I’ve always wanted to travel to Morocco. Something about the culture, ancient kasbahs, lush oases, the Sahara Desert and all those beautiful exotic tiles decorating walls everywhere has always had me curious. It’s one of the spectacular countries for such a varied type of scenery that I’d be probably only seen similar in Turkey. While it seems Marrakesh might be the flavour of the Instagram month, I found the outer regions to be the best to really discover the true essence of Morroco. I did the 13 days Morocco Uncovered trip with Intrepid and a bunch of great women for a girls trip. It was an adventure full of lots of adventure, friendship, memories and laughter so here’s my round up of some of my best recommendations and why you need to visit this amazing country.
The Imperial Cities
Let’s start with the big Imperial Cities. If I had to choose one over the other, I really couldn’t as they are all spectacular in their own way. The main cities are Casablanca, (more about Casablanca below) Fes, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat, which feature the most famous medinas, full of wonderful narrow winding streets where you can easily get lost, or find everything you’re looking for.
You can stumble upon public fountains with the most beautiful and colourful mosaics, awe-inspiring mosques, shrines, religious centres, and have fun shopping in some of the most interesting market places you’ve ever seen.
Shopping in Morrocco is style dream, you’ll literally want to buy everything from pottery, jewellery, carpets, leather and lanterns, so think about investing in shipping back home or pack light so you can fill your bags.
The Sahara Desert
I’ve camped and ridden a camel in the Mongolian desert before, so before venturing here, I thought I knew what I was getting into – nope not even close. The Sahara desert is breathtaking. The sand is finer and redder in colour in real life than pictures can do justice.
The camels are cleaner and better behaved than I experienced in Mongolia which is probably just a testament to how they have been cared for. The camping set up was fantastic and we had running water, flushing toilets and comfy beds in the tents.
At the time that we did this camp, we were informed we were the last group who were able to camp overnight in the desert as the government has cracked down on letting tourists camp out in the desert. But I’m sure the smart tourist operators will find other ways to give you this experience or something similar, just make sure you’re getting what you think you’re paying for when you book this and ask the questions. To look out over the dunes on sunset and see the golden rays of the horizon fall away to make room for nightfall was one of the most beautiful experiences I think I’ve ever witnessed.
The Atlas Mountains
On the road between Fes and the Sahara desert is a town called Midelt and the stopping point for hiking through the Atlas Mountains. Many of the locals are Berber, and we spent some time walking through local markets to get an insight into their way of life. We were fortunate enough to have tea in a local home and interact with some of the village kids, which is always one of my favourite things to do when I travel. Spending time with locals is the way to break down barriers of prejudice and learn about how other cultures interact.
The village people are kind and happy, and very proud of their home and country and it’s always a highlight for me to see the beauty in the smiles of locals enjoying the simplicity of a good life.
The other highlights were the breathtaking views of hiking in the mountains and also visiting Argan oil co-op stores where you can see how Argan oil is made.
Fun fact: The organic Argan oil is the world’s most expensive edible oil (approximately US $300 per litre). It takes 30 kilograms of Argan nuts and 15 hours of manual labor to produce one litre of oil.
The Mosque of King Hassan 2, Casablanca
Casablanca was our first stop on our tour, so it blew me away as it was my first memory of Morocco, but this mosque was out of this world amazing.
It’s the world’s third largest mosque which can accommodate around 25,000 worshipers and has the tallest minaret in the world (210 meters high). This is the only mosque in Morocco open to non-Muslim visitors so if you’re going to check out only one Mosque, then this is the ONE.
The Blue City – Chefchaouen
This would have to be one of the highlights for me because the city has to be seen to be believed and photos just don’t do it justice.
Perched in a broad valley between two peaks of the Rif Mountains is this hidden gem of a city. It’s now famous for its blue-washed houses and narrow winding lanes.
Much of the blue city was recreated by Andalusian refugees escaping Reconquista, so it has quite a Spanish feel to it. The locals paint the walls four times a year in a chalk type eco-friendly paint wash and make without a doubt some of the most beautiful backdrops for photos.
And yes, of course, we couldn’t help but take advantage of all the pic opportunities.
M’goun Valley and Ancient Kasbahs
On the way to the fabled ‘Road of the 1,000 Kasbahs’ is the small untouched M’goun valley where we did a 10 km hike and caught up with more people from the local village. We were taken to a home and drank tea, dressed up in local traditional wedding attire, and the local girls loved showing us their prized animals in the barns.
We were then off to see one of Moroccos’ most iconic sites- Ait Benhaddou and its grand Kasbah. As a Game of Thrones fan, this was definitely a highlight of my trip. Known as the fortified village its been used as a backdrop for films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator amongst others.
Volubilis Ancient Roman site
If you’re someone like me who loves an ancient Roman ruin site, you’ll want to make a pitstop here. However, as a side note, if you’ve travelled all over Europe and seen many Roman ruins, then this one might not be as fascinating as the others you’ve seen. But still, the Volubilis remains are very well preserved and its also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s worth the visit.
One of the fun parts of this stop was that our guide let us stop at a local supermarket and buy food for a picnic.
Sitting in the sun, eating and drinking the local delicacies of Morocco with a view of an ancient Roman ruin was kind of a great day.