Ancient yet modern, frenetic yet soothing, Morocco is an exotic land of contrasts. The very names of the places in Morocco set your imagination alight. Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakesh are just some of the places that turn this North African desert kingdom into one of the must see places on earth. Despite a highly-developed tourist industry, the country has lost none of its authentic charm. This Morocco travel guide is dedicated to providing tourism & travel information, places to visit, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, culture, history, travel tips and vacation ideas, and guides to Moroccan cities.
Arriving in Morocco after taking the ferry across from Spain comes not merely as a mild surprise for most travelers, but an-out-of-body experience, an inconceivable sensory overload. First of all, it's obvious from the moment the ferry lands that you've left Europe and the 21st century behind. All around you will be an ancient Islamic world—Arabic spoken softly in the twisting narrow medinas where men in skull caps sell piles of orange saffron; beautifully painted ceramic incense holders; embroidered leather bags, and pointy-toed velvet shoes. Women in veils will stare at you, children will ask for pens (un stylo si vous plait?), and overly-friendly men may try to get you to buy carpets. Watch out for those who speak English. For the most part—in the north of Morocco where the travelers are—certain men learn English to entice travelers into something, not always on the up and up.
It's a good idea to get out of Tangier—where you're bound to get hassled—as soon as you can and head for smaller places to the south. Morocco has excellent public transportation in the form of buses and trains. You can take a train out of Tangier to the coastal town of Asilah, a seaside fishing village complete with ramparts, a beach, and old-world Moorish whitewashed architecture. Go further south from there to any of the small coastal towns. The food is excellent—couscous, steamed vegetables and fresh fish. Head inland on a bus toward the Atlas Mountains and make sure you get a seat at the front. Buses are cheap in Morocco and you’ll enjoy the ride—people clap and sing on the bus and the joy is infectious. Be amazed as you stare out the window at the tiny villages in the desert, villages that looks like sand castles. The High Atlas Mountains have Berber villages—ancient nomadic people whose women tattoo green pine trees onto their foreheads and dye their hair pink—and the Atlas Mountains also have the highest peak in North Africa, Jebel Toubkal, which is possible to climb, preferably in the spring or fall. It's also possible to rent motorcycles and tour the Atlas Mountains, staying in villages and towns at night, or camping in the desert. Morocco adventures are endless.
One of the most exciting cities in Morocco is Fez, the cultural heart of Morocco. Founded after the Arabs took over North Africa and Spain, Fez soon became Morocco's cultural and religious center. With its population rooted in the Arabic east and in Muslim Spain, Fez's fertile countryside enabled the town to quickly grow into a bustling city. Here was the world's first university, far older than Cambridge or Oxford. Fez's narrow winding alleyways will bring you further and deeper into the city's labyrinth of color and scents, little shops lined up next to each other in the most ramshackle fashion yet doing a flourishing business selling mandarins, fresh dates, almonds, tomatoes, spices and all manner of leatherwork and pottery. Make sure you bargain. They'll laugh at you if you don't. Don't be surprised to see donkeys and camels, goats and chickens in the alleyways. Mules are a popular form of transport. These are Biblical times you've entered. Men may offer to buy female travelers, making a trade for their camels. Watch out for guides who want to lead you through the medina. Usually they're on the take, meaning they'll lead you into a shop and take a commission for whatever you buy. Be especially wary of the carpet salesmen and any deal that looks too good to be true. It usually is. Even Marco Polo was scammed here, enticed into buying carpets with spiked mint tea. Be wary, and enjoy.
For a fascinating and humorous glimpse into life in Morocco, read the travel memoir, "Kite Strings of the Southern Cross: A Woman’s Travel Odyssey" by Laurie Gough.