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Morocco Travel Guide

The Classic Tour of Morocco

The Imperial Cities: The Classic Tour of Morocco

For longer stays in Morocco, you can tailor your tour around more exhaustive exploring of regions and more adventurous diversions, but if you have limited time, focus on the major experiences and sights. This weeklong holiday gives you enough time to sample the best of Morocco. Remember to add a day for getting there plus a day to get back (a direct flight from New York to Casablanca takes approximately eight hours), and pace yourself to see the most important places.

Day 1: Arrival in Casablanca

Flights generally arrive in Casablanca in the early morning. Casa doesn't have that many sights, so once you drop your bags at your hotel, you should head out to explore; a few hours should do the trick. As your starting point, visit the Hassan II Mosque and the Mohammed V Square in the Habous Quarter designed in French colonial-Art Deco style. You're going to be exhausted after a transatlantic flight, so spend your first night in Casablanca; however, if you want to make an early start in the morning, you can travel one hour along the coast to Rabat.

Day 2: Rabat

Explore the capital city of Rabat. The best sites in the city are the Hassan Tower and Mohammed V Mausoleum, Chellah Gardens and Necropolis, and Oudayas Kasbah overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In the late afternoon, drive to Meknès, where you'll spend the night.

Day 3: Meknès & Volubilis

Begin your tour by passing the Bab Mansour and visiting the holy Tomb of Moulay Ismail, which is open to non-Muslims. Walk towards the lively Place el-Hedim, which leads towards the medina. Tour the open bazaars of the medina streets. Enjoy an inexpensive classic Moroccan lunch. Near the row of pottery stands, visit the food souk. The Museum of Moroccan Art in the 19th-century Dar Jamai palace and Heri el-Souaini (Royal Granaries) are recommended stops. By afternoon, drive 30 minutes to the ancient Roman archeological ruins of Volubilis. When you approach, the Triumphal Arch rises in the open field. Count on 90 minutes for a thorough visit. The Tangier Gate, House of Orpheus, House of Columns, and House of Ephebus are must-sees. You can spend the night at Volubilis or head back to Meknès.

Tips

The only mosque in Morocco that non-Muslims can enter is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Visits are allowed only between prayer times (with official on-site guides) at 10 am, 11 am, and 2 pm.

During Ramadan, check for special hours; while many sites are open on holy days, some local restaurants and cafés close for the day or entire month.

Make your visit more special. Plan a visit around an annual outdoor venue, such as the World Sacred Music Festival held in Fez or the Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival hosting traditional musicians and dancers from all over Morocco.

Days 4 and 5: Fez

Try to arrive in Fez as early as possible so you can spend two full days exploring everything the Fez el-Bali, Fez el-Djedid, and Ville Nouvelle have to offer—medieval monuments, artisan workshops, public squares, ancient tombs, cultural museums, chaotic souks, atmospheric cafés, and palatial gardens. The blue-tiled gate of Bab Boujeloud is the gateway to the main alley of Talaa Kebira. The most important sites include the Bou Inania medersa, Attarine madrassa, Moulay Idriss zaouia, and Karaouine Mosque and University (the latter generally considered the oldest academic institution in the world). Visit the restored Nejjarine fondouk for the best examples of woodworking craftsmanship. Watch the full fabrication process of the leather tanneries from a rooftop terrace. Shop for the famous blue-and-white Fassi pottery. If time permits, see the arts and crafts (including a must-see collection of astrolabes) at the Dar Batha Museum housed in a beautiful 19th century Hispano-Moorish palace. Discover the area of the Royal Palace (Dar el-Makhzen) that leads to the active mellah quarter beyond the Fez el-Djedid. Watch the sunset over the entire medina from the Merenid tombs or Musée des Armes atop the hills of the Borj Nord or from the Borj Sud, south of the walled city. Indulge in an authentic Fassi dinner in a riad courtyard. Spend two nights here.

Days 6 and 7: Marrakesh

The quickest way to travel the 398-km (242-mi) distance between Fez and Marrakesh is by plane; if you plan well, you can be in Marrakesh by midmorning. After dropping your bags at your hotel, hit the ground running. The best place to start is the famed Djemaâ el-Fna, the perfect gateway into the labyrinth of medina streets filled with hundreds of souks, including the Souk des Teinturiers for leather, Souk Addadine for metalwork, and Souk Zarbia, the main carpet market. The Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, Dar Si Saïd museum, Palais Bahia, and Koutabia Mosque are important sites (though non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque). Walk south of the Palais Bahia to explore the bustling streets of the mellah, the former Jewish quarter and largest in Morocco. In the evening, splurge on a Moroccan feast, or head to the open grills back on the busy main square. On your second day in Marrakesh, take a petit taxi for a relaxing promenade through the Ville Nouvelle and lush Majorelle Gardens and Museum, where you can do some bird-watching and see an extraordinary collection of Islamic ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and art. After, head back towards the medina and visit the Saadian Tombs, which date back to the late 16th century, for one of the country's finest representations of Islamic architecture. Plan a relaxing hammam treatment to rejuvenate after a week of touring.

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