60 Second Geography – Beyond Exotic in Morocco

Known as the gateway to Africa, the country of Morocco is situated in the north of the continent and shares close ties to Europe… culturally and location-wise. With just 8 miles of sea to cross before reaching Spain, the mixture of sometimes vastly different places has created an exotic and exciting location. The busy streets of major cities like Marrakech and Tangier are perfect for people watching from cafes. The mix of cultures that have come together has a way of diversity seldom known around the world.

Market in Old Medina Marrakech, Morocco
Market in Old Medina Marrakech, Morocco
    • One of the most popular cities in Morocco is Marrakech, the fourth largest city in the country. It is known for many reasons. The Medina, the original walled-off part of the city, holds a feel of ancient times. Narrow streets wind through the area, perfect to wander about without aim. Colorful and creative architecture adorns the walls and buildings, traditional markets line the streets, filling the air with the smell of spices, and the call to prayer of the many mosques echoes through the air. The Medina’s beauty really shines when visiting the Jamaa El Fnaa. This square lies in the heart of the Medina and features flute players and other entertainers, scrumptious street food, and even the alluring movements of snake charmers. The city is also known for luxury stays and culinary treats for the traveler. Add in the classic cafes where sipping on coffee or tea is a popular pastime… and you have a city that will burn into the memories of any traveler.
The Hassan II Mosque largest mosque in Morocco.
The Hassan II Mosque – the largest mosque in Morocco.
    • Another famous city featured and named in a classic Hollywood film is Casablanca. Once called Anfa, it is the largest city in Morocco and has the largest artificial ports in the world. Casablanca has become the image of modern Morocco, the economic center. This means that modern luxury is plentiful. Though built in 1993, the Hassan II Mosque is the second largest mosque in Africa and the seventh largest in the world—with the second tallest minaret (tower) in the world. Its sleek and modern design is accented by designs of the past. The Medina, just as in Marrakech, is the historical center of Casablanca. Old Medina is a trip back in time through small passages and along open markets. However, there is also the Quartier Habous which is considered the New Medina. Here, a bit more modern shopping happens, along with amazing spots for culturally rich foods. Regardless of new or old in shops, the traditional art of haggling is encouraged. Casablanca is an urbanized stopover that will provide the traveler with a different view of Moroccan life.
    • To the south of the country sits the iconic image of dunes stretching off into the horizon, some of these sand hills rising as far as 590 ft… the Sahara Desert. Being the largest hot desert in the world, it spans 3,600,000 sq mi and has very few people that live there. Temperatures have reached up to 116° F, and it can be an inhospitable place. Though, the people of this region have learned to navigate and survive it with relative ease. These skills are shown in the tours available to see this sparse and alien landscape. Especially finding and cultivating the oasis, a green island in the middle of seemingly infinite sand. The traveler can find tours to these and, wonderfully surprising, luxury stays within them. Often including a comfortable bed surrounded by authentic décor, live music, and a traditional feast… the oasis is a restful getaway from the desert and the traveler’s everyday grind.
Camel tour in Moroccan Sahara desert.
Camel tour in Moroccan Sahara desert.

Morocco has it all for the traveler looking to adventure into an entirely different culture: traditional and modern cuisine to delight the senses, luxury hospitality to pamper, markets and bazaars moving with the spark of life, islands in the vast desert to explore, mountains and, best of all, a culture that can be experienced fully.