By David Barclay | November 29, 2023
Before I get into describing why Morocco is a wonderful country to visit, I wanted to talk about the recent earthquake that hit Morocco. This devastating tragedy was mostly centered around the Atlas Mountains and the pictures on the news showed the devastation caused in some of the more remote villages. Further away in Marrakesh, the earthquake damaged some of the historic buildings in the old quarter but otherwise left the city mostly untouched.
I’ve had several clients, both soon after the earthquake and more recently wonder if it’s right for them to consider a trip to Morocco and if they would be consuming resources needed by the locals. Since I was in the process of planning a client trip when the earthquake hit, I was in communication with one of my Moroccan partners and have their first-hand account of the aftermath of the earthquake. While the first week after the earthquake saw a lot of disarray in the country, Morocco rebounded quickly. Within a week, all hotels in and around Marrakech were fully open and tourism had restarted. The recovery in the Atlas Mountains took a little longer, but within a month most areas popular with visitors to Morocco were accessible again. My partner implored me and my peer advisors to continue to send our clients to Morocco, as a large portion of the economy is based on tourism. Tourism is especially important in the Atlas Mountains. If you are considering a trip to Morocco but aren’t sure you should go, please consider that Morocco needs your tourism dollars and by taking your trip, you are helping Moroccans recover faster from the devastation caused by the earthquake.
A Morocco Vacation Itinerary
Morocco is a wonderful country with a lot of variety in the cities and geography and many different activities and adventures. It has something for everyone and there is no standard itinerary that will appeal to every traveler. Depending on specific interests, Morocco can offer its history, its modern and historic culture, big city or small village experiences, dessert landscapes, mountain treks, and beach time by the sea. Below are two sample itineraries to show you there isn’t a particular way to visit Morocco, a visitor’s interests and the amount of time for their visit will have a large impact on where they travel and what they see and do.
(2 nights Fez, 5 nights Marrakesh, 2 nights Essaouira)
(1 night Rabat, 2 nights Fez, 2 nights Sahara Desert, 1 night Dades, 4 night
Merrakesh, 2 nights Essaouira, 2 nights Atlas Mountains, 2 nights Casablanca)
The largest city in Morocco and possibly the best known, it is likely to be the starting and/or ending point for a trip to Morocco as the Mohammed V International Airport is the biggest airport in Morocco and the busiest airport in all of Africa. While some visitors may want to stay a few nights in Casablanca, it’s also possible to arrive in the morning and transfer to Rabat, Fez or Marrakech for the first night in Morocco. It’s also possible to do a quick visit and hit the highlights of this city on a transfer between the north (Fez or Rabat) and Marrakesh, eliminating the need to stay overnight in this large and busy city. Popular activities in Casablanca include visiting the Hassan II Mosque (pictured above), eating at Rick’s Café (inspired by the movie Casablanca), visiting the Habous Medina, and touring the Art Deco District.
The capital of Morocco, it can be a great stop along a northern itinerary. Guests visit Rabat for its rich history and culture, beautiful architecture, and wonderful weather (since its location close to the coast tempters the heat of the summer). Rabat is also known for its green spaces, with wonderful parks and gardens. Guests will likely want to visit the Hassan Tower, the fortified city of Kasbah Oudaya, the Chellah Necropolis, the Artisan’s Quarter, and the Medina.
Another popular destination for visitors, Fez is the second largest city in Morocco and one of the oldest cities in the world. Fez is famous for its tanneries and for being one of the best-preserved cities in the Arab-Muslim world. Fez’s medina rivals the medina in Marrakesh and visitors will not be disappointed if their trip only allows a visit to northern Morocco (though guests with more time will enjoy the nuances of visiting both medinas). Guests will want to visit the Chouara tannery (the largest in Fez), the Artisan’s Quarter, the Medina and souks (with a food tasting tour), the Royal Palace, and the Al Qarawiyyin University. They may also want to trek outside of Fez to visit the Volubilis Roman Ruins and/or stop at a local winery.
A contender for the most well-known city in Morocco, it entices visitors with its history and charm as well as providing a good base to explore the Atlas Mountains or take a day trip into the desert. Marrakesh is known for its beautiful Riads (historic estates converted into luxury inns) and its medina. Guests will definitely want to visit the medina multiple times (including a night visit to el-Fna Square), as well as visit the other historic areas of the city to view the architecture, the spice market, and shopping at the souks. Other activities include taking a pottery class and riding in a vintage sidecar to explore the city and nearby area. Visitors can take a day trip into the Atlas Mountains or stay overnight at one of the many luxury resorts and enjoy hiking, tea with the locals, and exploring a Berber village. Visitors can also head out to the Agafay desert and enjoy camel rides and dinner under desert tents.
Essaouira is a popular seaside town with a bustling fishing port and windswept beach. Visitors can dine on many Moroccan seafood dishes and tour the Sqala, medina, and harbor. Active travelers can ride ATVs on the beach, or for more of a workout, bike the beach or medina. The local Gnawa music is popular, and visitors can participate in a workshop. On the way to/from Essaouira, travelers can stop at an Argan oil cooperative and/or a local winery.
Visitors with enough time can take a longer route that ventures out into the Sahara Desert. This requires at least 3 nights and involves a fair amount of driving (about 20 hours over 3 days) but can be well worth the investment of time for adventurous travelers. The trek may include a scenic drive through the Ziz Valley, a visit to a Khamlia village, stopping at an oasis for a meal, dinner by campfire with tribal music, stargazing at night, and sandboarding on the dunes. It should definitely include a camel ride in the desert. Guests can stay at a combination of luxury desert camps, riads, and boutique hotels.
Morocco has plenty to offer every traveler and can offer many unique experiences. If you have an interest in Morocco, send me a note and we can discuss further.
Owner, Barclay & Company Travel
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