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From the glamour and danger of Casablanca, to tripping out with hippies in Hideous Kinky, most of us will have ingested Morocco in one form or another without even knowing it, through the numerous books and films that are set against its cinematic and diverse landscape.
Situated at the top of Northern Africa, this destination has been uniquely influenced, not only by its Arab and Berber cultures and African roots, but also by the European countries that are just a short distance away on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.
Its location makes it a fantastic option for shorter holidays, as flights from London can get you there in less than four hours, and a ferry ride from southern Spain takes just half an hour to cover the nine mile journey across the Gibraltar Strait.
From surfing to shopping, there are destinations to suit every budget and lifestyle. Here are just a few cities that should be at the top of your Moroccan wish list.
Perched on the northerly tip of the country, Tangier has borne the brunt of clashes between Western influences and African cultures, and it is arguably all the better for it. A unique blend of Spanish, French, Portuguese and African roots, this city is a gateway to the rest of Morocco.
Despite accruing a reputation for hustling and conmen, there are now dedicated tourist police to help ensure your stay here is fun, safe and hassle-free. Discover the city on foot by strolling along the beach or take a taxi out to the west to explore Hercules Cave, one of the city’s most beautiful and archeologically significant natural tourist spots.
Visit: The Museum of Moroccan Arts, located in the former royal apartments used by the Sultans of Morocco, in the historic area of Place de la Kasbah. Admission is free, and the museum contains a great selection of Muslim art, antiques, pottery and silks.
Explorers and architecture fans should fly straight to Fes’ Saïss Airport to make the most of this city’s exquisitely preserved buildings. Fes is often described as the ‘Athens of Africa’, and its medina, or Old City, is a World Heritage Site which is believed to be the largest urban care-free area in the world.
Lose yourself in the narrow walled streets and beautifully detailed mosaic temples or head to the Merenid Tombs for a bit of breathing space and panoramic views across the whole city.
Eat: For a deluxe dining experience, head to Riad Fes, situated in the heart of the Medina. Mixing traditional Moroccan food with European influences, this is pricey fare for Fes but well worth it for the location alone. The hotel has a modern bar and restaurant, with multiple areas to enjoy dinner, from the terrace to the pool – just don’t forget to bring your swimming costume!
Perhaps the most well-known destination for tourists, Marrakesh in southern Morocco is a labyrinth of souks, snake charmers and riads. The best advice I can give for anyone visiting Marrakesh is to relax and don’t have a strict itinerary – let the city and its colorful characters find you.
Notoriously difficult to navigate thanks to a distinct lack of street numbers and countless winding paths within the medina, you’re best sitting this one out if you have control freak tendencies. On the other hand, if you could quite happily spend five hours shopping, this city is for you! Of course to ensure you don’t get too lost you could try a walking tour around the city’s ramparts to see its beauty from afar.
Shop: Prepare to bargain at one of Morocco’s most recognisable locations, the souks of Marrakesh. Each souk is divided into specialties, with alleys dedicated to spices and textiles and one of the best for picking up kaftans and embroidered slippers is the kissaria, located between Souk El Kebir and Souk des Babouches. Open between 9am and 7pm, the souks are free to enter but keep an eye on your belongings as the alleyways of the kissaria are very narrow.
Casablanca may get a bad rap on travel forums, but who wouldn’t want to explore the city made famous by Rick’s Cafe and the antics of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman?
Morocco’s largest city is considered the economic centre of the country and therefore lacks the charm of Tangier or Marrakesh, but it’s a great destination for a short break thanks to a cosmopolitan culture and extensive urban development. Having said that, the outskirts of the city are awash with shanty towns which provide a stark reminder of how uneven wealth distribution is in this city.
Eat: At Rick’s Cafe located on Boulevard Sour Jdid next to the public gardens, the restaurant inspired by this city’s famous Hollywood film. Rick’s Cafe pays homage to the film with its decor and was set up by a former American diplomat. Expect plenty of fresh fish and veggies with a French and Moroccan twist, and plenty of tourists! Visit on a Sunday to make the most of their Jazz evening while you dine.
Calling all surfers! Head to Agadir if you want to spend your Moroccan vacation riding the waves. Situated on the south-west coast of Morocco, this shipping port lies at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and is a far cry from how you might imagine Morocco to look.
The entire city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1961, and as a result it has a distinctly modern feel, with European influences, wide roads and large buildings. It’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes it a popular spot with surfers and regardless of your ability to balance on a board, there will be a holiday package to suit you, from surf tours and intense one-on-one lessons, to yoga sessions on the beach après surf.
Do: Visit Ranch Amodou Cheval after you’ve finished surfing to take the trip of a lifetime – on the back of a camel! Located in the small village of Tamraght, the ranch offers the opportunity for adventurers to trek along the beach at sunset, or go on half day, full day or two day tours of the local area. If camels aren’t for you they have horses too.
These are just five incredible Moroccan destinations – are there any more that you’d recommend?
This article is provided by Hotelopia, the one stop shop for booking your next holiday.