The Atlantic coast is one of Morocco’s most prosperous regions. The French called it ‘Maroc utile’ (useful Morocco), and it's home to both the nation’s capital Rabat and the economic hub of Casablanca. Their Mauresque architecture, excellent restaurants, stylish cafes and liberal attitudes are a far cry from traditional Morocco.
The central region of Morocco is the most exciting and diverse destination in the entire country. The biggest drawcard is the pink city of Marrakesh. Founded almost 1000 years ago, it is one of the great cities of the Maghreb and its spectacular setting against the snow-capped High Atlas mountains lingers long in the minds of most travellers.
Mediterranean Coast & the Rif
Northern Morocco offers a beautiful coastline, a mountainous hinterland rarely explored by visitors and just one major city. The beguiling gateway to Africa, Tangier has emerged from its shady past to become a tantalising experience. Eastward lies one of the last stretches of undeveloped Mediterranean coast with high cliffs and sandy coves.
Fez, Meknès and the Middle Atlas
If you’re looking for Morocco in microcosm, this region takes the title, running the whole spectrum from imperial cities and ancient ruins to grand mountain vistas and desert oases. The fertile plains of the north have acted as Morocco’s breadbasket for centuries.
Some ten years ago, Fez boomed as a tourist destination. Money poured into the city, from foreigners buying up riads in the medina to new parks and fountains in the ville nouvelle. If you believed the travel and style pages of the Western media, Fez had become the new Marrakesh. Then the Arab Spring and similar events in other Muslim countries took their toll on tourism.
The Souss Valley
As you travel along the N10 east of Taroudannt you will see frizzy argan trees, beloved of local goats and international chefs, growing near the road. In a restored 19th-century mansion on the edge of the Berber village of Ouled Berhil, some 45km northeast of Taroudannt, is Hôtel Palais Riad Hida.
Always of huge strategic importance at the entrance to the Mediterranean, Tangier is the enthralling gateway to Africa, a tantalising introduction to a culture vastly different from that across the Strait of Gibraltar. After WWII, Tangier became an International Zone that attracted eccentric foreigners, artists, spies and hippies.
Welcome to North Africa’s highest mountain range, known by local Berbers as ‘Idraren Draren’ (Mountains of Mountains), and a trekker’s paradise from spring through to autumn. The High Atlas runs diagonally across Morocco for almost 1000km, encircling Marrakesh to the south and east from the Atlantic Coast just north of Agadir to Khenifra in the northeast.
While Rabat, Morocco’s political and administrative capital since independence in 1956, has not established itself as a tourist destination, visitors who do go find a gem of a city. The colonial architecture is stunning, the palm-lined boulevards are well kept and relatively free of traffic, and the atmosphere is as cosmopolitan as its economic big brother down the coast.