After travelling for more than 2820 km (1752 miles), during a 13 days trip; I have visited  Marrakesh, Fez, Casablanca, Rabat, Chefchouen and Essaouira. And here is why you should visit them too.

1-Marrakesh

Marrakesh is the first touristic destination in Morocco. Easily accessible by plane from outside the Kingdom, Marrakesh is just over 3 hours from Paris and just under 4 hours from London. Visit Skyscanner for the best deals. Marrakesh is also the most connected city inland thanks to its modern railway station. Visit ONCF for the timetable.

Marrakesh is also the best starting point for tours to the Sahara Desert or treks to the High Atlas and the Djebel Toubkal, highest peak in North Africa.

Its climate is welcoming all year long with a yearly average of 26°. Peaks of temperature are reached between July and August with an average of 36°.

Marrakesh is popular mostly by its Medina, the largest traditional market in Morocco, selling everything from craft made Berber carpets, leather accessories, local food to electronic devices. You will be surprised by the constant activity within the narrow streets.

Jemaa el-Fnaa, Marrakesh main square, is the busiest square in Africa. Snake charmers, musicians, monkey trainers, acrobats and entertainers have all invaded the place. As vibrant as a place can be, get ready to be approached by vendors and negotiate prices at will.

At the edge of Jemaa el-Fnaa, the most emblematic and largest mosque in the city, Koutoubia, which was completed between 1184 and 1199. The garden surrounding the Mosque is a nice peaceful place to stop inside the chaotic city.

Mosque Koutoubia at night in Marrakesh
Koutoubia Mosque – Marrakesh

The Moroccan architecture is a beauty. The palaces of Marrakesh shows just that. My favourite, the Bahia palace is open to the public. Build from 1866, the Palace is considered one of the major monument in the Kingdom.

Bahia palace main court - Marrakesh
Bahia Palace – Marrakesh

Another emblematic monument of the city is the Saadian tombs where 60 corpses from the Saadian dynasty rest. The visit takes just about 30 mins but the architecture, the columns and the history behind this site are worth the visit.

Few museums are worth a visit too. Stop at Dar Si Said Museum for a collection of the finest art and cultural object of the entire Kingdom.

2-Fez

Fez will strike you by a deep traditional culture. The tradition is the strength of Fez. For example, the Medina, Fes El Bali sums that up in endless, dynamic streets, stalks. One of the world’s largest car-free area, the ancient medina is since 1981, a World Heritage Site. And rightly so. Apart from the Fes El Bali medina, few others landmarks are worth a visit.

Bou Inania Madrasa is one fo the few mosque in Morocco accessible to non-Islamic people and display Morrocan beautiful ancient architecture.

The University of Al Quaraouiyine is considered to be the oldest and still operating university in the world. Established back in 859 AD, the university consentrate his program on Islamic religious, legal sciences and especially Classical Arabic grammar and Maliki law. Unfortunately, the University, which also serves as a mosque, is only open to islamic people.

The leather tanning present in Fez, is unique in the world today. The process is really peculiar, blending cow urine and pigeon poo to clean the leather for example. But it must work! This place and the methods are 1000 years old.

The Royal Palace, as well as the Jnan Sbil garden, will complement your trip if you have some extra time.

3-Casablanca

Much more westernised than the rest of Morocco, Casablanca is a dynamic, rich and vibrant town. Skyscrapers, huge advertising boards, supercars, fashion, night clubs; all have sight in Kasa.

Casablanca has probably the most photogenic place in Morocco, the mosque Hassan II.

Mosque Hassan II Casablanca
Mosque Hassan II

Build in 1993, it is the largest in Morocco and the 13th largest in the world. A total of 105 000 worshipers can pray at the same time on its ground.

The Mahkama du Pacha is a parliament building housing today the court of Justice. To admire the beautiful architecture of this place, you would need to be accompanied by a guide.

If you are more into shopping, Morocco mall will satisfy your needs. Second largest shopping mall in Africa, you will find the majors brands, just like in Europe; a cinema but also an 1 000 000  Litres Aquarium with more than 40 differents fishes species. Note, you can also scuba dive with the fish! Click here for more information.

Even though alcohol is majorly frowned in Morocco, Casablanca is the exception. Lively bars, sophisticated restaurants and vibrant nightclubs will keep you awake a big part of the night. Head for the Cornish for the best places.

If you prefer a walk or a jog along the beach, you should head to Aïn Diab. Many locals, especially in the morning, enjoy the serenity of the beach and the Ocean for their favourites activities; run, football, surf…

4-Rabat

An hour North of Casablanca, Rabat is really in contrast with her sister. Smaller, almost 6 times less populated, Rabat offers relaxing walk within the medina, an ocean breeze and iconic Morrocan monuments. CNN even votes Rabat the second Top Travel Destination in 2012.

The Kasbah of the Udayas is an emblem of the Morrocan capital. Built in the XII century, the site underwent refurbishment through the years without losing his authenticity. At the top, you will have a magnificent view over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bou Regreg river.

View, sunset from the Kasbah Udayas Rabat
Sunset from the Kasbah Udayas
Kasbah Udayas and River Bou Regreg in Rabat
Kasbah Udayas and River Bou Regreg

The next two most iconic sites of Rabat, The Hassan Tower and The Mausoleum Mohammed V, will prove to be an immersion in ancient Morrocan culture and history.

The construction of the tower began in 1195. Intended to be the tallest minaret and the largest mosque in the world at the time, the construction never finished after the death of the Sultan Yacub Al-Mansour in 1199. To this day, the Tower is still incomplete which can be seen by the 200 columns left untouched.

Hassan Tower in Rabat
Hassan Tower

The Mausoleum was completed in 1971,  and contains the tombs of the King Mohammed V, and his two sons, King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah. Considered today to be one of the most important shrines in the Kingdom, the site is open to non-Islamic people, as long as you dress correctively, covering the shoulders and the knees. Avoid coming between 12-2 pm, due to midday prayers.

Mausoleum Mohammed V-2 in Rabat
Mausoleum Mohammed V

5-Chefchaouen

In the Rif mountains, North East of Morocco, lies a unique and authentic city called Chefchaouen. Influenced by the Portuguese, the Spanish but also the Jewish, Chefchaouen or Chaouen is a blend of different cultures in one place. The most scenic sight is the walls of the town, painted in blue originated from the 1930’s.

The Kasbah is also to be considered. An ancient fortress, it offers today a splendid view over Chefchaouen and the medina as well as housing a garden, a museum and an art gallery.

Chefchaouen is also the best place to start a trek to the Rif Mountains. Ask your hotel/riad for information. They will introduce you to a guide. The trek can take few hours, 1-2 days or more, depending on your time.

6-Essaouira

Essaouira is becoming one of the best destinations for surfers, windsurfers in Morocco, due to his constant windy condition, which turns the city to be dubbed the “Wind City of Africa”. April to November attracts the most surfers. Few surfing schools are present, including Mogasurf who offers surf, kite surf and stand up paddle teaching as well as rentals. But surf is not the only attractive thing to do in Essaouira.

The medina is popular among tourists and a must do in Essaouira. Compare to Fez or Marrakesh, it is much more laid back and the people not as aggressive trying to sell you something. You can take more time to appreciate the culture and traditional objects on sales. Streets artists are present in the medina, especially the Place Moullay Hassan, which gives animation and a cool vibe to the place. The walls of the medina are to be admired too giving its importance in the history of the town. For more on the history of Essaouira, visit this page.

Take time to sit down and relax at a nearby restaurant, enjoying fresh fish. Indeed, Essaouira is a majors fishing Harbour in Morocco and it became the first port of the Kingdom until the end of the XIX century. Back then, it was the most important trading port between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Today the activity is still intense and the scenery unique with the trademark blue fishing boats.

Essaouira port and blue boat, Morocco
Port of Essaouira

If you have time, you can enjoy a nice walk along the beach. On the back of a camel/horse or not! Despite strong winds, the beach is still a pleasant place to spend time and depending on the time of year, the water might allow you to swim. The hottest days are between June and October.

 

If you feel that I have forgotten something, comment it below.

 

Antoine Barthelemy

Photographer/Writter

www.antoinebarthelemyphotography.com