Morocco has plenty to offer to tourists who are looking for anything from relaxing, adventure, food, and culture. Although the country is modernized, it has been able to hold on to its culture, tradition, centuries-old architecture, attracting many tourists each year. The country is made of people belonging to many nationalities, as a vast number of people have migrated here during several invasions in the past. And hence, all kinds of traditions and cultures co-exist in harmony. From thriving cities to centuries-old indigenous tribes, read on to see what awaits you in Morocco.
Visit the Blue Village of Chefchaouen
Like the fabled Emerald City of Wizard of Oz, Morocco has such a village of its own- only it’s blue. Painted a dazzling color of blue, the village dates back to 1471. Founded by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al- Alami, the place was initially a fortress to ward off attacks from the Portuguese. As for the blue color that gives the village its fame, there are several theories as to how its color came to be. One of the theories claims that the blue color keeps the mosquitoes away, while according to another theory, the color symbolizes the sky and heaven. Some locals claim that the village was painted as such to attract tourists during the 1970s. The place is one to take stunning pictures, as long as you wear colors that stand out against the blue color! Add to it the shops selling handicrafts, hotels, and baths.
Explore the Capital City, Rabat
Lounging right on the Atlantic Ocean, there’s plenty to do and see in this thriving capital city alone. There’s the Kasbah of the Udayas, where you’ll find yourself marveling at the blue and white Andalusian style streets. Don’t miss out on visiting the Kasbah Mosque in Rue el Jamma, the oldest mosque in the capital. You can visit the Hassan Tower, which stands at a height of 45 meters. The tower was originally intended to be a grand minaret for a mosque, but all construction came to a halt when the ruler Yacoub al-Mansour died. And so, it remains unfinished to his day. The Hassan Tower is right next to the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V, another landmark of Rabat. The Mausoleum is lined with tiles and decorated in traditional Moroccan design. If you’re into archaeology, then don’t forget to visit the Rabat Archaeology Museum, built-in 1932.
Hike Up the Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains are an apt spot for those looking for some adventure. These mountains are the highest ranges in Northern Africa and are called Idraren Draren or the Mountains of Mountains by the locals. The mountains create a barrier between the Mediterranean- Atlantic coast and the Sahara Dessert. Spanning over 2500 km, they can be divided into four regions. The Anti- Atlas, High Atlas, and the Middle Atlas are the ones situated in Morocco, while the Tell Atlas covers Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The Aures Mountains cover Algeria and Tunisia and the Saharan Atlas lies in Algeria.
There is a myriad of things you can do while you’re up there. There’s a hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and even skiing during the winter months. All through the year, flowing rivers create numerous valleys to explore. Some of the hiking routes require you to hire a guide.
Imbibe the Berber Culture
While the cities provide dazzling lights and modernity, it’s the local life that will always give you a peek into the soul of any place. Just like any other country, Morocco has its own set of indigenous people- the Berber Tribe. Their history dates back to at least 10,000 BC, and to date, many of them reside in clay huts, caves, and hamlets. The Berbers have been preserving their culture, history, and nomadic way of life for centuries. Folklore, dance, and music play a vital role amongst the tribes. Carpet-weaving is one of the main practices of Berber women. The carpets aren’t just made of mere patterns and designs, but they also showcase stories of the tribe. You can stay at the numerous lodges where you’ll be welcomed warmly. Traditional Moroccan tea will be served along with traditional food. There are also weekly souks where you can buy handicrafts. Two popular markets are the Monday souk at Tnine Ourika and the Tuesday souk at Amizmiz.
Get Cleansed at the Hammams
A hammam is basically a steam room where you go to cleanse yourself. Depending on the spa or hotel you are at, you can either do it yourself, or the attendants do it for you. Various hotels have various treatments, but the general idea is that you first sit in a steam room, then washed and, exfoliated followed by a massage. Although the whole process takes some time, you will leave the hammam all cleansed. there are plenty of hammas in every neighborhood, as it is a weekly ritual for the locals. Men and women flock to these on a weekly basis, and the hammams are separated by gender. You can enjoy the locals conversing in their native language, sharing family stories, and local gossip.
Shop at the Souks
The Souks of Morocco are another great place to soak in some local culture. Morocco’s marketplace will greet you with a burst of colors, smells, sounds, and feelings. The souks are actually more than a market or shopping area for the locals. It’s not just the locals that flock here to buy all kinds of goods, but all classes of people. Spices, food, handcrafted goods, leather bags, fabrics, household goods, decorative goods, and what not! Keep in mind that your bargaining skills have to be up to point because the merchants always overprice their products. The shops near the busy main squares pay more in rent, so the products sold here are more expensive. The shops inside alleys sell things at cheaper rates. Always have plenty of cash in hand, since most of the shops do not accept credit cards.
Surf at the Beaches
The best time to go surfing is between December and March when the waves are humungous. Agadir, Tamraght, Aourir, Taghazout, Tamri, Imsouane, Sidi, and Kaouki are some of the most frequented beaches for surfing. The coastlines are easily accessible through both public transport and your own vehicle. One thing to be noted is that tackling these waves will be quite a task for beginners. Worry not, there are plenty of surfing schools where you can take classes, and they will provide you with plenty of spots where beginners can have their own fun. Surfboards can be rented out at a very cheap rate. And as the water temperature tends to remain cold for the better part of the year, wearing a wet suit would be best. The beaches are lined with spas, nightclubs, cafes, and murals, providing many a picturesque spot to hang out and relax.
Explore the Ruins of Volubilis
Volubilis, the ancient, ruined Roman city, is one of the best archaeological sites of Morocco. The place was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, and you can either hire a guide or roam around at your own pace. Some of the spots that you must not miss include the House of Orpheus, House of the Acrobat, House of the Dog, Galen’s Thermal Baths, the Capitol, Basilica, and the Forum and the Triumphal Arch. The sun will beat down mercilessly, so take along a hat and plenty of water. The best season to visit is during spring when flowers and greens spring up amongst the ruins.
Wander Around Casablanca
Casablanca is where the primary international airport is located. Situated towards the north of Casablanca is the Hassan II mosque that towers over the city. It is the second-largest mosque in the world with the world’s tallest minaret. Every nook and corner is covered with the most intricate tiles. Located over a rocky bay of the ocean, the view is spectacular. Another of Casablanca’s central landmarks is the Place Mohamed V. Well-tended gardens provide a great place for evening strolls. Head over to Corniche, which is a beachfront district. The shoreline is lined with all the luxurious hotels and restaurants. Casablanca also houses the Central Market, where much like the local souks, you can find everything you may need. El Jadida, one of the smaller towns within Casablanca, has a lot of cisterns and the Citadel, built by the Portuguese. The Citadel provided plenty of sea views to feast your eyes on.
Food – All You Can Gorge On!
• Couscous – The national dish of Morocco, couscous is usually served along with meat or vegetable stew.
• Harira – Harira or Moroccan soup is traditionally served as a starter. This lentil soup is made of chickpeas, noodles, and even pasta.
• Moroccan Salads – In most restaurants, salads are served before the main course. Moroccan salads include tomato jam (made of roasted tomatoes, sweetened with honey, cinnamon, and orange flow water), Matbucha (a spicy dish of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, and chili pepper), Taktouka (made of green bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil, it has a smoky taste.)
• Tajines – Tajines are one of the most commonly served food items in Morocco. It’s a stew usually made of meat and fish, together with vegetables, cooked in a clay pot. The most common Tajines are lamb or chicken with almonds, prunes, dates, or plums, chicken with lemon and olives, Kefta with tomato sauce and eggs.
• Snail Soup – If you can stomach some snail, then the snail soup is for you. Snails are placed in steaming vats, then plucked out of their shells with a toothpick and then the soup is drunk. Moroccans believe that the dish is good for fever and digestion.
• Stuffed Msemen – To make this dish, the dough is kneaded together with peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Then it is grilled, rolled, and eaten.
• Moroccan Whisky or Mint Tea – Mint tea is usually served before meals. Made of green tea, mint leaves, and plenty of sugar, the tea is poured into a glass from over afoot. The frothing bubbles indicate that it is ready to be drunk.
• Dates – As in any predominant Muslim place, dates are an important food item. There are over a thousand varieties to choose from, so have at least a few!
Take Cooking Lessons
It’s always nice to take something back home from your journeys. Apart from souvenirs, learning to cook the traditional dishes that you ate is something to imbibe from the country. there are plenty of cooking schools in Morocco where tourists can join and learn what goes into the dishes. The lessons can last half a day, a full day, or a few days. It’s one way to impress your friends and family. Relive your travels through the food that you cook, and be assaulted by a fresh wave of taste and memories.
Take a Dip in the Waterfalls
Apart from the mountains, beaches, and deserts, Morocco has plenty of waterfalls to enjoy. Some of the best waterfalls include Ouzoud Waterfalls, Cascades of Akchour, Oum Rabia Waterfall. The Ourika Valley and Paradise Valley have plenty of waterfalls where you can plunge in and then sun yourself on the rocks surrounding the water. Apart from cooling off in the water, you can take plenty of beautiful pictures on your social media.
Some Tips to Remember By
As Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country, you have to keep in mind certain rules regarding your attire. Shoulders, arms knees are to be covered at all times. There are plenty of mosques open to tourists, and women must cover their hair while entering. Some mosques have separate entry points for men and women, so it is best to ask for directions as you don’t want to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some mosques are even forbidden for tourists too. Another thing to remember is that being a Muslim country, most restaurants will be closed during the day during Ramadan.
Check out the Morocco travel article by The Winged Bone – Impressions of Morocco