Bucket List Worthy Hot off the Press
Morocco is one of the most diverse countries in all of Africa. Bustling city life and an array of beach destinations mesh with sweeping valleys, tall mountains and the largest subtropical hot desert on Earth to create a country that is unlike any other in the world. These 50 awe-inspiring photos are enough to convince you to put Morocco on your bucket list, but there’s no doubt you’ll return home with your own opinion of why the country is so alluring.
This bundle of earthen buildings protected by high surrounding walls is an ideal example of southern Moroccan architecture. The traditional pre-Saharan group of dwellings, known as the ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
A tajine is a traditional Berber dish named after the tajine (often spelled tagine) earthenware pot in which it is made. These slow-cooked stews, including meat, poultry or fish combined with dried fruit, vegetables and spices, are a must-try on your visit to Morocco.
Agadir’s breathtaking location at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean coupled with a bustling beach scene, buzzing port and enchanting town make it the leading seaside resort town in the country. The area also boasts 300 days of sunshine a year, which certainly sweetens the pot.
The Jemaa el-Fnaa is one of Morocco’s most lively squares and marketplaces. The square is in Marrakech’s medina, or “old town,” and is frequented by locals and tourists for delicious street foods, performances, traditional medicines and people watching.
Morocco is known for its leather souvenirs and even custom-made leather goods. Moroccan leather is soft and pliable, which makes it ideal for creating items like bags, wallets, gloves and shoes.
Many travelers visit Morocco to see the mesmerizing Sahara desert, and one way of doing that is on a camel trek or tour. Treks offer a unique desert experience often including an overnight stay, or even multiple-night stay, in a desert camp.
The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in all of Marrakech, and it’s located in the city’s southwest medina quarter. The plaza gardens, ceramic inlays, curved windows and decorative arches are an awe-inspiring sight, but don’t forget to stop back at night to see the mosque’s nighttime glow.
Moulay Idriss, or Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, is a north Moroccan town that is considered holy and very special to the Moroccan people. It is so sacred that non-Muslims were not permitted to stay overnight until 2005. Inside the city are small, winding roads, sacred destinations, historic sites and a few small guesthouses. The ruins of Volubilis are just 5 kilometres from the city, making it an enchanting home base for day trips.
Moroccan cuisine is known around the world for its unique blend of flavors with roots in Andalusian, Berber and Mediterranean cuisines. Spices are used so heavily in Moroccan food, that you’ll find heaps of spices for sale in marketplaces throughout the country.
The fishing boats of Essaouira are painted a vibrant blue color, which makes for an awesome photo opportunity. The owners aren’t mandated to paint their boats blue, but most of them do anyway, and this working harbour has become somewhat of a tourist attraction because of it.
The Dades Valley, also known as the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs,” reaches roughly 160 kilometres from Ouarzazate to Tineghir. Make the drive, and you’ll see countless Kasbahs, mesmerizing desert landscapes, palm groves, spectacular rock formations and small villages. The Dades Valley has been compared to the Grand Canyon in terms of natural wonders, and it’s a place visitors never forget.
The Majorelle Gardens, or Jardin Majorelle, is one of the most visited sites in all of Morocco. The famed French Painter Jacques Majorelle spent 40 years of his life creating this majestic garden in the heart of Marrakech. The garden is open every day of the year, and it’s a must-see for its flowers, trees, pools, streams, fountains, birds, museums and much, much more.
Also known as the Grande Mosquée Hassan II, the Hassan II Mosque is the largest mosque in all of Africa and the seventh largest in the world. The mosques minaret is also the world’s tallest, measuring 210 metres. And although there isn’t exactly a way to measure beauty, the Hassan II Mosque is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world for its hand-crafted marble walls, glass floor overlooking the sea and other extravagant features.
Merzouga is a quaint Moroccan village just 50 kilometres from the Algerian border. It’s known for its close proximity to the popular desert tourist destination of Erg Chebbi. Erg Chebbi has become increasingly more saturated with tourists in recent years, so it’s best to visit in November, January or February when crowds are fewer, and you can drink in the quiet beauty of the desert.
Life in Agadir revolves around the beach, and the city authorities work hard to keep the beach a clean and safe place for visitors. Because of inconspicuous police patrols, sunbathers enjoy a peaceful beach experience with minimal disturbance from hawkers. Although, if you want to shop, eat, ride dune buggies, rent jet skis, go horseback riding or partake in a number of other beach activities, you can easily find what you’re seeking.
A visit to the High Atlas Mountains may be the highlight of your trip to Morocco. This mountain range, also known as the Grand Atlas Mountains, is home to some of Morocco’s most intriguing scenery. The mountains offer one of the world’s premier hiking, backpacking and mountaineering destinations, and the area’s easy access to Marrakech city life makes it even more desirable.
Riads are traditional Moroccan palaces or homes that house interior courtyards. The interior gardens and courtyards were initially designed to draw families inward for protection from the elements. The walls are typically adorned with gorgeous zellige tilework and Arabic calligraphy. Many riads are currently being used as hotels or restaurants, so visitors can get a feel for the traditional Moroccan lifestyle from centuries ago.
The Hassan Mosque was intended to be one of the largest mosques in the world when construction began in 1195. Although, construction was halted in 1199 when Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour passed. The mosque was intended to be the center of his new capital. The Hassan Tower is the minaret of the unfinished mosque, and it remains standing along with 200 partial columns and several walls. The remains and the 44-meter-tall, red sandstone tower are now a must-see tourist destination in Rabat.
Chefchaouen deserves its angelic nickname, the “Blue Pearl.” This majestic mountain city lies in northeastern Morocco and is known for being one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Remarkably, Chefchaouen remains humble despite the hoards of tourists who visit every year. The city’s medina is known for its white-washed homes with blue accents that add to its relaxing vibe, and the sweeping views of the Rif mountains make it even more picturesque.
Rabat and Salé are cities in northwestern Morocco; they sit on opposite sides of the Bou Regreg River. Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, and Salé is the capital’s most common commuter town. Travel to Rabat and you’ll find colonial architecture, boulevards lined with palm trees and a pleasant cosmopolitan city that you’ll want to visit time and time again.
Casablanca may chase you away with its traffic jams and shanty towns, but the city has a lot to offer if you elect to stay a while. Casablanca is a cosmopolitan city offering top-notch restaurants, hip beaches, pristine public parks, enchanting colonial architecture and a captivating mixture of old and new. If you can look beyond Casablanca’s shortcomings, you’ll find a happening yet charming city on the move.
Essaouira is a coastal Moroccan town that’s full of character. The fortified walls may make the town look simple from afar, but within the walls are winding alleys, howling winds, the odor of fresh-caught fish and at certain times of the year, droves of Moroccan tourists. Because beach seekers tend to head to Agadir, Essaouira offers a “local” vibe that is worth seeing and enjoying for yourself.
If you’re looking for your own slice of beach paradise in Morocco, you’ll find it in Oualidia. This coastal town offers a much smaller and more serene resort feel than Agadir; although, it still houses its share of seafood restaurants and comfortable places to stay. Oualidia tends to get a bit more crowded in summer, but the off-season offers a quiet retreat for dining, swimming, surfing and relaxing.
Morocco is known for traditional hand-woven rugs that attract shoppers from around the world. In fact, the famous rugs have been woven by the indigenous people of Morocco since the Paleolithic Era. Different areas of the country are known for their distinct weaves to suit certain climates, such as thick weaves for the cool Atlas Mountains and flat woven, lighter rugs for the Sahara desert. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself trying to fit one into your suitcase.
The Draa Valley, also known as the “Country of Dates,” runs along the longest river in Morocco. The Draa River is 1,100 kilometres long, flowing from the High Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Follow the Draa, and you’ll find spectacular palm tree oases, historic villages and countless picturesque landscapes.
Moroccan msemen is a square-shaped pancake made of flour, dry yeast, semolina, salt, sugar, butter and water. The pastry is pan-fried and served hot with jam, honey or even vegetables or meat inside. Don’t forget to enjoy your morning or snack-time msemen with hot Moroccan tea.
Although it is claimed that the city of Fez was at its peak in the 13th and 14th centuries, it’s still a thriving cultural and spiritual centre centuries later. Fez’s medina offers mosques, fountains, palaces, madrasas and residences that date all the way back to the city’s top years when it reigned as the kingdom’s capital. The Medina of Fez was named a World Heritage Site in 1981, and the countless historic sites, food stalls, workshops and unbeatable people-watching are enough to please any visitor.
Fez’s leather tanneries are another draw to an already enticing Moroccan city. The city’s leather bazaar, or souq, houses ancient tanneries made up of stone vessels that hold the dies and liquids used for processing. Workers still brave the intense heat to ensure the hides soaking in the vessels are processed to perfection. The cow, goat, camel and sheep hides processed in these tanneries eventually become the famed shoes, bags and other leather goods that have become signature items of Morocco.
Legend says that the dunes of Erg Chebbi were created by God as punishment to the locals of Merzouga after they refused shelter to a woman and her child. As a result of their negligence, a sandstorm came and buried their city. However the massive dunes came to be, there’s no denying that Erg Chebbi is one Morocco’s favorite tourist sites. Erg Chebbi is one of the country’s two Saharan ergs (seas of wind-blown sand dunes), and tourists often come from Merzouga on overnight camel treks to see the beauty up close and personally.
Berbers, also known as Amazighs, are the indigenous people of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. Today’s Berbers are descendants of the pre-Arab people of North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Egyptian Frontier and the Niger River to the Mediterranean coast. Berbers are often regarded as nomads; although, the majority are actually farmers.
Morocco is a land of many natural wonders, and the red arches at Legzira Beach add to the country’s unbelievably diverse landscape. The cliffs can be visited at low tide, and if the tide and sunset are timed correctly, they make for breathtaking scenery and photographs.