An exotic blend of colors, spices, scents, sounds and sights will greet you in Morocco, luring you into a fantastical dreamland of bustling souks, dramatic mountain ranges and sweeping deserts. It’s a country where the people you meet will enchant you as much as the places you visit. Travel Expert Tracy left wanting more. She was so spellbound by Morocco that she had a hard time narrowing down her favorite things about the country, here are her top ten…
1. The Colors
Morocco is bursting with awe-inspiring colors, from the fertile fields of deep purple iris, and the pops of eye-catching pink bougainvillea, to the rich burnt sienna of the buildings in Marrakech. The hidden gem of Morocco is Chefchaouen. This mystical, blue city sits at the base of the Rif Mountains. It’s evocative, beautiful, and probably the best introduction to Morocco you could have.
2. The Veiled Gardens
Something that many don’t realize is that Morocco isn’t just the arid desert you’ve seen in movies, but has many fertile oases. In Fez, foliage is everywhere, hot red poppies, chrome yellow flowers and pastel pink apple blossoms surround you, while the scent of orange dances through the air. Set behind the seemingly derelict buildings, surprises await. Hidden gardens, punctuated by Zellige tiles lay behind these crumbling walls. It’s an otherworldly sight.
3. Visiting the ‘Free People’
Tucked into the Atlas Mountains, are pockets of fascinating Berber (they call themselves Amazigh, which means “free people”) villages, full of incredibly warm and welcoming people. These clusters of lovely, small villages will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time thousands of years. It’s one of the most authentic cultural experiences you can find in Morocco.
4. The Sahara Desert
The endless red sand dunes of the Sahara hold one of the most wonderful desert camps and the best moment of my trip. After a long, dusty day, full of bumpy car and camel rides, the team back at camp kindly greeted me and in the middle of nowhere whipped up the most incredible four course meal, ending with a perfect chocolate soufflé. I ate it on a table strewn with fresh rose petals, under the night sky, illuminated by billions of stars. It was very romantic, and truly a wow moment.
5. The Souks
The shopping in Marrakech is unimaginable, you can find anything under the sun, like carpets, copper pots and caftans. A must stop is the Jemaa el-Fnaa, the largest square in Africa. And make sure to go at night, it’s like a surreal carnival. I was enthralled by the snake charmers, Gnawa musicians and people wandering around gnawing on roasted sheep’s heads. But be careful with the food here, you’ll need an iron stomach.
6. The Food
Morocco is a feast for the senses and the food is the main course. During a tasting tour I tried 8 different kinds of bread from spongy to spicy, 40 varieties of date, endless olives and 25, yes, I said 25, types of honey. But I didn’t just eat, I cooked. At La Maison Arabe, over the course of an hour, a traditional Moroccan chef taught me how to make a delicious tagine with caramelized apricots and veggies.
7. The Blend of Religions
Morocco is a blend of African, Arabic and European cultures and religions that intermingle harmoniously together. Judaism has had a huge influence on Moroccan culture. The Mellah –the old Jewish quarter in Marrakech is a highlight of any trip to Morocco. The Mellah is full of fountains, gardens, synagogues, museums, souks and a captivating Jewish cemetery.
8. The People
The people of Morocco are some of the best I’ve met during any of my travels. They are proud, welcoming and bend-over-backwards to show strangers their unbelievable country. Everywhere I went, I was always greeted with thrice brewed mint tea, served in tiny cups, suited for hands more petite than mine. I have never had such a warm reception in my life.
9. The History
From the palaces, the temples and Kasbahs, to the world’s oldest University and library (founded in 859, by a woman, I might add!), Morocco is overflowing with antiquity. History buffs have to make a stop in Volubilis. In the middle of green fields with blooming poppies, Roman ruins climb out of olive groves. You can soak in the past with an incredible picnic under the shade of millennia-old olive trees.
10. The Great Oasis
On the way to the Sahara, find Skoura, an epic date palm oasis also known as the “valley of a thousand Kasbahs”. That is no exaggeration. Amid a sea of palms as far as the eye can see, mud brick buildings, covered in intricate carvings, appear as if they’ve magically sprung up from the desert. A day spent here on a bicycle is a little slice of heaven and, in season, the nearby Valley of the Roses offers up its own delights with millions of of Damask roses that bloom each April.