Morocco An Exotic Side Trip

Morocco1Looking for a great side trip to add to a European Vacation?

Morocco is it! Uniquely not European this is adventure travel at its best.

Fly into Marrakech then fly, take the train or bus to Fez and on to Tangier. From Tangier grab the ferry to The Rock of Gibraltar and on to Spain.

15 “Don’t Miss” Sights

In Marrakech 

1. The Medina of Marrakech
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One of the grandest of Berber marketplaces, it is a swarming center of shops with souks selling jewels, lanterns, spices, leather and pottery. People, snakes, donkeys and monkeys provide the opportunity just to experience the fun and excitement that Morocco provides. Sellers are aggressive so engage only with those who are selling something that you really want. You might want to hire a guide for your excursion to ensure that you see all that the Medina has to offer and help you avoid the thieves that frequent the market. Keep a tight reign on your wallet, purse and mobile phone, as they are prime targets.

Remember to haggle!

2. Jamaa el Fna
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The main square of Medina this is a great place for lunch or dinner. It is the most crowded and lively at night and many find that more entertaining. Try the rooftop restaurants or terraced stalls. A wide variety of foods Are available so choose something that will titillate your taste buds while not forgetting about desert of sweet cakes. Be sure to clarify the price before ordering to ensure that you are not paying more than necessary.

3. Marrakech Ramparts
Morocco5Take a quick visit here to see the old defensive walls of the city. With tall pink walls broken only by the 19 gates that provide access to the city. Don’t miss the impressive Bab Agnaou gateway that is nearest to the Saadian Tombs.

4. El Badi Palace
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The courtyards and pools provide a peaceful atmosphere and combined with the main rooms and the adornments throughout will ignite your imagination of what it must have been like to live in this 16th century seat of power and luxury. Don’t forget to step out on the terraces for a wonderful view of the Atlas mountains.

In Fez

4. Fes el-Bali
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9,000 very narrow streets are the hallmark of Fes el-Bali, a UNESCO World Heritage site are the heart of Morocco’s oldest city. 1,300 years of Moroccan heritage surround you as you walk the streets in this “car-free” zone that has only recently been touched by tourists. This is a must on any trip to Morocco.

5. The City Walls
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Tour de Fex follows the city walls taking you to the Royal Palace and then to the Merinid Tombs where the last sultans of Merinid are buried. The view from here is spectacular. You’ll get a feeling for the layout of the city and it’s size. Feel the atmosphere of the old Morocco in The old medina (city); Fez el Bali and you’ll be taken back in time. Wander the streets on your own or for efficiency hire a licensed guide at the visitor’s center or your hotel. But, don’t miss the Kairaouine Mosque and the madrassas.

6. Bab Boujeloud
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Bab Boujeloud is a blue tiled gate built by the French in 1913 at the crossroads of Fez el Bali and Fez el Jdid. The two major arteries of the old city. Talaa Seghira and Talaa Kebira lead you from the gate to the depths of the medina. Talaa Seghira offers many restaurants and stalls that sell semolina cake, flat bread and snacks. Talaa Kebira is the more interesting with smoky meat and olive bazaars.

7. The Madrassa Bou Inania
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The most beautiful of Morocco’s religious sites and it is open to tourists. Built in the 1350’s it is one of the glories of Hispano-Moorish architecture. This is a very complex structure with carved cedar and zellige tiles adorning the stucco walls. A fountain sits in the center of the courtyard and is surrounded by onyx and marble that was used to pave it. There is a great view of the city from the rooftop.

8. Interesting Remnants of the Past
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Don’t miss the water clock, a wonder of medevial Fez, made of metal bowls and carved wood. It hasn’t worked for over 500 years and no one knows how it worked or how to fix it. As you progress down Talaa Kebira you’ll see the old fondouks with its two to four story buildings with courtyards. Built in conjunction with the madrass they served as rooms for travelling salespeople and now as warehouses and workshops for the merchants of the souk.

9. The Souks
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At the bottom of the hill on Talaa Kebira lies the perfume and spice market. Souk el Attarine is a magnificent market with Moroccan crafts, spices, cosmetics, tree bark, incense, snake skins, roots, twigs, charms and potions mate this a wonderful experience even if you choose not to buy. Souk el Henna is right next-door and full of henna leaves, kohl and cosmetics.

10. The Kairaouine Mosque
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Closed to non-muslims the Great Mosque of Fez el Bali was built in the late 9th century by Kairouan a Tunisian women, in honor of her father. Expanded to serve as many as 20,000 worshippers in the 13th century. This is a dazzling site that can be viewed through on or more of its 14 gates. Kairaouine University is also housed here

11. The Tanners’ Quarter
Morocco15You’ll smell it before you see it so just follow your nose along the river to Chouaras Tanneries where nearly all of the leather used to make the goods you’ll find in the souks is tanned. For a small fee you can gain access to one of the roof terraces that surround the tanneries for a superb view of the tannery. Don’t miss the Bein el Moudoun bridge that serves as the link between Fez’s two oldest quarters.

In Tangier 

A traveler’s city with beautiful views, nice beaches, and a feeling of mystery. An international city with influences of France, Spain, Portugal and Africa separated by just 20 miles of Mediterranean Sea from the Rock of Gibraltar and Spain.

12. The Kasbah
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The phrase “come with me to the Kasbah” describes the romance you’ll feel here. Now nearly taken over by European’s for private homes or restaurants it is home to many historical buildings. This  is a great place to walk on your own, no guides are needed. Most of us will approach the Kasbah via the Bab Haha (no joke) and enter the Place du Mechouar (or Kasbah).

13. The Zoco Chico
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Café Tingis and Café Cenral are housed here and with their outdoor seating provide a great place to relax with your favorite tea or coffee and just watch people.

14. The Brothers of Detroit
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Fils de Detroit is another great place to relax that is just outside the Kasbah Museum where you’ll hear music from lutes and drums played by Arab-Andalusian musicians. I absolutely love this place!

15. Grottes d’Hercules
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After exploring Tangier take a 9-mile taxi ride to the Caves of Hercules for a special treat. Hercules used these caves to rest after his 12 labors and you’ll find it to be a place of great beauty. There is a charge to get in but you will not need a guide. Just ½ mile away is a superb beach called Plage Achkar that is a nice place for a picnic and some time in the sun and water.