From beautiful mosques and rich palaces adorned with intricate mosaic work to bustling souks, Morocco, the exotic North African country is a visual feast. Morocco is aptly titled the land of ‘a thousand kasbah’ (fortified city)- referring to the multiple caravan routes passing through the gray mountain roads leading to sand dunes of the Sahara desert. At each stop along the way you will see a Kasbah – a fortress – that sometimes enclose smaller cities.
Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or a lover of history and culture, Morocco has loads to offer. Indulge in its kasbahs, cuisine and its colourful souks. The magic unfolds as soon as you reach Casablanca, a modern city with a mix of European and Arabic culture. If you loved Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s 1942 film Casablanca, you live your favourite movie memories here. For travellers who are keen to explore the high-walled kasbahs and sand dunes of Sahara, do take the ancient caravan routes of Morocco.
Time Travel – Meknes
One of the Imperial cities of Morocco built in the 11th century, Meknes (a palace town that would rival Versailles) has surprises galore at every nook and corner. While the grandiose gateway called the Bab Mansour built by Sultan Moulay Ismail (one of the first rulers of Alawite dynasty) with its use of zellige (tiles with natural glazes) tiling is highly photogenic, the breathtaking interiors of Mausoleum of Mulay Ismail offers an opportunity for Instagram-worthy pictures. For a quick day-trip, visit the famed Roman ruins Volubilis (located 30 kms from Meknes) situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. Peer into old bathhouses, marvel at the mosaic floors and gaze up at towering marble pillars.
Imperial City – Fes
The northern city of Fez is very close to Volubilis, and one can easily catch a train to reach there. The guide-books will tell you that the walled medina Fes el-Bali is teeming with vibrant souks and old-world atmosphere. Chances are that you will get lost in its labyrinth-like lanes. Google maps will not help you. So the best way to explore is, with the help of a local guide. To experience a medieval business area, visit the tannery district. A word of caution: the stench of rotten-flesh will hit your nostrils in full force. After all the exploration, you can end your day with a sumptuous home-cooked Moroccan feast in a gorgeous Riad (a traditional Moroccan house).
On A Camel Ride – Merzouga Dunes
A sunset at the top of a dune should be way up in your ‘to-do’ lists when you are visiting this north-African country. For a safari to the dunes, start early for a drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains to reach the edge of the Sahara. You can make plenty of fascinating stops to enjoy the landscape which changes from dry, dusty mountains to a sudden burst of orange sand. Set off on a camel ride in the dunes and make sure you tie a turban to avoid the glaring sun (listen carefully to your guide’s camel related safety tips).
In the evening, drag your mattresses out of your tent and enjoy some Berber music around a campfire. If not, enjoy your night sleeping beneath the starry desert skies.
Hiking Trail – Todra Gorge
One of the most spectacular canyons, Todra Gorge is situated on the east side of the high Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The mining town of Tinerhir is the base town for visiting the Todra Gorge. It is here that both the Todra and Dades Rivers have carved out cliff-sided canyons measuring 500 ft tall on either side. The gorge is a popular tourist destination for hikers and gorge-climbers, offering many hiking paths. If you want some offbeat adventure, try mountain biking up to the Todra Gorge. Stop at a local Berber village for some couscous and mint tea before you head back to Merzouga.
On A Caravan – Ait Benhaddou
What do Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator have in common? Both the movies were shot in the desert landscape of Aït Benhaddou. This is a traditional mud-brick fortified city, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Of all the remaining Kasbahs (ksar) in Morocco, this quiet town traces its origins to the salt trade and was a common stop along trading routes from Marrakech to the Sahara. The nearest town is Ouarzazate, situated on the edge of the Sahara desert and over the years, Ouarzazate has been a shooting hub for many Hollywood films.
Visual Feast – Marrakech
Marrakech, Morocco’s ‘Jewel of the South,’ is a sensory overload with an array of spice sellers and snake-charmers co-existing side-by-side with luxury spas and quaint coffee shops. The journey to Marrakech offers one of the most hair-raising drives snaking through vertiginous road though some of the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi n’Tichka Pass. Jemma el-Fnaa is the central square and marketplace, which is throbbing with tourists, musicians, dancers, acrobats and magicians. Shoppers can shop till they drop at the traditional souks that sell everything from clothing and textiles, to leather items, herbs and pottery. Explore the ornate pavilions and gardens of the beautiful Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs (resting place of the Saadi sultans). Other sites worth visiting are the Koutoubia Mosque, with a spire that soars 225 feet, and the Dar el-Bacha hammam (bathhouse). Consider a food tour by sampling local Moroccan cuisine like the tanjia (slow cooked lamb), traditional Moroccan couscous, tajine or even sheep’s head (for adventurous eaters).
Fact File On Morrocco
Location: North Africa, bordering the north Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Official language: Arabic, Berber, French
Currency: Moroccan Dirham
Capital city: Rabat
Best Time to Visit: Mid-March to May during spring and also in the autumnal months of September and October.
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About The Author
Sushmita Biswas is a media professional and loves meeting new people and doing creative things. She is all game for good food and great interiors. A mountain lover she plans to do Leh-Ladakh someday with her family. When she is not decoding lifestyle trends she keeps a tab on Bollywood and interviews well-known personalities.