Morocco is one of the most well-visited countries from Europe, thanks in part to cheap holidays and flights being available to the cities of Fes, Casablanca and Marrakech from many places throughout Europe on budget airlines. All inclusive week long holidays are available at 5 star resorts across the country for significantly less than you’d expect, making this a favourite for those looking to head somewhere new for their holiday or trip. Aside from this though, Morocco continues to be a backpacking haven for many travellers, with fantastic and curious stopping points throughout the country.
Marrakech is perhaps one of the most visited cities, offering up several beautiful mosques to explore, an ancient Moroccan royal cemetery, and the Jema El Fnaa square, which leads into twisting, turning and labyrinth-like back streets of the world famous souks. For the adventurous, check out the opportunity to enjoy an authentic hammam in one of the local bath houses, with women and men being segregated and enjoying their own rooms where scrub downs and massages are available by employees (or in some cases, other visitors to the hammam!) using the popular black soap of Morocco renowned for its healing and cleansing properties. In truth, you will never feel quite as clean as you do after a good hammam, first undergoing a sit in a sauna, followed by a scrub down and shower, only to repeat a few times. For a more professional, relaxed experience, check out the Bains de Marrakech spa, which offers spa packages for significantly lower prices than those in the west.
For travellers who are adventurous on their own, making your way to Merzouga in the south east corner of the country will give you the opportunity to join a camel tour into the Sahara. In fact though, a similar tour can be booked ahead of time to start in Marrakech which can be quite a good deal with transport, some meals, accommodation provided for 2 nights/3 days in an air conditioned van complete with driver/guide. The price in 2011 was around 100 euros per person, which was a good rate for the level of service, and for what was provided, including a night in the Sahara at an authentic Berber camp where you will be entertained with music and with dinner provided by the Berbers themselves. Additionally, stops at other villages along the way will show you how Berber carpets are made by hand, and get you visiting with locals over mint tea.
The coastal city of Essouira is a popular destination for travellers to the country, due to its chilled out atmosphere and it being the home of the Gnawa World Music Festival each year in June/July. Check ahead for the dates of the festival, and if you plan to check it out, make sure you book your hotel or guesthouse well in advance. Essaouira is also known as a hang out for some of Hollywood’s best and brightest, with one local restaurant on the harbour front showcasing memorabilia and photos of some of the famous visitors its hosted in its history. The back streets of this curious coastal city are lined with shops offering everything from tea sets to rugs, perfumes, black soap, Argan oils and even beautiful local artwork.
Other cities that are worth a look include Fes, to walk through the dye vats and watch leather being dyed with old world forms of colouring such as flowers and berries. Treat yourself to a finished product, fresh from the vats before you leave. Chefchaouen, near to Fes is a beautiful town nestled into a hillside, home to winding backstreets and cobblestone alleyways, with the whole town being painted in various shades of blue. Chefchaouen has been known as the perfect getaway from the hustle, bustle and sometimes in your face market life of Marrakech, Fes or Casablanca.
So if you’re on the hunt for somewhere new, exciting and really interesting to get stuck into for your next trip, consider Morocco. More Middle Eastern than African, it has a really cool vibe and introduces you to Middle Eastern culture easily. A final note is on dress: being a Muslim country (albeit pretty relaxed about it), to avoid unnecessary hassling try exercising discretion when choosing outfits, and even covering your head if female goes a long way to impressing and winning over the locals. Enjoy!
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