Sahara Sand Dune © Jamou
Morocco Travel Guide
Superlatives run short when describing Morocco, an enchanting land full of mystery and wonder. One of Africa's top tourist destinations, welcoming nearly 10 million annual visitors, travellers from all over the globe have worn well-trodden paths through the country's bustling souqs and medieval medinas, its dusty deserts and the snow-capped Atlas Mountains; however, it continues to delight and amaze even second-time visitors, refusing to compromise its inimitable character in the face of mass tourism.
Morocco is in many ways a country which straddles different worlds: at the tip of Africa, just a stone's throw from Europe, Morocco stands not only at the confluence of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, but also at the crossroads where East meets West, and where traditional ways of living bump up against the clamours of the modern world. This mix is fascinating and alluring, and adventurous travellers who make the effort to experience Morocco in all its confusing glory will be endlessly rewarded.
From the chaotic local markets where the smell of spice fills the air and runaway donkeys block the thoroughfares, to the gilded mosques making their fervent calls to prayer; from the peach-coloured sands of the Erg Chebbi dunes, to the staggering Todra Gorge; from Casablanca to Marrakech and from Fez to Tangier, Morocco offers visitors a sumptuous feast of sights and sounds.
Best time to visit Morocco
Morocco has a strange climate, with great regional variations in temperature. Referred to as a 'cold country with a very hot sun', the climate of Morocco is characterised by extreme and changeable conditions. The best time to visit Morocco is between April and early June, or between September and November, when the weather is consistently warm and dry. Read more on Morocco's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Morocco
-Visit Ait Benhaddou, a fairytale ksar (fortified city) made famous by Hollywood blockbusters such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.
-The medieval town of Chefchaouen, with its blue-rinsed buildings and charming winding streets, is one of the most photogenic places in all of Morocco.
-Head to Marrakech's Djemaa el Fna around sunset, and watch in awe as the evening circus of snake-charmers, fortune-tellers, acrobats and musicians brings the city to life.
What to do in Morocco
-Get lost wandering around the crowded narrow streets in one of Morocco's gorgeous medinas. Marrakech, Fez and Meknes are cities especially blessed with these gorgeous 'old quarters'.
-Sharpen your bargaining skills in one of Morocco's many souqs (traditional market-places), where fantastic crafts, jewellery and souvenirs can be bought for great prices.
-Book a camel trek into the Sahara for an overnight stay, and marvel at the changing colour of the sand as the sun sinks over the horizon.
Getting to Morocco
There are cheap flights to Morocco available from a wide variety of British and American cities. Several low-cost European carriers offer flights to Morocco, providing great deals particularly during the low tourist season. Get more information on Morocco Airports.
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud, The Spider's House by Paul Bowles, The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun, and The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari.
Cheb Mimoun, Hanino, Lemchaheb, and Hassan Hakmoun.
Casablanca (1942), Hideous Kinky (1998), and Pegase (2010).
Mint tea and Casablanca Beer. Remember to avoid drinking tap water in Morocco: stick to bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks.
Couscous (semolina grains), served with stew that has been cooked for hours in a tagine (an earthenware dish with a conical lid).
What to buy
Tagines, leatherware and jewellery (especially silver and turquoise items), Berber-crafted carpets and kelims, and products such as soap and cosmetics made from Argan oil.
What to pack
Take plenty of sunscreen along, even if travelling during the winter, and remember that Morocco's climate can be strange, changeable and extreme - so make sure you have at least one warm jacket with you in addition to all your t-shirts. Travellers should dress more conservatively than they ordinarily might back home, especially if they are women.
What's on in Morocco
The Marrakech Popular Arts Festival (July) brings a huge array of colourful performances to public spaces around Marrakech. The Friendship Festival (May) is a music festival which draws international acts to Marrakech in the name of brotherhood, tolerance and open-mindedness. The Casablanca Festival (July) celebrates Moroccan culture with a wide variety of artistic performances taking place in venues across Casablanca. More information on Morocco Events.
Did you know?
-Morocco is the world's largest exporter of hashish, and some estimate that this illicit trade brings in more money per year than tourism does.
-The University of Al-Karaouine, located in Fez and founded in 859, claims to be the world's oldest university.
-Between 1922 and 1956, Tangier was an International City, ruled by representatives of eight different European countries.
A final word
Loud and colourful, beautiful and chaotic, Morocco is in many ways the ideal exotic holiday destination, tailor-made for travellers with an adventurous spirit and a desire to immerse themselves in a foreign culture.
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