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Morocco's cities

by Martha Hales

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Morocco is rich in culture and the cities are the best place to immerse yourself in it - from museums and palaces to modern art and ancient medersas, there’s always plenty to see. Once you’ve ticked off the cultural sights, soak up the colour and atmosphere of Morocco’s cities by simply wandering. A stroll through an ‘old town’ or medina will turn up lovely little corners, ornate doorways where you may be lucky enough to glimpse the lovely riad within or characterful shops with fabulous display of exotic wares to tempt you inside. Don’t miss the maze-like souks selling just about everything imaginable, or the awesome craftsmanship of the mosque exteriors. Photographers - and indeed anyone - who is enthralled by pattern and colour will be delighted by Morocco’s cities. Each is unique but all will mesmerise and enchant you, and leave lasting memories.

A Moroccan man walks through the blue streets of Chefchaouen

Marrakech

Long fabled as the epitome of exotic style, Marrakech quite simply lives up to the hype. It’s an enchanting city where you feel as if you’ve experienced the soul of the country as you wander the labyrinthine lanes of the ancient medina, sip a mint tea whilst haggling with a determined merchant in the souk, or gape in awe at the nightly spectacle that is the Jemaa el Fna. The combination of the timeworn alleys of the old city, the majestic backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, the delicious and distinctive cuisine and the beauty of the mosques and riads creates a distilled flavour of Morocco which lingers long after you return home.

A panoramic view across Marrakech from a traditional Moroccan cafe

Fes

The best preserved medina in the Arab world deserves a thorough exploration, revealing the traditions, crafts, faith, architecture and commerce of this atmospheric city. Fes sits in a broad hollow surrounded by hills and one of the best ways to get your bearings is to head for the Merenid Tombs, from which the whole city is visible below. Time spent in the medina itself could mean haggling for colourful handmade rugs or decorative pottery in one of the souks, admiring the incredible artistry of the Medersa Bou Inania, taking tea in one of the delightful riads amid palm fronds and tinkling fountains, or glimpsing the wonderfully ornate doorways of the many mosques. Visit one of Fes’s ancient tanneries, where you can see leather being cured using traditional methods and purchase leather goods direct from the producers.

The intricate walls and blue minaret of the Medersa Bou Inania in Fes, Morocco

Casablanca

Morocco’s commercial hub is a modern city firmly rooted in traditional Arabic culture, though it has a French colonial undertone too. The standout sight has to be the impressive Hassan II Mosque, big enough for 25,000 worshippers and built out over the Atlantic. This is one of only two mosques in Morocco open to non-muslims, and makes an awe-inspiring introduction to the city. The medinas - ‘old’ and ‘new’ - are where you can see Casablancan life in action, lose yourself in the narrow streets, and stumble across hidden gems such as Aladdin’s cave shops and atmospheric little cafés. For some sea air you can’t beat the Corniche, the seafront promenade has lots of good places to eat and drink as well as beaches and surf breaks. It’s the best place to see the city at play.

The exterior of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca - the largest mosque in Morocco

Essaouira

Handsome and hip, Essaouira is having a bit of a moment. The delightful walled town has an appealing, bustling ambiance with lots of lovely boutiques, cafés and art galleries tucked into the attractive streets. The European-influenced architecture and harmonious colour scheme of stone grey, white and blue gives the town a charming appearance and the markets and squares are lovely places to stroll, browse and stop for a drink. If the mood in town is relaxed and enjoyable, the beach is even more so. Just a couple of hours from Marrakech, Essaouira is a great addition to your Moroccan trip, with the added bonus of delicious seafood on the menus and opportunities for kitesurfing and windsurfing on the doorstep.

The colourful streets of Essaouira

Chefchaouen

Occupying a gentle hillside which serves to highlight the beauty of this lovely town, Chefchaouen is known as ‘The Blue City’ because many of the buildings and streets are painted in various shades of blue. The effect is wonderful, making this modest sized town in the Rif Mountains one of the most photogenic locations in a notably photogenic country. Wandering around the azure streets, enjoying the warmth and hospitality of the local people and the gorgeous views from the top of town - these are the major attractions here. Excursions into the scenic surroundings to visit waterfalls and hidden valleys are possible, but much of the pleasure of Chefchaouen is just to drink in the beauty of all those gorgeous shades of blue.

The blue-hued streets of Chefchaouen in Morocco

Make it happen

So many wonderful cities, so little time! Contact our trusted local experts today to discover how they can help you fit your preferred activities into your bespoke itinerary. They are experienced at making sure your trip takes you beyond the everyday and shows you the real Morocco, so send them a few details of your requirements and they will be in touch with suggestions. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.   

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