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Morocco the Land of Hospitality
|Morocco is a land apart, nestled on the great northwestern shoulder of Africa, separated from the rest of its African neighbors by imposing mountain ranges and the vast Saharan desert. And yet, the country is also a melting pot of African, Islamic, European, and indigenous Berber influences, reaching back millennia.|
It was the first Islamic kingdom, part of the larger dar-al-Islam, a vast stretch of Islamic countries stretching across the northern part of the African continent. And it remains one of the most culturally diverse Islamic nations, with centuries-old Jewish enclaves, and close ties to many Western countries.
Within Morocco’s boundaries, simple Berber villages – their ways untouched for hundreds of years – coexist with the most sophisticated Imperial cities. The kingdom is home to the starkly beautiful minimalism of the desert, and the constant bustle of the cosmopolitan medina. The West is here, too, in the legacy of post-colonial French and in more contemporary influences, such as the ring of world-class golf courses Morocco is increasingly known for. In fact, it’s possible, in a city like Fez, to see ancient, medieval, and contemporary cultures coexisting side-by-side.
What binds Morocco together is the distinctive spirit of her people. Moroccan tolerance, hospitality, and generosity are legendary – and with good reason: they are vital components of the culture. In Morocco, you will likely receive many invitations to share tea, if not a full meal. These should not be viewed cynically – they are genuine expressions of the deep social bonds all members of Moroccan society feel.
In the consumer-driven culture of the West, Morocco is often known for the quality of crafts from her souks. These are indeed some of the most remarkable expressions of human creativity, made all the more powerful by the desert that serves as the backdrop to their creation.
Yet what’s often missed in the West is to see how all of these elements come together: art, architecture, music, cuisine, and craft all blend with history, cultural and social values to profoundly give shape to life in this extraordinary place.
This is the magic of Morocco, and it can only be witnessed firsthand!
While in many people’s minds, Morocco (rightfully) elicits images of the exotic desert and mysterious kasbahs, it’s so much more in reality. Here’s a brief overview of some of Holiday Destinations Morocco treasures, although this list only begins to scratch the surface of our Holiday Deals Morocco.
|Marrakech is the jewel of the south, one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, and an important cultural and commercial center set at the foot of the High Atlas mountains.|
Marrakech is a city of vibrancy and solemnity, souk and square, palace and riad, mosque and garden. It is a city wrapped in faded red, ochre walls, and dominated by the Koutoubia mosque, visible from throughout the city.
It is also a crossroads – where ancient Arab culture of the valley and the Berber culture of the mountains meet. At its center is the deservedly famous Djemaa el Fna – a public space unlike any found in any city in Morocco, or the world. In the evenings, as dusk approaches, the square hums with the activity of musicians, food vendors, storytellers, snake charmers, the curious, the odd. The spirit in the square is one of mystery, magic, and possibility.
|Fez is the spiritual heart of Arabic Morocco. The city, one of the oldest medieval cities in the world, is one of the holiest in Islam. In fact, so precious is Fez’s history, architecture, and culture that the entire city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is, simply, the soul of the Moroccan kingdom.|
Fez was founded by Moulay Idriss, grandson of the prophet Mohammed in the 9th century, as the capital of his Islamic kingdom, and has served at various times as the capital of the country, and the principal residence of Morocco’s kings.
As important as its role in Morocco’s national origins, for more than a millennium Fez has been an important beacon of knowledge, learning, culture, and spirituality. Its Kairyaoune University is argued to be the oldest in the world, dating to 850 c.e., and was one of the places responsible for keeping alive the light of ancient knowledge during Europe’s dark ages.
The medina of Fez, the largest in Morocco, houses some 60,000 residents and is organized around trade. Fez is known for the extraordinary quality of its imperial crafts, such as Fassi pottery, extraordinary leatherwork, and incredible complex zellij tile mosaics.
In the end, Fez is both sacred and mysterious, its spirit both evocative and elusive, even to those that know her well.
|If Fez is the spiritual heart of Arabic Morocco, then Meknes, her smaller twin, located a short distance to the west, is a center of Berber culture and learning. Like Fez, Meknes has also served as the capital of Morocco during a later point in the long dynastic struggles of its Arabic and Berber leaders.|
Meknes occupies a plateau overlooking the Boufekrane River, and is less trafficked than Fez, giving the city a more laid-back and relaxed air.
The sights of Meknes are extraordinary in their own right.
More than 40 kilometers of walls, each more than 12 feet thick, encircle the city in three giant, concentric rings. Set in the walls are exquisite gates, including the Bab Mansour, widely considered to be the most beautiful gate in all of North Africa. One of the four sacred sites open to non-Muslims, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail (the founder of Meknes) is located here, one of the most stunning sights in Morocco.
|Once the capital of the Roman province of Mauritania, as the region was then known, the ruins of Volubilis are near-perfectly preserved, providing a clear window into Roman urban planning and design. The entire site was perfectly preserved for thousands of years until some of the marble was removed to build nearby Meknes. What remains is still some of the most stunning Roman ruins outside of Rome, with exquisitely impressive mosaics preserved, literally where they were built.|
|Rabat’s enormous Almoahad Gate to the Kasbah des Oudaias, situated on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll find magnificent views. Inside the gates discover artisan galleries, an ornate 17th-century palace now part of the Musée des Oudaia (Museum of Moroccan Arts), and the beautiful Andalusian Gardens near the famous Tour Hassan, a 12th-century minaret intended to be the highest and the largest in the Muslim world. Not to be missed in the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and King Hassan’s stately official palace.|
Dinner and accommodation at your luxury hotel in Rabat.
|Sahara: the greatest desert in the world, rending Africa in two, with its endless mountains of sand, dunes that stretch beyond the imagination. Evenings of such clarity one can see the literal dome of the earth, and fall asleep counting the innumerable stars. This is the land of camels, and nomads, of ancient songs and the great winds.|
The Sahara is not easily reached, but richly rewards those who make the journey. To get there, one travels along ancient river routes, lined with oases, blooming, green lifelines that extend like veins into the heart of the desert. Along these ancient paths are constructed the ksar and kasbahs, mudbrick fortresses, and towns that rise mysteriously out of the very earth, only to return, in time, like melting sandcastles.
Most famous of these is the Draa Valley, the land of a thousand kasbahs, the starting point for trans-Saharan camel routes of old when tens of thousands of camels would make the perilous, many-month journey across the sands to bring back treasures from the East.
The High Atlas
|Long the province of the Berber tribes that fiercely resisted all efforts at external governance, the High Atlas is less than an hour’s drive from Marrakesh. Two mountain passes, the Tiz n’ Tichka, and the Tizen Test cut through these mountains, past breathtaking vistas, spectacular rock formations, and river valleys in their beauty rivaling, if not surpassing, any others in the world. Hikers and climbers from around the world come to the Atlas.|
The people of these extraordinarily beautiful, romantic mountains were, even until quite recently, wholly untouched by modernity, still live largely as they have for millennia, in small, self-sufficient communities.
|Nestled along the southwestern Atlantic coast of Morocco, Essaouira is a beautiful, white, and quiet coastal town, founded in the 16th century as a trading post for the Portuguese. It is located amidst some of the most spectacular seashores; virtually untouched beaches lie only a few miles away from the heart of the town.|
Now home to 50,000 people, Essaouira is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco.
There are few things in Morocco more pleasurable than a stroll along its whitewashed streets and crenelated ramparts, looking out over the Atlantic ocean. And given its location, it boasts some of the very best seafood in the country.
Essaouira is also home to an annual festival of Gnaoua music, powerful tribal music wildly popular throughout Morocco.
|In the North of the country, nestled in the Rif mountains, and a short trip from Tangier is the small picturesque town of Chefchaouen. Founded in 1492 by Moorish exiles from Spain, the town is decorated in a mixture of whitewash and every shade of blue, from pastel sky tones to deep indigos. The effect is dreamlike, making this an extremely romantic place to rest for a few days|