A holiday in Morocco is all about the bustling medieval cities, majestic mountain capes, and tranquil coastline where snorkeling and diving is a must. While Marrakech is the place for stylish hideaways near the souks, mosques and squares, Essaouira is also now home to a number of luxury boutique hotels and riads. It’s quickly becoming Morocco’s sought after beach destination, where you’ll find photographers, artists and the rich and famous making the most of the cooling winds of the Atlantic, its proximity to Marrakech, and the great atmosphere. With a country as diverse as this, beaches might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Morocco, but this North African country boasts miles of beautiful coastline that borders both the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
Just eight miles across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain, Tangier is a perfectly-positioned port town that has everything a culture-craving traveler could ask for, from historic cafés and chic eateries to dramatic beaches, a fascinating history, and a legendary Kasbah within a medieval walled city. Any visitor will immediately understand why the filmmakers of James Bond’s SPECTRE chose to have Bond’s romance unfold in that part of North Africa, against the contrasting backdrops of alluringly louche Tangier and the vast emptiness of the Sahara desert.
One of Morocco’s four imperial cities, Marrakech was founded in the 11th century at the crossroads of ancient caravan routes from Timbuktu and it soon became a vibrant centre for trade. Set against the magnificent backdrop of the Atlas Mountains, its walled city is a maze of narrow alleyways lined with medieval buildings. The main square, Djemma el Fna, is the heart of the city and a frenzy of colour and activity with entertainers, acrobats, snake-charmers, musicians and food stalls. The labyrinth like alleys and souqs that surround the square feature hundreds of stalls offering all kinds of goods including carpets, leather clothes, jewellery, spices, pottery and ceramics. If you leave the charms of the old city you can experience the bars, restaurants, art galleries and fixed-price boutique shopping in the ville nouvelle (the new town). The stylish gardens of Yves St Laurent, Jardin Majorelle, also provide a tranquil contrast to the vibrant environment of the old city centre. Other important sites in Marrakech include the Koutoubia Mosque, visible all over the city with its tall minaret, the Saadian Tombs, the Badi Palace and the Bahia Palace.
Agadir is a fine modern coastal city with a host of excellent hotels, wide avenues and gardens and, above all, a splendid beach stretching for many miles. Agadir's reputation as a beach resort has spread worldwide and it is one of the most frequently booked locations by DRAGON TRAVEL AGENTS travel consultants. From a cliff-road flanking the hill, the Old Kasbah, dating from the 16th century, overlooks the azure spread of the ocean, the verdant valleys of the Great Souss and the majestic slopes of the Anti-Atlas. Agadir is not only the kingdom's main fishing-port, it is also one of the key holiday destinations in Morocco and the city is very much organised around seeing to the comfort of its visitors. Bathed in sunshine the whole year round, the city offers facilities for sailing, wind surfing, horse-riding, tennis, golf and a host of other sports activities.
Casablanca is rapidly developing into a modern industrial success story. The largest city in Morocco, its centre is impressive, with large boulevards and tall, white, well-kept buildings. The old city is more reminiscent of the Casablanca seen in the Bergman and Bogart movie; a much smaller area with older houses and a good market. Certain landmarks are particularly beautiful, such as the Hassan II mosque which is well worth a visit. Fishing is plentiful as are pleasure boats and modern shopping needs are met in Centre 2000, a large shopping centre.
Being home to one of the oldest universities in the world, the city of Fez is considered to be the intellectual capital and the most imperial of Morocco’s cities. The Medina is magnificently unchanged, and is famed for its rich architecture and handicrafts. It is also noted for its maze like souqs, where traditional craft techniques are still practised today.
The capital of Morocco, modern Rabat is a planned city of wide boulevards and handsome public buildings and gardens. Rabat is situated on the Atlantic coastal plain at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. A city of trees and flowers, Rabat combines peace, beauty and serenity, and is steeped in history. The origins of the city date back to the 7th century. A Mauritanian trading post was once built to the south-east of the present city in the Chellah area. The river port, later colonised first by the Carthaginians and then by the Romans, was a bridgehead for the Roman occupation.
Ouarzazate lies in a valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It is popular with tourists on their way to the Sahara Desert. Scenic day trips into the surrounding region offer a glimpse of times gone by in the ruins of ancient Kasbahs. Ouarzazate is the film capital of Morocco, with everything from Lawrence of Arabia to The Mountains of the Moon and Star Wars being filmed here. The studio outside town is an impressive sight, and open to the public for tours. The town has its share of luxury hotels, expensive restaurants and shops.