A trip to Morocco isn’t quite complete without a visit to the exquisite Sahara Desert, with its long stretches of rippling sands curving across a vast 9.2 million km². The grand Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is another simply stunning sight, soaring above Morocco’s clear blue skies and featuring some classic Moroccan patterns and designs as you walk through the temple-like doors.
Built in the late 19th century, the Bahia Palace (meaning brilliance in Arabic) is located in Marrakech, Morocco and is probably one of the most interesting and best-preserved historical sites in Marrakech.
Having housed the Resident General during the French Protectorate era, today the Bahia Palace is a wonderful, historical museum open to the public from 9 am to 4 pm except for religious holidays.
This expansive palace is set over two acres in the middle of the Marrakech Medina. Inside the palace, the harem, as it is often known, is unfortunately off-limits to visitors. You can, however, visit the traditional style gardens that are filled with orange trees and splashing fountains as well as the living quarters and apartments that were used most notably by his wife, Lalla Zineb. These beautiful apartments have exquisite zellige-tiled fireplaces and floors, superbly painted and carved cedarwood and colourful stained-glass windows.
Casablanca Cathedral, or Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a former Roman Catholic church located in Casablanca, Morocco. It was constructed in 1930 and was designed French architect Paul Tournon, using the Neo-Gothic style. The twin towers flanking the west front look like square minarets, and the small windows that pierce the upper parts of the cathedral would be at home in any mosque.
Open to the public, for a nominal fee, you can climb the tower stairs all the way up to the spire where you will get a fantastic view of the city, but be aware that the stairs are made concrete and crumbling brick and there are no safety ropes or guide rails, so this is not for the faint-hearted. You also need to watch out for the pigeon nests and chicks on the steps as you go up.
The Cyber Park in Marrakesh is a public park with an ornamental garden. The 20-acre site was originally built for Prince Moulay Abdessalam in the 18th century. It was reopened in 2005 as a public park financed by Maroc Telecom in return for being allowed to use part of the park as a multimedia cyber-space exhibition area and theatre. There are internet kiosks, WiFi and a telecommunications museum at the entrance to the park.
It is an oasis of calm and tranquillity compared to the nearby Souks and has footpaths through the beautiful citrus and olive trees, fantastic fountains, lush foliage and a beautiful variety of flowering plants. Throughout the park there are various information points in a number of languages, giving you an interesting history of the park
This garden is a well-maintained and shady retreat, popular with young couples and early-evening strollers.
Built at enormous expense to commemorate the former king’s 60th birthday it took over 7 years and 10,000 craftsmen to construct the Hassan II Mosque, but the resulting building beautifully blends traditional Moorish architecture with 20th-century innovation and equipment.
Towering above the Atlantic Ocean the 210m-tall minaret, topped with a spotlight that shines east towards Mecca, this is the city’s major landmark and a showcase for its hand-carved stone and wood, intricate marble flooring and inlay, gilded cedar ceilings and exquisite colourful ceramic tiling.
Built to withstand earthquakes, the mosque also features a sliding roof and a heated floor. It is open to all Muslims at daily prayer times and for special Friday services. Non-Muslim visitors may enter the mosque on guided tours, which are available in multiple languages and are conducted outside prayer times for modestly clad visitors. Underground parking is available nearby.
It was the beginning of the 12th century when the great Sultan Yacoub al Mansour ordered the construction of the Hassan Tower and mosque in Rabat. He wanted it to be the world’s tallest minaret at 86 metres high. Unfortunately, the sultan’s death in 1199 led to a dramatic halt in construction and the building was never completed. What was left was a minaret standing 44 metres tall alongside 20 smaller free-standing columns that were to be the foundations of the planned mosque
An earthquake in 1755 further damaged the incomplete site but it did manage to survive and is now an interesting historical site, much admired by its visitors.
There are no stairs in the tower with visitors using the ramps that were originally used by animals to carry stones to the top of the tower to speed up construction. What’s more, entrance to the tower is free.
Marrakesh, once the most powerful commercial and political centre in the Arab world, was established in 1062 by Berber chieftain Abu Bakr ibn Umar as the capital of the orthodox-Muslim Almoravid Empire. The marina was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1985 and houses many ornate monuments built mostly between the 12th and 16th centuries.
Surrounded by ancient walls and enormous gates, the medina contains a large central courtyard called the Jemaa el-Fnaa and is also home to a series of stunning gardens, including the Majorelle Garden, set beside the Museum of Islamic Art and featuring plants collected from five continents.
A visit to the medina is like a walk through a heavily fortified open-air museum with its lavish Royal Palace, Badi Palace, Bahia Palace and the Koutoubia, Ben Youssef and Mouassine mosques. No wonder it attracts so many visitors.
Its name meaning, “the act of grinding grain” in the local language of Berber, Ouzoud Falls (Cascades d’Ouzoud) are a collection of massive falls located in Morocco.
None of the falls are the same and all differ both in height and width. The water cascades into a fantastic pool of river water and although quite chilly, it can be a refreshing way of cooling off.
Throughout the cascades, there are several picturesque groves, green valleys, gorges, orchards, and mills. The flora and fauna in these areas are also marvellous as are the Barbary apes which you may come across.
Although it is a popular spot, the falls have yet to be excessively commercialised and there are only a few places to eat, all at the bottom of the cascades. There is a picnic area here plus a car park. You are also able to camp in specially designated areas.
There are very few places on Earth that compare to the incredible landscape of the Sahara Desert. Located on Morocco’s western border, the Sahara Desert is the world’s largest hot desert. Many tourists visit Morocco specifically to journey into the desert and spend a night under the stars
If you have the time, you could spend more than one night and therefore be able to explore the desert at a more relaxed pace and fully submerge yourself in the traditional ways of the local tribes. You could spend your days sandboarding and camel trekking and your nights singing, dancing, and stargazing.
Arranging a visit to the Sahara Desert is easy as wherever you go in Marrakech you’ll find hundreds of tour operators offering desert tours ranging from 1 to 3 nights. The best time to visit is between May and October as that is when daytime temperatures are milder.
The Todgha Gorges are a series of limestone river canyons, in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, near the town of Tinerhir. The gorge, although in a remote area, is a popular tourist destination and over the years hiking paths and a well-maintained dirt road that visitors can walk along have been created, though they must be prepared to share them with mules and other pack animals.
The gorge is breath-taking and an easy hike by foot with many places to stop and photograph. The magnificent, strong rock sides with their many uneven surfaces provide plenty of opportunities for rock climbing. You can even stay overnight here in one of the small hotels and lodges that the locals have set up inside the gorge. It is said that the gigantic rock walls magically change colour during the day.
Volubilis is a partly excavated Berber and Roman city in Morocco situated near the city of Meknes. It was once an affluent provincial capital of around 20,000 people, its wealth based on the export of olives, olive oil and wheat to Rome, and wild animals to face the gladiators in arenas throughout the Roman Empire.
Some of the key features of this exciting UNESCO World Heritage site are ruins and the mosaics, finding these and matching them up with the stories in the guide is like a treasure hunt of sorts.
There is also an aqueduct, a basilica, the Capitol and a spectacular triumphal arch.
If you wish you can hire an English-speaking guide to take you round or you can wander about on your own. Whichever you choose, you will need to wear sturdy walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat and take water.