percent surcharge added by Moroccan businesses if you use them to buy goods and services.
Bargaining and tipping are essential elements in Moroccan business. Any service should include a tip of a few dirhams, which is the currency of Morocco. Restaurant tips should be five or ten percent of the total and small coins can be used to tip taxi drivers and guides. It’s always best to carry your cash in a money belt or leg pouch that’s secure and out of sight. Even though crime is low, pickpockets, purse snatchers, and rip-off artists still make a living in Morocco.