The intoxicating aromas of cumin and mint lingering in the air, the echo of the call to prayer cascading over the cities, the melody of French, Arabic, Berber and Spanish (all from the mouths of locals) harmonizing as if they were one language… simply walking the streets of any city in Morocco is an experience.
One could roam simply just the narrow path ways of the medinas for days, if not weeks. Casually crossing paths with a donkey-drawn cart of vegetables, eyes glimmering at glass, brass, silver, gold and so much more sold in the small shops that pile on top of one another.
But, Morocco is so much more than the first exhilarating steps into the medina or the first time hearing the call to prayer… There are some things that you simply have to do and experience in Morocco.
Stay at a Riad
Riad’s are traditionally homes (or palaces) that house an inner courtyard. In an effort to cater to the ever-changing tourists’ desires, Riad’s have turned over new leafs and luxury, boutique properties are budding all around the country.
Some of the details at La Maison Bleu, a larger riad, located in Fes.
(left) The sunset views and hues of the Fes medina from the roof of La Maison Bleu. (right) Enjoying the serenity of the La Maison Bleu courtyard.
Have Lunch at a Riad
While most Riad’s are affordable, some simply prefer the luxuries of larger properties or the budget friendly options of hostels/guest-houses. If that’s the case for you, I highly suggest, at the very least, enjoying lunch in a Riad.
Every Riad boasts unique décor, I personally fell in love with not only the colors at El Amine Riad in Fes, but also the food! The cuisine was as instagrammable as plates can get.
Explore the Sahara
With burnt orange sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see – and further than the mind can fathom, exploring The Sahara Desert (which occupies roughly 20% of the country – is a “must experience” on any Morocco trip.
4. Camp Overnight in the Sahara
While we’re discussing “Sahara experiences” you can’t travel to Morocco without glamping in the Sahara. Tent sites with all the modern luxuries of home (and then some) have popped up around the Sahara to give visitors a truly unique experience.
Can anything be as quite as picturesque as this?
Watch the Sun Rise (and Set!) Over the Sahara
Camping out overnight in the Sahara opens the opportunity for further unique Moroccan experiences – like watching the sun set over the Sahara, and if you’re open to waking up early, watching the sun rise over the Sahara.
There are few experiences in life as truly as special as watching the sun set over the Sahara with your toes in the sand.
Sun rising over our camp in Merzouga, Morocco.
5a. Do All your Sahara Experiences – On a Camel
I mean, c’mon, we’re in Morocco. What else besides camels can make watching the sunset or sunrise over the Sahara even more extraordinary?
The sun setting over the Sahara set gorgeous cascading shadows of our caravan (or camel train).
No-where else in the world would offer this sunrise photo opportunity.
Our camels hanging out as the sun rising created a perfect #PinkHour over the dunes.
A special thank you to Grup Xaluca for hosting not only our overnight camping experience but also both camel rides!
Visit the Tanneries
The tanneries in Morocco are as rare as ‘rare’ experiences come. This is where you can watch animal hides be stripped and dyed. The stripping of their hair is done via natural ammonia (a.k.a pigeon poo) which leaves an interesting smell lingering in the warm air. Fret not: if you’ve ever visited a dairy farm, the small is no worse than that and if it really bothers you – you’re offered a bundle of mint to stick under your nose!
The colors of the dyes are all created using natural pigments! Mint for green, red for poppy, indigo for blue and the most expensive being saffron for yellow.
The lighter basins to the left are where the hides are stripped of the hair/fur and the colorful basins to the right are where the hides are dyed.
Drive Through the Windy Roads of the Atlas Mountains
The Moroccan terrain is largely mountainous so visiting the country without crossing through the mountains would truly be a task. I suggest basking in the windy roads through the Atlas Mountains, stopping along the way to take in the amazing views while sparking curiosity of the people who have decided to make their homes in the valleys of these vast mountains.
The traditional architecture of Morocco is made of mud and clay and can be built into the steep mountainous terrain.
Admiring the windy roads that obtained us the view and the tiny town in the valley below.
Discover an Oasis
Tucked deep into the Sahara are quite a few luxury properties offering all the best of what you’d expect an Oasis in the middle of the desert to have.
This particular oasis was part of the Grup Xaluca property that arranged for all the Sahara experiences.
Watching the sunset over Kasbah Hotel Xaluca – located in Arfoud or “The Door to the Desert”.
Because it wouldn’t be a true Sahara experience unless you uncovered more than one Oasis, like these beautiful views and hues at Berber Palace in Ouarzazate.
Tagine refers to a North African cookware, not a dish, that is typically made of clay or ceramic. Due to its composition, it is perfect for cooking slow-cooked stews, typically with a meat such as lamb or beef and chicken or fish – most often including a vegetable or medley of vegetables and sometimes couscous.
Not your typical tagines – dining at Dar Moha in Marrakesh put modern spins on traditional cuisines and customs.
The lamb shank from Dar Moha was something truly special and the couscous dishes in the foreground completed the meal!
A more traditional tagine was this beef slow cooked in a tomato based sauce with eggs cracked on top before serving.
Get Lost in the Medina
Exploring the medina, in any major Moroccan city, is a must do. From cell phones, to camel meat and literally anything you can think of in between this is a place where both locals and tourists alike come to buy ingredients for dinner that night or where a tourist might buy a “genie lamp” to set on a shelf at home for a lifetime of memories.
When I said, you can buy anything in the medinas, I wasn’t joking. (From left to right) The first stall has anything you can imagine to host a party – from mini shishas to mint tea glasses to perfume bottles to trays and even qraqeb’s (also known as karkabas) which are metallic instruments held in the hands to be clinked together to make a sound similar to a horse’s hoof clinking on the ground. The middle stall had colorful pigments – or an alligator skin – whichever you’d need. And the third stall was hands down my favorite – an olive stall! I personally suggest the light green olives.
Experience a Hammam
While I don’t have a photo of this experience, as it was truly unique and a more private spa experience, I can’t suggest a hammam enough. I came out of the hammam at Riad Maison Bleu in Fes feeling like a new woman! I felt utterly refreshed, cleansed and relaxed.
Similar to a “steam bath” or even more closely characterized as Roman Baths, a hammam is a place where Moroccans would go to cleanse (and relax) during the times when plumbing in homes wasn’t typical. Today this has been more adapted into a spa like experience where you’re treated with a full body scrub as well as a massage. This can be done as a group experience (for example my hammam experience was with Christine of Tour de Lust and Juliana of Traveling Jules or it can be done as a more private experience alone, or even as an intimate experience with a couple.
Drink Mint Tea
I mean, if you went to Morocco and didn’t try mint tea, did you really go to Morocco? This super sweet, equally minty and delicious take on green tea is served nationwide in Morocco and is often served with a side of sweets!
Mint tea is typically served hot in these short glasses, hold the glass as such to avoid burning your fingers!
Make a Friend
Often mislabeled as rough or invasive – the Moroccan people are truly welcoming, inviting and warm. I can’t suggest making some time to get to know the people of Morocco enough.
Instead of getting angry or upset with me trying to pose for a photo (in this super cute and colorful street of Fes) this local artisan paused the work he was doing on his display of goods for sale to smile, engage in a little conversation and of course – take a photo!
Discover Ancient Roman Ruins
Morocco was once part of the Roman empire – and the remains are left to prove it! The city of Volubilis has been (mostly) excavated to reveal a once bustling city. Rows of dilapidated stones unfold in rows, telling a story of store fronts and homes – that ended nearly 2,000 years earlier.
The mosaics on this floor are said to have been telling philosophical stories – located on the floor of a home that once belonged to an ancient Roman (and wealthy) family.
The ruins are located high atop of a mountain, which would’ve made the city once difficult to invade.
This also isn’t a half bad place to host a mini photo-shoot.
Explore the Jewish quarters
A story often not told about Morocco is the ancient history of the Jewish community in Morocco. Prior to the founding of Israel there were over 250,000 Jews residing in Morocco making Morocco home to the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. With immigration into Morocco dating back to as early as the Carthaginian Empire, the Jewish influence remains in Morocco. Exploring the Jewish quarters in Morocco are a must do for any Morocco trip.
The bustling streets of the Jewish Quarter in Fes.
Exploring a synagogue, in Morocco, was an experience I wasn’t expecting.
Explore the Beautiful Madrasas
A madrasa is a former college or university where young students went to live and learn about the Islamic Religion, law, medicine and more. These madrasas are uniquely beautiful with ornate plaster, intricate mosaic tiles, and truly magnificent cedar carvings.
The Mahkama du Pacha school and government offices were built in typical madrasa fashion in Casablanca.
Everything to love about a Madrasa, all in one corner. Ben Youseff Madrasa, Marrakesh.
Appreciate the Attention to Detail
Everywhere around the country there is gorgeous detail. From the gardens at Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh to the carpet store in the medina to palace doors in Fes to a simple home entryway in Rabat – the entire country boasts beautiful attention to detail which truly adds to the uniqueness of this nation.
A home façade in the Kasba des Oudaïas, Rabat.
A carpet store façade in the medina in Marrakesh.
The entryway to Palais Royal in Fes.
The infamous YSL gardens, Le Jardin Majorelle, in Marrakesh.
Disclaimer: I was hosted in Morocco as a guest by the Moroccan National Tourism Office. My opinions, as always, remain my own.