A North African country of amazing diversity, Morocco is packed with exotic experiences unlike anywhere else. It is therefore almost impossible to narrow down a list of things to do in the country to 10. This post, however, aims to offer you a snapshot of what you can expect on a trip to this fascinating land, from Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca to Chaouwara Tannery in Fez.
1. Explore the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau, Hassan II Mosque is one of the most magnificent mosques in the world. It is the largest in Morocco, having the world's tallest minaret (689 feet /210 meters). Commissioned by King Hassan II, it took 7 years to construct, with the joint efforts of 10, 000 artisan craftsmen. Non-Muslim visitors can visit the mosque on guided tours outside prayer times. But you can also feel the charm of this building and its oceanfront backdrop from the outside.
Hassan II Mosque is the most iconic sight in Casablanca
If you enter the mosque, remember to dress respectfully. Long sleeves, skirt, and trousers are preferable.
2. Visit Marrakesh's Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace, meaning brilliance, was built at the order of Si Moussa who was the grand vizier of the sultan, and intended to be the most beautiful palace of its time. It is indeed an excellent example of Moroccan architecture. Spread over two acres, this 19-century royal complex consists of lovely buildings and gardens that are filled with orange trees and splashing fountains. Council rooms are also impressive, with zellig fireplaces, flooring and painted cedarwork. A visit here will give you an insight into how the ruling class of Morocco lived in the past.
Opening hours: 9 AM- 4:30 PM
Location: 5 Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, Marrakech
Exquisite mosaics can be seen in Bahia Palace
3. Unwind in the charming town of Chefchaouen
Perched beneath the spectacular peaks of Rif Mountains, the centuries-old Chechaouen is one of the most mesmerizing towns in Morocco. It is famous for its blue-washed houses, and cobbled streets against the breathtaking mountain scenery. You may explore its quaint craft markets, sit in a street-side café, or simply walk through the street at your own pace to absorb the ambiance.
People walking in the lane of Chefchaouen (photo credit: Gene Tobia)
4. Hike High Atlas Mountains
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the High Atlas is perfect for people to get fresh air and splendid mountain views. The famous mountain range is home to Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak, with an elevation of 13,671 feet/4,167 meters. It is the most popular hiking destination in Morocco.
Most hikes start in a mountain village called Imlil, which is only an hour's drive from Marrakesh. Though a hiking guide is not a must, it is best to have one, especial if you are not an experienced hiker, as it will make the trek a lot easier. April and May are the best times to go when there are pleasant weather and least rain. If you don't fancy a walk to the summit, it is also nice to just hike in the area surrounding the mountain.
5. Uncover the Roman ruins of Volubilis
Step back in time with a visit to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, located in a fertile plain about 33 kilometers north of Meknès. Volubilis is Morocco's best archeological site and has been protected by the UNESCO since 1997. You will marvel at a great number of bronze and marble statues, inscriptions and exquisite mosaics here. As you stroll among these ruins, you can imagine what Volubilis may look like two thousand years ago.
The Roman ruins of Volubilis
1). Bring a hat and lots of water if you visit in summer days as it can be hot and the sun is fierce.
2). The ideal time of the day to see the site is either in the early morning or late afternoon when the ancient columns are lighted by the first or last rays of the sun.
3). Visit in the spring and you may find beautiful wildflowers among the abandoned stones, and the whole area is at its greenest.
6. Explore one of the souks
One of the most exciting things on a Morocco trip is visiting the souks of the medina in the old city. These labyrinthine bazaars are brimmed with colors, scents, and sounds. You can find everything from Aladdin's lamps to richly colored fabric, hand-woven carpets, and high-piled spices.
A souk in Marrakesh
1). Walk on the right side of the street when you see an oncoming moped, which is an unwritten rule in Morocco (except Fez).
2). Always ask for permission before taking any photos of the local people.
3). It is best not to ask the price of anything if you do not have the intention to buy it.
4). A local guide can be helpful in navigating the narrow alleys.
7. Learn to cook delicious Moroccan food
With the influences of the Berbers, the Arabs, the Andalusians and the French, the Moroccan cuisine is unique and known throughout the world. Some of the iconic dishes are couscous, tagine, harira, and brochette. You can sample these delicacies in the street stalls or restaurants and sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make them yourself. Guesthouses or riads normally offer cooking classes that take you to the souks to shop for ingredients, then demonstrate how to prepare them in the traditional way. Finally, you can enjoy your own creation. It is well worth spending a half day on it as it may become a souvenir you will treasure for a lifetime.
Delectable Moroccan food served in a restaurant in Fez
8. Spend a night in the Sahara Desert
No Morocco trip is complete without a visit to the Sahara Desert. It is a one-of-a-kind experience that you will always remember. Erg Chebbi near the town of Merzouga is home to the highest and most beautiful sand dunes in Morocco and it would be a nice idea to have a night stay here at the traditional Bedouin camp. You can do a camel ride to witness the endless desert, watch the spectacular dunes at sunrise and sunset, and when the night falls, enjoy freshly cooked dinner with a Bedouin family under a cloak of stars.
Spectacular sand dunes in the Sahara Desert
9. Take part in a cultural festival
Morocco hosts an amazing number of fascinating festivals and events throughout the year and timing your visit to attend one of them can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, enabling you to immerse in the local culture. Here are some of the festivals that you may consider attending:
Kelaa-des-Mgouna Rose Festival
Held every May, it celebrates the harvest of rose with parades, traditional song, and dance in the oasis town of Kelaa-des-Mgouna.
Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
It is a multi-day celebration of music that takes place every summer. You may see performers from all over the world, from whirling dervishes to dancers, chanters and mystics.
Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival
Held mainly in the El Badi Palace and Djemma el Fna, the festival attracts musicians, dancers, fortune-tellers, snake charmers, and fire-swallowers. It takes places in the summer.
Erfoud Date Festival
The festival is held every October in the Erfoud region to celebrate the harvest of over 1 million date palms, with traditional music, dancing, and processions.
10. Visit the Chaouwara Tannery in Fez
Tanneries are one of the most iconic sights of the imperial city of Fez. They are usually found in the leather souks in the old medina and have been operated since the medieval times. Located in the Fes el Bali, Chaouwara is one of the largest and oldest tanneries in Fez. Here you can see men working under the hot sun, some of whom standing in stone vessels filled with various dyes, in which animal hides are soaked. These hides are all processed manually into quality leather products sold all over the globe.
The Chaouwara Tannery in Fez
These are just 10 of the excitements awaiting travelers in Morocco. For more recommendations or other questions regarding Morocco travel, please reach me at . Or if you are planning to visit this wondrous country, we are happy to customize a trip to your interests and budget.