Fes or Fez
Fes, or Fez, is a former capital of Morocco that is now the country’s third largest city. Home to University of Al-Karaouine, the world’s oldest university, Fes is an ancient city that still retains two old medinas. Travelers may want to begin their visit by walking through the Fes el Bali medina, where goods are transported by donkeys and handcarts. With a population of about 150,000 inhabitants, the medina is the largest carfree urban area in the world by population. Traditional adobe homes and courtyards ornamented with mosaic tiles line a maze of narrow streets and alleys filled with souqs and shops. Fes is also famous for dyed leather goods. Several places are limited to Muslims, but just viewing the striking exteriors makes the trip worthwhile.
Marakech Formerly one of the country’s imperial cities, Marrakech is sometimes referred to as the Red City because of its sandstone buildings. During the 1960s, Marrakech was known as a “hippie mecca,” attracting famous celebrities such as The Beatles, Yves Saint Laurent and the Rolling Stones. Comprised of beautiful old architecture and courtyards of orange, palm, apricot and olive trees, Marrakech today is still one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations.
The best way to sample its charms is to take off walking through the medina: watch a snake charmer, haggle over an old carpet, eat local delicacies such as sheep’s head or have a massage in a public bath. Other possibilities include strolling through the Jardin Majorelle, a botanical garden that blends art deco and Moorish features, and sipping mint tea at a traditional tea house.
Rabat, located on the Moroccan coast, is the country’s capital and a top tourist destination – CNN named it one of the top travel destinations of 2013. The new portion of the city is pleasant, with wide boulevards and outdoor cafes. Most travelers will gravitate to the old town, or medina, with its fortified walls. Here, they can shop for carpets and leather, while soaking in the atmosphere of another culture. Also worth seeing is the Kasbah des Oudaias that sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
Chefchaouen might just as well be called the blue city because it’s filled with – what else? – buildings in various shades of blue. Located in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is close to Tangier, making it a popular tourist destination. It’s popular with shoppers who can find Moroccan handicrafts, such as woven blankets, not found elsewhere in the country. Goat cheese also is popular, but most likely doesn’t top the popularity of kief, a part of the cannabis plant, that is openly sold in shops.
Essaouira Situated on Morocco’s Atlantic coastline, Essaouira is one of the nation’s most popular beach destinations. White-washed homes sporting cobalt blue shutters provide a scenic backdrop for breezy seaside adventures, which include kitesurfing and windsurfing.
The city’s medina features crafts made using centuries-old techniques, including thuya wood carving and cabinet making. Essaouira, formerly called Mogador, is a natural port. It’s been prized as such since the 1st century, when the protected bay provided anchorage for Romans trading for the purpura shells.
Merzouga is a small village in southeastern Morocco not too far from the border with Algeria. It’s on the tourist route because of its proximity to Erg Chebbi, sand dunes created by winds that reach up to 150 meters (500 feet) high. Travelers looking for a unique experience might want to take an overnight camel ride through the wavy, deep reddish-orange dunes. Most group tours end up at a pre-setup camp at the base of some very large dunes, where the various tour operators have their Berber tents set up. Dinner will be cooked here, perhaps some music played, and visitors can frolic on the sand dunes under zillions of stars.
Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco and its name and fame are closely linked to that of Sultan Moulay Ismail. The sultan turned Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great gates. While Meknes is an imperial city with a lot of historical monuments and natural sites it is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis.