Morocco as a Destination

Morocco

Moroccan Style
Moroccan Style

Morocco is located in the most northern part of Africa and less than 10 miles from Spain and Europe therefore blessed with an almost perfect all year round climate. Daytime temperatures in high summer can reach above 40 degrees but rarely and it is a very ‘dry’ heat so not unpleasant. In the winter daytime temperatures rarely fall below 20 degrees. Nights throughout the year are usually cool making for a good nights sleep without air-conditioning. There are few other countries where you have a true all year round ‘season’ like Morocco.

Morocco lies on the northwest corner of Africa hence benefits from the Mediterranean Sea on its north coast and 1000 miles of Atlantic beaches on the west. In the north and to the East of the city of Tangier lies the Rif mountain range – home to the Berbers for 1000 years. Just below the Rif mountain range lies the ancient capital of Morocco – Fez. The Fez medina is a UNESCO world heritage site and famous for leather tanning and the most skilled craftsmen of Morocco. Heading further south you arrive in the city of Meknes now famous for wine making (strangely Morocco for a Muslim country makes some very good wine). Further south and on the Atlantic coast lies the capital of Morocco – Rabat – which is a combination of a modern capital and a historic city. Again heading south and on the Atlantic coast you arrive at the world famous city of Casablanca – the largest city in Morocco and one of the most important cities economically in Africa. On the coast you will find numerous lovely smaller cities and towns like Essaouira, Oualidia, El Jadida many with fantastic beaches and certainly worth a visit. Continuing again south and inland you arrive in Marrakech – now the largest tourist destination on Morocco (Morocco received 14 million tourists in 2014) and home to many well know 5 star hotels and beautiful villas or riads in the medina. The High Atlas mountains lie just 20 miles south of the city offering fabulous walks or camel rides and even skiing in the winter months. Marrakech has recently become a major golfing destination with over 15 golf courses. Once over the Atlas you are nearing the desert – a trip in to the desert is usually via Ouzazatte and on to Zagora or Merzouga. Agadir lies on the coast south of the Atlas mountains so like the rest of Morroco has a beautiful climate but unlike Marrakech it is less warm in the summer but warmer in the winter – sadly though an earthquake in 1960 destroyed the city but its been rebuild (not all so tastefully) and it is now the biggest sea side resort in Morocco.

Since the increase in low budget flights in the 1990’s there was a huge increase in the numbers of tourists coming to Morocco. Tourists come from all over the world but the French and the British and the most prevalent. People of all ages come – some to relax and have a hammam and spa, others to walk in the mountains, others to golf or to view the ancient medinas and taste the smell of Africa.

There are lovely villas to rent from the north to the south of Morocco but particularly in Marrakech there are a great deal of truly stunning villas usually with very large mature gardens, swimming pools and staff to look after your every need.  From ones villa it is an easy drive in to Marrakech to enjoy either lunch at La Mamounia or trawl the souks for local items like babouches, Kaftas, djellabas, carpets and a host of other things for friends and family or one can disappear to the coast or mountains for a day trip and see so many different things during your stay.


Marrakesh

Snowy Atlas from the Marrakesh Palmeraie
Snowy Atlas from the Marrakesh Palmeraie

Marrakech lies in the centre of Morocco and just to the North of the High Atlas Mountains which for much of the year are covered in snow making for idyllic views and walks alike. The mountain snow offers a slow release of water to the valley below giving life to a predominantly very dry city. Marrakech is a city of drama and its famous square Djeema el-Fna provides the greatest open air spectacle in the world. Known as the ‘red city’ for its earth colored walls Marrakech has a more African feel than other Moroccan cities such as Casablanca and Rabat – the donkeys, horses, thousands of motorbikes and bicycles all add to the crazy atmosphere mixed with the snake charmers and henna tattoo girls in Djeema el-Fna. Outside the medina lies the affluent neighborhoods of Gueliz (the French quarter) and Hivernage (the hotel quarter) – there is an abundance of good restaurants and places to stay.

Exotic garden in Marrakesh
Exotic garden in Marrakesh

North East of the city lies The Palmeraie (the story goes the nomad travelers from the south camped there eating dates 1000 years ago and the palm trees grew from the sand). There are many beautiful villas with lovely mature gardens dotted all around Marrakech but The Palmeraie remains the most sought after destination for villas.
Recently Marrakech has become a major tourist destination serviced by many daily low cost direct flights from Europe – not more than 3 hours from most European cities and with a near perfect year round climate it is fabulous place to visit. For those keen on golf there are now 15 golf courses around Marrakech for others the souks or the Hammam offer plenty of fun for all the family.


Casablanca

Casablanca is by far Morocco’s largest city, industrial centre and port. The city’s growth is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating from the early days of the French protectorate when Casablanca (Dar el Baida in Arabic and known popularly as Casa) was chosen to be the economic heart of the country. The dimensions of the modest medina give some idea of just how small the city was when the French embarked on a massive building programme, laying out a new city in grand style, with wide boulevards, public parks and fountains.


Oualidia

Estuary at Oualidia
Estuary at Oualidia

Oualidia is a relaxed fishing village sandwiched between the sea and a logoon famed for its oysters and bird watching. However in the summer months becomes a haven for local holiday makers and tourists alike. In recent years La Sultana has opened a lovely hotel overlooking the estuary which makes for an idea place to stay on a short trip away from Marrakech. Alternatively (and much cheaper) there is also the charming Hippocampe hotel located right on the beach in the centre of town. For those looking to stay longer our villa ‘Lagoon Lodge’ overlooking the sea and estuary located just 2 miles north of the city with 6 bedrooms, pool and wonderful staff makes for an ideal base for a holiday on the sea.


Fez

View over Fez Medina
View over Fez Medina

Fez is the oldest of the imperial cites and used to be the Capital of Morocco. The medina is now a UNESCO world hertage site and one of oldest living medival cities in the world – with maybe only the exception of Marrakech there is nothing else remotely comparable. Its narrow winding alleys and covered bazaars are crammed with every conceivable sort of shop, restaurant and market, as well as mosques and extensive tanneries and dye pits – all together it’s a sight to behold.


Essaouira

Fishing boats in Essaouira
Fishing boats in Essaouira

Essaouira is the most popular of the Atlantic coastal towns, both with independent travellers (now with direct flights from the UK and France) and with an ever increasing number of day trippers from Marrakech and Agadir. The towns relaxed atmosphere is a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of the big cities. With a magnificent beach that extends as far as the eye can see Essaouira has become a haven for windsurfers and kitesurfers alike – which is one of the reasons it is known as the windy city!

Fortress of Essaouira
Fortress of Essaouira

The charm however really lies in its small medina with its narrow streets, whitewashed blue and white houses (be sure to try eating in one of the two dozen blue and white fish stalls bbq’ing their daily catch in front of you in the port).

There are a few very comfortable hotels like the Heure Bleue or Villa Maroc or hundreds of little Maison D’hotes many of which are really nice or we have a number of places for sale and for rent. Other than eating in the fisherman’s stalls I recommend trying Caravan Café, Le Chalet on the beach for sea food and for the best sundowner Taros bar overlooking the main square, sunset and the Atlantic ocean.


Tangier

Phenician Tumbs in Tangier
Phenician Tumbs in Tangier

Tangier has been coveted for more than a thousand years as a strategic port commanding the southern part of the Strait of Gibralter. Tangier’s small medina climbs up the hill northwest of the city whilst the new town surrounds it to the west. East of the medina lies the port and ferry terminal with regular ferries departing for Spain and other European destinations.


Taroudant

Surrounded by magnificent, crenated red mud walls and with the snowcapped peaks of the High Atlas beckoning beyond, Taroudannt looks every inch a traditional Berber market town. The French never tacked on a ville nouvelle here, which gives the impression that things have hardly changed in the past 100 years. The town souks are well worth a look (it is a fairly easy day trip from Agadir – 50 miles approx) and it also makes for a good base for those who are interested in trekking in the Western High Atlas Mountains.