Bordered by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, merged with the African continent through the Sahara desert and diagonally bisected by the mountain chains of High and Middle Atlas, Morocco is a magical destination that’s immersed in a distinct cultural melting pot influenced by the age-old recitals and lifestyles of native Berbers, Saharan nomads, African slaves, Arab traders and European colonisers. Of the many things to do in Morocco, most haven’t changed much over the last few centuries.
Four Imperial Cities
Every year, over 10 million visitors are attracted by the nation’s four imperial cities – Fes, Marrakech (read this for Marrakech travel tips), Meknes and Rabat.
All four cities, which at some point in Morocco’s history have been the nation’s capital, now have luxury hotels, trendy restaurants, lively cafes and glitzy shopping malls.
However, it’s the old sections in these cities that are the best places to find captivating things to do in Morocco. Wander through the old towns to learn why Morocco is one of the most mysterious places on earth.
A striking feature of these old quarters, which were built by the imperial rulers of several dynasties from the Idrissid and Almoravids to Merinids and Saadian, is the Medina.
Surrounded by defensive walls, the medina is a densely packed urban conglomeration tucked within a dusty and chaotic labyrinth packed with shops, eateries, mosques, medersas, fountains, open-air bazaars and homes for nobles and commoners as well.
Of all the captivating things to do in Morocco, visiting a medina is one of the most fascinating. Entry inside is the medina is generally through monumental getaways.
What’s fascinating here is the mesh of rundown alleyways, which are like an architectural spaghetti with never ending turns, twists and crossroads to get outsiders puzzled in no time.
Most buildings are dilapidated but the medinas brim with history and the way of life is the same as it was centuries before.
Recognising their historical and cultural significances, UNESCO has listed the medinas of Fes, Marrakech and Meknes under its honoured World Heritage listing.
More things to do in Morocco: Architectural splendours
Most of the architectural splendours of Morocco are all dotted inside the medina; Bou Inania Medersa and Karaouiyine Mosque in Fes, Koutoubia Mosque and Saadian Tombs in Marrakech, Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes and Oudaia Kassbah Fortress in Rabat are few notables from the long list.
One of the best things to do in Morocco for an intimate experience of typical Moroccan culture, tradition, etiquettes and cuisine is to stay inside the medina at a “Riad’, old-styled Moroccan houses converted into luxury accommodations.
They are located inside the medina and characterised by having an inner courtyard or a garden as the central element of the building.
Some Riads, like the plush Palais Amani in Fes and La Maison Arabe in Marrakech, are so opulent they look like they were transported from the scenes of the fabled Arabian Nights.
Guests stay like a royal and enjoy the best of Moroccan hospitality in a tranquil and relaxed environment.
After enjoying the craziness at the medina, you can relax at the bar or in the swimming pool and keep pondering when to make a return visit to explore further mysteries of Morocco.
Sandip Hor received assistance from By Prior Arrangement and Palais Amani Hotel
Getting to Morocco
Fly Cathay Pacific to Paris via Singapore and then Royal Air Morocco (www.royalairmaroc.com) to Marrakech. Other parts of Morocco can then be travelled by road.
Where to stay in Morocco
The writer stayed at Palais Amani in Fes and Hotel La Maison Arabe in Marrakech.
Morocco Tour Operator
By Prior Arrangement is an expert in providing bespoke itineraries to Morocco.