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19 Tips for Visiting Marrakech

It’s historic, colorful, brimming with culture, and probably a lot different from your hometown. Marrakech was once an imperial city, leaving it filled with stunning mosques, gardens, and palaces. It’s a medieval city, protected by an aging wall, and keeping to its roots with bustling souk culture. Marrakech is a dream for those who love art, shopping, photography, and history. If you’re planning a trip, here are 19 tips for visiting Marrakech. Keep these in mind for a holiday that’s all smooth sailing.

Keep Plenty of The Local Currency With You

The local currency is the Moroccan Dirham and it is what you must use when making purchases. While a few places will accept Euros now and then, make the Dirham a priority in your wallet. Before leaving the airport, you can exchange your currency with no fee. The vendors in the souks typically only take cash, and the hotels and medinas are cash heavy too. Plus, many of the locals will ask for tips after providing services, so having cash on hand is useful. And, since ATMs are scarce, make sure to take out large amounts of cash when you do find one.

Try Staying in a Riad Within The Medina Walls

People who have visited Marrakech say that no trip is complete without this authentic experience. Even if you prefer hotels, it’s recommended to try a Riad for a night. A Riad is a traditional Moroccan home with its own interior courtyard. Many of them come with swimming pools, sunny terraces, and a complimentary breakfast.

Marrakech

Dress Modestly

While Morocco can get extremely hot during the summer, do your best to dress modestly, especially if you are a woman. This is part of the country’s culture and religion, and as a guest, you should do your best to respect their customs. Showing off shoulders, cleavage, and knees could be offensive to the locals, so try to keep covered up when possible. This is especially important to keep in mind when visiting religious sites.

See The Tanneries  

The tanneries are some of the most visually stunning, colorful, and interesting sights in the city. You’ll find them in the northeast of the medina, and there are sure to be locals who offer to bring you to them. You can stand on one of the terraces and watch the locals hard at work below as they dip cloths into colorful pools of water. This will give you a chance to see how many of the items in the markets are made. The tanneries are especially a treat for photographers who can easily get amazing shots.

tannery

Be Aware Of Taxi Scams 

Taxi scams are big business in Marrakech and you don’t want to fall prey to one. Make sure to ask someone at the airport for the normal rates. Tourists should expect to pay more, but many of the taxis inflate their prices to preposterous amounts. Some taxis will claim that you won’t find a cheaper option. But, if they don’t come down in price, just be prepared to walk away. And, try to make sure you solidly negotiate a price before getting in. If you can arrange a taxi through the airport, this is much easier than trying to get one on your own.

Get Prepared to be Lost but Learn to be OK With That

Getting lost in Marrakech is to be expected. If you’re the kind of person who gets frustrated and upset when you can’t find your way, try to go into it with an open mind. The narrow streets and busy souks are easy places to lose your way. But, you’ll end up finding some true gems while you try and get back on track. Many tourists say that the signs are hard to read or aren’t correct. however, you’ll usually come across a large tourist attraction that will help you navigate. And, you can easily find a taxi to take you back to your hotel.

marrakech market

Haggle in The Markets

Between the souks and the colorful souvenirs, you’ll probably want to do some shopping in Marrakech. If you do, be prepared to haggle. The vendors will quote you outrageous prices, mostly because you are a tourist. Haggling is also a common practice in the culture, so prices start high as vendors expect you to make counter offers. If you can’t agree on a price, just walk away. It’s highly likely that the vendor will give you what you ask for instead of losing the sale altogether. And don’t forget, keep things polite. You don’t want to insult the locals.

Don’t Drink The Tap Water

The water in Marrakech isn’t all that safe to drink, especially if you aren’t used to it. Avoid tap water and ice made from tap water as much as possible. Buy bottled water and make sure to keep some on hand as you are wandering around the city.

 moroccan man

Try Speaking The Local Language

You can certainly get by on English, but many of the locals speak French and Arabic. If you can learn a few words in the local language, you may get more respect and better prices. If Arabic is too much of a challenge, try to brush up on your French. It will get you a whole lot further.

Watch Out For Pickpockets

Like any bustling city, there are pickpockets lurking in the crowds. Make sure to wear a money belt under your clothes or to keep your backpack on your front. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep a backup credit card and extra cash in your hotel room. Be especially alert while in the markets, wandering around the medina or at busy tourist attractions. As long as you take precautions and pay attention to what’s going on around you, you shouldn’t have any problems.

marrakech medina

Be Careful in The Medina at Night

This is especially true for women, but everyone should take precaution. While the area is not inherently dangerous, it is a place where locals may prey on tourists. There is a lot of poverty going on in Marrakech, which makes tourists with money look like appealing targets. Travel in numbers, stick to crowded areas, and avoid the Medina if you are alone.

Be Careful When Taking Photos

This is probably not that obvious to most visitors, but taking photos is kind of a big deal in Marrakech. It’s considered rude to take photos of the locals without their permission. In Morocco, they believe that photos capture their soul. So, it could be quite devastating to someone to have their photo taken if they aren’t expecting it. Also, avoid taking pictures of animal performers or snake charmers in the main square. The owners of these operations may demand a hefty fee from you for the privilege of taking photos. And, be inconspicuous when taking photos of shops or stores. Many of the owners may ask you to give them money or buy something for using their shop as your photo subject.

 taking photo

Don’t Trust The Advice of The Locals In All Situations

There are plenty of nice, generous, and helpful locals in Marrakech, however, there are some malicious ones too. If someone offers you advice without you asking for it, just be wary. You may encounter men in the street who will tell you that your hotel is closed. Then, they may try to lead you to an alternative, most likely their family’s hotel or Riad. This can happen with restaurants and shops too. Other times, someone will tell you that a street is closed and offer to direct you another way. However, they may aggressively demand a tip for being your guide afterwards.

Try The Food in The Markets/ Night Markets

The food in the markets is generally safe to eat and is much cheaper than in the restaurants. Try the snail soup which has a well-spiced and very flavorful broth. The snails are usually very tender as well. Enjoy a B’stilla, which is savory pie with flaky layers. It usually has some kind of fish or pigeon inside. It also has eggs and almonds, and is a treat that is both savory and sweet. Chebakia is a fried sesame cookie that is shaped like a flower and covered in syrup or honey. Ma’gooda are potato balls that are deep fried and often covered in a spicy harissa sauce. And Harira is a traditional soup that is served throughout the year. It features noodles, lentils, chickpeas, and sometimes has meat.

Marrakech Medina Food

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings at all Times

The streets of Marrakech are busy and crowded, leaving you vulnerable to a lot of danger. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sounds and sights, but stay alert, especially to the traffic. There will be taxis, motorbikes, carts, and donkeys that could easily knock you over if you aren’t paying attention. And, since the city tends to be crowded and busy, make sure that you and your travel partner have a way to contact each other if you get seperated.

Get Ready For Heat If Visiting in The Summer

It’s sunny and hot most of the year, but especially in summer. Make sure to prepare for the high temperatures by bringing a water bottle with you and wearing loose, light clothing. Opting for a Riad with a pool is a great idea if you want to retreat from the heat during your stay. Despite the hot weather, remember that Morocco is a Muslim country so women should not show too much skin, you can find out more about what to wear here.

pool marrakech

Experience The Jemaa el-Fna 

This is one of the most famous public squares in the city. It’s a place that really captures the culture and feel of Marrakech. You’ll stumble upon snake charmers, entertainers, henna tattoo artists, and stalls full of street food. It can be found within the medina and is usually brimming with locals and tourists. This is one of the best spots for people watching and sampling the local cuisine. While a visit during the day is eventful, it’s in the evening when this square truly comes to life. You’ll come across magicians, storytellers, dancers, and even more food stalls offering treats and unusual snacks. It’s a Marrakech experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Visit The Jardin Majorelle

Created by French painter, Jacques Majorelle, this is one of the top attractions in Marrakech. Over 40 years he infused this garden with art and creativity to make it what it is today. There are more than 300 species of plants and a maze of small streams, tiny alleyways, and beautiful trees. It really is a magical place with an intriguing history. The entire place is two and half acres and it has been bringing in visitors since the 1920s. It used to be the home of Majorelle and his wife until they divorced. Then, it was taken over by fashion designers who restored its beauty and continued to allow public entry. There are a few museums on site as well so you can make a day out of it.

Jardin Majorelle

Try a Hammon 

A Hammon is a traditional bathhouse and a great way to experience the local culture. It can be a bit intimidating for visitors as the custom is to strip down with a group of strangers. However, if you can gather up the courage to try one, there are a ton of health benefits. Males and females are separated and before you can enter, there will be someone to wash you. These facilities tend to overcharge tourists so be careful about which one you choose. Locals typically pay 50 to 100 dirhams so try not to pay much more than that.

Marrakech is brimming with colorful sights, sounds, culture, history, and natural beauty. As a travel destination, it really has it all. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s likely that you’ll find it in Marrakech. Travel in Marrakech has its challenges, but so do most places in the world. So, arm yourself with these tips, and enjoy your travels.

Morocco’s Mountain Ranges: The Ultimate Guide

With the dazzling sights of Marrakech, the pretty coastline in Agadir, or the romantic draw of Casablanca, it’s easy to become distracted by all the amazing things that Morocco has to offer. Its cities are magical, each with their own unique charms and they give travellers a sense of the exotic through their colourful souks and bustling night bazaars.

But for those who really want to get off the beaten track, there’s much more to Morocco than its urban settlements. The mountain ranges are home to some of the country’s most isolated communities. It’s a Pandora’s Box of history, tradition and culture waiting to be unlocked. And with mind-blowing views and challenging climbs, the mountains of Morocco can offer you and your group an epic trekking experience. Here is our ultimate guide for anyone in search of their next hiking expedition.

The Rif Mountains

Tucked away in Morocco’s far north, the Rif Mountains are an almost forgotten destination. Despite its beauty and the wonderful views that come with the journey, this mountain range is by far the lesser known of them all, receiving fewer visitors than anywhere else in the country. So if you’re looking for something different that no-one else has accomplished before, this is the place to begin your trek.

Whilst The Rif isn’t quite the challenge of The High Atlas Mountains and the Toubkal National Park, it’s still worth visiting. The views of limestone cliffs and gorges as you ascend will certainly beguile you, and there’s a laidback vibe here suitable for even beginners. A hike to up Jebel al-Kalaa (8,058 ft.), the Rif’s biggest peak, will take a full day.

Interesting Facts:

During your trek, you may come across a number of cannabis fields. These can be avoided if you speak to your guide beforehand. Morocco produces over a third of all hashish sold around the world, and these farms are key to the Berber community’s survival; for many of the villages, it’s their only form of income.

Tips for Trekking:

A popular starting point for most travellers is the city of Chefchaouen, known as the gateway to The Rif. Not only does Chefchaouen give you the easiest access point, but it’s also a fine destination that deserves at least a few days of your time. Known as ‘The Blue City’, Chefchaouen is recognised for its blue-washed stone buildings – it’s a photographer’s dream. Another good base is the port city of Tetouan, best known for its UNESCO listed medina.

Where to Stay:

There are many short half day or full day treks, meaning that you can stay in Chefchaouen or Tetouan without the need to camp. If you want a longer excursion, you can also find plenty of spots to camp just off the trails of Talassemtane National Park or further west in Al-Hoceima National Park.

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High Atlas Mountains

The High Atlas Mountain Range is perhaps the most popular choice for many travellers looking for a physical challenge. There are over 400 summits that have an elevation of up to 10,000 ft. and a number which are over 13,000 ft. So if you want a destination with tall peaks and mind-blowing views from the top, High Atlas is a great option for walkers.

This region is relatively well serviced in terms of guest houses, restaurants and professional tour operators, and a bit of forward planning can ensure a very smooth trip. Whilst the Atlas Mountains have become rather well known in recent years, they still remain relatively untouched. So it will never feel crowded here, even during peak travel periods.

With the region’s high elevations, there are also a number of trails that are still feasible for the average hiker. And many of the routes can be achieved without the need for advanced mountain skills such as rock climbing. Even the highest peak up Mount Toubkal (13,665 ft.) doesn’t require technical skills, so people of all levels and abilities can enjoy trekking within this range.

Additionally, the High Atlas region is a wonderful location for mountain biking or even horse riding. Many mountain biking guides can take you out for a half or full day, whilst horse riding trips can provide a fantastic alternative to exploring on foot.

high atlas

Interesting Facts:

The entire Atlas Mountain Range stretches over 1,600 miles through Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Unlike other mountain ranges, this one is not a series of continuous peaks but a collection of mountains that are separated by large areas of land. Toubkal is the tallest summit, not only in Morocco but also in the whole of North Africa. Oukaimeden, which is near Jebel Toubkal, is also the country’s largest and most popular ski resort!

Tips for Trekking:

For a good base or starting point, head over to the small town of Ouirgane or the village of Imlil. Both of these locations offer a number of different trails. Ouirgane has plenty of variety whilst Imlil is ideal for longer and more linear hikes. There are also a number of convenient day trips leaving from the city of Marrakech.

Where to Stay:

Good guest houses are easy to find in the area of Ouirgane as well as in Imlil Village. Many of these houses come with spacious double rooms, swimming pools and even Hammam spas. Prices tend to be very affordable and service is always excellent. Many of these guest houses will also feature restaurants, serving up traditional Moroccan food made with fresh ingredients sourced from the souks of the surrounding neighbourhoods.

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Middle Atlas Mountains

They call it the ‘Land of Lakes’ and natural beauty just oozes from the Middle Atlas Mountains. This is the place of the untouched, with fewer tourists than the High Atlas or Anti Atlas. And trekkers going through here will get the chance to discover some of Morocco’s most remote villages, as well as the unique wildlife. Within the range lies Ifrane National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and often referred to as ‘Little Switzerland’.

This park features spectacular rows of cedar trees which give it the Alpine resemblance, and it’s also home to much of the country’s endangered species. The range is also home to Tazzeka National Park, an area created in 1950 to protect the natural resources at the top from Jbel Tazekka. Both parks have a wonderful array of flora and fauna, and walkers will get to experience the magical mountain landscape. With its intricate cave systems and deep valleys, beautiful streams and dramatic waterfalls, volcanic hills and coniferous woods, and dales carpeted with wild flowers and plants.

The vast region covers more than 100,000 km2 in total and the highest peak is Jbel Bou Naceur (11,000 ft.), with a number of different trekking routes to suit varying abilities.

Interesting Facts:

Due to the elevation of the mountain range, the Middle Atlas experiences a cool and pleasant climate in the summer and wonderful snowfall in the winter. This unique climate means that Ifrane National Park features one of the few ski resorts in the whole of Africa! Although the runs are short (and not exactly challenging for skiing pros), there are more than 13km of slopes, with 11 ski lifts for guests. The resort was built during the French protectorate, so don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re in an Alpine village in Europe!

Tips for Trekking:

Day trips are common for people staying in Marrakech or Fes. But for independent trips, you can make your start at Sefrou, a small market town with a Berber population. The town of Azrou is also a popular choice, with fantastic souks and medinas to explore.

Where to Stay:

It can be hard to book as places are limited so planning ahead is recommended. Ifrane is a good resort to stay in, particularly if you are after a bit of Alpine-inspired luxury. However, with the close proximity of nearby towns such as Azrou and Sefrou, looking for a place to stay in the mountains isn’t always necessary.

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Anti-Atlas Mountains

Situated between the High Atlas in the north and the desert in the south, the Anti-Atlas region has a different climate to its sisters. Alpine charm and ski resorts do not exist in this arid part of the range, with temperatures between 12°C and 36°C, with a mostly dry and barren landscape.

The biggest draw for hikers is the otherworldly appearance of the range, and this is what attracts climbers from all across the globe. Imagine a world of contrasts, with rocky boulders and lunar topography. With perhaps the biggest attraction being the Ait Mansour Gorge. This is one of the most beautiful oases in North Africa, cutting through colourful vegetation.

Another attraction not to miss in Anti Atlas is the Jebel Siroua, which is an ancient and isolated volcanic peak. It’s got some of the most spectacular 360 views, a superb cliffside village and dramatic terrain.

mountain

Interesting Facts:

Around Tafraoute is home to some works of modern art. You may spot some blue rocks, which were painted by Belgian artist Jean Verame in 1984. It took more than 18 tonnes of paint to complete the project. Today some of the paint has faded, with some of the rocks featuring modern graffiti art instead.

Tips for Trekking:

The months of September and May are the best times to visit if you are hoping for pleasant weather that isn’t too hot. The summer heat can be very intense, which can make it difficult for those who are not used to trekking in such an extreme climate. A good starting point would be Tafraoute and it’s important to understand that the Anti Atlas only has a very basic infrastructure once you begin your journey. So trips need to be well-planned before you go, especially if you are wanting a multi-day trek.

Where to Stay:

Guest houses are available in the village of Oumesnate or for day trips, the modern Berber village of Tafraoute can make a good base. Alternatively, wilderness camping is also possible for those who want to really experience the outdoors. For campers, it’s important to bring warm layers of clothing for when temperatures drop at night.

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Jebel Saghro Mountains

This is a remote and rugged mountain range, located between the High Atlas and the Sahara Desert, and about a 6 hour drive from Marrakech. It offers a fantastic alternative to High Atlas trekking, especially when the snow can prove to be a challenge.  With a relatively mild climate, this is a great all-weather mountain range that can offer spectacular views no matter which direction you choose. Your climb to the top will feature deep gorges and beautiful almond groves, as well as ravines and apexes carved by volcanic activity.

Interesting Facts:

The Jebel Saghro region is home to the Ait Atta Berber people. The Berber tribes can be found living in the region’s two main villages, N’Kob and Tazzarine, which you may come across during your trek. In some parts of the range, you may also stumble upon the prehistoric cave paintings.

Tips for Trekking:

The best time for visiting the Jebel Saghro is in May or October when temperatures are cooler, yet rainfall isn’t particularly high. The months to avoid are the peak summer months when it can be as hot as 40°C in the day. The two nearby towns of Boumaine du Dades and Kelaa M’Gouna can make good starting points. The famous Sahro Loop will take you around five days.

Where to Stay:

In terms of accommodation, there are only a few good guesthouses, mostly limited to the village of N’Kob. You may also find a small number of village houses across the range. But the best way to truly experience the Saghro is to camp beneath the stars. You will find plenty of wilderness camping spots and you will encounter very few tourists here.

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If you’d like to discuss planning your visit to Morocco’s incredible mountain ranges, do get in touch with our knowledgeable team today.

Here Are the Best Things to Do in Marrakech (37 of them!)

Colourful hanging carpets, whiffs of spice as you walk through the souk (market), and camels elegantly crossing sand dunes is what comes to mind when you think of Morocco.

But that would be just another touristy day that anyone can do. We want you to taste Morocco for what it really is, in its detail. That’s why we’re handing you on a silver plate the best things to do in one of its most culture-intense cities, Marrakech.

1. Medina

The first thing you have to do in Marrakech is put on your comfortable shoes and head to the Medina. Walk under the archways and through its alleys, and absorb the life around you. Take in the browns of the stone the city was built with, the sound of locals talking to each other, the aromas splurging out of the food stalls…

A word of warning though: keep an eye out for cars and horse carts, they’re everywhere!

2. Djemaa El-Fna

Follow the old city walls of the Medina to get to the main square, Djemaa El-Fna. If you’re there during the day, try a fresh orange or grapefruit juice from one of the carts.

At night, as the temperature cools down, people start sprouting out from everywhere and the square fires into a vivid atmosphere.

Sit at one of the shared tables and eat a Harira, a pea, lamb and pasta soup. This is the same soup Moroccans eat for breakfast to break their fast and celebrate the end of Ramadan.

oranges

3. Hat for the Heat

If the heat starts getting to you, look for women selling straw hats. You’ll bless the few dollars you pay for it as it blocks the direct sunlight from your head. Is is important to dress appropriately when visiting Morocco to ensure that you feel comfortable.

4. Saadian Tombs

These tombs were discovered in 1917 and subsequently restored, but date back to the same era of Ahmad al-Mansur.

When visiting, admire cedar wood, stuccowork and Carrara marble decorating the tombs of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty, who came from the valley of the Draa River.

There are three rooms to go through with twelve columns, but what’s interesting is just outside is a garden with the graves of various soldiers and servants.

5. Marrakech Museum

This classical Andalusian-style house, Dar Menebhi Palace, was renovated and converted into a museum in 1997. Walk around the fountains in the central courtyard, admire the mosaics, carvings and tile work around you, then head towards the exhibits – pottery, coins, historical books – from every period of Moroccan history, Islamic, Berber and Moroccan.

6. Souks

Once your belly is nice and full and your head covered, head to one of the endless labyrinths that surround Djemaa El-Fna. You’ll find countless souks where you can buy leather, spices beautifully decorated in huge colourful cones, the local shoes – babouches. But probably the most hypnotising thing to do in a souk is walk into a carpet house. Be ready to have various carpets flung open in front of you, until you fall in love with one.

babouches

7. Barter

Of course, once you decide to buy any item in the souk, you’ll need to barter. Here are a couple of hints:

• Start by greeting the shop owners when you walk in: ‘Salam alek um’, to which they’ll reply ‘Alek um salam’. A little friendliness never hurt negotiations.
• Remember, it’s always a 3-step process. They’ll give you a price, you give them another, and it’ll always be somewhere in between the two. Keep that in mind when shooting your price – don’t say what you’d really pay, but a little under.

8. Walking Tours

There’s no better way to get to know a place than to walk around it. You have the time to look around, hear what’s around, and smell what’s around. It’s a fully sensual experience that you can take up on your own. However, in places as rich in culture and history as Marrakech, a walking tour with a local guide will dive you into much deeper layers than you’d imagine.

9. The Mellah

Also known as the Jewish quarter, the Mellah isn’t a souk but is probably the best place in the Medina to buy fabric.

10. Have Tailormade Clothes Made

Find a tailor, tell them what you’d like made, be advised on how much fabric you need, then go to buy it in the souk. Doing this will save you from the fabric seller overselling unneeded lengths.

A jilab with a touch of your own style is a great idea for a souvenir to take back home.

11. Visit a Riad and Have a Mint Tea

When you feel like a break, stop at one of the old aristocratic houses usually turned into a boutique hotel, a Riad. Ask for a mint tea and enjoy watching the ritual of the tea, as the waiter pours it three times until it reaches the perfect foam on top.

mint tea

12. Rue Bab Agnao

For a calmer atmosphere, head on a 5-minute walk to the entrance of the Kasbah district, the Rue Bab Agnao, which is the most impressive of the Medina’s entrances, with less hustle and bustle and better-kept streets.

Once there, visit the Royal Palace, the former El-Badi Palace, and the Saadian Tombs.

13. El Badi Palace

Built in 1578 by the Arab Sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur, from the money of a substantial ransom paid after the Battle of the Three Kings by the Portuguese, this now-ruined palace has turned into a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech. Make sure you get there before 4pm to have time to enjoy it before closing time at 5pm.

14. Jardin Majorelle

Created in the 1920s and 30s by the French expatriate Jacque Majorelle, this 12-acre botanical garden sprinkled with brightly painted walls and plant holders also houses the Islamic Art Museum, the archaeological museum of Marrakech.

15. Bahia Palace

When Si Moussa, the grand vizier of the sultan built this palace at the end of the 19th century, he meant it to be the greatest palace of its time. Named after one of his wives in the harem, the rooms intended for the concubines surround the central basin.

16. Boucharouite Museum

This museum holds interesting Berber boucharouites, rugs made out of rugs, and a gallery with Moroccan popular art including painted doors. If you feel like eating something light, head upstairs to the terrace.

17. Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret

This mosque and minaret have welcomed visitors of Marrakech with their overpowering height for close to a thousand years. The name comes from the Arabic ‘bookseller’, which is interesting because it dates to the 1200s when books were still unknown in the Christian world.

morocco

18. Cyber Park, Arsat Moulay Abdeslam

Good place to just sit in the shade to have a break from all the sightseeing and enjoy some free wifi.

19. Dar Si Said

A beautiful museum that oozes nostalgia in every little corner. It mixes old with new in such a way you can see items that were used in the old Hispano-Moorish times, which you can still see in use on the streets of Marrakech simply by walking out of the same museum.

20. Smoke a Shisha

You’ll know when you’re near it. The sweet aroma of the flavoured tobacco will drag you in as if under hypnosis. Just go with it, sit down and let the assistants bring the coal for your Shisha, then just watch as it bubbles and it starts vaporising for you to enjoy. You might not be a smoker, but what you’re doing with this is experiencing an ancient communal ritual, once exclusive to the higher class.

21. Take a Belly Dance Class

Why not? Go on, go get those muscles a good stretch and find out what fun belly dance can be. Don’t take yourself too seriously, simply enjoy the moment and the wisdom of the celebration of the woman’s femininity in all its shapes and forms. After all, everyone in class will probably never ever see you again. Just go for it!

22. Food Tasting

There are tours for food tasting too, but the best thing to do in Marrakech is to walk around the city and follow the best aromas for the best food. Sometimes they’ll be coming from a street vendor cart, other times they’ll come from a small, local eating joint, and sometimes out of lush restaurants. Take your pick! Just try not to end up in someone’s private kitchen.

23. Rahba Kedima Square

A quieter souk. You’ll find souvenirs, spices, and carpets, but what’s most intriguing are the dried up plants and animals!

spices

24. Photography Museum of Marrakech

You’ll find more than 8,000 photographs ranging from 1870 to 1950, including an exhibition of hundreds of old photographs and projection of the very first film recorded in High-Atlas colour, ‘Landscapes and Faces of the High-Atlas’, produced in 1957 by Daniel Chicault.

25. Musee Tiskiwin

Compared to other museums, the Tiskiwin might look small but it’s well-organised and contains insightful information about the history of Marrakech and its region, including artefacts from past centuries that will make you look at the city with fresh eyes.

26. Mouassine Museum

If you like old buildings, this is a museum you shouldn’t miss. It’s split into parts, one used by the family and the other open to guests. The most amazing feature of this house is that the plaster was taken off and its original bright colours were restored back to vivid life.

27. Get Lost

Once you plunge into this addictive shopping spree, you’re sure to look up at a certain point and realise you’re lost. Here’s what you have to do – find a narrow door that signals a rooftop café, walk up its winding steps, and from there you’ll be able to (more or less) locate yourself.

marrakech

28. Look for Local Delicacies

Here are some of our favourite dishes we highly recommend you sample:

Moroccan crepe for breakfast, tagine of sardine balls, liver in onion sauce, roasted lamb and of course you have to try some bakery items!

29. Try an Avocado & Date Smoothie

Maybe the most curious refreshment you can get in Marrakech is the avocado and date smoothie.

30. Farmhouse cooking tour

As days go by and you feast on makouda, kefta, zaalouk, cous cous and b’stilla you might end up thinking how you’d miss this food back home. Well, there’s a way to prevent that – learn how to cook some Moroccan dishes, so you can make them back home. Ask around for the best cooking course or tour.

That’s not all. If you fancy stepping out of Marrakech for a while, you can find other fun, active things to enjoy. Here are some:

31. Horse Riding

Visiting the Atlas Mountains while riding on a horse, past Berber villages, and soaking in the landscape of all shades of brown is definitely worth some time away from the city.

32. Palm Grove, Sunset & Camel Ride

The only thing to top that is riding on a camel in Palm Grove, just half an hour out of Marrakech and walking into the sunset as if you were in a postcard or movie.

desert

33. Quad Bike Safari

If riding on the back of animals isn’t your idea of fun, then maybe riding on a four-wheeler might be. Just put on your helmet and ride the sand, through wild palm groves.

34. Hot Air Balloon Ride

Then again, it might be the sky you’re aiming for. Well, nothing in Marrakech is impossible. Book yourself a hot air balloon ride and feel the excitement of elevating away from the ground and going swiftly up, up, up into the sky.

35. Oasiria Water Park

The gardens and pools of the water park are a great idea for a relaxed day away from the heat of the streets, but also a fun place to entertain kids.

36. Get a Flag Beer

Trying the flag beer of every country is a must. In Morocco, you’ll find Casablanca Beer in most of the touristy places. Snap that bottle open; it’s time to freshen up from the heat.

37. Visit a Hammam

Let’s face it, holidaying can be tiring. The good news? In Marrakech, there are various hammams, what we know as a spa. You’ll find varying prices and qualities, but whichever you choose make sure to get a nice scrub, especially to your well deserving feet, then soak into a beautiful massage.

That was our top 37 things to do in Marrakech. Is there something that you love to do in Marrakech that we’ve missed out? Let us know, we always love to hear about your experiences and holidays in Marrakech.

Need any more reasons to visit Marrakech? Get that suitcase ready and, whatever happens in Morocco, remember the 2 magic words: Mashi Muskhi (No problem!)

For more inspiration contact Epic Morocco today and discover more about the enigmatic city of Marrakech and book your trip. 

17 of the Best Beaches in Morocco

While perhaps best known for its towering Saharan dunes, and bustling, colourful souks, Morocco has plenty to offer for the beach-lover too, whether you’re looking for big waves to surf or quality family time. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the northeast, and the wild Atlantic Ocean to the west where you’ll find popular destinations including Tangier and Casablanca, Morocco has some 1,200 miles of frequently stunning coastline to explore.

 

The best thing about Morocco beaches? Many of them are relatively undiscovered, and lie well off the radar of most visitors. Sure you’ll find it hard to find an isolated spot on the most popular beaches within 20 miles or so of Casablanca, but with a little research, you can find charming coastal towns, historic ports and laidback fishing villages with virtually no other travellers in sight.

 

With this guide to the finest beaches in Morocco we’re aiming to provide something for everyone, so if you want to taste the freshest seafood right off the boat in a scenic harbour, find the perfect place for a romantic sunset, or pose for a dramatic photograph framed by mountains and white-tipped waves, then read on.

Legzira

Located between Mirleft and Sidi Ifni, halfway down the Atlantic coast, Legzira is known for its remarkable sandstone geological formations, in particular an immense rock arch spanning the beach – a second, smaller arch, collapsed in 2016, robbing us of a great natural wonder. Widely regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful stretches of sand, Legzira is best seen either at sunrise or sundown, when the surrounding cliffs are tinged with light to provide a stunning backdrop making it one of Moroccos best beaches.

Around five miles in length, Legzira is not where you come for sunbathing. It’s a rocky, windy spot held in awe by surfers and paragliders and while yes, it is fairly touristy, you will still encounter occasional scenes of traditional coastal life here. There is a handful of decent hotels nearby, if you plan to stay for a while, but with Mirleft only 12 miles away, that is definitely your best option.

Legzira

 

Plage Sauvage 

Legzira is the preeminent beach in Mirleft, but far from the only one. Plage Sauvage (Wild Beach) amply rewards those who seek it out – and it does require some tracking down as it’s not at all well-signposted; ask a local for directions. Reached by a walk down from the cliffs, the beach is wonderfully secluded, and as suitable for swimming as it is for surfing. There are no lifeguards here however, so unless you’re a confident swimmer it’s best not to go too far out. The neighbouring beach of Sidi El Ouafi, where there is a surf school, can be reached with an easygoing walk.

 

Rmilat Beach, Asilah

Further up the Atlantic coast, just to the south of Tangier, Asilah is a compact, fortified seaside town that’s popular with Moroccan and Spanish holidaymakers. There is a pleasant, sleepy atmosphere here for most of the year but during the summer months Asilah comes alive and the main town beach is best avoided. Instead, make for Rmilat, also known as Paradise Beach which because it can be quite tricky to access, usually sees far fewer visitors.

About a mile out of town, the best way of getting there is by shared taxi, but you can also enjoy a (slightly bumpy) horse-and-cart journey too for just a handful of dirham. The journey takes around 40 minutes and most drivers are happy to stick around for the rest of the day until you’re ready to return. In summer there are plenty of lunch options, with shacks lining the beach where you can dine on fish tagine and tasty grilled sardines.

 

Asfiha Beach, Al Hoceima

At the northern tip of Morocco, looking out over the Mediterranean with the Rif Mountains at its back, Al Hoceima was developed by the Spanish in the early 20th century and is now a very popular summer resort. You’ll notice that many houses here are distinctively painted either in blue, representing the sky, or white, representing the sea. The area is dotted with pleasant sandy coves and the well-informed traveller will skip the main town beach and instead venture south to Asfiha, or west to Tala Youssef, both of which are usually less crowded. Easily reached from Chefchaouen or Tetouan, Al Hoceima is also good for hiking, with many trails nearby which naturally present stunning views of the coast.

 

Essaouira 

The ancient city of Essaouira was during the 1960s a popular stop on the hippie trail – Jimi Hendrix was one notable visitor, as was Orson Welles a few years earlier – and it’s never lost its appeal. More recently, it has served as a filming location for Game of Thrones. An important cultural and historic destination, the city has a busy souk and is also well-known for the little blue fishing boats that bob on the waves wherever you look. There is plenty to do in Essaouira, and it is especially worth visiting if you are a watersports enthusiast.

 

Sidi Kaouki 

Just to the south of Essaouira, Sidi Kaouki is one of Morocco’s best-kept secrets, an idyllic spot that is renowned for its surf. This Berber village is blissfully tranquil, with little to do beyond hitting the waves or curling up in a hammock during your downtime which is why this is one of our favourite beaches in Morocco. Camels move sedately along the sands, and life goes on much as it has done for centuries. There is a clear European influence here, so you’re advised to brush up on your Spanish as much as your French, especially if you plan to do some bartering in the souk. During the winter, you can walk a little way out of the village to see wild flamingos, and of course if you do feel like an evening out, Essaouira is just up the road.

camel

 

Dakhla

Bordering the western Sahara, Dakhla occupies a narrow peninsular between the Atlantic and a lagoon where wild flamingos perch atop a white sand dune jutting out of the water. A fine place to try freshly harvested Moroccan oysters, the city is within easy reach of many majestic beaches, and at low tide you can even cross over to Dragon Island, where the waves slip back to reveal a variety of colourful seashells. Dakhla is fantastic for foodies, and also for the more adventurous type: there is a highly regarded watersports centre here, and you can take nomadic safaris out into the desert or explore on a quad bike.

 

Ba Kassem, Tangier 

The main reason many people choose to visit Ba Kassem is because of its proximity to the Caves of Hercules in nearby Cape Spartel. Legend has it that Hercules slept in the cave during his 11th labour, and it was thought to be bottomless for many years. To enter the cave for a look around costs just a few dirhams and it’s worth it to photograph your silhouette in the opening looking out over the sea – the shape has a distinct resemblance to that of Africa. After exploring the cave you can retreat back to the calm, sunny beach at Ba Kassem. The waters are a little on the chilly side but the rugged beauty of the coastline more than makes up for it.

 

Saïdia 

Known locally as ‘the Blue Pearl’, Saïdia is one of Morocco’s longest beaches, and certainly ranks among the most beautiful. Situated within touching distance of the Algerian border, there is a wealth of attractions here. You might spend a day exploring the casbah, attend the traditional folk music festival held every August, or simply play a few rounds of golf at one of several nearby courses. The Blue Pearl is as magnificent as it sounds, a glorious stretch of golden Mediterranean sands that you reach by walking through a mangrove forest. Arrive early to get prime position under one of the ample umbrellas.

 

Martil

Just north of Tetouan, Martil is a good spot for those wishing to combine a little beach time with their golfing at Cabo Negro a few miles away. It’s also an easy day-trip from Tangier. We recommend visiting Martil out of season if you’re able, as during the summer months this picturesque spot is a veritable hive of activity. Many choose to wander slowly along the boardwalk, ice cream in hand, or float in the dreamily warm waters while looking back at the green mountains off in the distance. The vibe here is modern and cosmopolitan, and there is no shortage of accommodations and restaurants to suit any budget.

 

Tamara Plage, Rabat 

Most of the beaches around the Moroccan capital do leave a lot to be desired unfortunately, often crowded and poorly maintained. Tamara Plage, about eight miles south of Rabat, is an exception however, a wild Atlantic beach that is lined with villas built by wealthy locals who appreciate a good view when they find one. To be perfectly honest, Rabat is not going to be first on the list if you’re interested in a Morocco beach holiday, but if you are visiting the city and want to spend a day on the sands, Tamara Plage is among the best in the area.

 

rabat

 

Agadir

Agadir needs little introduction. This Atlantic Coast resort is one of Morocco’s most popular beach destinations, and with a large marina, it attracts a stylish, well-heeled crowd. There are also plenty of surfers to be spotted however, the beaches on the outskirts of town offering plenty of good breaks. A crescent-shaped beach is busy whatever the season – Agadir sees over 300 days of sun every year – but our advice is to hire a car or a driver, and follow the surf crowd. There is a wealth of heavenly stretches of sand in the area, from the bohemian Tamraght and Taghazout, to those of Souss Massa National Park where birdwatching is a common activity.

 

Imsouane

This peaceful rural community is situated between Agadir and Essaouira, known for its surfing breaks and a lively fish market. Crab, eel and many more exotic forms of marine life can be seen, and sampled, in the trading hall where visitors rub shoulders with locals hoping to pick something up for the evening meal. What we really love about it is that outside the market you can hand your purchase over to a stall-holder outside the market who will cook it up for you straightaway on an open fire – the aromas are mouthwatering and it’s the ideal way to end a day on the beach.

 

Moulay Bousselham

There’s not much to this small fishing village beyond a sprinkling of shops and cafes along the main street, this is a popular surfing spot during summer but outside of peak season pretty much everything shuts down. However, if you have an interest in Morocco wildlife holidays then Moulay Bousselham should definitely be on your itinerary. Take a sunrise boat trip to the wetlands and you can expect to encounter pink flamingo, heron, sheldrake and many other species of coastal birdlife. A golden sweep of beach offers plenty of glamour, but be warned that this is not a great location for swimming due to a sharp drop-off a little way out.

 

Tamuda Bay 

A great option for family beach holidays in Morocco, Tamuda Bay is on the less-visited eastern coast and has many luxury properties available, as well as more budget-friendly options. The beach slopes softly into the Mediterranean, so it’s perfect for younger children still learning to swim, while teenagers can have fun with watersports, or tackle the slides at the town’s water park.

beach

 

Haouzia Beach, El Jadida 

Around 70 miles to the south of Casablanca lies the port city of El Jadida, which was occupied for two centuries by the Portuguese. Much of the notable architecture here derives from that period, and it’s an interesting place to explore for a few hours. After you’ve done so, take a taxi out of town to Haouzia, a little gem of a beach that’s just remote enough to keep the crowds away but well-known enough that most drivers will know exactly where to go. During lowtide, you’ll have a clear view of a shipwrecked Japanese vessel which makes for a novel seascape.

 

Plage Blanche, Guelmim

We’ve saved the best for last with Plage Blanche, a vast (24 mile) expanse of white sand that is the jewel of the ecological park surrounding it. There are virtually no signs of human civilization in this unique landscape, bar the occasional fisherman’s hut or line of footprints in the sand.

It’s a pristine wilderness that can only be reached by some intrepid off-roading in a 4×4, and if you really want to get away from it all, this is the spot. Bring your board, or a good book, and don’t be surprised if you don’t see another soul for hours. The Sahara begins just behind Plage Blanche, and there is a well-known oasis, Air Bekkou, not far away.

 

If you’d like to discuss planning your visit to Morocco, please do get in touch today; We look forward to hearing from you.

50 Fabulous Facts about Morocco

Snake Charmer by Kevin Gessner

Here is a list of interesting, strange and sometimes funny things that you should know about Morocco before or after your visit. They will make you the toast of the pub quiz!

  • Morocco in Arabic is Al Maghreb which means the place where the sun sets
  • It borders two seas
  • It is only 8 miles from Europe
  • There are no camels in Morocco only dromedaries
  • Berbers make up around 40% of the population
  • The best rapper in the country is called Muslim.  Check him out
  • Morocco is a Muslim country

 

  • The highest peak in the country is Mount Toubkal at 4,167m
  • Friday is couscous day – the equivalent of a Sunday roast
  • It is the only Islamic country where women’s rights are enshrined in the constitution
  • The language spoken is not actually Arabic, it is Darija an Arabic dialect. Think Latin and Italian as a comparator
  • Public displays of affection are not considered appropriate
  • Mint tea is the national drink
  • The old trans-Saharan trade routes from mysterious Timbuktu crossed Morocco taking slaves and gold to Europe. Read the adventure in Morocco to Timbuktu: An Arabian Adventure
  • The most popular girl’s name is Fatima

 

  • Moroccans are football crazy and will talk endlessly about the Premier League in England, the time Morocco beat Scotland in the World Cup and Manchester United. Ask someone if they support Barcelona or Real Madrid and you will have a friend for life
  • Rabat is the capital of the country
  • Ourzazate has a fully-functioning film studio and hundreds of films have shot in Morocco
  • The famous gladiatorial scene in Gladiator was filmed in Ait Ben Haddou
  • Moroccans love cats but don’t like dogs – this comes from the time of the Prophet Mohammed, who felt the same
  • Female mules are more highly prized than males for their strength and good temper
  • The national dress is the jellaba
  • Men wear yellow babouche (slippers) on holidays and feast days
  • King Mohammed Vl is the King of Morocco
  • You can ski in the winter – in Oukaimeden

 

  • Mint tea is often called Berber whisky
  • Berber women tattoo their faces as a decoration and also to show their marital status
  • Morocco has Africa’s first high speed train system (coming soon)
  • There is a huge roadbuilding initiative underway which aims to connect all rural areas by 2020
  • Like Kenya and Ethiopia, Morocco produces lots of world-class runners
  • The toughest footrace on earth, the Marathon des Sables, takes place in Morocco
  • The branch of Islam practised in Morocco is Maliki Islam, known for its moderation
  • Marrakech is called the red city, because of the colour of its houses and walls. It is obligatory in many areas to use the rose-coloured paint
  • Most of Tesco’s tomatoes come from farms in the south near Dakhla
  • Fes used to be one of the main centres of Islam in the whole Arab World
  • Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq meaning “Mountain of Tariq” named after the Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the initial Arab raid into Spain from Morocco
  • Ostrich feathers which were used to decorate the famous Busby, which the soldiers outside Buckingham Palace wear, were traded through Morocco.
  • There IS a Rick’s bar in Casablanca
  • Tangier used to be known as a centre for sex and drugs during the era of Paul Bowles, Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

 

  • Morocco is home to the Barbary Macaque monkey
  • Arranged or semi-arranged marriage is still very common in Morocco
  • The Morocco Mall in Casblanca is the biggest in Africa
  • Under Moroccan Constitutional Law, no party can have an absolute majority
  • The best way to greet people is to say, Salaam alaykum ( peace be upon you)
  • Bread is often used as a fork when eating from a communal dish
  • Tagines are cooked on the stove, or on an open fire, not in the oven
  • There is treasure buried all over the countryside, and sometimes diggers will come during the night to find it, leaving large holes
  • Chefchaouen is Spanish rather than French speaking as it was a Spanish enclave for many years
  • Luisa/Verveine/Verbena tea is good for digestion and for encouraging sleep
  • You should never wear your shoes when walking on someone’s rug or carpet in their home

So, there it is, an eclectic assortment of facts from this fabulous and endlessly interesting country. Time to book your ticket?

This blog was written for Epic Morocco by Alice Morrison, BBC2 Presenter and Author of books about Morocco and Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to wear in Morocco

By Alice Morrison

Picture: Harpers Bazaar

“What should I wear in Morocco?

This is a question that we very often get asked before people come over on holiday and although there is no one correct answer, we will try to give you some good ideas and options for things to pack.

Morocco is a Muslim country but also a modern, developing nation, so the dress code varies a lot depending on whether people are from the cities or the country and whether they have had a modern upbringing or a traditional one. In the countryside and in poorer areas of the city, you will see a lot of traditional dress.

For a Moroccan woman, this is a jellaba (kaftan), a long dress with a hood, and a headscarf. It is relatively unusual here to see women with the full veil, although you do see some women (often widows) wearing lower face veils in the cities.  You may also see women wearing gloves in the summer but don’t be misled, this is not for modesty, it is to stop their hands getting too tanned and looking silly against their white arms. One thing that is definitely Moroccan-chic is to wear a cap or bonnet OVER your headscarf to protect your face from the sun.

Traditional wear for men is also a jellaba. In addition, there is a long shirt and trousers that is worn for special occasions and you might notice that on Fridays or for special holidays, the men wear bright yellow babouches. In the south, the men may wear their headscarves wrapped in to a turban.

Picture by Carol Horowitz: www.imagesofanthropolgy.com

But what should YOU wear?

Hints for women on what to wear in Morocco

There are a couple of things that are very different here. One thing that seems surprising is that the shoulder and top of your arm are considered super- sexy, like the top of a thigh in Europe, so beware the vest top. Obviously, it is best not to show too much chest or cleavage either. Skirts and shorts on the knee are perfectly acceptable in the cities. In the countryside, they are not and you should go for trousers or an over-the-knee skirt. Jeans, including skinny jeans, are almost a uniform with the modern Moroccan girls here, but they tend to wear a longer top if the jeans are tight. It is not necessary to wear a headscarf although you may find a scarf useful against the heat and also to put round your shoulders if you are wearing a skimpier top.  The other thing is to be careful of clothes that are see through. The sun is strong and you may draw the wrong kind of attention if your dress goes transparent in the light.

At the beach, it is absolutely fine to wear a swimsuit or a bikini and likewise at the hotel pool but you will need a cover up for walking around.

Hints for men on what to wear in Morocco

Shorts and T shirts are acceptable to wear in the cities, but don’t go for the hotpants look. Vest tops would be considered underwear. If you are in the countryside then trousers or longer shorts would be better.

What to wear in Morocco in the Summer

In the hot summer months, the sun is absolutely burning hot, so think about covering up rather than leaving your skin exposed to those rays. Maxi dresses, floaty tops and cool trousers are all good bets for women. We find them cooler and less sweaty than shorts and T shirts – sorry guys! you will have to make do.

It is also absolutely acceptable to buy and wear the local jellabas. They are cheap, pretty and very cool and you will get lots and lots of compliments as you walk through the markets. Men, also, might want to invest in a stripey number!

A hat or cap is an absolute necessity and a light scarf is a good idea to put over the back of your neck. You can also wet it and that can help you cool down.

What to wear in Morocco in the Winter

In winter, the days are often clear and sunny but the nights are cold. Remember that houses in Morocco are designed more for the heat, so you may find them chilly. You will definitely need jeans or heavier trousers, a sweater or fleece, closed shoes or boots and a warm jacket for the night time. You might also want to bring something cosy to wear in bed or while in your hotel room.  A warm shawl during the day (there are many to buy in the markets) is handy for when you go out of the hot sun into the shade.

Sports clothing for Morocco

People doing sports get a bit of a free pass when it comes to dressing appropriately. But again a T shirt style rather than a vest top and long leggings or a skort(for women) rather than short shorts would be a good choice.  If you are going to be hiking out in the rural areas then you are better to wear hiking trousers. Likewise, if you are mountain biking in remote areas, pack a pair of baggy overshorts.

Be glamorous!

You will probably see every kind of style and fashion while you are in Morocco. Moroccan girls are absolutely famous for their beauty and they love to dress up so be ready to look good! The men are also very handsome – although a bit too addicted to stonewash jeans. The main thing is to be comfortable in the different weather conditions and also to really enjoy what you wear. Girls, think 70s kaftan glamour, bright prints, gorgeous colours and maybe even a sequin or tassle or two for the evening.

Have fun!

This piece is by Alice Morrison. For more from her, check out www.alicemorrison.co.uk or her latest book 

The Best Time to Visit Morocco

Morocco is a land of diverse landscapes, majestic architecture, vibrant colours and heady spices. From the white-topped Atlas Mountains and the azure seas to the rich orange-gold hues and unpolluted starlit skies of the Sahara, the explosion of colours are reflected in the rich culture and heritage of this ancient and exotic land.

The diversity of the landscape however, lends itself to varying temperatures and climatic conditions, so if you’re planning a trip to Morocco, it’s wise to choose the right time of year so you can make the most of your trip.

Here’s a guide to the seasons, climate, festivals and most popular destinations to help you decide the best time of year to fully enjoy your Moroccan experience.

Depending where you go, Morocco can be a land of extreme temperatures – from blisteringly hot days to freezing cold nights. The diversity of the landscape also means that the climate varies from region to region. The mildest climate can be found on the coast, which is moderate and sub-tropical. The further inland you go, the more extreme the temperatures become.

As a general guide, if you want to avoid the hottest and coldest times, spring and autumn are the best seasons to enjoy Morocco.

Spring

In the spring you’ll find pleasant temperatures that aren’t too harsh, especially on the coast. Temperatures range from around 18 to 28 degrees, whereas the interior still reaches 35 degrees. Spring offers ideal hiking weather in the Atlas Mountains from around mid-March to May.

‘Atlas Mountains’ by Matthew Harrigan

Summer

The Moroccan summer lasts from June to August. July is the hottest month and, with bearable temperatures and little humidity, it’s the time of year when many escape to the coast to avoid the stifling heat in the cities and the harsh sirocco winds coming off the Sahara.

Autumn

With similar temperatures to spring, autumn is also a good time to visit as the heat of summer dies down and the cold winter nights have yet to set in.

At Essaouira on the coast, the Atlantic swell peaks in October, offering perfect surfing conditions. Autumn temperatures also make city sightseeing far more pleasant. The markets in Marrakech are far less hectic than in the summer so it’s a great time of year to fit in some early Christmas shopping. As the evenings start to get chilly, you’ll find a cosy, log fire in most Riads, where you can warm yourself, sip on mint tea and savour spicy and rich Moroccan dishes.

Winter

The north coast has a Mediterranean climate and conditions tend to be cool and rainy in the winter months with an average daily temperature of around 12 degrees. Although the cities of Marrakech and Fez are comfortably warm during the day, night-time temperatures can plummet to around 5 to 7 degrees.

The winter is when the Sahara is at its most extreme: hot, dry days followed by freezing, bitterly cold nights. From November to February, the Atlas Mountains are blanketed in snow. Trekking boots are replaced with skis and snowboards, and snow trekking is available for experienced hikers.

 

 

Festivals are an integral part of the country’s culture and provide a great opportunity for visitors to experience the ‘real’ Morocco.

When planning your trip, if possible, try and make the dates coincide with at least one of the many festivals held throughout the year to add an extra special touch to your holiday. Here are some of the most popular festivals worth attending.

 

International Nomad Festival (March)

This 4-day festival is a celebration of Saharan culture and heritage, which takes place in the desert near the village of M’hamid in the Draa Valley. You can enjoy a rich and varied programme of music, theatre, folk stories and ethnic art in specially constructed tents and in the open air. Highlights of the festival are camel racing and nomadic hockey.

 

Rose Festival (May)

Roses are an integral part of the Moroccan culture, and the buds and petals can be used in various ways. Dried buds are used in cosmetics, home decorations and cooking, while distilled rose water and oil are key ingredients for many globally produced perfumes and serums.

Nestled in the Atlas Mountains is the Vallée des Roses. Each May over 700 tonnes of rose petals are harvested and, to celebrate, a 3-day festival is held. The event attracts over 20,000 visitors to the small town of El-Kelaâ M’Gouna every year. The highlight of the festival is a procession through a shower of rose petals and the annual crowning of the ‘Queen of Roses’.

You’ll also have the opportunity to feast on mouthwatering traditional Moroccan dishes while being entertained by local Berber music, songs and dances.

 

Gnaoua And World Music Festival (May)

The annual festival is held at Essaouira where you can enjoy a range of free concerts featuring an eclectic mix of international music and traditional Moroccan Gnaoua music. Gnaoua music goes back thousands of years and is thought to create healing powers. Mystical Gnaoua masters use rhythmic, hypnotic music to evoke their ancestors to draw out ill health and cure the afflicted.

Every year over 500,000 visitors, including worldwide jazz, pop and rock performers, come to the festival to learn from and perform with the great Gnaoua masters.

 

‘Gnaoua Festival’ by Magharebia

Tanjazz Festival (Mid-September)

The world-famous Tangiers Jazz Festival runs over 4 evenings and features some of the best jazz artists in the world, performing in various hotels throughout the city. If you love jazz then this festival is a truly unmissable event.

 

Berbers are ancient, North African tribes people and the nomadic population of Morocco. Twice a year the Berber tribes walk in the footsteps of their ancient ancestors and undertake a long journey, herding their goats, sheep and cattle between summer and winter pastures from the edge of the Sahara to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The bi-annual migration heads towards the mountains in May and back down again in September.

Visitors have the chance to accompany a traditional Berber family for part of the journey and experience the everyday life and culture of this fascinating tribe.

 

If you want a change from the traditional run up to Christmas, then head to Morocco instead to witness the Geminids Meteor Shower spectacle from the Sahara desert. The clear and unpolluted Saharan skies guarantee a breathtaking cosmic display and a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll never forget. The meteor shower is at its most intense in mid-December, so why not finish your trip with some last minute Christmas shopping at the markets of Marrakech? Be aware though, night temperatures in the Sahara at this time of year are bitterly cold, so make sure you wrap up warm.

 

Spanning 50 km from north to south and with wind-blown sand dunes reaching up to 150 metres high, the endless views of the golden-orange sands of the Sahara desert are just as they appear in the movies.

Camel trekking and camping out under the stars is the best way to experience the Sahara. For a short trip, Erg Chebbi is easily accessible from Marrakech. Alternatively, for those with a true spirit of adventure, head to Erg Chigaga where you’ll find the largest, wildest and least visited dunes of the Sahara. However, Erg Chigaga is not for the faint-hearted. It involves a good 2-day camel ride from the nearest village and your only accommodation choice is an elaborately decorated tent camp in the Saharan wilderness.

‘Other Riders in Desert’ by ActiveSteve

Daytime heat is most bearable in April and October, whereas night temperatures in December and January can reach below freezing. Whatever time of year you plan your trip, ensure you pack suitable clothing.

 

The magnificent Atlas Mountains offer a range of activities throughout the seasons: from hiking in the spring, summer and autumn, to skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

In the spring and early summer, a 5-hour trek will take you through the mountains, from Marrakech to the walled city of Taroudant. You’ll pass traditional Berber villages, kashbahs (a type of ancient fortress where local leaders lived) and some of the most spectacular scenery in Morocco.

The Tizi n’Tichka Pass is the highest and most impressively paved pass in Morocco, linking Marrakech with Quarzate. The landscape varies from lush green foothills to stark, rocky outcrops before reaching the edge of the vast Saharan landscape. Along the way be sure to visit Kasbah Aït Benhadou, the most celebrated Kasbah in Morocco that featured in Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.

Snow and Morocco may seem an unlikely coupling, yet the Oukaimeden ski resort is easily accessible from Marrakech and offers skiing, snowboarding and sledging activities for all levels. You may not find it up to European standards, but the fact that you can say, ‘I’ve skied in Africa’ definitely makes the resort worth a visit. The skiing season lasts from early January to mid-March.

‘Oukaimeden’ by Ismaïl Taha

 

Two of the most frequented coastal towns in Morocco are Essaouira and Agadir. The cooler ocean breezes make them popular destinations with native Moroccans trying to escape the summer heat. July and August coincide with European school holidays. It’s the peak tourist season, so early booking is essential.

If you’re not restricted by school holidays, late spring and early autumn provide pleasantly warm weather so you can top up your tan without the crowds.

Essaouira

Essaouira has a long sandy beach and a good choice of pavement cafés and restaurants for alfresco dining. The laid back atmosphere provides the perfect spot to relax. Windsurfing here is also popular. When you’ve had enough of the beach, the old town is delightful and small enough to explore on foot.

Agadir

This modern city features palm-adorned promenades, an immense sandy beach and premier hotels and resorts. The beach is pleasantly sheltered from ocean winds and is well patrolled, clean and safe. However, the ocean undercurrent is sneakily strong, so it’s best for children and weak swimmers to rely on hotel pools for swimming.

The markets, fishing port and impressive new marina are also worth a visit.

‘Sunset Agadir’ by Martin and Kathy Dady

 

Marrakech

To fully appreciate this buzzing and vibrant city, visit the main square in the evening where you can soak up the atmosphere and drink in the intoxicating aromas of exotic spices from the food vendors and various Moroccan street food stalls that line the square. It’s also the perfect place to buy quality leather goods, handcrafted objects, decorative homeware and jewellery. Just don’t forget to barter – the stallholders expect it and it’s all part of the experience.

Marrakech is stiflingly hot and cloying at the height of summer, so if you want to avoid the heat, go in spring or autumn when the markets will be less crowded without losing its vibrant buzz.

‘Marrakech, Morocco’ by Kyle Taylor

Fez

Founded in the 9th Century, Fez is the largest and oldest medieval city in the world. The jewel of this imperial city is the ancient medina, which provides a delightful and fascinating escape from the modern world where donkeys are still used for transporting goods. Filled with narrow, winding streets, the colour-coded routes are theme-related and will take you on a discovery of palaces, gardens, markets and mosques.

Another site worth a visit, although non-Muslims are not permitted to go inside, is the Kairaouine Mosque, site of the largest mosque in Africa and the oldest university in the world.

 

The sacred period of Ramadan takes place for 30 days from early June to early July. During this time, Muslims fast and pray from dawn to dusk. Expect to find museums closed, services affected and most cafés, bars and restaurants closed during daylight hours. As night descends and fasting comes to an end for the day, the city streets are filled with revellers, feasting long into the night. You’ll find many eateries stay open longer during this time. However, if you’re concerned that Ramadan could affect your trip, then avoid booking your holiday over June.

If you’d like to find out more about the seasons in Morocco, or you’re ready to book a trip now, contact Epic Morocco or visit our website today.

 

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HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER MARRAKECH

Flying high over Marrakech By Alice Morrison.Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech

I woke up with a jump as the alarm went off at 5.00 am for my pick up. My first ever hot air balloon ride with Ciel D’Afrique. I was excited but slightly nervous, my Mum’s message had been, “Have fun, but remember balloons can pop!”. Any qualms I had were calmed when I  met our pilot, Hicham.

“It IS fun,” he said about his job, “but it is also a matter of responsibility. I am not only a pilot I am also the first Moroccan balloon flight instructor.”

Hot Air Balloon Launch

Our launch point was about a half hour’s drive from Marrakech, towards the little mountains, the Jibilat. We had stopped to pick up the guests including James and Ashley who were on their honeymoon and expecting their first baby. Seven of us clustered round and watched the miracle of the balloon unfold. It was like a scene from a modern Rembrandt as the glow of the propane lit up the faces of the men working and then the magic of the balloon billowing and filling above us with its bright red and green stripes.

Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech
We clambered in and it was time to go up. Hicham let loose the propane and we gently, gently started to rise. It was so gradual that I got a shock when I looked over the side and saw how high we were.

Magic in the air

Everything you imagine about a balloon flight is true. It is a magical experience, drifting over the surface of the earth in the cool of the morning air, silent except for the wooosh of the propane. We could see the lights of Marrakech burning bright in the distance and then slowly fading as the sun rose in a perfect yellow ball over the Jibilat.

Ciel D’Afrique had provided champagne and we toasted Ashley and James and their new life together. Extra magic.

The wind was light and we moved lazily towards the little mountains for sunrise, then changed direction and over flew some tiny farms. We could pick out every detail below in the sharp morning light; olive trees, a flock of sheep, a well with a water tower beside it, clusters of date palms and even a magpie scurrying along.

In the distance, the Ciel D’Afrique vehicles were following us, ready to pick us up wherever we landed. I thought the landing might be a bit of a bumpy, jolty affair but it was a lot smoother than most Easyjet flights. We came down next to a Oued, a dry river bed, near one of the farms we had seen from above.

Hot Air Balloon Ride, marrakech, ciel d'afrique, marrakech

Flying definitely creates an appetite, and we were very happy to see the Berber breakfast laid out in one of the tents at the landing ground. Local honey and olive oil with freshly-made crepes and Moroccan pancakes, teamed up with salty, black olives, eggs and mint tea. The perfect end to the perfect morning.

If you would like to try a flight with Ciel D’Afrique, let us know, or contact them directly.

This article was by Moroccan-based Adventurer, Alice Morrison.

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37 Awesome Things to Do in Marvellous Morocco

Morocco is one of the most magical places in the world. From the traditional riads that take you back in time, to the intricate carpets hanging in every market. From the multi-coloured madness exploding in the tanneries of Fes to those forgotten villages hidden in the Atlas Mountains, everything about Morocco is captivating. Wherever you go in this world of frenzied hawkers, exotic snake charmers and smiling Berbers, you’ll find yourself being taken by surprise. And whether you find the pace exciting or a little bit overwhelming at times, we can all agree one thing: there’s no place like Morocco.

Here are 37 awesome things to do while you’re here…

Stay in a traditional Moroccan riad

Traditional riads are like a gateway into medieval Morocco and staying in one can be a truly fantastic experience. Defined by their traditional architecture, their ornate interiors and lavish application of mosaic, and their incredible courtyard gardens, a luxury riad stopover is a bucket list must. Luxury seekers won’t want to miss this.

Eat snails on the cheap

Snails have long been a luxurious French delicacy but in Morocco, you can get this tasty snack at a fraction of the price. For a few dirhams, you can have a piping hot bowl of snail soup – a popular local delicacy.

Ride a camel

It’s almost an obligatory activity in Morocco, not only because it’s such a fun way to get around and explore your surroundings, but also because these animals are such treasured creatures here.  The story of man and camel in the Sahara goes back thousands of years, and camels have long been a symbol of wealth for rural Moroccan families. Camel ride prices start from around 300 dirhams for 30 minutes.

Visit the Musee du Patrimoine Amazigh d’Agadir

Amazigh is the correct name for the Berbers and this hidden gem in Agadir is a must if you want to learn more about Berber history. The Musee du Patrimoine Amazigh d’Agadir is one of the few museums dedicated to Berber artefacts and it opens between 9:30am and 5:30pm Monday to Saturday.

Visit the tanneries in Fes

If you don’t mind the smell, head to the tanneries in Fes. Leather making is a big industry in Morocco and tanneries open up their premises to the public so that people can get a glimpse into the world behind dyeing and treating leather. Images of the tanneries have made countless travel books, magazine features and coffee table hardbacks, so it’s one of the iconic tourist attractions on your Morocco holiday not to be missed.

Visit the Saadian Tombs

The Saadian Tombs in Marrakech date back to the time of the Saadi Dynasty during the 1500s and early 1600s. They were discovered in 1917 and were later restored, and now the tombs are open daily to visitors from 9am to 4:45pm. Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour ed-Dahbi spared no expense on his tomb and this can be seen from the tomb’s incredible and intricately-designed interiors.

Camp in the Sahara Desert

Take a tour of the Moroccan sand dunes and then camp under the stars at one of the Berber style campsites. This is a great thing to do with the kids! Luxury camps offer private family tents and have great bathroom facilities plus there will be plenty of activities including guided walks, cooking classes and stargazing.

Stay in a traditional Berber lodge

There are a number of hotels in the Atlas Mountains but we definitely recommend staying overnight in a traditional Berber lodge for the full Berber experience – the more rustic the better! Berber hospitality is second to none, so you’ll find the Berber community most welcoming.

Find secret restaurants in the back streets of Fes

Unlike Marrakech, Fes’ restaurants are hidden, which if you ask us, is all a part of the charm. Many are tucked away in the backstreets of the city and if you book a table, set off in good time in case you find yourself lost in the labyrinth of winding roads and walkways.

Check out the architecture in Casablanca

If you love colonial architecture and European art deco, be sure to come to the elegant port city of Casablanca and don’t miss the Casablanca Cathedral, the Hassan II Mosque and the Maârif arrondissement.

Sunbathe in Agadir

Agadir has some of the best beaches in Morocco and if you’re travelling with kids, this resort is a great place to come. Whilst most of the beaches are public, some beachfront hotels offer a private beach area which is ideal for sunbathing. The sea is warm and this is very much a family friendly holiday spot.

Nibble on crumbed liver

Moroccans are big believers in nose-to-tail eating. Absolutely nothing is wasted when it comes to meat and one of the many delicacies you can try is the street-eat of crumbed liver, a fried liver snack. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can sample cow’s udders, tongue or tripe.

Eat a Tagine

Known for its complex yet mild flavours and unique preparation/cooking style, the national dish of tagine is not to be missed. Although packed with fragrance and warming aromas, this dish is not spicy so it’s suitable for kids too.

Buy fresh olives from the market

Eat and shop like a local.  Moroccans love to snack on fresh olives and you’ll see so many varieties in the souks including pink olives, green olives, black olives and purple olives.

Check out the Musée Tiskiwin

For Moroccan art and locally-made crafts such as baskets, jewellery and accessories or carpets, head over to the Musée Tiskiwin on Rue de la Bahia in Marrakech. The house was owned by Dutch anthropologist, Bert Flint, who collected North African art from the Sahara Desert, different areas of Morocco, Mali and beyond.

Dine on a rooftop in Marrakech

Rooftop dining is the best way to experience Marrakech at night. When you’ve been battling large crowds in the bazaars and busy squares, there’s nothing more rewarding than a luxury feast and an ice cold drink on a rooftop restaurant such as Le Foundouk or Terrasse des Epices.

Shop for souvenirs

Before you finish your tour of Morocco, make sure you’ve dedicated a little time to shopping for souvenirs. Some great things you’ll be able to find include leather goods, inlaid wooden boxes and trinkets, hand-crafted jewellery and Moroccan lanterns.

Go Inside El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace is a ruined palace in Marrakech, dating back to the 1500s and took five years to build. It was commissioned by the Arab Saadian sultan Ahmad al-Mansur. It opens from 8 am to 5 pm daily and guests can walk around inside.

Get a henna tattoo

Henna tattoos are a safe and painless way of inking the skin, and skilled henna artists usually line the streets of tourist areas offering both traditional and modern designs. Henna lasts for up to three weeks on the skin and it makes a fantastic semi-permanent souvenir.

Take a day trip to the Atlas Mountains

Day trips to the Atlas Mountains are great for getting out of the city. Day tours leave from central Marrakech and you will enter a whole new world as you start to climb up and up and the scenery changes from the desert of the Agafay to the juniper-encrusted slopes of the high mountains.

Haggle in the Marrakech souk

No trip to Morocco is complete without some good old-fashioned haggling. The famous souks of Marrakech are the perfect shopping spots to put your bartering skills to the test. Moroccans can hold their own when it comes to negotiation, so be ready to put up a fight! And remember, if someone says you haggle like a Berber, that’s a compliment.

Els souks by Jordi Marsol

Trek to the peak of Jebel Toubkal

Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa and it stands at 4,167 metres. An ascent to the top is a strenuous uphill climb and in winter you will need crampons and ice axes (available to hire). This is a real challenge but well within your grasp if you are reasonably fit. Set off is at around 4.30 am so you can watch dawn break over the mountains

Visit the Museum of Photography and Visual Arts

Marrakech has a thriving art scene with the Biennale attracting international artists. The Museum of Photography and Visual Arts is one of the galleries at the heart of it. There are usually a couple of exhibitions on at any one time so it’s definitely worth a visit whilst you’re here.

See Jemaa el-Fnaa by day

Marrakech’s main square is a sensation and it acts as a meeting point, a cultural hub, and the heart and soul of the city. Come here in the day and be confronted by the snake charmers, “lucky lucky” men, orange juice vendors and hassling hawkers.

Snake Charmer by Kevin Gessner

Go shopping for leather

Morocco is famed for its amazing leather and you can get awesome leather goods such as handbags and purses, leather belts and leather moccasins/slippers at very affordable prices. Leather goods are handcrafted and totally unique – never factory made! 

Watch a belly dancing show

Marrakech socialites will probably tell you that the era of belly dancers in restaurants is “so over”. But they would be wrong. There are lots or places that feature belly dancers, entertainers and live music over dinner.

Get a scrub down at a traditional Hammam

Getting a body scrub and massage in a traditional Hammam spa is an interesting experience. You’ll feel totally refreshed and invigorated afterwards and your skin will be as soft as the proverbial baby’s bottom.

Drink Moroccan mint tea

Mint tea is the drink of choice here. It is a green tea prepared with mint leaves and sugar. The pouring of the tea is done from a height of at least 12 inches – this is done to create a foam. If there is no foam when you pour, it means that the tea is not ready and should be poured back into the teapot to steep a little longer.

Drink a Flag beer

You’ve not experienced Morocco until you’ve had an ice cold Flag beer. Another regional beer to try is Casa Beer which is the official beer of Casablanca.

Attend the Timitar Music Festival

If you love music, be sure to check out the Timitar Festival which takes place every year. More than 500,000 people attend to see the 40+ artists perform on stage and the music ranges from Amazigh traditional music and music from the Maghreb to modern day rap, jazz and hip hop.

Go to the Kasbah of the Udayas

One of Rabat’s top tourist sights, the Kasbah of the Udayas is well worth a visit if you’re interested in World Heritage Sites and history. This old Islamic city dates back to the Almohads and visitors will feel like they’ve travelled back in time as they walk around inside the city walls.

Rabat – Kasbah of the Udayas by Andrzej Wójtowicz

Raft down the Ahansel River

In search of an extreme adventure? River rafting down the Ahansel River is made for adrenaline junkies. The continuous white water varies from steep rapids to big wave trains – perfect if you’re looking for a physical challenge.

Go cycling in Souss-Massa National Park

Souss-Massa National Park sits along the Atlantic coast of Morocco and the best way to explore it is on two wheels if you ask us! You can hire a bike from various rental shops in nearby Agadir or you can book to go cycling with a guided group.

Have Bessara for breakfast

Skip the toast and pancakes and opt for a traditional Berber brekkie. Bessara is a hearty bean soup which will keep you fuelled up until lunchtime. The perfect breakfast food if you’re setting off to climb the Atlas Mountains.

See Jemaa el-Fnaa by night

By night, you’ll get to see a complete flipside to Jemaa el Fna square. Hawkers and snake charmers disappear as the square fills with back to back stalls selling tasty street food. As soon as the sun goes down and the daytime heat disperses, the locals all come out to meet with friends and family and this is when you’ll see the square at its liveliest.

DSC_7093 by Vincent Poulissen

Hit the nightclubs in Agadir

As one of Morocco’s most tourist-friendly destinations, Agadir has a thriving club scene.  You will find a number of English pubs and modern bars but look hard enough and you may even stumble across some cool underground venues!

Take 5 in the Majorelle Gardens

Need to get away from the hustle and bustle of Jemaa el Fna? Take five minutes to chill out in the stunning Majorelle Gardens on Rue Yves St Laurent. This 12-acre botanical site was designed by Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and it offers a peaceful retreat away from the crowded streets.

 

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