Discover Moroccan cities with sahara differently
Marrakech, which means land of God, is the 3rd largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat. Located at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, it is just a couple of hours away from the tip of the Sahara Desert. Marrakech offers much to do and see. One can spend a whole day dedicated to wandering around the souks, bargaining for deals. Nuerous other attractions including a few museums are in the area as well. Djemaa El-Fna highlights the night with musicians, dancers, and story tellers. By day, this busy square is filled with snake and monkey charmers. Next to this area is the Souks, the markets of Marrakech. From spices to shoes, jellabas to kaftans, tea pots to tagines, you can find and bargain for all of that here. Expect to pay higher prices than a local would, so work those bargaining skills. The Koutoubia Mosque right beside Djemaa El-Fna, is said that the minaret of the mosque of Marrakech as the Eiffel tower is to Paris. During the evening, the mosque is beautifully lit. The Saadian Tombs, discovered during the beginning of the 20th century have been preserved as if they were from the glory days of the Saadian rulers. It was inaccessible at one point, so they remained untouched for centuries. Inside, you'll find large amounts of Zelij, which are Moroccan tiles. The place isn't big, but it's worth a visit. The Dar Si Saïd Museum is a palace that contains many different artifacts through the ages from Morocco, which includes wood carvings, weapons, and musical instruments. You will also find collections of art, carpets, clothing, along with pottery and ceramics. Ben Youssef Madrassa is one of the largest Madrassas in the North Africa. This school, which is attached to the Ben Youssef Mosque holds beautiful art and architecture. El Bahia Palace is a gorgeous palace with a nice garden, peaceful courtyards, and various plants. The El Badi Palace on the other hand is now in ruins and inhabited by birds and stray cats. The Menara gardens located to the west of the city has a mixture of orchards and olive groves. In the center of it all is a pavilion, which was build in the 16th century. This site is a popular scene on postcards.
The 3rd largest city in Morocco is Fes. There is a path network marked by 8-point signs on the walls, which will guide you around the main places within the medina. The main street Talaa Kbira runs from Bab Bou Jeloud to the Kairouine mosque, located in the heart of the medina. If you stumble into the narrow, meandering heart of the medina, you'll be able to find your way out again by heading downhill. It will eventually lead to the Place R'cif, where you can catch taxis and buses. The best Islamic architecture that can be seen by tourists are wooden walls with carved geometric patterns and Arabic calligraphy. It's beautiful. The views from the hills surrounding Fes are spectacular. 2 fortresses (Borj Nord and Bor Sud) can be seen overlooking the old city. Borj Nord has an armaments museum, while Borj Sud is currently being developed for tourism. The Merenid Tombs located next to the Merenid Hotel, has excellent panoramic views of the city as well as the olive tree lined hills that surround the city. Moulay Idriss II shrine, the tomb of Fes' founder is limited only to Muslims. The mosque just off the Talaa Kbira near the Souk Attarine, is worth a visit still. The Qaraouyine library and mosque and the al-Tijani mosque, also limited to Muslims are also worth a visit, as their exteriors are beautifully decorated.
Located by the short of the Atlantic Ocean is Agadir. It is by the foot of the Atlas Mountains just north of where the Sous River meets the ocean. Considered one of the major urban centers of Morocco, it is the 7th largest conurbation in the country after Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, Marrakech, Meknes, and Tangier. With a high population density, 3 languages are spoken around the city. They are Arabic which is mainly Darija, Ta-Chelh-it of the Berbers, and French. The city was completely rebuilt following an earthquake in 1960. Now the largest seaside resort in Morocco, the mild climate year round attracts many tourists and nearby residents. Low cost flights in recent years and a Motorway from Tangiers, has attracted all walks of life. The mild winter climate and numerous beaches made it a "winter sun" destination for many Northern Europeans. Full of life, the tourist area along the seaside includes the blvd. of 20 August, Tawada Avenue, the Corniche, Avenue of Oued Souss, and the Founty district: Baie des Palmiers. There are many hotels, restaurants, trendy cafes, villas, and a gorgeous waterfront promenade 5KM long. More recently built is a marina neart the foot of the Casbah, where many luxury shops attract tourists. A large restoration project for the city is under way.
Chefchaouen or Chaouen is a city in northwest region of Morocco. The city is named after the shape of the mountain tops above the town, which look like two goat horns (chaoua). This city is known for its buildings painted in shades of blue. Situated on the Rif mountains just inland from Tangier and Tetouan, the city was discovered in 1471. It was a small fortress by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami. Around 200 hotels cater to the European tourists who visit during the summer. Chefchouen is a popular location for its native handcrafts such as wool garments and woven blankets, which are not available anywhere else in Morocco. The native goat cheese are also a popular hit. The country side around the city is known for being a prolific source of kief. This region is one of the main producers of Cannabis in Morocco. As a result, hashish is sold all over town. A nearby attraction lies one of the deepest caves in Africa!
AIT BEN HADDOU
Aït Benhaddou is a fortified city, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in Morocco. Situated in Souss-Massa-Drâa on a hill along the Ounila River, it is known for its kasbahs. The Kasbas do take damage with each passing rainstorm. Most of the town's inhabitants now live in a more modern village across the other side of the river. Approximately eight families still live within the fortified city. Aït Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Several films have been shot there which include the following: Sodom And Gomorrah (1963) The Man Who Would Be King (film) (1975) The Message (1976) Jesus of Nazareth (1977) Time Bandits (1981) Marco Polo (1982) The Jewel of the Nile (1985) The Living Daylights (1987) The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) The Sheltering Sky (1990) Kundun (1997) The Mummy (1999) Gladiator (2000) Alexander (2004) Kingdom of Heaven (2005) Babel (2006) Prince of Persia (2010) Game of Thrones TV series
Along the Atlantic coast lies Essaouira. Since the 1500's, it went by its portuguess name Mogador or Mogadore. Essaouira a calm harbor protected by a natural bay partially shielded from wave action by the Iles Purpuraires. South of Essaouira lays a sandy beach at which point the Oued Ksob discharges to the ocean. Further south, you'll find the archaeological ruin of Bordj El Berod. Essaouira connects to Safi to the north and to Agadir to the south via the N1 road and to Marrakech to the east via the R 207 road. There is a small airport not too far from town, which has flights to Paris-Orly several times a week and daily to Casablanca. The Medina here is home to many small arts and crafts. Cabinet making and wood carving have been practiced for centuries in this area. With strong ocean winds blowing almost constantly, Essaouira is also known for kite surfing and windsurfing. Parasols are often used on the beach to shield against the wind and blowing sand. Camel, bike, and photographic excursions from the beach and into the desert are available.
In the southeast region of Morocco is the small village of Merzouga. It is known for its closeness to Erg Chebbi, one of the two Saharan Ergs of the country. Many tourist visit Merzouga on their way to the sand dunes. Waking up to watch the sunrise over the sand dunes of Merzouga is a stunning experience. Some of the largest and highest sand dunes in Morocco can be found here. Merzouga also has the largest natural underground body of water in Morocco. During Spring, this lake comes to life and attract flocks of pink flamingos. Sights of other rare birds may be found here as well during the Spring migration. The desert is home to many mammals and reptiles. A camel trekking excursion through a sea of dunes will give you a good opportunity to see all of this.
M'hamid, Erg Chigaga
M'Hamid El Ghizlane (Arabic for 'plain of gazelles') is a small oasis town on the Wadi Draa in southern region of Morocco. With a population of about 7,500, this area lies just 500 meters above sea level and is just 24 km from the edge of the Sahara. Road N9 from Ouarzazate through Zagora will get you here. There are 7 uninhabited, decaying Ksars hidden in this palm oasis. 50 to 60 km away are the mystical sand dunes of Erg Chigaga. This is one of Morocco's 2 Saharan ergs, which are large dunes made by wind-blown sand. The local inhabitants are resourceful and have lived according to the principles of self-sufficiency for centuries. The absence of winter rains since the 1970's has made agriculture difficult and is now abandoned almost entirely. M'Hamid has always been a popular location for traveling nomads and caravans. Today, it is the starting point for many camel trekking and 4x4 excursions into the desert. Navigating through Erg Chigaga will require you to come across some of Morocc's biggest sand dunes. Surrounded by soaring red sand dunes will make you feel as far removed from Earth as Mars!
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