Fly with us off the coast of North Africa, over the snowy peaks of the Atlas Mountains and down to the arid plains of one of the world's richest cultural areas—a mix of religions, old traditions and long-held appreciation for beauty in all its forms.
Morocco will entice you and then enchant you
Colours and scents abound as you saunter through the souks of Morocco’s cities. Humour the vendors as they reel you into their stall; here bargaining is the name, so you should play it like a game. They may act offended when you suggest a fraction of their original price but take no heed: walk away (or better still, into the next shop) and wait till they come after you, ready to seal the deal. Silverware, rugs, narguilé, lamps and woodwork abound, not to mention traditional Moroccan attire and espadrilles. You'll be hard pressed not to fill your suitcase with goodies!
Most striking of all the items you may want to take back with you are the Berber wool rugs. All-natural dyes are used to colour the spring wool, which is then hand-woven. A heavy pile rug is suited to the Atlas Mountains’ cold, while a flatter weave is good for desert climes. Red is the dominant colour throughout, from a dye often made from the crushed bark of apple trees. A recurring design across the many items you will see is an interwoven geometrical motif, which predates the arrival of Islam in the region and is therefore considered quintessentially Moroccan.
Succumb to the flavours of Moroccan cuisine
Your immediate experience will be visual, as mounds of colourful spices in the markets and squares catch your eye. Spices have been an integral part of these markets since ancient times and were even used as currency from Morocco to China. Ras el hanout is the king, a blend made of 27 different spices used to flavour typical dishes such as mourouziya, a deliciously balanced sweet and savoury lamb recipe.
On our journey you will have ample time to savour many delicious Moroccan culinary treats. The simplest of pleasures comes in the guise of mint tea, served with dexterity by your waiter, creating a long, thin stream from teapot to ornate glass and thrice oxygenated in order to bring out the full flavour of the infusion. Tagine in its special conical ceramic dish, couscous with lamb méchoui, even the savoury pastry bisteeya should all come top on your list of recipes to be tasted. As for desserts, ready your sweet tooth for kaab el ghazal and ghoriba—local treats made of almonds and honey.
Contemplate as you never have before
You will travel deep into the heart of the Atlas Mountains and up to the gates of the Sahara. Contemplate as you never have before, sleeping under the celestial dome in Merzouga, and catching the pristine sunrise that awaits you over the great dunes. Ouarzazate, the doorway to the Sahara, emerges like a dream from the flanks of the mountains, built of baked-earth bricks formed from the surrounding sands. The Berber region of Boumalne Dades will awe you with its spectacular scenery, in particular the magnificent Dades gorges.
Take in the vibrant colours of these exotic cities and gardens
Human ingenuity in the face of different climates has resulted in a surprising diversity of architectural styles throughout the country, from Casablanca's white facades to sand-blasted fortresses in the Sahara. The atypical architecture of Chefchaouen, with its beautiful blue-rinsed facades, is the subject of many theories. One popular theory is that the blue keeps mosquitos away! The great Gate of Fes were erected long ago as perimeters to the city’s UNESCO-classified medina quarters, Fes el Bali (main old town) and Fes Jedid (the Royal Palace). Inside the medina, you may discover many madrasas and funduqs in what is one of the largest pedestrian areas in the world. The coastal city of Essaouira has been a point of anchorage for sailors since Carthaginian times. Weathered by the winds of the Mediterranean, battered by the Saharan sun, its fortifications have such a unique character that Orson Welles used them as a backdrop to his Othello.
A journey in Morocco is not complete without a stroll through one of the many luscious gardens. Indeed, gardens have held a special place in Moroccan cities for centuries, from the quaintest interior courtyards of riads to vast palm grove panoramas. World-renowned Marrakesh will embrace you with its palm and orange groves, lush and green year-round thanks to ice-melt from the Atlas Mountains—ubiquitous and visible from every point in the city, like sentinels forever guarding over the eclectic hubbub. Enjoy the peacefulness of Majorelle Garden, the lifework of a French painter, which was saved from destruction by Yves Saint-Laurent in the 1980s. Visit the quiet gardens of the 800-year-old Chellah in Rabat; kick back and truly relax among innumerable plants and flowers!
From the beginning to the end of this journey, the perfect symmetry of Moroccan motifs will follow you, framed against backdrops of snowy mountains, palm trees, and oases iridescent under the Saharan sun, making for one of the great travel experiences of a lifetime.
Interested in exploring Morocco with Journeys by Van Dyke? Click here to learn more about our next departure.
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