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Essaouira-Mogador, the bride of the Atlantic
With notched walls, the whisper of trade winds, homes with white and blue facades – the colors of ocean foam and waves –Essaouira has earned the nickname "Bride of the Atlantic".
The coastal city once known as Mogador is a place where the good life and water-oriented pastimes go hand in hand. Take a quiet walk in the shade of its ramparts, which also stand in for the walls of Astapor, the red city on the television series "Game of Thrones". Climb to the top of them and retrace a watchman's rounds: from here you can see the Iles Purpuraires and the hawks and seagulls that soar over the nature preserve. In the distance, surfing, windsurfing and kite-surfing fanatics can't get enough of the quality winds!
Your walk will lead you to the fishing port and its animated sailors. Not far from there, the fish market entices with the night’s haul of fish and seafood. The interlaced alleys of the medina await you in the town center. This UNESCO-listed medina is one of the finest in Morocco. Finally, each summer the city is overtaken by music as the Gnaoua festival celebrates the marriage of North African and sub-Saharan rhythms.
The Mogador eco-resort is the perfect hotel. For several years, Morocco has been aggressively implementing sustainable tourism principles. This resort is part of the movement, as are the area’s beaches, whose "Pavillon Bleu" seals attest to their quality.
Come to relax, wear yourself out and be culturally enriched: the mesmerizing Essaouira-Mogador is a destination that offers 1,001 possibilities!
Rabat is a cultural city with a rich history. Its streets and public squares are full of masterpieces. Pay a visit to the Kasbah of the Udayas, whose grand, majestic silhouette is softened by the surrounding gardens. Not far beyond its walls lies the Chellah, a necropolis that dates to the Marinids. Entering the complex is like journeying to another world: marvel at the ancient remains as you walk through the gardens and glimpse a few storks.
Rabat is also a modern, environmentally responsible capital that takes pride in its green spaces. It is punctuated by parks, such as the Botanical Test Gardens and the Bouknadel Exotic Gardens just a few miles from the city. Rabat also has a well-developed ocean front. There are miles of improved beaches that run along the Atlantic coast all the way to the neighboring Casablanca.
The city's modern flair is also evident in its infrastructure and festivals, which guarantee a comfortable, entertaining stay in the capital. All the modern conveniences, from airports and tramways to shopping malls, cafes and restaurants, are at your fingertips. Finally, Rabat celebrates music like no other city: Mawazine, Jazz at the Chellah and other festivals fill the air with joyful sounds and rhythms from around the world!
These all add to the appeal of Rabat, where the treasures of the past coexist with the most modern and eco-friendly achievements.
To the west of the country, facing the Atlantic waves, Agadir is one of the pearls of Morocco. Whatever the season, the sun smiles down on the city and it enjoys a pleasant climate that the trade winds soften further. Above all, its 10-kilometer long seafront offers tourists magnificent views of the blue of the ocean and the opportunity to relax in the best conditions imaginable.
As the country's main coastal resort, the city boasts 300 days of sunshine a year and bustles with activity. Cafes and restaurants open onto the waterfront, introducing you to the local cuisine and offering their specialties for the informed judgment of your taste buds!
Further into the city, the stalls of the El Had Bazaar wend their way through the streets, with over 6,000 boutiques to arouse your curiosity and where you can practice a little haggling with the traders while strolling through the vibrant atmosphere. The city never sleeps and every summer hosts the Timitar festival dedicated to world music, and in particular Amazigh music.
Open to the ocean and the world, Agadir is an energetic city in which to relax.
Marrakech is one of the four so-called “imperial cities” (the others are Fez, Meknes and Rabat).
This imperial city was founded in 1070 by the Almouravid Sultan, Abu Bakr Ibn Omar, who noticed that Aghmat –his capital- had become overcrowded. For that reason he decided to build a new capital for his dynasty in a plain away from the mountains and away from two tribes which were vying to have the honor of hosting the new capital.
Modern Marrakech, known as the red city or Pearl of the South, is a city of great fascination. It bewitches visitors from all over the world with its contrasting colors as well as its remarkable monuments and immense gardens- Ochre sand stone of its red-buildings, the green of its countless palm trees and other flourishing plants and the white of the snow-copped Atlas Mountains. Also, fascination for Marrakech comes from the existence of Berbers, Arabs and Jews within the same millieu. All of them mingle here, nomads and mountain folk and a wealth of products and handicrafts is an enticement here for everyone to come to this imperial city.
You can start your trip from the world famous square of Jmaa l-Fna with its crowds of musicians, acrobats and story- tellers, and with its open-air restaurants, where you can taste different and inexpensive Moroccan dishes.
After savoring your meal, you can visit unusual and picturesque Souks of Marrakech. There, ordinary objects become extraordinary. When you are in souks, you will fall in love with a kettle with a strange handle or a curved knife or a traditional babouche or a musical instrument. Surely, you will not be able to resist the temptation.
When you are within the old medina folds do not forget to visit historical mosques that exist like Mansour mosque, Ben Youseff mosque and medrassa…and especially the Koutoubia mosque, a mosque that was built during the 11th century under the Almouravid dynasty. It’s a minaret (70m), which is visible from particularly anywhere in Marrakech, design by a Muslim architect from Spain. It is an example of Arab-Andalusian architecture. What is strange with this historical mosque is that it was built by stones and musks, which one can smell until nowadays.
Further, if you feel tired, the minaret garden is where to take relax and enjoy yourself by cool, typical and extremely pleasant scenes rarely to be found somewhere else. Ramparets, gates, all, riads, tombs…and medrassas are in abundance in the city; they are the chandeliers of Marrakech. Once you come, you come to visit this pearl. Do not hesitate to pay a visit to them bringing with you your camera to commemorate the occasion when you turn back to your home land
The cosmopolitan side of Morocco
The cities of Tangier and Tetouan welcome travelers to the far north of Morocco. On these shores where the waters of the Mediterranean and Atlantic meet, you will find authentic cities shaped by varied influences.
Walk through Tangier, the White City. Amble along streets lined with whitewashed houses and, like Matisse and Delacroix before you, allow yourself to be transported by the dreamy ambiance of the city. Get lost in the alleys of the Grand Socco or stand at the foot of the kasbah's high walls to admire the fort that dominates the medina. A few steps away lies the Sultan's Palace, which today is dedicated to Moroccan arts. Tangier is also tinged with Spanish influences, including an arena at the Plaza de Torros, and the famed Cervantes Theater built in 1913.
A similar feeling also permeates Tetouan. It is known as the "Daughter of Granada", a lovely city featuring Spanish-Moorish architecture. Its medina is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The seaside resort town of Tamuda Bay and its 9 miles of fine sand beaches await just down the road from Tetouan. It is home to prestigious institutions that have earned the region a chic reputation. Visitors are guaranteed to relax and get a taste of the good life with the blue waters of the Mediterranean as their backdrop.
Tangier and Tetouan are spoiled by their gorgeous Mediterranean seafronts and by the many cultures that intersect at these physical and metaphorical crossroads.
Perched at over 5,413 feet, Ifrane shows off Morocco's heights, showcasing the Atlas Mountains and their glorious peaks. It often surprises visitors with the quality and quantity of Moroccan experiences on offer. Enjoy the still lakes and raging waterfalls that empty their chilly waters into the valleys, which are surrounded by the world's biggest cedar forest. These trees form solemn silhouettes against the slopes of the Middle Atlas Mountains they blanket with a green mantle.
The pure air in Ifrane depends on a delicate balance. To preserve it, the city is enclosed in a natural park. You will love meandering through these superb settings. The many hiking trails are among the most beautiful in the country. A rich variety of wildlife will keep you company on your treks. Around the bend on a trail, a macaque may entertain you with his antics, while a proud, fearful Atlas deer watches you from a safer distance.
Ifrane is also full of history. The city itself is a spectacle that you can tour in a small train. Hop aboard and move through some of the cleanest streets in the world to discover the region's traditional handiwork: carpet weavers at their looms, basket makers weaving rattan and pottery shops displaying terra cotta souvenirs.
Ifrane, a miniature Switzerland, offers all this, in addition to boasting a luxury hotel smack in the middle of Morocco. It will definitely clear your head
The city of Taroudant has been described as the largest untouched city of Morocco and also as a smaller and slower version of Marrakech.
Situated 70km inland from Agadir, 220Km south west of Marrakech and surrounded by olive groves, orchards of citrus fruit, and green fields watered by the melting snow of the High Atlas, this is a pleasant place to be.
The city walls are of shades of brown and gold and you will see buildings with beautiful facades.
The souks may be smaller than Marrakech but just as varied - the city is noted for its crafts.
Taroudant can be accessed via Agadir Airport, 60 Km west of Taroudant city.
The city of Fez, one of the oldest imperial cities in the Kingdom of Morocco.
Founded by Idris I in 789, the city of Fez was the capital of Morocco until 1912. Now, the spiritual city with its modern extension is Morocco’s second largest city. But the old medina remains the vibrant heart of the city, which has several tourist attractions, highlighting Fez’s rich history and culture that has made the city one of the world’s must-see destinations.
Here are facts you probably didn’t know about Fez,
✔Fez is among the 10 Moroccan cities recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, the city of Fez remains a cultural and spiritual locus, with many amazing tourist sites that not only please the eyes, but also teach the secrets of well-preserved ancient architecture and labor skills that date back to the medieval times.
✔Fez Medina, a car-free city
Built in the 9th century, the Fez medina is a labyrinth of about 10,000 alleys that are too narrow for cars, with small artisanal shops selling all kinds of hand-made products: everything from clothes and jewelry to furniture and food.The medina is a completely car-free urban zone, and the only means of transporting goods inside the medina are mules or small chariots.
✔Fez Medina, home to one of the oldest water clocks in the world
Water clocks are the oldest form of time keeping in the world. Fez is home to one of these old devices well preserved in Dar al-Magana, meaning “clock-house”.
✔Fez Medina, Chouara Tannery is believed to be the oldest leather tannery in the world
The medina in Fez is home to many leather tanneries producing the best quality of leather, which is more durable and less susceptible to decomposition. Although the largest and most famous tannery is in Bab Ghissa, Chouara Tannery is said to be the oldest leather tannery in the world. The complete process of preparing leather is done manually in small ditches by skilled worker
✔Fez Medina, the only place where Fez hats used to be made
The red top hat that Moroccans wear, particularly in ceremonies and special events, is named the “Fez,” just like the city. Historically, the fez hats were exclusively hand made in the city of Fez by talented craftsmen, locally known as “Trabshi.” The hats have become a symbol of the kingdom, representing official dress. Now they are produced in many places, including Turkey and France, but the best quality hats are still those coming from Fez.
✔Fez Medina, home to the oldest degree-granting university in the world.
Dates back to the 9th century, the historic university of Fez is actually recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world. Moreover, UNESCO considers Al Karaouin to have been a university since its founding.
✔Fez Medina where every neighborhood has a mosque
Like in all the villages, towns and cities in Morocco, “Fez has more than 400 mosques,” half of these mosques exist in the Fez medina.
✔Fez Medina, home to Maimonides House
The Maimonides house is in Derb Margana, on the right-hand side as you walk off the Tala’a Kebira. Moshe ben Maimon, a great Jewish teacher, physician, and philosopher, lived in the house in the 12th century. He taught and treated people in Fez, and later moved to Egypt, where he died and was buried.
The town of Chefchaouen (spellings vary and can be shortened to Chaouen) in the Rif Mountains was founded by the Muslims and Jews who fled southern Spain at the time of the Christian reconquest in the 15th century.
The town was effectively closed to outsiders and unknown to the outside world until the 20th century and had remained relatively unchanged for 500 years. It is said to give the best possible view of what an Andalucian town would have been like in the time of the Moors.
The Medina or old town has narrow streets with whitewashed houses coloured powder blue below.
Although the town now recieves tourists and caters for them, it is unique and has an air of mystery, augmented by it's location in the mountains.
There are cafes around the main square and a selection of hotels and hostels.
Casablanca had been a small coastal town until the period of French rule from 1907 when it grew to become Morocco's busiest port and its industrial and economic centre.
The city centreis impressive and modern with wide streets and clean buildings. Possibly the most impressive building in Casablanca is the Grand Mosque of Hassan II, completed in 1994 with room for 20,000 to worship inside and 80,000 outside in the courtyard. The tower (or minaret) is 210m high and is the highest minaret in the world. The cost of constructing the mosque is reported to have approached 1 billion dollars and is built partly over the sea, with a glass floor and opening roof.
There is also an old part (medina) to the city and market area (Souk) though not as impressive as some of the older cities. It was originally a relatively small town after all.
Casabalnca can be accessed via Casablanca Airport, 25 Km south of the city.
Meknes – The name of Meknes is derived from Miknasa, an Amazigh tribe. Meknes means the head of the tribe.
The history of Meknes city dates back to the 11th century. It was a military settlement of Almoravids and it would know the successions of many dynasties.
Many historians state that Meknes’ glory and golden age were reached in the reign of Moulay Ismail, the third king of the Alaouite dynasty, in the 17th century since it was the capital of Morocco. Meknes is considered as one of the imperial cities in Morocco and a significant historical monument. In 1996, it was inscribed as a world heritage site.
Meknes has many great monuments and places for tourists to visit: ramparts, gates, museums, mausoleums, the old medina, the new city (Hamria) and other places in and around the city.
✔Bab Al-Mansour is one of the most remarkable gates in Morocco and even in North Africa. It was built in the reign of Moulay Ismail by a Christian engineer who had converted to Islam. It was decorated by Moulay Abdllah (the son of Moulay Ismail).
✔Hedim Square is a large square located in the heart of the old Meknes medina. It was established by Moulay Ismail for the exposition of his army. It has seen many changes and it has become now a place for cultural activities animated by story tellers to entertain tourists.
✔The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail displays a panoramic view of the art of architecture ranging from different inscriptions and trappings to mosaics surrounded by Quranic and poetic words written in beautiful Arabic hand-writing. What is more attractive in the Mausolem is the dome in which there is the tomb of Moulay Ismail and his kin.
✔The prison of Qara is a huge underground prison built in the reign of Moulay Ismail by a Portuguese architect, Cara, who gained his freedom after constructing it. Such an immense prison was reserved for violators law and opponents of the kingdom. Recently, it’s known many reforms and they are cherished by many visitors. Near the prison of Qara there is the dome of ambassadors that was a place for receiving foreign ambassadors by Moulay Ismail.
✔Sahrij Souani is a cistern that measures 300 ×148 meters with a depth of more than 3 meters. It is surrounded with a great ancient granary used for storing grains in the reign of Moulay Ismail. Though the later was affected by the earthquake that struck Meknes in 1755, it is still maintains its impressive architectural landmarks.
✔The Museum Dar AlJamai was built in 1882 during the reign of Moulay Alhasan I and it was the residence of his minister Mohamed Ben Al Arabi Al Jamai. It exhibits a collection of fascinating arts that mark the diversity of the local culture.
Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, 20 km from Meknes,was the capital of Moulay Idriss I the founder of the Idrissid’s state. It is surrounded by mountains. Such glorious city was established on two hills and fought against the Roman invasion and won. Its history and attractive landscapes mesmerize visitors.
Walili (Volubilis): (About 23 km from Meknes and near Moulay Idriss Zerhoun)
Its history goes back to 40 A.D. It is an amazing tourist site that invites countless visitors yearly. Really, it is a great memorial of the Roman civilization.
The Old Medina
The old medina in Meknes is a lively museum for tourists since it incarnates the major historical landmarks of the city.
What is appealing while visiting the old medina are its crafts. They are symbolic capital of the city that epitomize its originality and specificity. Souks (markets) are popular in the old medina and they are a target for buying traditional clothes and jewelry. They are distinct by their narrowness and most of times overcrowded. In the centre of the old medina there is the Medrasa Bou Anania, a stunning quranic school that goes back to the 14th century. The latter is located near Jamaa Lakbir (the big mosque) which adds a pinch of spirituality to the old medina.
The New city (Hamria)
The planning of the New city was done by the architect Henri Prost in 1914 during the French occupation. It was reserved as a residence for the French and the European settlers, designed with the European architectural criteria. Hamria displays the landmarks of the modern city: hotels, restaurants, night life, cinema, theatre, cafes, cultural clubs, etc. It is the embodiment of the process of modernization that Moroccan society is trying
The city of Ouarzazate is a little different from other Moroccan cities, it appears to have been designed with tourism in mind, having a long wide street and number of good hotels.
The city has a well preserved Kasbah and Palace of Glaoui, while the whole area has been extensively used as a film set.
Ouarzazate can be accessed by road from Marrakech - a 200 Km journey taking through the stunning Tizi-n-Tichka pass, rising to 2,260m (7,400ft) above sea level, through the High Atlas. There is also an airport at Ouarzazate but you will have difficulty finding international flights heading there.