Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences. Marrakesh’s walled medina, a mazelike medieval quarter, offers entertainment in its Djemaa el-Fna square and souks (marketplaces) selling traditional ceramics, jewelry and metal lanterns. The capital Rabat’s Kasbah of the Udayas is a 12th-century royal fort overlooking the water.
Currency: Moroccan dirham
King: Mohammed VI of Morocco
Population: 33.01 million (2013) World Bank
Official language: Arabic
Please don’t forget to try out these 9 things when you visit this mystical country.
1. Stroll through the Blue Streets of Chefchaouen
Chefchaouen is situated in the heart of Morocco’s Rif Mountains. Chefchaouen (sometimes called Chaouen) is relaxed, with very affordable accommodations, and above all, quite stunning to look at. The streets and most of the buildings in the old part of town (medina) are painted a most brilliant sky blue. The mountains which you can see at the end of every cobbled street are rugged and majestic. The clear mountain light just adds a magical touch to the place. It’s my favorite place to stroll, shop and sip mint tea in Morocco, the key thing is to avoid the Spanish tourists who have discovered its charms.
2. Overnight in the Sahara Desert
Morocco’s Sahara desert is a magical place to spend a few nights. The most popular area to explore is the breathtaking Saharan sandscape in little place called Merzouga, just south of Erfoud. The Erg Chebbi dunes may look familiar if you’ve seen SATC2, The Mummy, or Sahara. The Erg Chebbi is about 450 miles from Marrakech. There’s a small airport about 80 miles from Erfoud, with twice weekly flights from Casablanca. The best way to get around and explore is by camel, although 4×4’s are popular if you fancy yourself a rally driver.
You can opt for a bedouin tent in the dunes, or a luxury tent at the Auberge Kasbah Tombouctou. Time your trip for spring and you may even see flamingos in a large seasonal lake close to Merzouga.
3. Surf in Morocco
Morocco has long attracted surfers to its Atlantic breakers. A popular time to surf is during the winter months when swells are consistently good and the water and air temperatures are still quite mild. Taghazoute is the most popular surfing town, just north of Agadir. There are numerous spots to serve close to town and several surf shops and hotels to choose from. Check out: Surf Berbere and . The town appears to be getting rundown, so check current trip reports.
Surfers and kite-surfers also head to the beaches around the lovely town of Essaouira, but the waves are not as consistent. This may be the place to check out if you just want to try it out. Dakhla is also popular with kite-surfers.
4. Find Peace in the Majorelle Gardens
The Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech are filled with rare plants, bright colors and peace. The botanical gardens are situated north-west of the Medina of Marrakech, about a 30 minute walk. (Stop by the wholesale market en route to see mountains of dates, nuts and grains getting bought and sold).
The Majorelle Gardens were designed by a French painter Jacques Majorelle who settled in Marrakech in 1919. In 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent repurchased the gardens and faithfully restored them. Majorelle’s workshop is now a small Museum dedicated to Islamic Art. Yves Saint Laurent died in June, 2008 and had his ashes scattered in the Majorelle Gardens.
5. Stay in a Riad
Riads are traditional homes converted into hotels, and I would never stay anywhere else when visiting Morocco. Most are situated in the walled cities of Fes and Marrakech, so you are right in the heart of the bustle. Inside, Riad’s are simply beautiful, tiled masterpieces of architecture. Most will have a fountain in the center of a courtyard, with the rooms built on two levels or so above. Check into the option of a rooftop terrace for breakfast, a lovely way to start the day, overlooking the alleys and minarets. If you’re visiting Morocco in the summer, opt for a Riad with a pool or plunge pool to cool off in the heat of the mid-afternoon.
6. Try out the Moroccan food
The cuisine of Morocco has been influenced by native Berber cuisine, Arabic Andalusian cuisine, Turkish cuisine, and Middle Eastern cuisine brought by the Arabs. French influence came later and the fusion between traditional Moroccan and French cuisine is at the heart of many of the fine-dining experiences in Morocco today.
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