At a crossroads between two continents and two cultures, Morocco reveals itself to artists as an artistic or personal experience conducive to finding one's self. During one of his travels Jacques Majorelle wrote, "There are scenes of such realism that one forgets one's time and let’s oneself go at living in the Middle Ages".
Morocco is a land of mountains. It's high-level grounds cover more than 100.000 km² and include a dozen summits exceeding 4000 meters. In the south, the mountains give way to the great Sahara Desert, which stretches until sub-Saharan Africa. Mule tracks are often the only link between the Berber villages, which lay hidden in the valleys, or between the settlements in each oasis. The only way to visit these regions and to learn about the proud and welcoming population, which has kept its ancestral traditions, is by Land Rover and by foot.
Morocco deserves more than just a short trip to fully discover its variety and splendor. The following recommendations are tips and must sees for those who have little time available or who wish to visit the main attractions.
Scenes of such realism that one forgets one's time
What is there to do and see?
The Mountain Ranges and passes of Morocco are particularly attractive for their contrast in nature and diversity. The diversity of the land makes it possible to find many activities, according to the season, that corresponds to everyone's liking. Toubkal (4165m) is the highest summit in Northern Africa and its ascent remains by far the most appreciated. The ochre or bluish massifs of the Anti-Atlas offer the most unusual scenery and have been recently discovered by western trekkers. Possibilities for treks include: Mule-back, mountain bike, or camel expeditions with overnight stays in a mountain hut or bivouac depending on the route and the season.
The north-east trade winds that blow on the Atlantic coast offer highly appreciated spots for surfers. Essaouira is the most well known but there are also Mehdia, Taghazout, Minleft and Sidi Bouzid. Along the coast, you will appreciate the slow, friendly pace of coastal life combined with the excitement of water sports. Windsurfers will enjoy Essaouira and the Dar Bouzza Beach south of Casablanca. And recently, Kite Surfing has gained popularity in these sleepy yet charming towns.
Skiing the Atlas of Oukaimden (75km from Marrakesh). For passionate skiers, what could be more thrilling than skiing in Africa! The Oukaimden winter ski resort is located at an altitude of 2,600m and is open from January to April. It offers ski runs for all levels in an area of 300 hectares. The Michliffen ski resort near Ifrane is of more modest proportions, but still offers a great experience in the Atlas Mountains. Outside the snow season, Oukaimden offers hand gliding, rock climbing or trekking.
Morocco is renowned for its beautiful golf courses where regular international tournaments are organized. For amateurs, it is an occasion to combine sport and discovery all year long. With the backdrop of the Atlas Mountains and surrounded by Palm Trees, the serenity of the landscape serve to calm the nerves after that occasional miss hit!
A stroll in the maze of the souks (shops and merchant booths) can sometimes prove to be a challenge but getting lost in them is a pleasure. Try to barter if you want to do some shopping. It is a well-rooted tradition in the Arab countries but may turn into a nightmare if you are unaware of the usual prices. A preliminary visit to a cooperative or good advice of a local will prove useful to avoid being taken for a fool.
What about the food?
The richness of the Moroccan cuisine, reputed to be one of the best in the world, is a sheer joy of the senses. The multiple ingredients of the tagines and the sweetness of the cakes are staples of the Moroccan cuisine that never lacks creativity.
One can enjoy small restaurants and famous tables with a wide range of prices. Places that attract too many tourists are to be avoided for they may leave you with an insipid souvenir of Moroccan cuisine.
Sightseeing can be incredibly expensive and it helps to plan so that you're not surprised by hidden fees & cost. Individually, attractions may not charge much, but together they can quickly add up to a significant cost. Likewise, travel expenses to and from popular tourist locales can also take a bite out of your pocketbook. The money you spend on admissions and travel is money you won't be able spend on accommodations, souvenirs, and meals. Be smart and link all of your adventures together in a guided tour, so that you can get the best deal.
In addition to cost savings, a guided tour will usually allow you to bypass long lines and receive priority admission to all of the best attractions.
Enjoying Morocco starts with nothing more strenuous than its national pastime – people-watching in a street cafe with a coffee or a mint tea. Use the opportunity to plan your next moves – hiking up North Africa’s highest peak, learning to roll couscous, camel trekking in the desert, shopping in the souqs or getting lost in the medina. Either way, enjoy your adventure.