A First Timers Guide To Morocco
Even with a close proximity with European cities, Morocco stands distinct with amazing colors, smells and sounds of Islamic Africa. A home to bustling souks and spice markets, magnificent mosques, stunning sea side towns and medieval city centers, Morocco enchants travelers with panoramic views from snow-covered peaks in the High Atlas to the endless sand dunes of the Sahara.
Just across the Strait of Gibraltar, lies Morocco, a North African country sharing coastline with both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Rich in the warmth of colour, culture and business bustle, it is home to mainly ethnic Arabs and Berbers.
Morocco’s long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956, which describes the French influence in language, architecture and food.
The month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day time and break the fast at sunset, is the most celebrated festival of the country. However tourists are exempted from the rule and are even allowed to purchase alcohol from super markets upon producing documents.
Places To Visit
The cosmopolitan Casablanca, famed for the Hollywood movie, houses one of the largest mosques, Hassan II mosque. The city is vibrant and modern, influenced with hispano-moorish astounding architecture and indicates little of traditional Morocco.
However Marrakesh, the Red city, wins heart of a tourist with multitudes of old remains from the days of most prominent former imperial capital. Old gates and defence walls, see the Saadian Tombs, vibrant souks, the remnants of the El Badi Palace and the Koutoubia Mosque decked up with an exquisite minaret are among the places of interest in the city.
As the sun descends, head to Jamaa el-Fnaa, the largest square in Africa, with a great spread of steaming food and an array of activities with Arabic story tellers, watch magicians and Chleuh dancers.
Fez, another imperial city hosts multiple labyrinths of narrow medieval streets, beautiful city gates, the ancient University of Al-Karaouine.
Often refered to as”Versailles of Morocco”, Meknes showcase beautiful Spanish-Moorish architecture and blend of best of medieval European and Islamic cultures.
Relax at the old capital city of Rabat while marveling at the old towers and minarets.
Had enough of city? Head straight to Asilah to experience the calm sea or Essaouira to explore the mighty Atlas Mountains without further delay. Hike past the villages and valleys of Ourika and Amizmiz to Jebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North-Africa. If hiking is what you love do not shy away from exploring beautiful Ameln Valley in the Anti-Atlas and the wooded Rif Mountains. The view is stunning from the top.
A camel ride to sail across the golden Sahara sand dunes at Erg Chebbi, near Merzouga is a much coveted experience as well. Famed of the shooting of Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator, the old city of Aït-Benhaddou is needs to be in your bucket list too.
An exotic and unique experience remains Hammam or public bath. The tourist hammam (ready to pamper you with scrubbing by an experienced staff member) are more expensive option while a “popular” Hammam, where the locals go, is easy on pocket and decked with tiles around a door and entrance way. Men and women head to different Hammams. Nudity is prohibited.
Indulge in shopping. Bargain is the key word, please do not forget. leather produce of the country attracts international attention.
Souks are decked up with fragrance of Argan oil,Tagines, (classic Moroccan cooking dishes made of clay) and Birad, the teapots and best quality of spices. Genuine handmade Berber carpets can be purchased direct from the artisans who weave them. If you go to small villages, such as Anzal, in the province of Ouarzazate, you can visit the weavers, watch them work, and they will happily serve you tea and show you their products.
While finishing the trip, be prepared to experience a sensational tour with colorful images making up an incredible memory of Sahara and Africa for one lifetime! Do not forget to tune into the famous song “Casablanca” by Bertie Higgins.