A SMALL SELECTION OF ESSENTIAL MOROCCAN CITIES FOR YOU TO DISCOVER
One of the 10 most beautiful bays of the world
Morocco's leading seaside resort does not misappropriate its title.
With its miraculous climate, at least 300 days of sunshine per year, and its 10km long beach, Agadir is classified among the 10 most beautiful bays in the world (it is a member of the very exclusive Club of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World).
It has a marina that can accommodate several hundred pleasure boats. The converted corniche now allows longer strolls on the seafront, a promenade offering a complete panorama over the entire bay. Don't miss a visit to the port, which is always very lively. Destroyed by the earthquake of 1960, the Kasbah did not keep its crenelated ramparts. However, this high site guards a complete view of the bay, the port and the new town. An enchantment at sunset, when the light becomes golden.
Discover with delight the new medina reconstructed from the 90s by the Italian architect Coco Polizzi. Careful urban planning, craftsmanship, restaurants. A great success, original and daring, where the Moroccan soul still remains. The jewellery souk and the Moorish café are worth the detour.
A base camp
Azilal is considered the ideal starting point to visit the treasures of the High Atlas, from the magnificent Bin el Ouidane lake to the M'Goun.
The Ait Bouguemez valley, also known as the happy valley, is suitable for walking, mule riding, mountain biking and hiking in the mountains. Several circuits exist and many pass through the village of Ait Imi, famous for its irrigation system and its water mills now transformed into wheat and corn mills. The second highest peak in Morocco, the ascent of M'Goun (4068m) takes 6 days. Less technical, the Arous gorges can also be climbed.
With its waterfalls and numerous white-water rivers, the region is ideal for canoeing, kayaking, rafting and canyoning. In Tilouguite you can fish for rainbow trout. On the beautiful lake of Bin el Ouidane, 27 km north of Azilal, water sports such as jet skiing and windsurfing can be practiced. Finally, take advantage of a stop in Beni Mellal to swim in the springs of Aïn Asserdoune.
A curiosity, the caves of El Ksiba form a multitude of cavities whose depth can reach 20 meters. 6km away is L’Aven des Ours. This abyss plunges 117m amongst green vegetation. The place, very popular with the Barbary Apes, lends itself to a beautiful hike. With its caves and chasms, the whole region is ideal for potholing and palaeontology. Four sites prove the presence of dinosaurs in the Ait Bouguemez valley as well as in the Demnate nature reserve where fossilised footprints are visible.
One of the oldest cities on the Atlantic coast.
A charming town offering a magnificent landscape unlike any other. A riverside town whose ramparts are reflected in the Oum Errabia estuary.
Dark blue in colour, the river recalls the maritime past and the soul of the city as described by Zimmermann in Cities and Landscapes of Morocco: "The whole city appears perilously to cling in a picturesque disorder of exquisite whiteness to the eye, on the crest of the steep cliff whose base is bathed in the red waters of the river".
The enclosure of the medina has three bastions. There is the Borj Sidi Moumen. To the south-west there is a double bastion, a semicircular one, north of Bab Derb Fougani. It is surmounted by small pyramids called Seqqala. The other, Del Borj de Bâ-Qaïd, forms a rectangular salient at the south-west corner of the enclosure.
Finally, there is the Borj Derb Shtuka. The Kasbah is entirely surrounded by high masonry ramparts. They are crowned by a path about two metres wide, which connects six bastions: Borj Hfir, Borj Sidi Ouadoud, Borj El Ouasti, Borj Fondok El Hana, Borj Tahouna and Borj El Mellah.
Strolling in its streets and looking at the doors and buildings reveals reminiscences of Portuguese architecture. One can also see Dar El Baroud (the House of the powder), dominated by a tower with Gothic style windows.
One of the richest architectural heritages in the world
Casablanca embodies modern Morocco which cohabits harmoniously with its rich heritage, the fruit of a long history.
Business, shops, festivals and Moroccan dolce vita. Everything happens in Casablanca! And its dynamism is infectious.
The architectural tradition of the economic capital continued with the inauguration, on 30 August 1993, of the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world with a height of 200m.
The life of modern Casablanca is reflected in the hectic atmosphere of the Maarif district, which has become one of the city's most prominent districts.
At the end of the day, go for a walk on the corniche of Ain-Diab, between the lighthouse of El Hank and the marabout of Sidi Bou Abderrahmane, a village now accessible via a causeway over the sea.
On this coast, swimming pools and public or private beaches are available. Admire the sunset and refresh yourself on the terrace, which is a great tradition. Later in the evening, discos continue the bustle of this city that never sleeps.
The Blue Town
This peaceful town, which seduces by its authentic charm, is not a museum. Here the craft tradition is alive and well.
Nestled between two mountains, Chefchaouen is a city with whitewashed houses of blue and white. A powerful charm that you can feel on the Outa-el-Hammam square in the pebble paved medina. Sitting on the terrace of a café, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the great Tarik-Ben-Ziad mosque whose octagonal minaret is inspired by that of the Torre de Oro in Seville. This Andalusian architecture can be found in the Kasbah and its gardens in the heart of the medina. Its walls and eleven crenelated towers, one of which served as a keep, house an ethnographic museum.
In the small museum of the Kasbah are collections of embroidery and colourful and varied clothing, which reflect those of the women of the region. The welcome and great hospitality of its inhabitants can be experienced during a visit to a traditional oil mill (there are more than 1,500 of them) or a craft workshop. In addition to weaving, Chefchaouen is famous for its basket-making and pottery.
The walk continues to Rif Sebbarim, the wash-house district, on whose square stands a 15th century mosque. A visit to the agadirs (fortified collective granaries) is a must.
Bower of greenery
Located in the Middle Atlas Mountains, Ifrane, called the Moroccan Switzerland, is an oasis of freshness and greenery. Lakes, fountains, the change of scenery is total, surprising and regenerative.
Wide avenues, green spaces, European-style villas, we discover here a little-known facet of North Africa. Springs and lakes abound in this region in the heart of a massive cedar forest.
The chalets with their sloping roofs are surprisingly reminiscent of Switzerland. To the south-east, on the road to Azrou, a multitude of extinct volcanoes form the landscape of Ito, a rocky horizon which, at dusk, reminds many of lunar craters.
The Vittel spring and its waterfalls provide an ideal opportunity for a walk. A few hundred metres along the river, you will discover the forest of maples and poplars that the waters of the spring tumble down to. In the summer, short horse rides are offered to reach the waterfalls. A few kilometres on the road to Meknes is the mausoleum of a marabout, a 16th century saintly man, Sidi Abdesslam.
Nestled in a valley covered with cypress and olive trees and covered with blue zelliges, the mausoleum is an important place of pilgrimage.
A little higher than the village, several dozen old troglodytic dwellings are still used as stables or storage places.
Living in symbiosis with nature
On the Atlantic coast, in the Deep South, there is a magical bay. Dakhla and its bay are still one of those rare places on the planet where man is in symbiosis with a pristine nature.
At the mouth of the Rio de Oro, Dakhla was founded in 1884 by the Spaniards. At that time, it was called Villa Cisneros.
This small fishing port is located on the edge of a beautiful lagoon with turquoise waters.
In addition to hosting thousands of migratory birds, including colonies of pink flamingos, the bay is home to the world's largest population of monk seals. Its waters are also frequented by rays and humpback dolphins. The grandiose Punta Sarga, at the southern end of the peninsula, is the recommended site for observing them.
Considered by surfing champions as one of the most beautiful spots in the world, the place is ideal for all water sports... but also some on the sand dunes!
The 38°C sulphurous water of the Asmaa thermal spring is reputed to be excellent for skin, respiratory problems and bones. The Rio de Oro lagoon is also one of the richest fisheries in the world.
The star of the place is the courbine or croaker in English. In surf casting, i.e. fishing with your feet on the water's edge, it is possible to catch fish that can measure up to 2 meters and weigh up to 80 kilos.
EL Jadida :
The new Mazagan
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the old Mazagan became El Jadida (meaning "the new one") in 1815.
With its walls facing the ocean, the old Portuguese city has become a charming seaside resort. Old stones and beautiful beaches are on the programme.
The Portuguese built this fortified city with 5 bastions originally, of which only 4 remain today. The Bastion of the Angel offers a beautiful view of the city, the port and the sea.
The bastion of San Sebastian has a crude chapel of the Inquisition. A ramp leads down to the Sea Gate. This hold overlooking the water was used by the Portuguese to escape in 1769. Going up the main street, one reaches the Portuguese cistern.
Fallen into oblivion, it was rediscovered by chance in 1916. A skylight illuminates the centre of this underground room supported by five rows of columns. A beautiful setting where films such as Othello by Orson Welles or Harem by Arthur Joffé were shot. Continuing the walk, we arrive at the Church of the Assumption facing a mosque with a unique minaret. It is probably the only pentagonal one in the world.
In addition to the beautiful, pleasant and safe beaches on the southern and northern coasts of El Jadida, is Azemmour, the former capital of the Doukkala country, located at the mouth of the river Oum Errabia, famous for its succulent shad (a type of sardine). You can treat yourself to a pleasant stroll through the old streets of the medina.
Fez, The madrassas:
The imperial city is the capital of traditional Moroccan culture. Cradles of knowledge, its superb madrassas are its flamboyant symbol. The Karaouine mosque is one of the most imposing in Morocco.
It houses the university considered to be the oldest in the world, founded in the mid-9th century, when the basic subjects were theology, grammar and Koranic law. Opposite, the El-Attarine madrassa is considered the most beautiful in the medina.
The Merinids erected this masterpiece between 1323 and 1325. Its inner courtyard is magnificently decorated. The walls are covered with suras carved in wood or plaster. The fountain and marble columns are decorated with zelliges.
Built between 1350 and 1357, Bou Inania is the largest in Fez. From the entrance, magnificent with its heavy doors with wrought bronze leaves, one falls under the spell of the profusion of tiling, the refinement of the plaster and carved wood and chiselled stalactites called mukarnas, the signature of Merinid architecture. The courtyard, made of onyx and marble, is surmounted by a canopy of green tiles typical of Fez.
Imouzzer Ida Outanane:
The Berber Eden
Welcome to the land of argan and honey. Nestled in the heart of its beautiful and fertile valley, Imouzzer, capital of a protected valley resembles the Garden of Eden.
61km north of Agadir, after climbing mountains, a valley with diverse landscapes and contrasting colours calls for discovery. This place of terraced crops and undulating plateaus covered with argan, palm, almond, juniper and olive trees is Paradise Valley.
It is here that the white houses of the small town of Imouzzer appear, overlooking a palm grove surrounded by almond, olive and argan trees, a tree that grows only in this region of Morocco. Another important product of this rich soil is the honey celebrated every year in August.
The region, and particularly Izourki Oufella, produces various highly refined varieties based on thyme, orange blossom and even cactus, which are highly appreciated throughout Morocco.
The surroundings of Imouzzer provide the opportunity for cool stops, whether it is the natural pools of the Asif Tamraght gorge or the waterfalls of the Tinkert river (whose water only flows in winter).
The large Berber tribe of the Ida Outanane is associated with the name of the city. Its strong cultural identity and its traditions can be discovered through the traditional villages crossed in Paradise Valley.
Meeting of past and present
Marrakech offers simple pleasures to those who allow themselves to be guided by the desire to discover and encounter.
More than a city, Marrakech is a pearl polished by history and a taste for hospitality, knowing how to welcome its guests with open arms for centuries.
The Majorelle Gardens bring together a collection of plants brought from the four corners of the world, which bloom alongside elegant ponds and an Art Deco villa. Yves Saint Laurent's ashes are scattered here.
From this enchanting place, you can take one of the many horse-drawn caleches in town to the Palmeraie area where a stroll is a must. In the same way, you will be able to reach the Menara, one of the symbolic places of Marrakech.
This elegant building, recognizable by its green tiles, is adjacent to a huge pool. It is here that Marrakchis come to cool off on the hottest days.
Marrakech is a city full of life and passion, whose dynamism is revealed in every facet. Discoveries, encounters, strolls and picturesque memories will not fail to charm the traveller. The only shadow in the picture is the melancholy that lurks at the time of departure. But it is to better to dream of a forthcoming return, and still enjoy the sweetness of the night, on the terraces, while a crescent moon comes to erode the filaments of clouds.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
An imperial city in the 17th century whose splendours were compared to those of Versailles, during the reign of Moulay Ismail.
In the 17th century, the Alawite sultan Moulay Ismail decided to make Meknes one of the most beautiful and powerful imperial cities of Morocco. Still today, protected by some forty kilometres of walls, it has preserved imposing monuments, including numerous mosques that have earned it the nickname of "city of a hundred minarets". Among them, the Grand Mosque, probably founded in the 12th century, is remarkable for its doors with beautifully carved arches. Its medina and the remains of the royal palace have earned Meknes the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Considered one of the most beautiful gates in the world, Bab Mansour was built at the beginning of the 18th century. It opens onto the imperial city proper, where a visit to the sultan's mausoleum remains a curiosity. You can also contemplate the Agdal Basin, a huge rectangular reservoir. Meknes has one of the most popular medinas in Morocco, the El-Hedime square.
The regional museum of ethnography, installed in the Dar Jamai palace, is harmoniously organised around a superb Andalusian garden. Gold thread embroidery, earthenware and antique jewellery give an exhaustive overview of the Kingdom's past splendours.
31km from Meknes lies the largest Roman archaeological site in Morocco: Volubilis, a veritable treasure in the open air.
With a triumphal arch, capitol, house of Bacchus, everything testifies to the splendour of the city and its economic and political weight. Not to mention the moving delicacy of the mosaics.
Nature and culture
Essaouira is a city with a very busy historical past. A visit to the city allows you to discover the best of Souiri tourism, the most characteristic tourism in Morocco. Essaouira is full of monuments to visit, riads and many other things to discover.
A new phenomenon is emerging there: riads, some sumptuous "Thousand and One Nights" style, others built on historical sites and tastefully renovated. All these guest houses have one thing in common: they will immerse you in the typical atmosphere of the country. Behind its ramparts, Essaouira has a thousand-year-old history made up of many currents. From the origins of the city to the projects of tomorrow, it is a city in perpetual movement. Throughout the ages, Essaouira has always been a crossroads of cultures and civilizations.
The medina is the first place to discover. Surrounded by its intact ramparts and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, it was and remains one of the most beautiful medinas in the world. Rich in history and symbol of cohabitation and conviviality, proud of its narrow streets and arteries, the old Mogador can be nothing but a promise of unforgettable walks.
The medina abounds in craftsmen offering a wide choice of handicrafts. Let yourself be guided by your instinct! Discover the beautiful Moulay el Hassan square and its cafés, the magic of each of the alleys and souks: Mellah Lqdim (old Jewish quarter), Attarine (spice merchants), Haddada (Blacksmiths), Syyaghine (Jewellers), grain market, fish souk, ... stroll quietly through the narrow streets, each place and each place has a story !
The path to the treasure
From Ouarzazate, all roads lead to the wonders of southern Morocco.
The arid Dades Valley is lined with Kasbahs and unique fortified villages, such as Tidrheste or Tiflit. You have to get off the road to discover these traditional Berber adobe habitats. A cool break at the Skoura palm grove comes at just the right time. After Tinghir, the magnificent Todra gorge narrows as its walls rise above your head (up to 300m). A track leads to Boumalne via the Dades gorge. Depending on the daylight, the rock is coloured pink, red, orange or mauve. To the south of Boumalne begins the Sahro Djebel and its 150 species of birds present in the Valley of the Birds. The panoramic view from the Tizi-n-Tazazert pass is extraordinary.
By extending the excursion along the Dades, we cross the country of roses, El Kelaât M'Gouna, where rose water is made. In May, the whole region celebrates this flower for three days. Further on, the Dades gorge open before the Todra gorge and its cliffs.
Towards the south, the Draa valley stretches out, irrigating a narrow oasis where dates and henna grow for nearly 200km. The Ksar of Tissergate, one of the Ksars which mark out the valley, houses the museum of arts and traditions where many everyday objects and Berber crafts are displayed.
M'Hamid is the starting point for excursions to the dunes. In Tinfou, two high dunes give a foretaste of the desert. To get there fully, continue west of M'Hamid to the Chigaga dunes, 40km long, one of which reaches up to 150 meters.
In the shelter of the walls
Ocean, medina and Kasbah of the Oudayas make the heart of the Moroccan capital pulsate. Behind the red ochre and orange walls, the old city keeps all the traditions of the Kingdom alive.
The Andalusian wall, built in adobe in the 17th century, protects the southern part of the medina. The old city surprises by its rectilinear layout, very different from the usual maze of streets.
One can enter it through the Bab El Had gate. This is where the Souika street begins, the largest and probably the liveliest street in the medina.
It leads to the Grand Mosque and ends at the Es Sebat souk, the shoe market, covered with reed mats and filled with hundreds of slippers, leather goods and handicrafts, as well as gold and silver jewellery. Then there is the Rue des Consuls, partially covered by glass canopies where craftsmen work and make carpets of fine wool, cloth and copper. Going up north, one approaches the Porte des Oudayas.
This fortress quarter has preserved its old cannons placed on a bastion. Its door, beautiful and massive, is fully carved and one of the towers houses three art galleries. The white and blue facades create a very Mediterranean atmosphere. Its cobbled streets lead to the El Atiqa mosque, the oldest in the city, and then to the platform of the old semaphore.
From here, as from the terrace of the Moorish café just next door, the view of Rabat, its neighbour Salé and the meeting of the Bouregreg river with the ocean is truly splendid. At the very top, the Oudayas palace, which houses the national museum, has preserved its original ornamentation, marked by sobriety and balance. The Andalusian garden is a haven of peace planted with fruit trees, oleander and cascading bougainvillea.
Splendour of the Mediterranean
The blue pearl of Moroccan Saidia, its turquoise waters, the Mediterranean, a beautiful bay, and above all, 14km of fine sandy beach. Saidia is a new-generation resort that preserves its Moroccan cachet.
To appreciate the transparency and clarity of the gently lapping sea, a stroll along the seafront is a must.
It is the meeting place for families and holidaymakers at the end of the day, when the sand takes on a golden hue and everything becomes softer and gentler.
With the brand new 850-berth marina, there's the call of the open sea! You will find sailing, diving and water-skiing schools here. Nearby, restaurants, a spa centre and shops. A diverse range of activities and services in a setting that plays the card of elegance and contemporary comfort.
Take advantage of your stay in Saidia to go to Oujda. The capital of the L'Oriental region of Morocco has a beautiful medina whose Kasbah, the ancient citadel, overlooks a Koranic school from the 14th century. Oujda also invites you to explore its beautiful markets. It is the perfect atmosphere to listen to the gharnatie music, the melancholic Arabo-Andalusian sounds.
Even today, the powerful charm of Tangiers still works. From the formerly decadent alleys of the Petit Socco to the increasingly avant-garde terraces of the many cafés.
The medina of Tangiers has always fascinated and inspired artists. Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse, Paul Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, the list goes on and on. They all succumbed to the charm of the Petit Socco square and its cafés, including the famous Tingis, despite its nefarious reputation due to the casinos and dance halls that abounded there at the time.
To the north of the medina, the former Mendoub Palace, built in 1929, is today a house designed to welcome distinguished foreign guests. In the far south, the museum of the former American legation is installed. This building houses paintings and an entire room is dedicated to the American writer Paul Bowles.
To the north of the Grand Socco square, the Mendoubia park offers a pleasant stroll. A giant banyan fig tree and an 800-year-old dragon tree punctuate the visit.
The Place de France is the heart of the modern city with the famous Grand Café de Paris and the El Minzah Hotel frequented by the great names of art and literature of the late nineteenth century. On the Place de Faro with its cannons, you will discover a breath-taking view of the medina, the port and the bay of Tangiers. At the top of the cliff, the legendary Hafa café overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar.
The art of living
A charming Hispano-Moorish city, Tetouan plays on the mix of cultures while remaining the guardian and showcase of its most beautiful traditions.
The medina of Tetouan and its unique network of shady alleyways is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its important mellah (Jewish quarter) was called Little Jerusalem. At nightfall, it is the liveliest place. Here, the souks are well separated, each trade occupying a precise perimeter. The Royal Palace is a beautiful example of Hispano-Moorish architecture. To the west lies the new city, El Ensanche. Its small buildings of up to five floors were built under the Spanish protectorate.
In the medina are the archaeological museum, near the Bab Tout gate, and the Museum of Moroccan Arts, next to Bab El Oqla. The former presents beautiful mosaics and a multitude of artefacts from the Roman period, borrowed from the site of Lixus.
The second, ethnological, exhibits traditional costumes and regional musical instruments. Close to this museum, the school of Arts and Crafts teaches all the craft specialities.
The National Institute of Fine Arts, founded in 1947 by Mariano Bertuchi, a Spanish painter, has the distinction of having a section for teaching comic strips since 2000. Since 2004, it has hosted the International Comic Strip Festival every year.
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