Area: 446,550 square kilometers
Population: approx. 31.5 million
Currency: Dirham (MAD)
Where in the world can you ski on white slopes in the morning, and after lunch go on a safari across the golden sand dunes of the desert? The answer is - Morocco.
This fascinating country is commonly perceived as the most "oriental" of all Arab countries. The winding alleyways of Fès and the legendary open-air market of Djemaa-el-Fna in Marrakesh, are just two examples of how Morocco has managed to retain its links with the life of the past.
The Moroccan landscape is largely dominated by the mountain ranges; the Rif Mountains of the north, and the mighty Atlas Mountains extending across central Morocco. The Atlas form a barrier between the coastal plains of the Atlantic in the west, and the Sahara desert in the southeast.
|Road distances in Morocco|
|From Casablanca to:|
|Agadir:||465 km||Ouarzazate:||438 km|
|Erfoud:||631 km||Oukaimeden:||317 km|
|Fes:||296 km||Rabat:||93 km|
|Marrakesh:||238 km||Tangier:||340 km|
|Meknes:||246 km||Zagora:||597 km|
The name Marrakesh is from where the word “Morocco” originated. This city has been the capital of Morocco several times in history. Marrakesh was founded in 1062 by Youssef Ben Tachfine, of the Almoravid dynasty. During this period, Marrakesh became the capital of an empire covering most of Northwest Africa and Spain. In the 12th century it became the capital of the Almohads.
Under Almoravid rule, Marrakesh became a centre of Islamic culture and learning. It also flourished as a city of commerce and trade. This new wealth came to be reflected in the lavish architecture and gardens built during the era.
Marrakesh is also called “The Red City” (al-Hamra), reflecting the colour of the earth used in its construction.
The old city of Marrakesh (the Medina) represents the traditional structure of a north African city, with its labyrinth of narrow alleyways.
Marrakesh is perhaps most famous for its city square, Djemaa-el-Fna, which comes alive after nightfall. Packed with dancers, fortune-tellers, musicians, acrobats, storytellers and snake charmers, it is a both exciting and exotic spectacle.
The souks (traditional markets),
The souks are extensive and a good place for buying traditional items, like spices, tea pots, jellabas, etc. Like in any other Arab country, bargaining skills are the name of the game.
This is a mosque from the 12th-century, dominating the Marrakesh skyline. A typical example of Almohad architecture, its minaret is bears strong resemblance to the "La Giralda" bell tower of the cathedral in Seville, Spain.
The Ben Youssef Quran School
This educational institution, with its mosaics, marbles and carved woodwork, is the largest theological site in northwest Africa. It forms part of Marrakech's UNESCO-listed Medina, now a World Heritage site, crammed with architectural masterpieces.
Majorelle Gardens & The Museum of Islamic Art
This is a park with plants from across the globe. The Museum of Islamic Art is located inside the park. There are entry fees to both the park and the museum.
75 km from Marrakesh is Oukaimeden, Morocco's best ski resort. The resort is well equipped with restaurants, ski equipment to rent, and hotels. The hotels are said to be quite expensive, and many skiers prefer to visit Oukaimeden while staying in Marrakesh. The best season at Oukaimeden is from around mid-January to mid-February.
Founded in 808 AD, by Moulay Idris II, Fès became a spiritual centre and the capital of Morocco. The city is until this day distinguished as the premier religious city in the country.
Fès is one of the "imperial cities" of Morocco (the others being Marrakesh, Meknès and Rabat). It is undoubtedly one of the most enthralling and “oriental” cities of the Arab world, and a great architectural treasure.
Fès is the most ancient of the imperial cities. It is a cultural treasure with more history and mystery than anywhere else in Morocco. Strategically located in a valley at the crossroads of the old caravan routes, Fès has always been a centre of commerce and trade.
Like other main cities of Northwest Africa, Fès is divided into two sectors. The modern sector was built during the French colonial rule, and is called "Fès El Jedid" (New Fès), while the old, Arab town is called "Fès El Bali".
The old part - Fès El Bali - still retains the traditional atmosphere of ancient times and is centred around the two famous mosques of Al-Qarawiyin and Al-Andalus. It is an enormous maze of winding alleys and covered bazaars, where it is easy to get lost.
The Medina (old Arab quarter) in Fès El Bali is one of the largest in the world and is also on UNESCO's World Heritage list. It is particularly good for carpets, rugs and ornate metalwork.
Dar Batha Museum, is a palace built in the 19th century by Sultan Moulay al-Hassan I. It has a beautiful garden and outstanding collection of Moroccan arts and crafts.
The Mosque and Tomb of Moulay Idris II, the founder of Fès, are richly ornamented. Access is limited to Muslims only.
MeknèsMeknès was founded in the 17th century and became the capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismail (1672 – 1727). The city reflects the power of this king, who wanted to build a palace that would rival Versailles in splendour.
Meknès has an interesting souk (market). The old town of Meknès is listed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city is also famous for its olives and fruits farms.
North of Meknès is the holy city of Moulay Idriss, dating back to 788 AD, where the founder of Morocco is buried.
The Roman ruins at Volubilis, about 30 kms from Meknès, are also on UNESCO's World Heritage list. The site also includes an archaeological museum.
Rabat is a white city on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of Morocco, the official residence of the king, and the political and administrative centre of the country. Rabat is also a major industrial city.
Rabat is a city of parks, boulevards, monuments, embassies and government buildings. It also has a large number of educational institutions, such as the Mohammed V University and the National Conservatory of Music, Dance and the Dramatic Arts.
The history of Rabat goes back to the 3rd century BC, when the area was first colonized. Rabat’s Arab history began in 1146, during the Almohad ruler Abdulmu’min. During his reign, the fortress from which the city derives its name (Rabat means "fortress"), was expanded.
Rabat eventually became one of Morocco's imperial cities.
The Mausoleum of Mohammed V
This mausoleum contains the tombs of the Moroccan king Mohammed V, and his two sons, Hassan II and Abdallah. The mausoleum is architecturally interesting, built in the Alaouite style.
The Royal Palace
This is located in the centre of Rabat, and was built on the ruins of a previous palace.
Hassan Tower or Tour Hassan
Tour Hassan is the minaret of a mosque on which construction began in 1195, during the reign of sultan Yacoub al-Mansour. Construction on the mosque stopped soon after the sultan had died. The minaret only reached 44m, which is about half of its intended height. The remaining parts of the mosque were also not fully completed.
The necropolis of Chella
This necropolis on the outskirts of Rabat, contains ancient and medieval ruins, among them the remains of the Roman town of Sala Colonia.
Tangier, the gateway to Morocco and Africa, is situated where the Straits of Gibraltar meet the Atlantic Ocean. This legendary city has always been a magnet for travellers.
Tangier saw its early days as a Phoenician trading post. It was mentioned by Carthaginian travellers as early as 500 BC. In the 3rd century AD, Tangier became a Roman colony. Due to its unique strategic location, Tangier has been under the control of many a regime during its long history.
During the 14th century, Tangier became a major trading port, frequented by European vessels. At the Algeciras conference in 1906, attended by all European powers, Tangier was granted special status as the "Tangier Zone". This decision placed the city and its surroundings under the control of an international commission.
From 1932, until its incorporation into Morocco in 1956, Tangier was an international tax free zone, under the control of a committee of 30 nations. This era gave Tangier its legendary reputation as a centre of underworld activities.
Today, the city is a popular excursion destination for day trips from Spain.
This is a souk just outside the city walls, offering traditional products.
This is an area in the Medina, with cafés where you can take a break, do some a people-watching, and enjoy the local atmosphere.
The Kasbah is a complex of castles on top of the hill overlooking the city.
Other places of interest in Tangier are The Museum of Moroccan Art and The Archaeological Museum.
Casablanca (Ad-Dar Al-Beida)
Casablanca is also Morocco's main industrial centre, producing construction materials, furniture and glass products. The city has the largest port on the Atlantic coast.
The very beginnings of Casablanca are not exactly known, but the site is said to have been settled by Berber tribes at least by the 7th century AD.
Casablanca began to grow substantially during the 19th century, when sea traffic between Europe and Morocco increased, and trade relations developed. The subsequent expansion of harbour facilities helped promote the city's growth.
Hassan II Mosque
This is a monumental mosque, with one of the world’s tallest minarets, reaching a height of 200 metres. The prayer hall of the mosque can accomodate 25,000 worshippers. The prayer hall has a retractable roof.
This is a new and elegant souk with stone arcades and clean pedestrian areas.
The Sahara & The South
Erfoud & The Erg ChebbiErfoud is a town of red sand buildings, originally built by the French. Although rather ghost-like in itself, it is good place from which to explore the surrounding landscape of desert and oases.
The Erg Chebbi is a range of gold-coloured sand dunes, making for some of the most spectacular scenery in Morocco. The little town of Merzouga is a popular destination on the edge of the sands.
Zagora & The Tinfou Sand Dunes
From the top of the Djebel Zagora (Zagora Mountain) there is a spectacular view of the Draa Valley, with its endless palm groves. In between the greenery of the palm groves lay the Ksour, or fortified villages.
About 20 kilometres south of Zagora is the settlement of Tamegroute, where there are villagers, potters and market traders at work. Just south of Tamegroute are the beautiful golden sand dunes of Tinfou, where you can see the colour of the dunes change with the time of light.
Ouarzazate, some 200 km from Marrakesh, is at the threshold of the Sahara. This town is a good starting point for excursions into the deep south.
Ouarzazate is a former French garrison, which can be reached via a scenic route from Marrakech over the Tizi n'Tichka pass.
Of particular interest is the Kasbah of Taourirt. Situated on the eastern edge of Ouarzazate, this labyrinthine kasbah reflects the famous, ochre-coloured style of southern Morocco.
About 30 km from Ouarzazate lies the UNESCO-World-Heritage-listed Ksar of Aït-Ben-Haddou. This gem is probably the most formidable example of the stunning architecture and mystic beauty of southern Morocco's kasbah villages. This feature has made the village immensely popular with fashion photographers, film directors and tourists.
The ksar is an old pre-Saharan habitation, surrounded by high walls. Aït-Ben-Haddou has featured in several films, including the famous classic “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Just west of Ouarzazate is a small zoological garden and the walled enclosure of Atlas Studios.