Video Of The Day: The Maghreb In Motion

Morocco is a country that awakens in the photographer a desire for adventure,” writes Spanish filmmaker Enrique Pacheco in his introduction to this short film. The title of the film, “The Maghreb,” is a reference to the region of Northwest Africa that is highly influenced by the Middle East. Pancheco, who has been working in video production for more than 10 years, also noted his trip to the country was one of the most rewarding and enriching he has taken on so far, both because he traveled solo and because of the magnificent footage he was able to capture. From ancient mosques to arid desert landscapes, each frame of this video is breathtaking. If you like what you see, the cinematographer will be offering a motion picture workshop in Morocco this October. Not a bad idea, especially because the country was just rated one of the friendliest places for tourists to visit.

Galeries Lafayette in Morocco receives first Guinness World Record for largest in-store shop facade

morocco mallThe Galeries Lafayette, a department store in Casablanca, Morocco, has received an award from the Guinness Book of World Records for having “the largest in-store shop façade”. The façade has a combined area of 36,402.68 square feet (about 46 feet high and almost 791 feet wide) that takes over the three story store located in the Morocco Mall.

The Galeries Lafayette is set to open on December 5, 2011, along with the Morocco Mall itself.

While winning the Guinness Book of World Records spot is exciting, it is also worth noting that the Morocco Mall is the first destination mall in Africa and is being built as an economic development initiative of the Mediterranean Region, Southern Europe, and Africa. Construction began in 2007 and the mall is said to be on of the five largest in the world. People visiting the Morocco Mall will be immersed in a world of shopping and entertainment and will be able to visit the third musical fountain to be built in the world.

For more information on the Morocco Mall, click here.

Coming attractions: Morocco

Morocco isn’t exactly off-the-beaten-path for many Europeans– in fact, this North African country lies only eight miles away from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar. But it’s a world away in terms of culture, language, religion, geography, and just about everything else.

Americans, who are much more scarce in Morocco than Europeans, are missing out on perhaps the world’s safest Muslim country, a small but varied landscape filled with mountains, valleys, deserts, beaches, and the most hospitable people you’ll probably ever meet.

The best way to see Morocco is by spending time with the people who actually live there. Even more so than in other countries, Morocco offers a whole range of experiences to locals (and friends of locals) that are simply not available to casual tourists. The markets, for example, are notoriously labyrinthine, and only locals will know the best places to shop and eat. Going shopping with a local will keep you from getting out-haggled by a canny carpet vendor, and eating a traditional meal– with delicious bread, olives, dates, tajine, and couscous– in a Moroccan family’s home is an experience unlike any other.If you want to spend time with native Moroccans, I cannot recommend Couchsurfing enough. Over a thousand locals– in the imperial city of Fes, the booming metropolis of Casablanca, in spectacular Marrakesh, and dozens of other cities– are registered on Couchsurfing and they’re eager to show you around their country.

Whether you stay with a local or not, here are some of the places in Morocco you absolutely shouldn’t miss:

  • Marrakesh, with its one-of-a-kind Djemaa el Fna (pictured above), a massive central square that buzzes at night with snake charmers, impromptu boxing matches, magicians, and some of the best street food you’ll ever taste.
  • Chefchaouen, a northern hill town known for its light blue color (pictured right) and the kif (hashish) that grows in its surrounding fields
  • The imperial city of Fes, home to the mesmerizing medina of Fes el Bali
  • The intimidating, gritty, and still sorta’ charming port town of Tangier, where travelers just off the ferry from Spain disembark– and are confronted with indefatigable taxi drivers and touts.
  • The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the world’s largest mosque outside of Mecca and Medina. Daily tours (except Friday) offer non-Muslims a rare chance to peek inside the usually off-limits place of worship for Muslims.
  • Beautiful Essaouira and Agadir, coastal towns that offer visitors Atlantic beaches, wonderful weather, and tasty seafood. They’re also great places to begin an excursion into the Sahara Desert just to the south.

GET THERE

Ferries travel daily from Algeciras and Tarifa in southern Spain to the Moroccan port town of Tangier. The ride lasts about an hour and is inexpensive.

As for air travel, Morocco’s main hubs are Casablanca and Rabat. Flights are also available to Marrakesh, Agadir, Fes, and several other cities.

For more up-and-coming destinations, check out the rest of Gadling’s series “Coming Attractions” here.

Five new travel ideas from Intrepid: get off the beaten path!

After a year of “travel slumps,” “staycations” and other cringeworthy words and conditions, let’s plan to get out on the road next year. Hey, economists are saying that the recession’s already over, and the job market’s recovery can’t be too far behind. So, there’s your motive. Opportunity? That’s your vacation time; you probably have enough. All that’s left to pull the perfect trip together are the means … which Intrepid Travel is happy to provide.

Intrepid Travel has big news for next year, from green travel to exciting excursions in Iceland and North Africa. So, if you’re looking for some ideas for 2010, check out the five below. Intrepid’s definitely making it interesting.

1. Travel green: carbon offset
Intrepid Travel is moving more than 500 of its trips to “Carbon Offset” next year. In 2009, the company played around with the idea on 38 excursions, after having announced in December 2006 that it wanted to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010. With next year’s offering, Intrepid is certainly making progress.

2. Timor-Leste: tops for adventure
Spend 15 days in Dili and its markets, trekking out to Mt. Ramelau and wandering the Suai-area rainforest. Timor-Leste hasn’t been swamped with tourists yet, redefining “off the beaten path.” If you’re looking for the sort of experience where Intrepid excels, this is it.

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3. Cairo to Casablanca: epic journey
Travel through Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as you see North Africa virtually from end to end. Along the way, you’ll trace the routes of legendary rulers and see how civilizations unfolded and fell. For 39 days, you will gain an incredible understanding of this part of the world.

4. Johannesburg: the urban experience
Intrepid’s Urban Adventures package provides short bursts of insight — from half an afternoon to a full day. Use this time to explore the South African capital on foot or by bicycle. This is a great way to get a quick taste before planning your longer excursion later.

5. Iceland: value for money
Despite the cold fall and winter seasons, Iceland‘s economy still melted down, actually making it an affordable destination. So, get the most of your experience on the ground, starting with the 22 percent discount on Intrepid’s trip up north next year. The 10-day run is available in June, July and August.

[Photo via Migrant Blogger]

Expect to wait, but not in Japan or Korea

The worst airport delays in the world, of course, are those that affect you. If I’m stranded at LaGuardia‘s Marine Air terminal for a short hop to Boston, I really don’t care what’s going on over at JFK, O’Hare or anywhere else. However, some airports are more likely to inspire your anger than others, so it’s a pretty good idea to know which are the worst.

If you are headed to India or Europe, it seems, you should build a bit of extra time into your travels. India takes the top (or, lowest?) spot for the second year in a row, according to MSNBC. Mumbai‘s Chhatrapati Shivaji International is the worst of the worst; only 50 percent of its flights hit the ground on time last year. In New Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport had only a 51 percent success rate. Fortunately, both are expanding, with the latter having opened a new airport in October. Bangalore, which ranked fourth, has added a new airport.

Flight congestion is the culprit in arrival delays. But, it isn’t impeding departures. In Bangalore, for example, 80 percent of departures were on time, but only 60 percent arrived on time.

You can get out; you just can’t get in.

India isn’t the only country with arrival delays. Airports with tough on-time arrival rates include:

  • Casablanca‘s Mohammed V International Airport: 54 percent
  • Orio al Serio Airport near Bergamo, Italy: 61 percent
  • Birmingham Airport in England: 63 percent
  • London‘s Luton and Heathrow Airports: both 63 percent on time

And, in my neighborhood, it pays to bring a book with you to LaGuardia or Newark Liberty International. Both fail to impress, with on-time arrival rates of only 62 percent.

Now, if you’re looking for a bit of efficiency, try Japan or Korea. Every airport in each of these countries has an on-time arrival and departure percentage of at least 82 percent.

[Via MSNBC]