What happens when the best of Arab and African influences meet over endless deserts and pristine seas and colorful adobes and rustic villages? You get Morocco, a country that’s a cheerful palette of synthetic cultures that should be on the itinerary of any discerning tourist. When you travel to Morocco, you will be traveling to a place where history seems to have taken a pause, where tradition is fearless to blend with modernity.
We met in the souks of Marrakech,
It was here my heart she tamed.
To entice you to visit this gem of a North African nation, here are ten must-see wonders of Morocco that will transport you to a place and time that’s way beyond the ordinary.
Ait Ben Haddou
Yes, it’s the same place that you have seen in many films and TV series because few places on the planet can seem both surreal and welcoming as Ait Ben Haddou. This fortified village on the Marrakech - Sahara route is renowned for the unique clay architecture that Morocco is famous for. The orange-colored structures that seamlessly blend into the surrounding ecosystem in the middle of nowhere is truly a spectacular sight.
The energy of Marrakesh is what Morocco is to many, as seen in countless news reports and documentaries. Winding alleys, colorful storefronts, folk musicians, haggling vendors, and handmade art are only some of the things you will encounter as you soak in the lively splendor of this beautiful township. This is not a made-up Morocco that’s an artificial act for tourists. This is how Morocco has always been, in its stunning simplicity and vigor.
Fes el Bali
Any custom-made or bespoke tour of Morocco will take you to this visually stunning walled city, the oldest in Fez. Founded as the capital of the Idrisid dynasty, Fes el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its remarkable architecture. Roam around the alleyways and marvel at the intricate artistry on the walls, while dropping by the University of Al-Karaouine, believed to be the world’s oldest continually operating university. By the way, this is one of those walks that you will thoroughly enjoy as the city is rumored to the world’s largest car-free township.
For a mesmerizing first-hand account of the Sahara, you should head to eastern Morocco. Incredible sand dunes as far as the eye can see, seem unblemished and welcoming. Explore them on a camel or a four-wheeler to get your adrenaline pumping but remember that this isn’t just a day-long trip. For the best results, ensure that you customize your trip to camp out in the desert at night. This is a priceless escape from all the chaos of urban life and therefore, no Moroccan itinerary should be complete without a visit to Erg Chebbi.
Hassan II Mosque
For most of the world, Hassan II Mosque is what symbolizes Morocco, and one of the prominent attractions of that eternally romantic city everyone’s heard of: Casablanca. Spread over 2 hectares, the mosque was built by over 10,000 craftsmen. The painstakingly created artworks on marble and mosaic are a stunning tribute to Islamic architecture, with an elegant modern flourish. Visit it for a refresher course in Moroccan art, craftsmanship, and importantly, ambition.
But not all architecture in Morocco is modern or religious in nature. Some of it is profoundly stark for its simplicity and connection with the immediate surroundings. Nothing exemplifies this better than the structures in Draa Valley. Situated at the end of the High Atlas, with the vast desert looming beyond, this will fascinate all those who are interested in history, geography, or architecture. Like most tourist destinations in Morocco, the Draa Valley has also been made famous by Hollywood through several high-profile movies. See if you can recollect those as you drive to the valley through quaint villages and rustic hamlets lined by swaying palm trees.
If you thought that Morocco is all about deserts, allow us to pleasantly surprise you. Essaouira is a picturesque seaside town that was a popular destination for hippies in the 70s. It’s also where you get to taste lip-smacking seafood prepared in an authentic Moroccan style. Make sure that your travel guide has booked you for walking tours in the neighboring colorful villages.
From the seaside, it’s time to visit the gorgeous Rif Mountains, and specifically, Chefchaouen. The blue and white buildings set against the majestic mountains will remind you of a lively mosaic. The best way to experience this living artwork of a town is to walk through the alleys and soak in the sights and smells. For those into hiking or nature trails, the township is the gateway to the mountain range.
For Europeans, Tangier was their primary destination in Morocco for a long time. This was especially true for writers and artists and all those who were seeking to refresh themselves. The decadent bars and artsy cafes are a thing of the past but Tangier still has that ethereal charm that has to be experienced over long strolls and unhurried stops. A visit to the museum will be informative but a lounge by the beach with your favorite paperback is what you will really relish.
The Kasbah (citadel) of the Oudaias is an ancient fortress located in the Rabat neighborhood. Originally built to defend against invaders, the Kasbah is now a delightful assortment of blue and white colors strewn on well-preserved structures undisturbed by the modern cacophony. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kasbah is ideal for slow, meandering walks minus the crowds associated with such historical locations. The gate of the Kasbah is a supreme example of the artistry associated with Moroccan architecture.