April 24, 2017

6 jaw-dropping sights that will make Morocco top of your bucket list

A mass influx of those looking to “tune in and drop out” (including Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones) put Morocco at the top of the bucket list of every self-respecting hippy in the ’60 and ‘70s. 

Today the North African country wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea is still a magnet for bohemian backpackers, but the market’s opened up to attract chic tourists in search of the spice of exotic Arabica with a dash of familiar European flavour. 

You’ll find a dizzying amount of both here, from souks in medieval walled towns to world-class music festivals in the middle of the desert...

                                                       Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech. © Christophe/AdobeStock
This bustling plaza in the heart of Morocco’s economic centre was the site of public executions around AD 1050, giving it the name Djemaa el-Fna, which means “assembly of the dead”. This is now ironic, because Djemaa el-Fna comes alive with a carnival of colour and performance each night, with acrobats, musical performers, snake charmers, comedy acts, henna tattoo artists and soothsayers on every corner. Unesco declared it a “Masterpiece of World Heritage” in 2001 for its role in bringing oral history to life, and the legacy lives on today as storytellers beguile visitors with urban legends and other tales.


Bab al-Mansour gate, Meknes. Photo © ITT
Meknes was the capital of Morocco until a few hundred years ago, which explains why this former imperial city is surrounded by 40 kilometres of defensive walls and a series of monumental gateways – the most impressive of which is Bab al-Mansour. This giant gate at the entrance to the old city is flanked by marble columns from the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis and is decorated with the colourful, detailed mosaic tiles with which Meknes is adorned on practically every corner. Legend has it that the ruling sultan asked the Bab al-Mansour gate’s architect if he could have done a better job. The architect stupidly replied “yes”, and was promptly executed. Could he have done it better? Go there to decide for yourself.

Carpet souk in Fes el-Bali Walled Medina, Fez. Photo © I.Ivan

Welcome to the world’s oldest and most intact medieval city. With around 9 400 streets and alleyways, this is the largest car-free area on planet Earth. Souks, a leather tannery, cafés and restaurants crowd in on one another amid medieval Marinid architecture. Expect to be entranced by a timeless swirl of smells, colours and voices.

Taorirt Kasbah, Ouarzazate. Photo ©Kasto/AdobeStock
Ouarzazate is nicknamed “the door to the desert”. It is through this Sahara sand-strewn door that you will discover one of Morocco’s most spectacular historical legacies of wealth and power: the Taourirt Kasbah – a high-walled 19th century citadel with the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. Morocco has several similar fortifications, but this one is truly impressive: it has almost 300 rooms and a maze of passageways, steps and doors to explore. You could easily get lost for hours if you don’t have an excellent guide.

Gnaoua musicians, Essaouira. © AdobeStock

Every May or June the enormous town square of Essaouira swells and sways to the beats of the Gnaoua World Music Festival. The event features incredible local musicians and also pulls top international reggae and jazz acts such as Salif Keita. Incredible artists. Epic setting. Need we say more?


Todra Gorge, Ouarzazate Province. Photo © ITT
Head northeast from the city of Ouarzazate, travel through a few Berber villages and you’ll come upon Todra Gorge, formed by a 300-metre-deep fault that splits towering walls of orange limestone rock into a steep ravine through which a river runs. At some points the gorge is only wide enough for hikers to walk single file, but if you don’t do the full trek, even seeing the gorge from afar is worth it. As Lonely Planet describes it: “The approach is thrilling, as though the doors of heaven were about to close before you. You need to see it yourself. 

GO HERE WITH SURE: Sure Travel’s trusted partner, Inspirations Travels and Tours, can take you into the heart of this exotic country with their Discover Morocco,  Highlights of Morocco and Mountain and Desert Experience tours. Make like Jagger and Jimi and tick Morocco off your bucket list this year.