If you’re planning your summer trip, and wondering where to go, consider Morocco, with its sun-soaked coastlines, stunning mountains and shape-shifting desert.
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Once the cultural hub of the medieval Islamic world, Morocco today is a vibrant mix of tradition and modernity, blessed with beautiful natural sites and architectural marvels. Here are five things you should know about the country before you pack your bags:
1. It’s home to nine World Heritage Sites
As one of the biggest hubs of tourism in North Africa, Morocco has invested much in showing off its nine United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) World Heritage Sites. The list include entire cities that are conserved historic towns, like Meknes, the Medina of Fez and the Medina of Tetouan. With exceptional historical, cultural and architectural value, the sites are a must-visit for any tourist heading to Morocco.
2. It has four unique imperial cities
Morocco’s imperial cities – Rabat, Marrakesh, Meknes and Fez – are its historic capitals. These metropolises once featured striking palaces, futuristic irrigation systems, and reflected their rulers’ grand ambitions. Even today, you’ll find maze-like medinas (old city centres), souks, mosques and tombs as you explore these cities. Morocco’s capital today, Marrakesh, comprises an older walled city from the 11th century, and an adjacent modern city. Its older section is home to Africa’s largest market, which attracts millions of visitors each year.
3. You can visit Africa’s biggest market
A market for every bucket list, Jemaa El-Fna is a square that lies in the centre of Marrakesh’s medina. A maze of winding streets, food stalls and souks full of spices, handwoven fabrics, jewellery and knickknacks, Jemaa El-Fna is the beating heart of the city. It dates back to the founding of the ‘Red City’ or Marrakesh, by the Almoravids in 1062. When you’d like to take a break from haggling for wares, head to the terraces of cafes and restaurants in the area, where traders offer mint tea and performers like musicians and magicians appear at sundown to create a vibrant atmosphere.
4. It’s full of amazing architecture
The country is full of iconic mosques and colourful street corners. Morocco has a rich, diverse past, and you can see the impact of both Islamic and Hispano-Moorish inspired designs everywhere. Intricate patterns can be found in palaces, fountains, and fortresses, and beautiful ceramic tiles adorn riads (sheltered outdoor areas at home), and schools.
5. Walk in a city just for pedestrians
The Medina of Fez is considered as one of the most extensive and best conserved historic towns of the Arab-Muslim world, according to Unesco. You can view the outstanding architectural, archaeological and urban heritage of Morocco in this car-free medina, which is enclosed by towering, 16km-long walls. There are over 10,000 alleys to explore, which are too narrow for cars, but wide enough for merchant carts carrying goods to the souks.
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