Sahara Sand Dune © Jamou
Morocco Travel Guide
Descriptions often fall short when attempting to encapsulate contemporary Morocco. An enchanting land full of mystery and wonder, travellers are sold on snake charmers, perfumes, and the call of the muezzin. The real Morocco is this and much more, a thriving modern country with a diverse people, an enchanting natural landscape and a complex history. 10 million travellers from all over the globe visit Morocco every year, making it one of Africa's top tourist destinations. The well-trodden paths through the country's bustling medieval medinas bear testament this; however, Morroco still resists the cheap thrills of mass tourism and its riches increase with each return journey.
Morocco lies just under nine miles (14.3km) from Spain across the Straight of Gibraltar, the only point place where the Mediterranean Sea mixes with the Atlantic Ocean. The mixing of the two seas which lap Morocco's coast serves as a useful allegory for understanding its rich history. Morocco is an elaborate weave of Arabic, Berber, French and Spanish culture which has captivated the imaginations of travellers for the better part of the last millennium; it is this heady mix of old and new which sees contemporary Morocco thriving.
For some, the main appeal for visitors to Morocco has always been its balance of the familiar with the exotic. Morocco's seaside cities like Tangiers offer Mediterranean charm; inland Marrakesh thrums with vibrant souks, markets where legendary fine Moroccan crafts are made and sold, and Moorish architectural wonders loom overhead; and Casablanca is the economic centre of Morocco, playing host to an energetic business culture and international trade.
Beyond the cities, the real adventures await. In the Rif and High Atlas mountains, snow-capped mountains meet fertile valleys and bursting streams, and travellers can trek, kayak, ski and experience authentic Berber culture. In the south the most western edge of the Sahara lies assured in its dominance over the landscape, and the adventurers can feel its might by journeying on camel-back or 4x4.
Best time to visit Morocco
Morocco has a varied climate with great differenences in temperature across regions. The coastal regions are mild and temperate while the interior becomes increasingly extreme, giving creedence to its title as a 'cold country with a very hot sun'. The best time to visit Morocco is in spring (mid-March to May), when the vegetation is lush and vibrant, or during the mild autumn period between Seotember and October.
Read more on Morocco's Climate and Weather.
What to see in Morocco
-Visit Ait Benhaddou, a fairy tale ksar (fortified city) made famous by Hollywood blockbusters such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.
-The medieval town of Chefchaouen, with its blue-rinsed buildings and charming, winding streets, is one of the most photogenic places in all of Morocco.
-Head to Marrakech's Djemaa el Fna around sunset, and watch in awe as the evening circus of snake-charmers, fortune-tellers, acrobats and musicians brings the city to life.
-Visit the archaeological site of Volubilis, northern Africa's best-preserved Roman ruins which are over 2,000 years old.
Read more about Morocco Attractions.
What to do in Morocco
-Immerse yourself in the Moroccan sense-scape and take part in one of the many cooking classes held in the major cities.
-Sharpen your bargaining skills in one of Morocco's many souks (traditional market-places), where fantastic crafts, jewellery and souvenirs can be bought for great prices.
-Book a camel trek into the Sahara for an overnight stay, and marvel at the changing colour of the sand as the sun sinks over the horizon.
-Head to Oukaimeden, and confound your friends back home with tales of skiing in Africa.
Read more about Morocco Activities.
Getting to Morocco
There are cheap flights to Morocco available from a wide variety of British and American cities. Several low-cost European carriers offer flights to Morocco, providing great deals particularly during the low tourist season. Get more information on Morocco Airports.
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud, The Spider's House by Paul Bowles, The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun, and The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari.
Cheb Mimoun, Hanino, Lemchaheb, and Hassan Hakmoun.
Casablanca (1942), Hideous Kinky (1998), and Pegase (2010).
Mint tea, Flag Beer, and mahia (a locally distilled liquer made from figs). Remember to avoid drinking tap water in Morocco: stick to bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks.
Couscous (semolina grains), served with stew that has been cooked for hours in a tagine (an earthenware dish with a conical lid).
What to buy
Tagines, leatherware and jewellery (especially silver and turquoise items), Berber-crafted carpets and kelims, and products such as soap and cosmetics made from Argan oil.
What to pack
Take plenty of sunscreen along, even if travelling during the winter, and remember that Morocco's climate can be changeable - so make sure you have at least one warm jacket with you in addition to all your t-shirts. Travellers should dress more conservatively than they might back home, this is unfortunately especially necessary for women.
What's on in Morocco
The Marrakech Popular Arts Festival (July) brings a myriad of colourful performances to public spaces around Marrakech. Morocco has also fashioned itself as a destination for internationally renowned music festivals such as Gnaoua, which takes place in late June and early July.
More information on Morocco Events.
Did you know?
-Morocco is the world's largest exporter of hashish, and some estimate that this illicit trade brings in more money per year than tourism.
-The University of Al-Karaouine, located in Fez and founded in 859, claims to be the world's oldest university.
-Between 1922 and 1956, Tangier was an International City, ruled by representatives of eight different European countries.
A final word
Loud and colourful, beautiful and chaotic, Morocco is in many ways the ideal exotic holiday destination, tailor-made for travellers with an adventurous spirit and a desire to immerse themselves in a foreign culture.