Sign up to receive Simon Calder’s free travel email for expert advice and money-saving discounts. Morocco is a country that combines the vibrant history, culture, and traditions of the Maghrebi and Islamic regions with influences from Europe, Berber, and Arabian cultures. It is home to popular destinations such as Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Tangier, as well as the overlooked capital, Rabat, and beach resorts like Agadir and Essaouira. In addition to these well-known places, Morocco also offers natural beauty, including the Atlas Mountains and the red desert dunes of Agafay or Zagora. With its Roman ruins and ancient villages, Morocco has something for everyone.
Rabat, the capital of Morocco since 1955, has all the characteristics of a great Moroccan city. It has an excellent medina quarter, various souks, green spaces like the Andalusian Gardens and the Botanical Gardens, and historic sites like the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. The medina, with its winding lanes centered around the Old Market and streets like Rue des Consuls and Rue Souiqas, is a must-visit. It is also home to monuments such as the Kasbah of the Udayas and the Grand Mosque. The Ville Nouvelle, a central part of the city built by the French, has landmarks like the Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Hassan Tower. Rabat also has a beach under the shadow of the kasbah, which is perfect for surfing and bodyboarding.
Marrakesh is a city that combines modern Moroccan living with historic influences. The Jemaa el-Fna square is the heart of the city, filled with vibrant market stalls, street performers, and the Koutoubia Mosque. The medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to attractions like the Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, and El Badi Palace. Mouassine and Mellah are newer parts of the city with museums and shopping areas, while Gueliz and Ville Nouvelle showcase modern Marrakesh with European-style streets, shopping outlets, and nightlife.
Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco, has a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a mix of its own history and a French legacy. It has diverse architecture like the Art Deco Rialto cinema, Arab League Park, Notre Dame church, and Sacre Couer cathedral. The city’s most impressive structure is the Hassan II Mosque, which offers guided tours and sits by the sea. The medina has white-washed buildings and local products for sale.
The Atlas Mountains, stretching across Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, are a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts. Marrakesh is an ideal base for exploring the mountains, with Imlil village being the starting point for climbing Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Toubkal National Park offers numerous trails with sweeping views of the mountains.
Tangier is a historic cultural hub known for its connection to artists like Henri Matisse and Jimi Hendrix. The city has seen a revival project supported by Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, and offers attractions like the medina, kasbah, Contemporary Art Space, American Legation Museum, Rif Cinema, and Grand Socco. Chefchaouen, a couple of hours south of Tangier, is known as the “Blue City” and offers stunning views of its blue-washed buildings.
Morocco’s Atlantic coast is home to popular seaside resort destinations like Essaouira and Agadir. Essaouira has an UNESCO-listed medina, a port, and beaches perfect for wind surfing. Agadir offers sheltered beaches and a modern city with attractions like the Oufella and a replica of the old city at the Medina d’Agadir.
Lastly, the ancient village of Ait Benhaddou is a UNESCO site and a traditional pre-Saharan habitat known as a ksar, or fortified village. With its earth-toned buildings and castle-like walls, it dates back to the 18th century and is a must-visit destination in Morocco.
In conclusion, Morocco offers a diverse and fascinating travel experience with its history, culture, natural beauty, and vibrant cities. From exploring historic sites in Rabat and Marrakesh to hiking in the Atlas Mountains and visiting seaside resorts like Essaouira and Agadir, there is something for everyone in this beautiful country.