"A place of mystical magic, Morocco has that special something which just can not be described by words - you have to try it!"
A bubbling melting pot that has always linked Africa and Europe, this incredible country has diverse landscapes, varied cultures and friendly people. The diversity found within Morocco is astonishing, with the ever-bustling city of Marrakech, beach side towns of Agadir and Essaouira, the expansive Sahara desert and the indomitable and breathtakingly beautiful Atlas Mountains, not to mention other historical and cultural highlights including Fez, Casablanca and Rabat.
At the heart of every city is a bustling Medina, crammed full of traditional traders selling incredible goods. They will tantalise and dazzle your senses, with the vibrant colours, fascinating smells and many sounds forming a sensual feast. Just outside these throbbing cultural capitals lie isolated and diverse landscapes like the mighty Sahara and vast Atlas Mountains. While coastal places like Agadir offer sand-swept beaches and fantastic surfing. This combined with its rich culinary tradition, stunning architecture and history, makes it one of the best countries to visit in the world.
Morocco Travel Guide
At A Glance:
A North African country, it is located directly opposite Europe, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. It has always been a cultural melting pot, with its traditional Berber culture having been influenced by both European and Arabian culture. Its most famous cities are Marrakesh, which sits at the foot of the Atlas Mountains; its capital of culture Fes; its largest and richest city Casablanca and its capital Rabat. Morocco is a medium-sized country with a population of just under 34 million.
Morocco has a diverse climate that reaches highs of 35 degrees and lows of 5 degrees (in the Sahara). Places like Agadir on the coast tend to have a more Mediterranean feel with hot summers and mild wet winters. Inland the weather tends to be hotter with less wind, meaning that Marrakesh is delightful in the Spring and Autumn and red hot during July and August. The peaks of the Atlas Mountains tend to be snow-capped throughout the year, although the slopes can be hot in the summer months.
History & Culture
Having been inhabited since pre-historic times, its first recorded people were nomads who interacted with Phoenician traders. They described these Nomads as Barbarians, which is where the derivation ‘Berber’ originates from. It was conquered by the Romans, who built the large city of Volubilis, although the locals always detested the Romans and were a constant thorn in their side. The local population converted to Islam during the middle of the 7th century, although it tended to be less traditional and strict than the Eastern Arab’s variation. Morocco was then dominated by dynasties for the next 1000 years, with the Idrissid state founded in 829, giving way to the Almoravids in the 11th and 12th centuries; The Almohads were prominent in the 12th and 13th, who were followed by the Merenids in the 13th, 14th and 15th, with the Saadians and Alawites dominating up until this day. It became a French protectorate in 1912, which lasted until it was given independence in 1956. Each of the countries and empires from Morocco’s interwoven history exert palpable influence on Moroccan music, cuisine and culture. For example, French has remained Morocco’s unofficial third language following its period as a French protectorate in the early 20th century.
The country is blessed with one of the richest culinary traditions in the world, with its traditional Berber cuisine having been influenced by Spanish, Mediterranean and Arabic foods. It is probably most famous for Tagines, a traditional clay cooking pot which is used to make bubbling stews, flavoured rice and much, much more. Couscous is also an incredibly famous Moroccan export, a rice dish traditionally flavoured with onions and garlic. In terms of street food, visitors can enjoy things like kebabs and grilled sardines, alongside the local staple, Makouda, a spicy broth that is ubiquitous across the country. In terms of drinks Moroccans tend to forgo alcohol, but they are prolific tea drinkers. Be sure to try pastille, a delicious and elaborate meat pie that piquantly combines sweet and salty flavours in crepe-like dough. While exploring the medina, you will want to stop for a refreshing, sweet glass of mint tea. Be sure to pour the teapot as high as you dare for the ultimate bubbly brew.
A great place for children of all ages, it is perfect for exploring the wonders of a different culture. Coastal regions like Agadir and Essaouira are famed for their beaches, with hot weather throughout the summer months making it ideal for a family holiday. Younger children are bound to enjoy experiences like riding a camel, which are on offer in the majority of tourist destinations in Morocco. Children will also be fascinated by the colours and sounds of the old Medinas and they will particularly appeal to the ‘Instagram generation’.
Tours & Attractions
Featuring some incredible places, such as the ancient Medinas, which have stunning architecture and a vibrant culture, visitors will be inspired and in awe of their brilliance. The most famous Medina is ‘Fes el Bali’, in Fes, although Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca and Tangiers also boast excellent ones. Adventure seekers could pay a visit to the towering Atlas Mountains, whose hilly desert landscape is a genuine natural wonder. While coastal resorts like Agadir are excellent for anyone who wants to surf and swim.
The Imichil Marriage Festival in late summer is an exuberant Berber marriage celebration where up to forty couples tie the knot. Essaouira hosts the Gnawa and World Music Festival in the heady days of early summer. Gnawa music is an entrancing combination of percussive rhythms, ritual poetry, melodic phrasing and dancing, and the repertoire has in Berber, African and Arabic traditions. Follow your ears to any one of the many cafes on the waterfront to enjoy a glass of mint tea and a little live music. Our holidays to Morocco are the perfect opportunity to experience the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival. This celebration draws a plethora of performing artists, and it takes place in the Djemma el-Fna and the ruins of the 16th-century Badi Palace. If you’re in town for this festival, you can’t miss the Fantasia, a horse-riding spectacle outside the city walls at night.
As an Islamic country, alcohol is less readily available than in Europe. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of places to eat, drink and dance the night away. Pubs, clubs and bars tend to be outside of Medinas in most Moroccan cities as locals believe that it is blasphemous to drink close to the important and ancient mosques that are usually found in them. There is good nightlife in the coastal areas with places like Agadir and Essaouira offering beachfront clubs for visitors to enjoy. You will also find places to party in larger cities like Marrakesh or Fes, although visitors to the Atlas Mountains will be largely restricted to hotels.
Famed for being one of the finest places to shop in the world you won’t be disappointed, wherever you visit. The souks, which are generally found in the Medina (old town) are the most traditional way to shop, with artisans and traders bringing various products, such as colourful ceramics, pottery, leatherwork, hand carved items and jewellery. Visitors should note that the price a trader quotes in a soul is almost always significantly higher than the actual value of an item, an Moroccans have a tradition of bartering. Commonly it is assumed that you should make an opening bid of around 60% of the quoted price. There are also plenty of shopping malls in places like Agadir and Marrakesh, ensuring that there is enough to sate your every shopping need.
A Riad is a traditional Moroccan house with a garden or courtyard at its centre. The Arabic term for the word “garden” is “Ryad”. The inward and centrally focussed design of these houses were to allow for greater privacy for the family. In Marrakech, many of the larger Riads and palatial homes of the rich and famous from the ‘old world’ have been converted into boutique hotels, giving guests a unique experience and a different kind of stay. The smaller Riad hotels in Marrakech are largely owner managed, resulting in a warm family atmosphere and traditional home made Moroccan meals being served. Whilst styles and the degree of luxury varies from Riad to Riad, traditional decor and furnishings ensure that guests are given an authentic taste of Moroccan life.
Things To See
The famed medinas of Morocco are bustling hives of activity and aromas that must be experienced at least once. If you tire of haggling in Marrakech, visit the tranquil Majorelle Garden designed by Jacques Majorelle and Yves Saint Laurent. This exquisite subtropical garden punctuated by deep cobalt blue buildings and accents has been meticulously laid out and is the perfect place to spend a relaxed afternoon. Rabat’s kasbah, though largely residential, is a lovely place to wander with whitewashed houses lining the narrow streets. The crescent-shaped Oualidia Lagoon is a serene paradise protected by a naturally formed breakwater and is perfect for relaxing and unwinding.
Things To Do
At the top of the list on one of our holidays in Morocco are the souks of Marrakech and Rabat. Browse and haggle for masterful handiwork including leather items and colourful kilims, the popular geometric Berber rugs. If you’d rather people watch and window shop, enjoy a fresh orange juice or a sweet glass of mint tea in one of the local cafes and watch the world go by. Adventurous types can get the grime of the day scrubbed vigorously away in a traditional hammam, and those looking for a little more pampering can indulge in a relaxing aromatic rub down from the spa in their charming riad tucked away from the hustle and bustle. Sports enthusiasts will want to try kiteboarding or windsurfing in beautiful Essaouira or diving off the coast of Agadir.