Morocco, a country with a rich past, is an alluring destination for travelers from across the world. It’s crossroad of African and European cultures. There’s a lot to see but there’s two cities that should be on your bucket list if you want an authentic Moroccan experience.
The gem of Morocco is a destination like no other. From the ruins of ancient palaces to the bustling streets and the finest museums, Marrakesh offers everything for an exceptional experience.
Where to go?
You can’t claim to have been to Marrakesh if you didn’t wander through the labyrinth alleys of the Medina. It’s a magical adventure that guides you through the oldest part of the city and as you go deeper you will probably lose your way but it’s worth it to experience authentic old Marrakesh with its scents, donkey carts, stunning arches and music.
Maison de la Photographie
When you visit Maison de la Photographie, it’s a journey back to the late 19th century. More than 8000 photographs and a series of documentaries immortalize life in the country and it becomes clear that life in Morocco was different from what it is today.
If you’re an art aficionado you probably heard about Jacques Majorelle, the talented artist. He devoted 40 years to creating Jardin Majorelle and his dedication paid off. This adobe of serenity, in the heart of Marrakesh, is home to various species of exotic plants which in turn drew birds like warblers or robins.
The property is also home to the Berber Museum, which showcases one of the ancient communities in North Africa: the Berber people who still exist today and a unique collection of over 600 artefacts and costumes; courtesy of Pierre Bergé and legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace, meaning Palace of the incomparable, was built in the 16th century to celebrate the victory of the locals over the powerful Portuguese army. All that remains are the ruins – a huge esplanade and high walls but there’s something magical about this place.
First off, a quick history lesson. Sultan Moulay wanted to remove all traces of the Saadian dynasty (which ruled Morocco between 1524 to 1659) from the map and destroy everything but he wouldn’t dare touch their tombs. Instead he sealed the entrance and it remained a lost secret till 1917 when archaeologists discovered the site.
Located on the outskirts of Marrakesh, the Saadian Tombs are the only remains of the Saadian dynasty. In contrast to budding Marrakesh, this area is quiet and the ancient tombs are intriguing whether it’s the delicate carvings or the epitaphs – an insight to Saadian traditions.
Camel Rides in the Desert
How would it feel to live like the nomads even if it’s just for a few hours? It’s a unique experience that adds some sparkles to your trip and you can do just that when you go on a camel ride. A guide will teach you the basics and you’re up for an exciting trip through the stunning dunes. There’s many camel ride tours to choose from in Marrakesh.
Where to check-in?
Located just outside Marrakech, the Amanjena checks all the right boxes for a relaxing retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. With spacious Pavillons overlooking the gardens, some with private pools and gardens, you’ll feel like Moroccan royalty during your stay.
When you stay at an Aman resort, you know that you can expect the very best spa treatments and the Amanjena is home to an exceptional spa which includes two hammams. The therapists are easy to get along with and put you at ease immediately. If you’re looking for a treatment that helps you de-stress, the Moroccan Touch may be a good choice and you can finish with a hammam bath.
Aman is also for its exceptional cuisine and the way it implements the region’s flavours with its concept of healthy cuisine. While you’re there, try their Salmon Tagine that’s prepared the traditional way with local Moroccan spices.
From the moment you pass the entrance arch, you tend to wander if you’re not wandering in the alleys of the Medina. The Royal Mansour, designed in traditional Moroccan style continues to wow her guests again and again.
The rooms, all styled in a mix of colonial and oriental furnishings; silk carpets, dazzling Baccarat chandeliers, engraved mirrors. You’re bound to feel like Moroccan royalty within such settings.
But the charming atmosphere doesn’t stop there. As you wander in the landscaped gardens, you’ll find the atmosphere to be enchanting. With its kiosks, flowerbeds and palm trees, you’ll want to linger there and listen to the bird songs.
In the evenings enjoy a casual dinner at Le Jardin restaurant where you’ll get to sample different cuisines from Asian to Mediterranean. From their Asian Dim Sums to their beef kefta, the choice is huge. It’s a culinary adventure.
Essaouira dubbed as ‘the jewel of the Atlantic’ is a small fortified town built during the 18th century that played a huge role as a trading seaport that connected Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the world.
While it’s much smaller than Marrakech, there’s something unique and special about this fortress that makes it a must-see destination.
Where to go?
You’re probably thinking, another Medina again. The one in Essaouira is different and smaller. You won’t lose your way as you walk down the narrow alleys and it’s the perfect place to buy some authentic souvenirs or try local specialities.
Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah Museum
Set in an old riad, this historic museum draws history aficionados who want to know more about the region. With a collection of items like artefacts, costumes, jewelry, weapons and musical instruments, you’re sure to learn a lot about the way people in the Essaouira region lived.
Espace Othello Gallery
The town may be old but that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck admiring ancient works of art. At Espace Othello Gallery, the atmosphere is different. Here you’ll find upcoming local artists whose work are strongly influenced by primitive and pop art. If you’re a collectionneur, you may find a masterpiece to take home.
Skala de la Ville
A fort built in the 18th century, this is where the opening scene of Orson Welles’ Othello was shot. Everything here reminds you of the rich history behind this fortress. Huge canons which were used to defend the city from attackers are still there. It’s also the best spot to admire the Purple islands and the stunning sunsets.
Horse Riding at the Beach
Imagine galloping down the stunning coastline on horseback, taing in the stunning views of the sea and the beautiful sunset. It’s all possible in Essaouira, whether you’re a beginner or you already know how to ride. There’s various places offering such packages and you’re sure to find the right one for you.
Where to check-in?
Heure Bleue Palais
A 19th century riad in the city centre, the Heure Bleue Palais is an enchanting hotel with a chic decor with oriental and colonial influences.
You can relax in the courtyard where you’re surrounded by exotic plants or by the pool deck and enjoy the scenic view of Essaouira’s rooftops while you sunbathe and if you need to cool down, you can take a dip in the swimming pool.
The hotel is also known for its oriental spa. Staying true to Moroccan traditions, Le P’tit Spa de L’Heure Bleue Wellness offers an array of treatments derived from ancient Moroccan teachings. From a traditional hammam bath to a Revitalising Massage with Verbena, you’re going to be pampered like a Sultan.
The pampering continues at the Salon Oriental, the hotel’s sophisticated restaurant which offers a cozy atmosphere. Dining there is a culinary adventure and chef Ahmed adds his original twist on authentic Moroccan flavours. While you’re there, make sure to try the Berber Lamb couscous which revisits traditional Berber cuisine.