Top 10 places to visit in Morocco
Jamaa Elfna, Marrakech
Jamaa Efna is a bustling square full of musicians, story tellers, acrobats, dancers…etc. It tells the story of Morocco’s history from yesterday and today. While it is still vivid during the day, it comes to full life at night attracting both locals and tourists. It is recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Jamaa means “congregation” in Arabic, el Fnaʼ or finâʼ means courtyard or space in front of a building”. “finâʼ in Arabic commonly means “open area”, straight translation would be “the gathering/congregation area”.
Kasbah of Taourirte, Ouarzazate
The town of Ouarzazate is located in the area where Morocco’s Ziz, Drâa and Dadés valleys meet. It is home to the Kasbah Taourirte, considered to be one of the most impressive structures of its kind. Kasbah Taourirte was built in the early 19th century and was used as a base for the powerful El Glaoui clan which controlled the caravan route through the region at the time. With a backdrop of spectacular mountain scenery and the alluring Sahara desert, the Kasbah is classified as a monument of significant historical and cultural value and has been recognized as such by UNESCO’s world heritage program.
Oudaya Gardens, Rabat
Rabat and neighboring Salé united to form the Republic of Bouregreg in 1627. The republic was run by Barbary Pirates who used the two cities as base ports for launching attacks on shipping. The pirates did not have to contend with any central authority until the current dynasty/ The Alaouite united Morocco in 1666. The latter attempted to establish control over the pirates, but failed. European and Muslim authorities continued to attempt to control the pirates over many years, but the Republic of Bou Regreg did not collapse until 1818. Even after the republic’s collapse, pirates continued to use the port of Rabat, which led to the shelling of the city by Austria in 1829 after an Austrian ship had been lost to a pirate attack.
The Harbor, Essaouira
Essaouira has long been considered one of the best anchorages of the Moroccan coast. The Carthagenian navigator Hanno visited in the 5th century BC and established the trading post of Arambys. Around the end of the 1st century BCE or early 1st century CE, the Amazigh/ Berber king Juna II established a Tyrian purple factory, processing the murex and purpura shells found in the inter-tidal rocks at Essaouira. This dye colored the purple stripe in Imperial Roman Senatorial Togas.
The Medina, Fes
The University of Alqaraouiyine in Fes is the oldest continually-operating university in the world. The al-qaraouiyinene mosque was founded by Fatima Alfihriya in 859 with an associated school, or Madrasa, which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world. It became a state university in 1963, and remains an important institution of learning today.
Bab Mansour, Meknes
Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, located in the northern central and the sixth largest city by population in the kingdom. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672–1727), he turned Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today.
The Blue City, Chefchaouen
Chefchaouene, also called Chechaouene or Chechaouen, French Chaouen, Spanish Xauen, is a town in northern Morocco. It is situated in the Rif mountain range. Founded as a holy city in 1471 by the warrior Abū Youma and later moved by Sīdī ʿAlī ibn Rashīd to its present site at the base of Mount El-Chaouene, it became a refuge for Moors expelled from Spain. A site long closed to non-Muslims, it was occupied in 1920 by the Spanish, who restored it to the Moroccan kingdom in 1956. Chefchaouene contains 12 mosques and presents a picturesque appearance, with houses roofed with round tiles common in southern Europe but rare in Morocco. Its luxuriant gardens are watered from a constant mountain spring. Chefchaouene has become a very popular vacation and tourist spot, especially for Europeans touring northern Morocco. It is famous for the blue walls of its buildings, a colour unique among Moroccan towns.
Majorelle Gardens, Marrakech
The Majorelle Garden was designed by the French artist, Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962). As a young aspiring painter, Jacques Majorelle was sent to Morocco around 1917 to recover from a serious medical condition. After spending a short time in Casablanca, he travelled to Marrakech and like many of his contemporaries, fell in love with the vibrant colours and street life he found there. After traveling around North Africa and the Mediterranean, he eventually decided to settle permanently in Marrakesh.
In 1923, just four years after his marriage to Andrée Longueville, Majorelle purchased a four-acre plot, situated on the border of a palm grove in Marrakesh and built a house in the Mooroccan style. In 1931, he commissioned the architect, Paul Sinoir, to design a Cubist villa for the property. Gradually, he purchased additional land, extending his holding by some 10 acres. In the grounds around the residence, Majorelle began planting a luxuriant garden which would become known as the Jardins Majorelle (Majorelle Garden). The garden became his life’s work and he devoted himself to developing it for almost forty years. The garden proved costly to run and in 1947, Majorelle opened the garden to the public with an admission fee designed to defray the cost of maintenance. At times, he sold off parcels of land to fund the growing garden. Following his divorce in the 1950s, Majorelle was forced to sell the house and land. After this, the garden was neglected and fell into disrepair. The garden and villa were rediscovered in the 1980s, by fashion designers, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge, who set about restoring it and saving it. During his lifetime, Majorelle earned a reputation as a celebrated Orientalist painter. Though Majorelle’s watercolors are largely forgotten today, the gardens remain as his creative masterpiece. The special shade of bold cobalt blue, inspired by the colored tiles he had seen around Marrakesh and in Berber burn-houses, was used extensively in the garden and its buildings and is named after him, bleu Majorelle—Majorelle Blue. Prior to his death, Majorelle patented the color which carries his name.
Merzouga, The Sahara Desert
Merzouga is a small Moroccan town in the Sahara Desert, near the Algerian border. It’s known as a gateway to Erg Chebbi, a huge expanse of sand dunes north of town. West of Merzouga, Dayet Srji is a seasonal salt lake that’s often dry in summer. When full, it attracts a wide range of migratory and desert birds, including desert warblers, Egyptian night-jars and, occasionally, flamingos.