Morocco is where Europe and Africa meet – both literally and figuratively. The influence of Spanish and French culture can be heard in the discussions on the streets with French a common second language to Arabic and Spanish heard often in cities like Chefchaouen. Add the beauty of the Mediterranean, the Sahara Desert, and the sprawling Atlas Mountains that divide the country’s north from the south and you get one of the most beautiful environmental contrasts anywhere in the world.
Start your trip in Marrakech, where deals on Moroccan carpets, samples of olives, and spices can be found in the Jemaa El Fna, the famed square and market where capitalism knows no bounds. From there, ride into the desert and see Ait Ben Haddou – a desert fortress that’s been in many great movies such as “Gladiator.” Make sure to arrange a camel tour into the desert where you’ll spend the night under the stars, and then awake early to see the sun rising on the Sahara. Continue north to Fes where the Medina (the old town) is even more impressive than that in Marrakech. If time permits, find yourself in Chefchaouen, a small town known for blue painted homes visible for miles.
When you arrive in Marrakech, the first rule is “everything is negotiable.” From the taxis to the markets, haggling is simply a way of life in this town. As you arrive on the breathtaking Jemaa El Fna, take in the beauty of the square and the local architecture before you start wandering down the long corridors of the Medina – the market where deals on everything are waiting to be had. Do not miss Lamb Alley – a place with some of the most flavorful and moist meat, served with fresh bread and a bowl of salt.
The Desert: A Gateway to a Land of Beauty Think back to the scene in Gladiator when Russell Crowe’s character Maximus is fighting other gladiators in the ring. That scene was shot at Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site that thankfully has been preserved well enough for you to explore. As you proceed onwards to Dades Gorge, prepare to gasp at the vibrant colors of the rock as you wind through narrow canyons. You should end your tour at Erg Chebbi, where a young man on foot will guide you and your camel to a desert camp. Spend the night eating a typical Moroccan meal consisting of chicken tagine, steamed vegetables, and classic Moroccan tea. And when you awake early, worry not. Your groggy, coffee-less self will manage to get going because soon you’ll be seeing the golden-orange hues of sun as they illuminate the Sahara. A sight not to be missed on any Moroccan tour.
Morocco evokes so many senses at once that sensory overload will set in within your first day. From the smell of spices and street food in the medina to the brown colors of the clay in the walls of local buildings, prepare for a sumptuous experience for the soul. Despite language barriers, the country welcomes tourists with a warm heart, a rich history, and a cup of tea. Make sure you soak it all up – especially the tea. It’s fantastic.