10. Explore the Hassan ll mosque in Casablanca. I finally got around to visiting on my third trip to Morocco, and I was blown away. While Casablanca itself isn’t one of my top destinations in Morocco, seeing the Hassan ll mosque is well worth it. You can get lost in the intricate designs, and the vibrant blues and greens. Completed in 1993, it is the largest mosque in Morocco, and perhaps also the most beautiful!
9. Eat freshly cooked chick peas and ful beans from a local cart. During one of my trips I stayed right outside the Medina (the center of the old city) in Marrakesh, and I had some of the cheapest and most delicious meals from the local chick pea seller who planted his cart right outside my hostel! For the equivalent of 10 US cents, I had a tasty and nutritious meal.
8. Wander through artist Claudio Bravo’s mansion. We were lucky enough to receive a tour of the palace, which Bravo, a Chilean hyperrealist painter, purchased and renovated. After his death in 2011 he left the palace to the family of his chauffer, and we received a tour from this family’s daughter who knew Bravo well. Bravo’s art is very interesting, and he was widely acclaimed, having even done portraits for dictator Franco. His studios are left exactly as they were before his death, which is fascinating. However it is the palace itself and the grounds which truly impressed me. You will have to go and see it for yourself!
7. Dine in Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakesh. The square, which sits in the heart of the medina, is surrounded on all corners by the famous souks (markets). During the day the square is filled with juice stands, people trying to sell their wares, and restaurant stalls. At night the square becomes completely animated, with snake charmers, story-tellers, and entertainers (also pickpockets- watch out!). It’s so much fun to sit in one of the outdoor restaurants in the center of the square, dining on couscous and tagine, and feel the dynamic atmosphere of the area.
6. Watch the sun set over the colorful city of Fez from the hilltop fort of Musee de Armes. You can take a taxi from the Blue Gate (between 5-10 minutes), and from there have a wonderful view of the city below. We asked our taxi driver to come back after the sunset but I guess he didn’t understand us because he never reappeared…
5. Hike in the Atlas Mountains. Though the hike I did was very short, it was still a beautiful walk through the Berber villages that line the mountainside. I enjoyed watching people come and go on horse (well, perhaps it was donkey) back, and shepherds leading flocks of sheep through the steep passes. One can do longer treks as well, and some last for several nights. Catching a glimpse of Jebel Toubkal, the range’s highest peak, dusted in snow, was very exciting!
4. Admire the unique colors and architecture of the Fez medina. Known as Morocco’s “cultural capital,” the medina (center of the old part of the city) is filled with hidden treasures. Here sits the world’s oldest continuous university, Al Quaraouiyine, which was founded by a woman (!) in 859. If that doesn’t impress you, the detailed architecture and stunning green and blue mosaic tiles (which are created in the city) certainly will. Aside from the university, elaborately decorated buildings (and gateways) are hidden behind every corner. I loved walking through the crowded marketplace and stumbling upon these magnificent places.
3. Climb around Kasbah Ait Ben Hadou. This ancient walled town perched on the caravan route between Marrakesh and the Sahara is like nothing I have ever seen. Though now deserted (except for the many traders who attempt to sell their wares to passing tourists), I could easily imagine the lively city as I ventured through the passageways and up to the top of the complex. From the top there is a view of the surrounding towns and deserts, and the Kasbah laid out below. Many films and TV shows were filmed here (like “Game of Thrones”) and I can see why!
2. Get lost in the souks of Marrakesh. The souks that surround the main square, Jemaa El Fnaa, can take hours to wander through. You can walk through lanes of leather sellers (I bought a very cheap leather bag), brass, textiles, jewelry, Moroccan slippers, and spices. Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s fascinating seeing local sellers create their wears, and the atmosphere is tons of fun!
1. Watch the sun rise over the sand dunes of the Sahara. We drove in a jeep from the Atlas Mountains, an 11-hour drive, and arrived in our hotel that night, in the profound darkness. As I looked up to the skies, the stars above seemed endless. I think I can count the only other times in my life I have seen so many stars (one was in the Himalayas, and one was in Zanzibar). I only slept a few hours, but waking up at 4:30 didn’t seem so terrible as I got onto my camel and we walked into the desert. The sun rising over the dunes, lighting up the world in vibrant shades of pink and orange, as our line of camels stepped lightly into the golden dust was one of the most breathtaking sights. When we arrived at the dunes we all had lots of fun clambering up and down the sand, as the heat of the day swept over us. As we rode back to our hotel only a few hours later for breakfast, I felt that the many hours in the jeep there, and back, had been utterly worthwhile.