Morocco is a country in northern Africa that features unique sights and experiences for all travel styles. When I visited, I was amazed at how much there was to explore – the lively sounds of the markets, the tastes of flavorful spices, the feel of gentle hands during a neck massage and the spiritually felt at a sacred mosque.
More than just your average tourism trip, Morocco takes you on a journey of the mind, body and senses. Your eyes will be opened to a new culture and you will get the chance to visit beautiful and enlightening places that will transform your outlook on life.
Designed in the 1920s by French furniture maker Jacques Majorelle and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 1980s, the Majorelle Garden (pictured) is a 12-acre botanical garden in Marrakech. The site is brimming with unusual tropical flowers, cacti and shocking displays of Yves Klein blue. Stroll through this exotic and vibrant garden, take in the unique aromas and visit Yves Saint Laurent’s resting place.Taste
Originated from the Berber people, the native inhabitants of Morocco, tagine is Morocco’s unofficial national dish. Cooked in a conical clay pot of the same name, tagine is comparable to a slow-cooked stew with different tender meats, vegetables and sauces.
A typical Moroccan tagine is made of chicken, preserved lemons, onions and potatoes. Learn to make them in a cooking class like the one at La Maison Bleue in Fez.
Relax in a traditional Moroccan hammam, which begins with a steam bath and is followed by an exfoliating body scrub and polish with black soap made from argan nuts. The experience ends with a relaxing argan oil massage. Visiting a hammam is part of the daily life in Morocco and is used to de-stress, cleanse and relax the body. Visitors can find hammams in almost every town in Morocco and in many hotels and riads.
Visit an argan oil cooperative near the coastal city of Essaouira and experience how all-women cooperatives make argan oil from argan nuts using the same technique that has been passed down for centuries. Argan oil is used in a wide range of beauty products for skin and hair, and for cooking. This area of Morocco is the only place in the world where the argan tree grows.
Make a trip to the majestic Mosque Hassan II set on the Atlantic shore of Casablanca. The seventh largest mosque in the world, Mosque Hassan II is the only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims are permitted to enter. The mosque can hold up to 105,000 worshippers at once and guided tours are offered to non-Muslim visitors in several different languages throughout the day.
Enjoy the mysticism and magic of Marrakech’s famed square, Djemaa el-Fna. Djemaa el-Fna comes alive in the evening with music, cobra charmers, acrobats and merchants selling dates, dried figs, almonds, walnuts and other foods. As dusk falls, the square becomes an open-air dining area packed with stalls lit by gas lanterns and the air is filled with wonderful smells of Moroccan spices and plumes of cooking smoke spiraling up into the night.
Stroll the narrow alleyways and cobblestone streets of the souk in Marrakech, the largest in Morocco. Visitors can buy traditional Moroccan clothing and crafts from artisanal vendors selling from stalls and small shops. The most popular items – many handcrafted on site in the souk – include Berber carpets, hammered-metal lanterns and traditional Moroccan pottery.
While in Morocco, rest your head in a guest room at a Riad – a traditional Moroccan house with an interior courtyard and fountain. Hidden behind an unassuming door in the Medina (old city) of Marrakech, Dar Les Cigognes is an example of a traditional riad-turned guesthouse. It features 11 guest rooms off a sunny courtyard with orange trees and a gurgling fountain. Marrakech is brimming with hundreds of riads that provide peaceful hideaways from the bustling souk.
Witness traditional male craftsman producing one-of-a-kind leather goods from start to finish. These artisans employ techniques dating back to the medieval times in the world’s oldest leather tannery in the Imperial city of Fez. Tour the famous tanneries and dye pits, bursting with vibrant color, in Fez’s ancient Medina, which date back to the eleventh century.
Morocco provides some of the most diverse options for outdoor adventures and sports – ski the Atlas Mountains in Oukaimeden, surf the Atlantic waves in Agadir or sand board the dunes of the Sahara Desert near Ouarzarzate. Due to Morocco’s unique location and terrain, travelers can visit a ski resort in the Atlas Mountains by morning and end their day soaking up the sun on the beaches of Agadir. Visitors to Morocco also have the option to golf, kite surf, horseback ride and more.
For a visual idea of this sensory and spiritual journey through Morocco, check out the gallery blow.
[image via Jessie on a Journey]