Morocco Travel Guide – part IV
Casablanca may be the cosmopolitan, industrial and economic heart of Morocco (and its largest city), but it is one of the less endearing of the country’s sights. With a small, unassuming medina and a traffic-congested ville nouvelle, travellers arriving via Casablanca may be tempted to find the first train out of to nearby Rabat. The awe-inspiring Hassan II Mosque and happening nightlife, however, are worth at least a day of your Moroccan itinerary.
The King Hassan II Mosque, a relatively recent mosque, it’s one of the largest in the world and the largest in Morocco, and has the tallest minaret on the planet. It is situated on a promontory looking out to the Atlantic, which can be seen through a gigantic glass floor with room for 25,000 worshippers. A further 80,000 can be accommodated in the mosque’s courtyard. It’s one of the two main mosques in Morocco open to non-muslims.
The Parc de la Ligue Arabe (formally called Lyautey) is the city’s largest public park. On its edge is situated the Cathedrale du Sacré Coeur, which is disused, but is a splendid example of Mauresque architecture.
Le Vieux Port (The Old Port) restaurant is one of Mohammedia restaurants, which is located just in front of the fishing port, offering a magnificient view. It specialises in sea food, and crustacees.
Modern, hip and slightly seedy, Casablanca is a mixed bag of Moroccan extremes.
Marrakech known as the “Red City or Al Hamra,” is a city in southwestern Morocco in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. While not considered as well preserved as other Moroccan cities such as Fez, Marrakech offers several historical and architectural sites as well as some interesting museums.
– Djemma El Fna is the highlight of any Marrakech night. Musicians, dancers and story tellers pack this square at the heart of the medina, filling it with a cacophony of drum beats and excited shouts. Scores of stalls sell a wide array of Moroccan fare (see the Eat section) and you will almost certainly be accosted by women wanting to give you a henna tattoo.
– The souks (suuqs) or markets of Marrakech, just adjacent to Place Jema El Fna, is where you can buy most anything. From spices to shoes, jalabas to kaftans, tea pots to tagines and much, much more. Undoubtedly, being a foreigner will still mean you will end up paying a higher price for whatever you are buying than a native would, but be sure to bargain nonetheless.
– Koutoubia mosque – Just adjacent to Djemma El Fna. It is said that the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque is to Marrakech as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. The minaret is visible from Gueliz which is connected to the Medina by Ave. Mohammed V.
– Majorelle gardens – in Gueliz. With entrance fee of 30 dirhams, it is more expensive than other attractions but provides an excellent respite from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. The park boasts a collection of plants from across the globe, including what seems like every cactus species on the planet. Inside the gardens is also the Museum of Islamic Art, for which an additional entrance fee is charged.
– Musee Dar si Said – a museum 5 minutes walk from Djemma El Fna, and a little tricky to find, on Rue Riad Zitoun Jdid. Set in an old palace, and houses many different artefacts from Morocco through the ages, such as wood carvings, musical instruments and weapons.
– Ben Youssef madrasa
– El Badi palace – the view from the terrace is majestic
Many tourists take a trip from Marrakesh to visit the valley of the Ourika River in the Atlas Mountains or the valley of the Draa River in the south near the Sahara desert.
Approximately 55 kilometers south of Marrakech, at the foot of the High Atlas mountain range, it lies Amizmiz, a small town. Its population consists mainly of Berbers of Chleuh origin who speak the Tashelhiyt dialect. Its weekly souk (a commercial quarter in an Arab city) every Tuesday is well-known in the area.
Rabat is an easy going city, for Moroccan standards. There are many things to do here, as with most Moroccan cities it is enough just to wander around and adventure where something takes your fancy.
In the Kasbah (Oudaia) there is an amazing cafe that looks over the sea, where you can drink mint tea and eat sugary treats. The staff are super friendly and you can stay as long as you like soaking up the atmosphere!
There is also a large and tranquil park next to the Hotel Hilton, where people run and play football etc. You can also use the pool at the Hilton for a charge. The park is a 10-15Dirham taxi ride (10 minutes) from la gare central.
Do not miss Hassan Towers, Kings Palace, Kasbah Oudayas, the Necropolis of Chellah, Medina Bazzar.
Tangier lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Here you can take a simple walk along the beach (Ave Mohamed VI) to enjoy what the city is famed for:
– The Kasbah, where the sultan once lived, dominates the Medina’s (Old City) northern section. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. The palace was built in the 17th century and enlarged by each reigning sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of Moroccan craft-work. Also in the Kasbah is the infamous Cafe Detroit, which became a haunt for the visiting and expat writers, artists and hangers-on in the 1960s.
– Gran Teatro Cervantes – a theatre, dedicated to Miguel Cervantes. It was once considered one of the most prestigious in North Africa and notable singers and dancers performed here. The theatre was built in 1913 by the Spanish and has undergone little renovation in the exterior, noted for its dilapidated Art Deco facade.
– The American Legation. The Tangier American Legation Museum (TALM), a thriving cultural center, museum, conference center and library in the heart of the old medina in Tangier, is housed in the only historic landmark of the Unted States located abroad. The museum exhibts a large collection of art and historical items. It also houses the Paul Bowles Museum dedicated to the writer and composer who lived most of his adult life in Tangier.
– Musée d’Art Contemporain de la Ville de Tanger. This art gallery is devoted to modern Moroccan art, with works by the country’s big-name artists on show. The gallery’s grand old building dates to the 17th century. Peaceful gardens surround the museum, making the attraction a relaxing respite to the bustle outside.