Morocco is in the northwest region of Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, Mauritania and Western Sahara. Only 10 miles of the Strait of Gibraltar separate Morocco from Spain. The majority of the population is Muslim, and the official language is Arabic, although most business is conducted in French, and English is spoken throughout the country. Morocco combines modernity with ancient palaces, mosques and medinas in a diverse and beautiful landscape.
Morocco is covered with diverse geology that includes the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the Atlas and Rif mountains and the Sahara Desert. Visit the mountainous Rif region, and explore tall mountains, gorges, waterfalls, and below the cliffs, the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Visit the Tazekka National Park in the middle Atlas Mountains and explore the abundant caves, valleys, lakes and waterfalls amid the cork oak and holm oak forests. Head south for a camel trek through the western Sahara Desert, cooled by the Canary Current coming off the neighboring Atlantic.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has named several sites around Morocco as World Heritage Sites. Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is a nearly complete example of pre-Saharan architecture, with red-earth houses built into the steep mountainside. Tin Mal sits at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, and was once a holy town invaded by the Merinids in 1276. After the attack, only the Tin Mal mosque remained. It has since been restored and is one of the few such buildings in Morocco open to non-Muslims. Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the archaeological site of Volubilis, as well as Meknes, the medinas of Essaouira, Fez, Marrakesh, Tetouan, and the Portuguese city of Mazagan.
Galleries and Museums
Most Moroccan cities have something for the art lover. Visit the Museum of Marrakesh and view Oriental paintings, Moroccan engravings, contemporary art, and artifacts. Marvel at the Dar Menebhi Palace that the museum is housed in. Visit the town of Essaouira, home to a group of self-taught painters known as the "free artists." They provide the galleries with brightly colored artworks inspired by myths, history and popular culture.The Museum of Archeology in Tangier lies within a former sultan's palace called the Dar el-Makhzen. It houses several artifacts found in Tangier. Adjacent to the museum is the Andalusian Garden, a Moorish-style garden featuring a traditional Arabic noria used for irrigation.
Morocco is filled with mosques, which serve as places to worship, learn and gather. Karaouiyine Mosque in Fez is one of the oldest and most extravagant in the western Muslim world. It served as the first university in Morocco and is a main spiritual and intellectual Islamic establishment. Casablanca has the second largest mosque, Hassan II Mosque, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The Koutoubia Mosque is the most prominent landmark in Marrakesh. It has been restored to its original pink brick color, and only Muslims are allowed to enter.
Once a week hundreds of locals travel to large open areas of every Moroccan town to participate in souks, or markets. Souks are where people sell, buy, and trade various goods and services. Food is available and entertainment, like music and storytelling, also take place.
- "DK Eyewitness Travel: Morocco"; Rachida Alaoui, et al.; 2010
- UNESCO; Morocco; Properties Inscribed on the World Heritage List
- "National Geographic Traveler: Morocco"; Carole French; 2011
- "Fodor's Morocco"; Rachel Blech, et. al.; 2009
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