Morocco has been on my bucket list for some time and I was thrilled to experience this fascinating destination!
My fixed 8-night itinerary covered a lot of ground so I could view different parts of the country. As a result, we spent a lot of time in the car several days, but it was worth it to be able to see as much as we did. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, learned so much. Such a colorful and exotic country!
Morocco is known for being one of the most tolerant of the Arab nations. The country is relatively safe (just typical petty crime, such as scams or pickpockets). The Moroccan people are very hospitable, warm and friendly. While I generally prefer to travel independently, this is not a country I wanted to do on my own. While it is easy to get around on your own, as there is good train and bus service between towns (and taxis are plentiful in town), it was definitely preferable to have a guide.
Highlights of my trip:
• The Imperial Cities of Marrakesh, Fes, Rabat, and Meknes have all, at some point in history, been the capital of Morocco. (Rabat is now). They offer beautiful palaces and museums that provide a glimpse into Morocco’s history, which encompasses influences from the Berbers, the Roman Empire, and the French and Spanish settlers who tried to claim the country as their own. All left their influence on Morocco.
• The Sahara Desert offers camel tours, but even better, an opportunity to camp in the desert. Both were awesome experiences!
• Casablanca – often just a cruise port stop, there really isn’t much to see and do here, other than a visit to the Hassan II Mosque, the only 1 in Morocco that permits non-Muslims to enter. The 3rd largest in the world, it holds 25,000 people inside, and over 80,000 outside. Built in 1993, and overlooking the sea, with a retractable roof. Beautiful!
• Medinas – this refers to the old part of the town, typically walled, with narrow maze-like streets, fountains, mosques. Many tourists think of it as the shopping area, but that is just part of it, as the medina is where many people live. Within the medina are many “souks” (marketplace or stalls), that sell products to both locals and tourists. Two of the best are in Fez and Marrakech (both UNESCO designated World Heritage sites). The one in Fez was my favorite, car-free, but over 9000 alleys. It’s a labyrinth, you WILL get lost without a guide! GPS doesn’t readily work here, and there are very few street signs. Marrakech is also large and colorful…unfortunately, we just didn’t much free time to actually shop in either. We did have time in Casablanca, but I didn’t really care for that 1. I also would have liked more time wandering the medina in Rabat, with its pretty white and blue buildings. . Note: the lunatics on mopeds flying thru the tiny lanes (no matter what city) are extremely dangerous!
• Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou – this historic 11th fortified village site has been the site of numerous films and TV shows. Beautiful setting, nice hike up to the top.
• Stunning scenery – the spectacular canyon of Todra Gorge was a highlight, as were the colorful Atlas Mountains, including our day tour in the Imlil Valley. This area is a top trekking destination. We hiked up over 1000 feet to almost 6000 feet above sea level, over rocky terrain, part of it done by mule. The narrow paths (with naturally no guard rails) are not for the faint of heart!