If, like me, you love to travel to distant places and immerse yourself in the local history and culture, then you’ll have to go a long way to beat what the eastern side of the globe has to offer. With all its Souks, crammed with locally made items and full of the wonderful aromas of spices and Dates, to say nothing of the ornate, centuries old architecture. Morocco is a fantastic place to start!
Casablanca, made famous for its connection with the movie quote ‘Play it again, Sam!’, is the business capital of Morocco. Although there is a Souk, for those of us that love a local bargain and an opportunity to practise our haggling skills, many of the buildings are what you’d expect from a modern city. But if you’d rather see something more indicative of your trip, then the architecturally stunning Hussan II Mosque is a must. The Mosque is purpose built for tourism so non-Muslims can visit. In fact, it’s the only Mosque that non-Muslims can visit in Morocco. Plus, they offer optional guided tours if you prefer to feel fully informed while you wander around. However, the Mosque is still used for prayer, therefore visiting is reduced to certain hours of the day and celebrations such as Ramadan can alter these, so it’s advisable to do your research in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you’re lucky enough for your holiday to include a visit to Rissani or Erfoud, then you simply cannot pass up the opportunity to drive in to the Sahara. Covering a staggering 9,200,000 square kilometres, the Sahara is the third largest desert in the world, and the beautiful Erg Chebbi dunes are but a short drive away. However, if you’re feeling inspired by Lawrence of Arabia, why not go in true Arab style, by Camel (or Desert Limo as they’re otherwise known) and take a relaxing stroll up. The dunes span an area of 50 km and can reach heights of up to 150 meters in places, so it’s a perfect place to settle yourself and be camera-ready for a magical sunset, and a truly unforgettable experience.
Film buffs out there may relish the opportunity to visit the kasbah of Ait Benn-Haddou, famously featured in the film ‘The Gladiator’. The hillside kasbah has remained unchanged for centuries and is jam packed with character. Divided down the middle by a river that is dry more than it is full, both the old and new towns provide plenty to see and opportunities to purchase.
So, if you’re wanting a trip that offers similar delights to those of the Middle East, without travelling to those lengths, then Morocco is full of eastern promise.
Important Travel Advice: If you are a female traveller, you will need to have your head, shoulders and legs covered down to the knee to gain entry to religious sites. Entry will be denied to those who don’t.