Africa

What to Do in Morocco

Filed Under: Africa, Morocco

The fascinating North African country of Morocco has been branded with various tourism taglines over the years. But perhaps “Eblouissement des sens” -- French for “Dazzle the senses” (Arabic is Morocco’s official language, but French is widely spoken) -- fits best. Few other lands offer travelers the exotic cultures and adventurous landscapes of Morocco. Prepare for a travel sensory overload on Morocco's most popular tours.

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Stay in a Riad

The medinas (old cities) of Marrakech and Fes are the most exotic places to stay in a traditional riad – a Morocco courtyard home that’s been born again as a hotel. Gaze over the mosque-studded skyline of Marrakech and play out your Arabian Nights fantasies from the rooftop of the lavishly decorated Riad Farnatchi or stay at the 7-suite Art Deco stunner Riad Star, newly opened in 2013 and once part of the Royal Palace. In Fes’s old walled city, the ultra-romantic hideaway, Riad Fes, is ideal for honeymooners.

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Spend a Night in the Sahara Dunes

Ahmed Amroui, a desert-born local whose family runs Chez Les Habitants guesthouse in the small village of Tiharien near Merzouga’s Erg Chebbi sand dune, leads 1- or 2-night camel trekking trips into Morocco’s slice of the Sahara. Watch sunset cast its colors across the dunes before settling into the tented oasis camp to listen to live Berber music, feast on stew-like vegetable tagine and gaze at an impossibly starry sky. You’ll sleep in a warm tent, and a morning hike to the top of a nearby dune makes for a sunrise to remember.

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Day Trip to Tangier

An hour-long crossing on the fast ferry from Algeciras in Spain brings you to Tangier, one of Morocco’s most spellbinding cities. Hire a guide (Journey Beyond Travel can help arrange that) to learn the most during a walk through the medina and kasbah overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and shop for souvenirs like leather goods and pottery from Fes in the serpentine souks. There’s magic in sipping a mint tea on the terrace of the Hotel Continental overlooking the port, where many a famous writer -- including American Paul Bowles, of Sheltering Sky fame -- has bedded down.

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Experience a Hammam

In every town and city of any size in Morocco you’ll find a public hammam (bathing house) where you can douse yourself with varying temperatures of water from buckets, then settle in for a scrub-down at the hands of a staffer sporting a kiis (an exfoliating glove that doesn’t mess around). That’s the authentic way to experience Morocco’s bathing tradition. But if you want something tamer (read: more tourist-oriented), hit Les Bains de Marrakech or the O-Spa by Kenzi Tower Hotel in Casablanca. Either way, you’ll leave feeling reborn.

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Visit a Berber Village

Bussed-in daytrips to nearby Berber villages are one of the most touted tours in Marrakech. But if you can spare 2 nights, it’s well worth embarking on a more authentic walking tour to learn about the lives of North Africa’s indigenous Berber people with Berber Travel Adventures. English-speaking Berber guides lead you on a moderate hike through the spectacular foothills of the High Atlas mountains, and you’ll stay in a traditional Berber home for the night.

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Learn to Cook, Moroccan Style

Cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander … those are just a few of the spices that star in traditional Moroccan cooking, which takes its influences from Morocco’s diverse cultural mix. Learn to cook a classic chicken and lemon dish in the traditional cone-shaped clay vessel called a tagine during cooking classes at La Maison Arabe in Marrakech. Or head to Fes to perfect the art of the perfect pastilla -- cinnamon-spiced pigeon pie -- at Cafe Clock in Fes’s ancient medina.

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Ride the Wind in Essaouira

Less than 3 hours west of Marrakech, the bleached-white coastal town of Essaouira is known for its fresh seafood, walled old city and, among board riders in particular, perfectly blowing winds. The northeast trade winds blow almost constantly here, and the local wave-riding enthusiasts at Explora offer kiteboarding, windsurfing and even wave-surfing lessons on the town’s long crescent of beach, Plage Tagharte.

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