Morocco has its share of romance from being a crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and Mediterranean cultures into its existence today as an international vacation spot. Since Tourism is indeed Morocco’s prime industries, expect a lot of traffic clogging up the areas you’ve probably listed as places worth visiting.
Most travelers will agree that the best places are not necessarily the most visited ones. The secluded spots which are untouched by the heels of any tourist from the nearby bus are special places indeed and worth exploring a little further. It is time to toss away the generic tourist map and stretch those legs a little and then begin traveling to these five spots off Morocco’s beaten tracks.
This quiet, secluded town has been withheld from non-believers because of its sanctity and importance to the muslims of Morocco as Idris I, the first sultan of Morocco is buried there. Local town officials have cleared up this particular belief saying that the town is welcome to other cultures. The only thing travelers need to steer clear away from is the mosque.
It’s only a matter of time however before Moulay Idriss’ pristine white facades that glimmer like pearls in a backdrop of black mountains. Walk through the streets which have been laid down with painted stone and get lost through its traffic of carts and donkeys and gangs of children playing soccer. Get mesmerized by local beauties who will smile at you from their windows and disappear in a tumble of curtains.
Despite its closeted reputation, the town of Moulay Idriss has already seen its share of visitors given as shown by the evidence of hangout spots around the entrance and the lodgings advertising of comfort and modern-day amenities. However, the town has been given the cold shoulder by tourists because the nearby cities of Fez and Meknes are bigger and more heavily advertised as travel destinations. The people are nonetheless friendly and will greet you happily in French before going their own way.
However, the town has a lot going for it given its surrounding environment is populated by lush mountains. Local hostels will gladly help you walk the trails via a guide. Don’t pass up the chance to check out the ruins of a Roman settlement nearby. Volubilis is just a 45 minute hike away from Moulay Idriss.
To commute to Moulay Idriss, ride the taxis waiting across the street of the Institut Francais. People can get some rooms in advance at the Buttons Inn. However, if you get there early enough, scouting out a place is easy.
Essaouira may be a well-developed destination because of the interest generated by the hippies that have traveled there but not all attention should be focused on what others have already traversed. Instead of taking the more popular coaches headed for the popular area, try going for the beat up public buses which ply the South Atlantic coastal route toward Mirleft.
What does Mirleft have to offer? The quiet, pristine beaches untouched by resort owners and that Moroccan small town atmosphere. Just around 50 minutes or less from Tiznit, the town sits on red ground and holds only a few establishments like a bank and a net cafe. However, Mirleft has an overabundance of peace of mind.
This may not be the place to hobnob with the rich people who go to the more posh places, but the people you will meet here are as authentic as authentic gets. Various travelers, locals and artists just chill out among the streets in town without a care in the world. If they’re not in their usual spots, expect them to be out in the beach, enjoying the surf.
People looking for a place to stay only need to head towards Hotel Atlas. Others will also offer you some houses up for rent.
Asides from the five beaches in Mirlfet, there is also Legzira Plage. Take a hike or a bus ride going to Sidi Ifni. Unaccompanied women will like the peace this beach gives.
For an experience of the Morocco today, the best place to stay would be the very first one you step onto after landing in the country’s largest airport. Casablanca has long been urbanized and is currently under heavy development. If you’ve watched the Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman movie, this is not the romanticized port city of that movie.
Expect to see heaps of concrete and loads of upturned palms begging for food. The Caucasian looking people you’d see here are the French who are out on business in the area and the immigrants. Casablanca girls have also taken to the fashions of their counterparts in the other countries who are wearing miniskirts and tanktops. Traffic congestion in narrow streets are quite common sights and so do couples drinking coffee in the side streets. Like most jaded urban dwellers, Casablancans are not too obliging in regards to their hospitality.
The thing that Casablanca has plenty of is the absence of tourists. This particular aspect alone can be quite appealing to travelers who would like to immerse themselves in the culture and circumstances of the country they are visiting.
Of course, the town is not without its gems. There are various restaurants which feature the best food Morocco can offer at a cost-effective price, some bars and art galleries. Casablanca may be at odds with the romantic and idealized images people have in their heads of minarets and pretty, veiled girls but it goes to show that the country is on the verge of social change.
For lodgings, you can stay at the youth hostels near the ancient medina. Since these hotels are being passed up by visitors, you can expect some solitude in the rooms.
Erg Chigaga and Zagora
One allure of Morocco still remains a constant and that is the prospect of camel riding in the desert. When one gets to the dusty trade hub of Zagora, an important stopping point for trade caravans for ages, people see a sign in French that announces Timbuktu as the next stop. Just make sure that you have supplies and some 52 days to adventure in the sweltering heat of the Sahara if you want to venture that. Erg Chebbi maybe the most easy point to take if one merely wants to ride a camel without none of its adventure but the less accessible Zagora should be a draw for those so inclined.
Asides from the camel riding, if you want to encounter and challenge the Sahara on your own terms, you can also ride 4WD style to the dunes of Erg Chigaga. The large dunes which can easily challenge buildings in terms of height can be reached faster through the vehicles but for a slower pace, a camel trip with some guides will take around 3 days going in and then 2 days going back for a total of five days.
Keep to yourself and only approach the more known companies like Caravane Desert et Montagne. Since such companies are well connected, they can also book you to stay with the tents of the Berber nomads while traveling.
For lodgings, try staying at the Auberge Restaurant Chez Ali.
If you choose Zagora as your headquarters, ask the company to set you up with a guide for the Draa Valley. These guides should also be able to help get some trips in the outlying villages. While you’re traveling the region, scope out the various locales like Hart Chaou garden in Agdz where you can eat organic food, view some carvings at Timiderte, look at some pottery in Tamegroute or get enchanted by jewels in Amerzou.
For a trip to Zagora, commute by riding CTM Buses in Casablanca or Quarzazate.
Tafraoute Town and Ameln Valley
Curious rock formations dot the landscape around Tafraoute. People liken some rocks to a lion that is supposedly guarding the town. Another of these rocks appears like some French general’s hat. However, traveling to Tafraoute is not a fanciful traveling project as the area is largely inaccessible to buses. The presence of muscled and slim hikers alone attest to the challenges the terrain posed by mountains of the Anti-Atlas range.
However, the payoff is big due to the wilderness which houses the settlements of Berber and Clueh peoples. There is also a rich country full of hiking trails like the ones leading up to the Ameln Valley, the heights of Jebel Lekst and the flowing waters in Ait Mansour.
The town itself is a nice place to go around in. Try riding a bike after renting it from the Hotel Salama. Guides can help you but if you want to get lost with only a parchment of paper in your hands, get a map from the shelves of Au Coin des Nomades. People can likewise rent jeeps from Tafraoute Adventure for some serious off-roading.
For some archaelogical excitement, scope out the rock engravings in Tirnmamat and Tazeka. A hammam goes a long way in terms of comfort.
To get to areas you can walk towards Tafraoute, try checking out some independent bus liners which head to Agadir right at Tiznit.
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