Bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea in the heart of North Africa lies Morocco, a culturally rich country full of ancient cities, mountain ranges, and expansive desert. Influenced by Spanish, French, and European aesthetics, all mixed with traditional African culture, the country is dotted with luxurious hotels, one-of-a-kind museums, and exotic dishes. It has long been a true melting pot, offering a safe haven for multiple religions, providing cultural freedoms while maintaining tradition.
Our founders consider Morocco a must-visit destination and recommend expert travel company Ker & Downey: Experiential Luxury Travel, who will organize your entire trip, so all you have to do is show up and have fun. Wintertime weather can be slightly chilly, and summertime can be overly warm, so they suggest visiting in the fall or early spring for ideal temperatures.
Below, discover what makes this country so magical, and start planning your next winter trip.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The country overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
- Morocco attracted more than 11 million tourists in 2017 and aims to double that figure by 2020.
- Its official languages are Arabic and Berber; however, in most big cities, English and French are spoken.
- Moroccan culture is a blend of Berber, Arab, Sephardi Jews, West African and European influences.
- It has the 5th largest economy in Africa.
PLACES TO SEE
Located to the north of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains foothills and founded in the 11th century, this ancient city is a mecca of old-world history and culture. For a touch of the past, explore palaces, riads (traditional Moroccan houses or palaces with an interior garden or courtyard), mosques, and museums. Then discover the rich craftsmanship by visiting the market, where vendors sell everything from carpets and textiles to ceramics and woodwork.
Considered the oldest royal city in Morocco, this wonderous place was founded in the 9th century and is located northeast of the Atlas Mountains, in northern inland Morocco. It is stunning and mystical, especially Fès el Bali (old Fès), which features food and spice markets, communal bakeries, and traditional weavers and famous tanneries. Many consider it the best example of a living medieval city.
PLACES TO STAY
ALMAHA MARRAKECH & SPA
An elegantly exquisite riad in the bustling city of Marrakech, this retreat marries traditional Moroccan craftsmanship with contemporary art for a remarkable experience. It features high-end dining and in-house spa with steam rooms, beauty treatments, and massage.
KASBAH TAMADOT IN ASNI
Situated in the foothills of the spectacular Atlas Mountains, this award-winning property is owned by Sir Richard Branson and features expansive gardens, a pool for lounging, and individually decorated suites. This location is perfect hiking and climbing the nearby mountains.
LA MAISON BLEUE IN FÈS
This traditional Moroccan residence was built in 1915 as a family palace by Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a famous judge and astrologer of the times. Today, his grandchildren keep the spirit of the house alive by opening it to guests. It’s a vision of traditional Fassi architecture and luxurious accommodations, including serene suites, a spa, and a fitness center with personal trainers. Plus, you can survey the ivory-white city of Fès from a rooftop terrace.
THINGS TO DO
HIKING IN THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS
Grab your sneakers and set off into the grand Atlas Mountains for a day of hiking and climbing. This breathtaking mountain range separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert and offers one-of-a-kind views of the lands and local flora and fauna. Make your way to small Berber villages, peppered throughout the mountains, where you can stop for a quick rest accompanied by a cup of traditional Moroccan tea, served up by villagers themselves.
MUSEUMS & GARDENS
The Le Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited sites in Marrakech. The garden is an explosion of vivid colors, lively greenery, and rich history. It was a 40-year passion project for French painter Jacques Majorelle and was bought in 1980 by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. It includes plants from the four corners of the world and an Art Deco villa. Located on-site in the former painting studio of Jacques Majorelle, the Berber Museum offers a rich panorama of the extraordinary creativity of the Berber people, the most ancient of North Africa. It showcases more than 600 objects, including garments, weapons, and musical instruments. For fashionistas, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, located next to the Le Jardin Majorelle, is a must-see. Covering the career of the world-famous fashion designer, the museum also offers a book shop and café.
CAMEL RIDES IN MERZOUGA
For the extra adventurous, take a professionally guided camel ride at the edge of the Sahara Desert. Local companies, hired by Ker & Downey, will drive you by 4x4s eight hours from the city of Fès into the sand dunes of Merzouga. Here, you’ll climb atop camels for a sunset stroll to your final destination – a luxury campsite with spacious tents, a traditional dinner, and folkloric band for entertainment.
FOODS TO TRY
The name “tagine” is a catchall for locally made stews and casseroles of many kinds – vegetable, chicken, lamb, and more – seasoned with Mediterranean spices and flavors and served with fresh bread and olive oil. The name comes from the earthenware pot in which the dishes are made, a technique started in ancient North Africa that is still incredibly popular throughout Morocco.
Made from simple syrup, green tea, and fresh mint, this is a staple in Moroccan culture. Chinese gunpowder green tea is preferred (“gunpowder” refers to the compression of the dried tea leaves into tiny pellets), and the drink is served hot and sweet.
THINGS TO BUY
The entire country is known for its exquisitely handmade textiles, including the city of Ouarzazate, which sits south of the Atlas Mountains and is known as a gateway to the Sahara Desert. You can also find high-end fabrics in Marrakech and Fès. Choose from gorgeous, neutral-toned, Berber-style rugs, often worn by the Berber people at night for warmth, and beautifully bright blankets and pillows with intricate weavings, influenced directly by the Moors from Istanbul and Turkey.
POTTERY IN FÈS
Each part of Morocco is known for its own style of pottery. In the craft capital of Fès, you’ll find two vastly different but equally beautiful aesthetics: green, primitive pottery and intricately detailed blue and white pottery. You can find almost anything you can imagine – bowls, platters, soap dishes, pitchers, wall decor, and more.
CAFTANS FROM MAISON DU CAFTAN MAROCAIN IN MARRAKECH
For relaxing or walking around town, nothing beats a soft, airy caftan. These garments are a variant of the robe or tunic, and have been worn in a number of cultures around the world for thousands of years. At Maison Du Caftan Marocain, explore two floors of Moroccan caftans in every size and color you can imagine.