For many travelers the question isn’t if you’ll be traveling or when you’ll be traveling. It’s a matter of where you’ll be traveling. Where do you want to go on your dream vacation? Where should you spend your beach getaway to relax after a hectic month at the office? Where will you be taking that once-in-a-lifetime family trip? If you’re reading this, you probably already know where you’re going: Destination Morocco!
There are too many destinations and too little time! Now that we’re finally escaping winter and our summer vacation plans are taking shape, many of us are looking ahead for the the coming fall, winter and even into 2020, to find that next take-our-breath-away vacation. However, many of us travel with families, friends and partners who don’t necessarily share our same idea of the “perfect vacation.”
To make your life a little easier, here is a breakdown of how Morocco can be a journey for every type of traveler.
In Morocco, there is no reason to choose a “beach vacation” or “mountain getaway.” You can wake up by to the sounds of crashing waves in the cozy seaside confines of Essaouira, spend the afternoon discovering the medieval souks of Marrakesh and end your day with a sunset atop the rural Atlas Mountains. In Morocco, there is something for every kind of traveler to enjoy. Outdoors adventurers will love venturing off into the Sahara Desert while history buffs will delight in exploring Morocco’s Imperial Cities.
From the moment you step into Morocco, you will be able to smell the country’s traditional spices and herbs from miles away emanating from the countless markets and food stalls. Food is perhaps the most important aspect of Moroccan culture for many of us. Lucky for us, Moroccans are known to be some of Africa’s biggest foodies, too! Monge on warm, homemade bread straight from the oven. Sample tasty tagines that mingle savory and sweet together in a way that they do a flavor dance on your tongue. Share a giant bowl of the national dish, couscous, lovingly hand-rolled as it has been for centuries. Dig into local salads. Just remember to leave room so you can O.D. on the delicious almond pastries and cookies that always seem to find their way onto your plate. Street food junkies, in particular, will be in for some real treats. Meanwhile, the chefs in the crowd will want to make sure they try their hand at making their own Moroccan cuisine in one of the fun cooking courses on offer.
We dare you to visit Morocco and leave without at least one bag stuffed full with aromatic spices, a hand woven carpet or two and a few pieces of hand spun and painted pottery! Every main city has its own souk – a maze of winding alleyways lined with shops selling everything from ceramics to leather goods and jewelry. Haggling with the shop owners for the best price is expected and accepted in Morocco. So make sure to brush up on your bargaining skills before your trip! Shop ’til you drop… and then consider dropping into a Moroccan spa treatment for a fair bit of pampering.
Morocco might be in the best destination on the planet for children. The souks are something of a wonder for children and, more likely than not, they will leave with pockets full of sweets and presents. Morocco is incredibly family friendly. It’s not such a shabby destination for parents, either. Moroccans, on the whole, dote over children. Crotchety old men transform into patient clowns, entertaining your little one, while frowny-faced matrons will beam with pride for you and your clan. Amazingly, you’ll even witness the rare event of a teen breaking from their cellphone to help you up the stairs with your stroller. Even better, parents can easily find a reliable babysitter or nanny while they’re visiting, making that needed date night a real possibility.
Morocco has been a haven for surfers throughout the last 40 years, several schools and organizations have allready opened along Moroccan beaches for ravelersinterested in Surfing in Morocco. If you’re an experienced surfer looking for new challenges or a change of scenery, then you absolutely want to head to Agadir, where you’ll be close to some of the top surfing spots in the country, namely Taghazout, Imsouane and Anchor Point (known as Almadraba by the locals).
There’s something inherently special about solo traveling, the self-exploration and time spent with yourself can lead to surprising experiences and insights. If you’re a woman packing your suitcase for your next solo adventure, Morocco might not be on your immediate list of destinations, here are some reasons why it hsould be!
While it moght seem daunting to travel alone to this Muslim country, the first thing to know is that Morocco is generally more liberal than other Muslim countries, especially in certain areas of the country. Morocco was after all part of the “Hippie Trail” after all. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow basic safety rules, namely dressing modestly and sharing your travel plans with someone. Take a look here or reach out to us for more information or help planning your Solo Trip!
While visiting Morocco you will obviously want to discover some of the local music gems like Gnaoua Music or Aissaoua amongst others (see Essaouira Gnaoua Festival). But Morocco is also home to many music festivals that blend contemporary styles like Jazz, Arab Hip Hop and Electronic music with more traditional Moroccan music. Mawazine festival, perhaps one of the most notable in Africa happens once every year in the capital city of Rabat and has seen some of the world’s biggest artists. Other festivals to look out for include the Fez festival of sacred and spiritual music, Jazz au Chellah in Rabat, Jazzablanca and L’Boulevard in Casablanca, Tanjazz in Tangier and Oasis festival near Marrakesh!
Morocco is, in essence a Muslim country but that shouldn’t fool you in thinking there is no gay culture. Same sex activity is outlawed (but then again, the laws are seldom enforced) and some areas have a thriving LGBTQ+ sub-culture. Places like Marrakesh and Tangier have long been prime destinations for gay travellers and continue to be so today. Many gay personalities had chosen to spend some time or live in Morocco such as Paul and Jane Bowles or Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé who saved the Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh from destruction and which thankfully you can now visit!
To make your trip as safe and fun as possible, it is still best to remain discreet in public and avoid public displays of affection, the same as anyone else. PDA just isn’t a thing in Morocco.
There are more festival in Morocco than you can count, seemingly one for every season and every week. Some of the better-known festival include the February Almond Blossom Festival in Tafraoute, the Festival of Roses in Kelaat M’Gouna, the Marriage Festival in Imilchil and the Saffron Festival in Taliouine. Check out our Festival Calendar Overview for a more complete list. Who doesn’t like a good festival?
While surfing and other water sports on all the rage along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, you’ll be able to find incredible trekking throughout the country, particularly in the mountains. Meanwhile, a night in the vast expanse of the Sahara Desert is something that nearly every traveler should seek to experience, while the real adventurous could try their hand at Sand Surfing. Spelunking, hot air ballon rides, rock climbing, 4×4 rallies, the world’s most difficult race, and many, many more activities can be found throughout the country.
Morocco is an old country, much older than many in Europe, to say nothing of the US or Australia. The world’s oldest known human remains, over 300,000 years old, were discovered in Morocco. Those interested in history will be thrilled to walk the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis and Lixus, and will easily be enchanted by the ornate splendor of the centuries-old Quranic Schools found in the old medinas. For many, just walking the pedestrian-only streets of the medieval city of Fez (the entire city is a UNESCO heritage site!) is an incredible experience.
Text and photos by award-winning writer, photographer, and Morocco expert, Lucas Peters. After spending years traveling to the distant corners of Morocco and writing about his adventures, he penned the best-selling guidebook Moon Morocco as well as Marrakesh and Beyond. He lives in Tangier with his family.