If you’ve been dreaming of traveling to Morocco for a while — or are curious but hesitant! — then we’d love to give you a few more reasons to book that trip.
By Valeska Idarraga
Colorful and inviting riads bejeweled with thousands of small glittering mosaics. Sand-specked winds blowing across the Sahara Desert, adding to the thousands of ripples in the dunes. Smiling Berber eyes hiding behind thick kohl eyeliner. A chatty shop owner pouring you a glass of fresh mint tea.
These are just some of the experiences that welcome travelers every day in the land of “The Red City” (Marrakesh), the “Blue Pearl” (Chefchouen), and the “Athens of Africa” (Fez) in none other than Morocco.
If you’ve been dreaming of traveling to Morocco for a while — or are curious but hesitant! — then we’d love to give you a few more reasons to plan that escape.
Souks are traditional markets and bazaars that are often found inside the walls of a city’s medina. Once inside, you’ll be greeted with a maze of streets that are jam-packed with shopkeepers touting everything from woven rugs to colorful lamps, piquant spices, buttery-soft cashmere scarves, eye-catching tagine pots, fez hats, and more.
There are also plenty of handmade and handcrafted items like ornate silver and copper plates, traditional painted tiles, and leather goods (especially in Fez!)
Even one visit to a souk will satisfy all of your souvenir shopping needs. Who knows, maybe you’ll even pick up a few extra goodies for yourself!
A visit to the Sahara Desert or the Atlas Mountains may dominate most people’s Moroccan itineraries, but we promise that you won’t regret adding a trip to the ocean as well! Morocco is bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The most famous coastal town, Essaouria, started off as a sleepy fishing town but has turned into a haven for windsurfers and sunbathers.
If you’re looking for hidden sandy coves and beach escapes, look no further than the laid-back town of Mirleft, which is a popular spot with the locals. Other popular coastal towns in Morocco include Sidi Kaouki, a few kilometers from Essaouria, and Tangier and Saïdia to the north.
Thanks to its strategic position between Spain and the rest of Africa, Morocco enjoys a unique type of local cuisine. At its core, Moroccan dishes can be likened to a Mediterranean diet that’s brimming with Arabic influence.
We’re sure you’ll fall in love with at least one dish while visiting Morocco. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend the most famous dish, Tagine, which is slow-cooked meat and vegetables with a dash of flavorful spices. From there, venture out and try the Zaalouk, a salad made of cooked aubergine and tomatoes; the Harira, a soup made of tomato, lentils, chickpeas, and meat that’s popular during Ramadan; and Couscous, steamed balls of semolina flour. Wash it all down with some refreshing Moroccan mint tea for that extra touch of flavor.
Although most people don’t usually associate Morocco with wine, there are actually plenty of fantastic wineries scattered across Morocco. In fact, Morocco is considered to have the best potential for producing high-quality wines thanks to its location near the mountains and cooling breeze from the Atlantic. Even though Morocco has fourteen wine-growing districts, certain of them are not widely available. Some common, easily-found appellations include Gerrouane, Beni MTtir, Benslimane, and Zenatta, being among the most popular regions Meknes and Essaouira.
Fans of red wines will be happy to hear that it’s the most popular wine in Morocco, with 75% of the total output being red wine.
Besides wine, another thing that most travelers are surprised to hear is that Morocco has snow. That’s right! For a country that contains the Sahara desert, you can also find snow (and even ski resorts) in the Atlas Mountains. The Atlas Mountains are perhaps Morocco’s most rugged landscapes. Stretching 2,500 kilometers from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and up to a maximum height of 4,167 meters, these mountains continue their way into Algeria and Tunisia. There are so many things to do in the Atlas Mountains, from cycling, hiking, taking camel rides, and even seeing the sun rise in a hot air balloon.
What’s a good desert without a few palm trees? Thankfully, there are plenty in Morocco. In fact, there are even entire valleys that are full of thousands of palm trees neatly — and erraticaly — sprinkled around. The most famous palm groves around Morocco include the Marrakech palmeraie, which have more than 100,000 palm trees, as well as the ones in Skoura and the Dades Valley.
Besides hundreds of thousands of palm trees, Morocco is also called the land of a thousand Kasbahs. A kasbah is a tall structure, usually with fortified walls and large towers, that was built for leaders or priests to live in. You’ll find these burly buildings all over the country, usually on routes that were used by ancient merchants.
The rest of the architecture in Morocco is just as colorful and diverse as the country it’s in. From medinas to minarets, Morocco’s architecture came about by a slew of influences — from the traditional Islamic geometric patterns to the Andalusian Moorish style from its northern neighbors, and even the sprawling courtyards that were brought in by the French.
After a long day of sightseeing, mingling, and getting happily lost in the bazaars, it’s time to come back and unwind in your room. Thankfully, Morocco is bursting with gorgeous traditional riads, ancient castles converted into boutique hotels, and even luxury desert camps for the ultimate glamping experience.
First, let’s start off with a riad: these are traditional Moroccan houses that have been turned into hotels or guest houses. There are even some riads that still house several generations of Moroccan families! Typical riads are tall buildings with private rooms and a common corridor that empties out into a stunning courtyard. In upscale riads, there are even pools, communal areas, and tea terraces!
Stepping outside the city, travelers will also find plenty of unique accomodations in Morocco. One of our favorites is the Dar Ahlam hotel, a gorgeous 19th century kasbah that overlooks the Atlas Mountains. The name, which translates to “House of Dreams,” perfectly fits the description — the extensive grounds, carved walls, and friendly personnel will have you feeling like you’re truly in a dream.
As for those luxury glamping camps in the desert, well, you’ll just have to keep reading and find out in the next point…
When we think of Morocco, one of the first images that usually pops into our heads are the endless rolling dunes made of sand in the Sahara Desert.
Stretching across from Morocco to Egypt and down to Chad, the Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world and encompasses more than 9.4 million square kilometers. One of the most interesting features of the Saharan Desert are the ergs, which are “seas” made of sand dunes that can stretch hundreds of kilometers. The largest and most famous is Erg Chebbi, where dunes can reach heights of up to 150 meters!
Intrepid travelers can also take advantage of fun adventures in the Sahara Desert, such as camel riding, being buried neck-deep in the sand (which supposedly helps rheumatism), and even overnight glamping. Enjoy unparalleled views of the starry sky, the silence of the desert, and the crackling of the campfire by staying overnight at one of the few desert camps near Erg Chebbi.
Last but certainly not least, we have the indigenous people who make Morocco what it is today — the Berbers and the Bedouins.
The history of the indiginous Berbers (also known as the Amazigh, or “Free people”) spans thousands and thousands of years ago, when tribes ruled North Africa and would often travel through the Sahara and near the Mediterranean to trade. Thanks to the Berbers, Morocco has a rich cultural heritage that can still be seen to this day.
Another interesting group of locals are the Bedouins, a nomadic group who have historically inhabited the desert regions around Morocco. The Bedouins have plenty of cultural traditions, from fervent sword dances to playing traditional instruments and even tent knitting. Travelers who visit Bedouin camps are often invited (and encouraged!) to partake in some of these festivities, as well as other popular Bedouin activities like camel riding and camping in the desert.
Everything is intense in Morocco. Splendid and stately gardens, fantasy palaces, a dream architecture from ancient times… In Morocco, architecture seems anything but possible, and its careful, delusional and utopian character hints at the ambitious spirit of its creators. Morocco is a feast for your eyes that enlivens your senses and spirit.
Our journey to Morocco in 2021 is fully booked, but you can sign in if you wish to be informed as soon as the 2022 edition is released.
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