If you need to budget your time then Fez, Marrakecha and the desert are excellent variety and highlights and of course the scenery enroute in between these places and leave Essaouira for another time - I probably need to go back and give Meknes another chance but each visit Ive had there I still dont have any liking for the place - and there is enough in Fes and Marrakech to see examples of them being imperial cities with grandeur and also antiquity and culture.
Would be great if you could get to Volubilis - which Id almost say if you had the energy and opportunity to go just have half or 3/4 of a day in Fes and go to Moulay Idriss to stay the night so you can see Volubilis then itd be worth doing that as a good option for accommodation as well
you could have a day in Fez, a day shared between Volubilis, Moulay Idriss and Meknes, a day getting to the desert, a day at the desert and Rissani,two days getting to Marrakech - as you could have a stop at Boumalne and go up the Dades gorge road or stop at Tinerhr and go up the Todra gorges road, or stop at Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou,
and then have 2 days in Marrakech
I would not really use night services unless you really have to as the journeys in between make up an important part of seeing what makes Morocco - the towns, villages and architecture and locals out and about, the diverse and beautiful landscapes along these routes....
Driving around with your own rental car is easy enough - if you don't want to drive and prefer to use public transport grande taxis tend to be much faster than bus - you can also enhance your viewing and comfort by buying the front two seats - helps the grande taxi get away faster too as they leave as soon as its 6 seats (2 in the front) 4 in the back are sold
Erg is the word for dune - and Erg Chebbi is the highest dune which is up near Hassi Labied, about half way along the stretch of dunes that run for about 20 km between Yasmina auberge and Merzouga town - but some people also refer to Erg Chebbi as meaning the dunes and desert area around Merzouga to make the distinction from the dunes and desert area known as Erg Chigaga south of Zagora.
Merzouga also has an impressive solo dune that is also popular for seeing the sunsets and sunrises from - it takes a while to get up it to the top so bear this in mind to allow enough time but also take care too that the sun does go down pretty quickly after the sunset and the place is in darkness by approximately half an hour.
YOu will get views in all directions up there so take your camera and make the most of it! Its a beautiful view as also the smaller dunes below indulate nicely and create photogenic shapes and landscape in the terrain.
There are also camel trips available here too - along with quad bikes - just as the auberges all along the Erg Chebbi stretch of dunes provide sunrise and sunset camel trips they are a tourist attraction here,
But with lots of crests and waves in the dunes there are lots of nice places to sit and soak up the sun and atmosphere and most of all the changing colours of the setting sun on the sands.
While in Marrakech, do take time to visit the Djama El Fna city square, this is where all the Souks (open markets), food stalls, snake charmers, tattoo artists, henna artists, dancers, monkey handlers, traditional water sellers and all the entertainment is. If you are a food lover, there is nothing like sampling the variety of foods being sold openly. You will of course find some of the food bizarre, but then again, that is the adventure of experiencing foreign cultures.
The evening is much more exciting and intriguing, the smells of the night, the sounds, the music in the air, the call to prayer, the smell of mint and grills sizzling, vendors calling out to buyers etc. It is all much too exciting to miss out.
The square dates back to the 1070's when Marrakech was founded by the Almoravids. Much of the city was then destroyed when it fell to the Almohads in 1147 and Djemaa el Fna was restored along with the city in the years up to 1158. It has since become the beating heart of Morocco itself.
The Medina of Marrakesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the boundary of the medina inscribed on the World Heritage List is defined by the ramparts, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Kasbah, the Saâdians tombs, the ruins of Badiâ Palace, Menara water feature and pavilion, are the monuments that make it worth protecting as a heritage. Founded in 1070–72 by the Almoravids, Marrakesh remained a political, economic and cultural center for a long period. Its influence was felt throughout the western Muslim world, from North Africa to all of Andalusia.
The ramparts are cut through by 18 gates, most of them fairly unadorned and some simply gaps in the wall. Bab Doukala gate, seen in my main photo, is fairly plain, but on the south side we saw Bab Ksiba gate which has some more intriguing ornate decoration. But the Bab Agnaou is the most decorative of them all.
Shopping is one of the best things to do; bargaining for literally everything you buy makes the purchase sweeter. The food stalls are amazing, for a food lover like me, sampling all that is considered bizarre by foreigner was exciting.
Some of the more exciting activities include watching the vendors at play; the monkey handlers, the food vendors, the artists (tattoos & henna). There are several stalls and carts selling colorful knitted or crotched skullcaps or the Taquiyah. They come in all shapes and designs and seem to be popular with the men of Morocco. Buy one as a souvenir, get your feet or hands colored, sample the foods and experience the culture.
One of the most impressive structures I saw in Marakech was the Koutoubia Mosque. The Koutoubia Minaret Mosque is the tallest structure in Marrakech. It dates back to the 12th century, a credit to Moorish architecture; it is an architectural achievement of the time and a Sacred Destination in Morocco. At a little over 70 meters high it is a great landmark for visitors coming to Marakech for the first time. The mosque is adorned with three golden balls, the originals were replaced by the current ones which are copper but gold plated. The original building was constructed in 1147 but was destroyed and re-built to align it with Mecca.
If you pay attention, you will actually see the remains of the original mosque around the Koutoubia Gardens. For being a Muslim city, there is a call to prayer 5 times a day; at the top of the minaret is a huge PA facing all four directions to ensure everyone hears the call to prayer.
If you are not a Muslim, do not expect to go into the mosque; however the sight of it, the facade is impressive.
The Marrakech Tourist Bus is an open-top, 'hop on, hop off' bus tour of the city. Tickets can be purchased (on board) for either 24 of 48 hours. They are owned by the massive Spanish owned ALSA transport group. They certify the safety and training of all their drivers. They have 2 routes you can choose to see (or both!) - The Oasis Circuit and the Historic Circuit. The highlights of the Historic Circuit include: Place Jemaa el Fina/Souks, Sâaddien Tombs, Bahia Palace and Menara - just to name a few. The Oasis Circuit takes in the Majorelle Gardens and the Dromadaire Oasis and several pleasant areas to the north of the city. The tours are conducted in 8 languages. Only Spanish, French, Arabic and English are listed on their website, but there are 4 more. You can email them with any questions you might have.
• Child 75dh ($8.89, €6.70)
• Adult 145dh ($17.19, €12.96)
• Chid 95dh ($11.26, €8.49)
• Adult 190dh ($22.52, €16.98)
They operate from morning until late at night in the summer and a fairly reasonable number of hours in the winter. If you are only here for 1-2 days – this is an excellent chance to see the area and make sense of the ancient city before you get lost for hours in the labyrinth that is Marrakech. Also you get a chance to see some sites I have never seen – and I have been here twice.
You can but tickets:
• On all the busses
• From one of the salesmen at bus stops number 1, 6, 15 and 17
• One of the salesmen at the Majorelle Gardens
• On the bus from the airport
The busses reach each stop at intervals between 20 minutes and 1hour and 10 minutes. Please see their multi-lingual website for exact details.
Most European visitors put Fes in a second row of priorities of their visit, concentrating mainly in Marrakesh or Casablanca. However, for me, Fes is the real gem of Morocco.
The sensation of wandering in the medina really leads to medieval times, like nowhere else in Muslim countries. I've been there twice, and though the second time didn't confirm the emotions (and risks!) of the first one, it still shines for its authenticity and contrasts. Don't doubt. First priority for sure!
this is an excellent road that is now bitumen all the way that connects you from the road from Erfoud going to Agdz with the Dades VAlley road that is running along from Marrakech, Boumalne, Tinerhr to Er Rachidia.
Its a scenic road and I was finally able to do as part of my drive back ffrom the desert to Ait Benhaddou where we were stopping for budget accommodation on our way to Essaouira.
It takes about an hour and half.....
There are only 2 working mosques and few religious buildings in Morocco that allow non-muslims to visit - one is the amazing and excellent and much recommended Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, which is only 15 years old, and this impressive mosque here at Tin Mal, from the 12th century, 25 km south of Asni near TiznTest along the road between Marrakech and Taroudannt.
Tin Mal, once a fortified holy town, was founded in 1125 by theologian Ibn Toumart who went on to be recognised as a religious leader by the Berber tribes of the High Atlas when he won a holy war against the Almoravids. In 1153 this sumptuous mosque was built by Ibn Toumart's successor and the 1st Almohad ruler, and fortunately left standing when the town of Tin Mal was sacked and pillaged by the Merenids in 1276.
Tin Mal mosque has been under restoration since 1990 and since declared a Unesco World Heritage site. The impressive mihrab is, as advised on both visits by the guardian, in original condition and 3/4 of the mosque is still unroofed. On this recent visit the guardian told me that the roof above the mihrab has been restored in cedar at a cost of 20,000 euro.
The guardian lives in a house nearby and if you arrive to find the place closed dont worry - he will either appear or just go ask an onlooker or knock at a nearby house and someone will find the guardian with the key for you.
A small donation is asked for as entry fee.
It was great getting back here again - not only was it great to do the always beautiful drive from Marrakech to Tizn Test: this time in autumn glory with lovely oranges and yellows in amongst the green foliage in the valleys that the road takes you along plus snow already heavily showing on the Atlas mountain tops - but great to get back and revisit the interesting and famed mosque for reflection and for obtaining digital photos whereas my previous visits this way had been with 35mm.
The previous time I had been this way was in spring in early March when the picturesque valleys are blooming with almond and cherry trees in blossom.
This photo is taken heading south towards Tin Mal and Tizn Test just before the village of Ijoukak which is a large village before the village of Tin Mal - and has a weekly souk with a reputation for being excellent and we have found an excellent place to eat in the town a few weeks ago - the tagines and bread were just excellent and low priced...info in the coming tip with photos
Tin Mal is about 120 km from Marrakech, about 40 km from Taroudant over the winding Tizn Test road
The Kairouyine Mosque was founded in 859 A.D. by Fatima bint Mohammed al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Mohammed al-Fihri. It is part of the Kairouyine University, the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.
Mohammed al-Fihri and his family, along with 2,000 other families, were banished from Kairouyine, Tunisa after a revolt. They emmigrated to Fez, where they established a community on the west side of the city. Fatima bint Mohammed al-Fihri was an educated and religious woman who used all of her large inheritance to construct a mosque for the community.
In addition to serving as a place of worship, the Kairouyine Mosque became a madrasa, a place for religious instruction and political discussion. Nowadays, it is one of the leading spiritual and educational centers in the Muslim world.
Over the centuries, successive dynasties remodeled and expanded the mosque. In 956 A.D., the Umayyad caliph of Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III expanded the building to accommodate 20,000 worshipers, making it the largest mosque in North Africa. In addition, a square minaret was constructed, which served as a model for most minarets in Morocco and elsewhere in North Africa. A tradition arose at that time in which the other mosques in Fez would make their call to prayer only after hearing the call to prayer from the Kairouyine Mosque.
The mosque was expanded again in 1135 by the Almoravid sultan, Ali ibn Yusuf. He increased the number of aisles from 18 to 20. And it was at this time that the mosque took on its current form. It was outfitted with its characteristic horseshoe arches and geometrical and floral zellij tiles bordered by Khufic calligraphy.
The Kairouyine Mosque is located deep in the heart of Fez's souq, and is one of the places visited on a quided tour of the souq. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter, but can take photographs from outside the courtyard.
The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech, and its minaret, which can be seen from all quarters of the city, is an iconic symbol of Marrakech. Its name derives from the Arabic koutoubiyyin, meaning "librarian", as the area was once dominated by book sellers.
The Almohad sultan, Abd al-Mouman, ordered the mosque to be built in 1162 to celebrate an Almohad victory over their adversaries, the Almoravids. It was built on the site of an earlier Almoravid mosque, and the Almohads probably demolished the older mosque as they believed the Almoravids were heretics and their mosque was therefore not worthy of the Almohads. The minaret was completed during the reign of Yacoub al-Mansour, the grandson of Abd al-Mamoun. Constructed of pink Guéliz stone, the 221-foot (69-meter) minaret has six levels in its interior, and is the tallest structure in Marrakech. Its top is adorned in the Almohad style with four copper spheres, which legend holds were originally solid gold. The minaret later served as the model for the Giralda in Seville, Spain and the Hassan Tower in Rabat. Only Muslims are allowed to climb to the top of the minaret for an unsurpassed view of Marrakech.
Bab Mansour is one of the more interesting sights in the historical city of Meknès, which is known for its gates (bab in Arabic), palaces, and 16 miles (26 kilometers) of walls that surround the city.
Bab Mansour was named after the architect who designed and built it, al-Mansour, a Christian who converted to Islam. Construction started in the late 1600s under the orders of sultan Moulay Ismail, who wanted a grand entrance to his imperial city. During construction, Moulay Ismail died, and the gate was completed in 1732 by his son, Moulay Abdallah, five years after his death.
The gate has three large arches, marble columns taken from the Roman ruins at nearby Volubilis, and a smaller gate to the side, Bab Djemmaa en Nouar. It is covered with green-and-blue zellij, hand-cut ceramic mosaic tiles that are characterized by symbolic geometry and abstract patterns. The zellij artform originated in the Spanish province of Andalusia during Moorish rule, and was later perfected in Fez in the eleventh century.
After completion, Bab Mansour was the focus of street life in Meknès, the site of street markets, entertainers, and court hearings. It was also a place of execution, where the severed heads of criminals were displayed.
Nowadays, Bab Mansour houses art galleries and exhibits in its interior rooms. Guides to the city also congregate here.
The Kasbah of the Oudayas is a fortress that was constructed on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the estuary of the Bou Regreg River. Its walls enclosed the settlement that was to become Rabat, the palace of the sultan, the souq, and the earliest mosque built in Rabat.
The fortress, or ribat, was constructed by Moulay Ismail between 1672 and 1727. It was originally a fortified convent from which Muslim soldiers departed in the early seventeenth century to fight a holy war in Spain. The Spanish Christians were trying to reconquer Spain from the Muslim Moors, a tribe from North Africa. The ribat was called Ribat el-Fath, or "Fort of Victory", which was eventually shortened to Rabat, the name of today's city.
After the Muslim Moors were defeated and ousted from Spain by the Christians, large numbers of refugees from Andalusia settled in the kasbah, whose name was changed to the Kasbah Andaluze. And after members of an Arabic tribe called the Oudayas were expelled from Fez in 1833 and settled in the kasbah, its name was changed again to the Kazbah of the Oudayas.
Nowadays, the Kasbah of the Oudayas is the oldest section of Rabat. It is mainly residential now, and is characterized by narrow, twisting streets. The Rue Djemmaa (pictured here) is the only straight street that passes through the kasbah. Most of the houses within the walls of the kasbah were built by Muslim refugees from Spain. Their whitewashed walls are reminiscent of the whitewashed buildings found in Spain today.
Visitors to the Kasbah of the Oudayas can visit the former sultan's palace (now a museum), shop in the souq, see the old mosque (although non-Muslims cannot enter), enjoy the Andalusian Gardens, or just wander the streets to soak up the atmosphere.
March is one of the best months to be travelling around Morocco so with a good amount of time a wide route is an advantage and you can keep prices down by doing things independently such as getting a rental car - perhaps with a good guide but with good tips here and a good guidebook such as the Lonely Planet, the Footprints guide and/0r DK Eyewitness guide its possible you would be fine to see the sights on your own.
I find having a good map such as the Michelin with its scenic routes marked gives a good help with planning and linking must sees. I have quite a few tips and pages on my must sees but not all are covered yet.
The top places and areas -
Marrakech to Telouet - and the valleys around Telouet and its Glaoui palace to see while you still can
Telouet to Ait Ben haddou - the road that goes through Ounila valley has recently been fantastically improved and tarsealed - and has so many almond blossoms throughout in February but is lush and green with summer flowers still as late as June - there a few gites and hotel along this road now - half a day or even only 2 hours is enough for Ait Benhaddou!! worth stopping at Tamdaght kasbah a few kms from Ait Benhaddou
the kasbahs around Skoura and the Dades Valley road from Skoura to Boumalne and Tinerhr
The road that turns off just before Skoura and goes over a huge mountain pass to Demnate - only a few years old people are stil getting to know it is there - this road is absolutely stunning in February when we saw almond blossoms in awesome abundance - this is a good route to then go on to Africas highest waterfall at Cascade douzoud - there are usually poppies and yellow flowersa round between March and June - and/or go on to Ait Bougoumez - which is is just stunning with the valley around TAbant being in full bloom in June with thousands of orchids.
The Dades Gorges road up to the Dades Gorges and Msemrir - and also Todra Gorge to Tamtatouche (a good place to stay overnight - and much less touristy as the hotels right in Todra Gorge) and onto Imilchil which is a scenic road - famous for excellent marriage festival Friday-Sunday usually end of August but with ramadan in July and August this year and last year it has been held in September
Rissani and its circuit touristique and its big souks on Tues, Fri and Sun - and then nearby
the wonderful dunes of the sahara around Merzouga!! and you can book your own auberge/hotel and you can either walk to the dunes right next to the hotel or the hotel can take you out on camels or 4x4 - I recommend nice family run hotels such as Dunes Dor, then places such as Timbuktu, Auberge du Sud, Erg Chebbi - not the Lahmada and not Sables D'or!!
Ouarzazate and its view from the top of Taourirt kasbah - also a Glaoui palace
the Draa valley drive - with a stop at the old town of Tamnougalt and its fortress on the hill above down to Zagora - guides wait up at the entrance to the fortress on the hill for customers but are worth it - just dont let them get away with shark behaviour at the end...
from Zagora its worth going further south to the village of Tamegroute famed for its green roof tiles and pottery, old Koran library and its old kasbah - worth taking the offers of a local guide to take you around -
the road from Rissani to the Draa Valley through Nkob
the Ziz valley road up from Rissani to Midelt and on up to Azrou - near Azrou are its huge cedar trees and its macaques
Fez and its medina and its view over from Borj Nord
Volibulis and Moulay Idriss
The drive from Fes up to Ouzzane and Chefchouen
Wonderful Chefchouen in the Rif!! and the drive to Tetouan and Asilah
Asilah and the Grottoes of Hercules
Moulay Bousselham along the coast from Asilah down to Larache
the exotic botaniques just north of Rabat and the Ouadia fortress and Chellah of Rabat
Casablancas wonderful Hassan II mosque
The drive south from Casablanca in March can be spectacular with fields in colours of orange, red, purple, yellow for miles
the drive down to Khenifra - which is also nice in that time of year and then turn into Azilal past the big dam to visit Cascade Douzoud - and from Azilal to Ait Bougoumez ie Tabant
the road from Marrakech to Tizntest with a stop at Tin Mal and road up to Ourika and Oikaimden - the view from the top of Tizntest - along here you will see almond blossoms and (also in Telouet area)
Then Tafroute!! and its surrounds - especially in February when the almond blosssoms are just stunning - the road from Taroudannt down through Igrhem is tar sealed and can come down through Ait Abdalla which is usually thick with pink almond trees - the colours of the sky and landscape are usually best here in the cooler months
a good back to come down then over Kerdous to either Sidi Ifni or just to Tiznit and Aglou Plage - though the road from Tafroute back to Agadir is also lovely and passes by hilltop fortress towns. there is a good/famous hotel on the top of the Kerdous pass called hotel Kerdous which would make a good stay
Aglou Plage and just further north SousMassa national park on that road from Tiznit to Agadir worth spending some time to see birds (as also in the desert of Merzouga there is often a lake formed there bringing flamingoes and other birds if youre lucky with timing)
Essaouira of course - the drive up from Agadir following the coast along with the goats in the argane trees and the argane cooperatives to get excellent purchases of argane oil and cosmetics - with stops at fishing villages such as Immoussouane
El Jadida and its famous/unesco portugese fortress and cistern, Safi and Oualidia on the way up the coast.
You could then pay a fee to have the car taken back to Marrakech if youve decided to pick up from there....and now theres excellent freeway to make that drive shorter and quicker
with the amount of extra satisfaction youve had by doing it yourself and probably money saved then the fee which is only about a days rental fee is probably worth it.
All the best and enjoy having a lot around at VTers pages and recommendations!
Ive driven around and spent time in a lot of Morocco. As far as rental car prices the best til now have been in Marrakech or Agadir - Casa, Fes and Tangier terribly expensive. We had connections in Meknes though who we were able to get a new Yaris for 30 euro a day. Windcity is living in Morocco and good to see that she too says that a small car can be got for 30 euro a day - thats what I paid or slightly less for local rates for a good Clio which is better than the smallest cheapest such as an Uno or Punto. Whereas there are companies who are out to get as much as they can from tourists and charge as much as they can and go on that 45 euro is the norm (up at Tangier for eg. we struggled to haggle to get less than 55 euros a day.)
This riad is consider the oldest- may be the fiart- and best riad in Marrakech. Hoever. it is a bet...more
La Maison du Chameau (House of the Camel) is this incredible little inn located just at the entrance...more
I worked very hard during the day in a office witout air conditioned. You can understand how I was...more
More Regions in Morocco