Morocco Sahara Desert

Spotlight on Morocco: Eight activities not to miss

I recently returned from Morocco, where centuries of African and European influences have transformed ancient civilizations into one of the world’s most unique and diverse regions. From modern metropolises to the Sahara Desert, Morocco provides an opportunity to explore distinctly different settings while absorbing lessons of the past and glimpses to the future.

With our local team there, I had the pleasure of traveling around Morocco to several cities and desert towns, and I was reminded how truly magical this country is. Morocco sometimes can be an overlooked destination, but it offers so many one-of-a-kind opportunities to explore cities, the mountains and the desert. For starters, it’s easy to get to from the United States; in fact, it is no longer than flying to many European destinations — and you get to spend time in an important and exotic country in Africa!

I encourage everyone to visit, and our team there specializes in creating amazing programs for every group eager to explore Morocco. As you’re planning your trip there, here are my favorite activities to do while visiting Morocco:

Visit the Medina of Fez

The medina (the old quarter) dates back to the end of the 8th century and nothing much seems to have changed since then. It is a maze of alleyways going up, down, left and right. It is pure pandemonium! Everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes: food markets, souvenir shops, carpet shops (that all offer the best prices), the oldest university in the world (University of al-Qarawiyyin), a wonderful madrasa and more. Plus, be sure to spend time at the iconic Chaouwara tanneries (right), where you can watch workers producing world-class leather using processes from medieval times. You can observe the work from a terrace at one of the leather shops; the view of the pits with the colored dye is mesmerizing.

Spend a few hours in the medina and make sure you have a guide with you. Also, while you are in Fez, make sure you explore the lovely new section (Ville Nouvelle). The main Parisian-style boulevard is a wonderful place to watch families spending time together.

Spend a day in the Sahara Desert

It is about a nine-hour drive (through the Middle Atlas Mountains) from Fez to the Sahara Desert. Once you arrive, the towns of Rissani and Erfoud are good bases to explore the desert. For your day in the desert, start off with a visit to the local market and kasbah in Rissani. Then in a 4x4 vehicle, drive into the desert to meet with a local Berber family and learn about their way of life in the desert. They, of course, will make you some delicious mint tea. After driving around the dunes and discovering fossils, you will stop for lunch and some rest. The icing on the cake is a camel ride to the top of the dunes to watch the sunset (top photo). It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen and could be one of your best travel experiences ever!

Sample local food

Sampling local cuisine always is a real treat, and Morocco is no exception. Most of the food you will eat will be fresh and locally grown. The most famous meal is a tajine, which is a stew cooked in earthenware pots. Tajines can be made with vegetables, chicken, lamb or beef. My favorite is beef with prunes and almonds. Also not to be missed is a delicious couscous, which is typically served on a Friday when many locals have the day or the afternoon off. A couscous can be made with vegetables, lamb, beef or fish. Whether you order a tajine or couscous, you also can have a “mezze” course, which is bread and about five small dishes with cooked vegetables. Dessert usually is mint tea and cookies.

Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh

This is the main square and marketplace in the medina of Marrakesh and was designated a “Masterpiece of World Heritage” by UNESCO. This is where you see snake charmers, henna artists, fortune tellers, musicians, water sellers and more. It is like a setting from medieval times and is busy day and night, so make sure to spend a few hours here. I also suggest you sit down with some mint tea and just watch the people. Nearby, make sure you visit the 100,000 Spices shop, which purportedly offers a cure for most ailments and it is run by a wonderful local businessman.

And more …

My recent visit to Morocco was so amazing, so here are four more highlights that shouldn’t be missed:

• Spend an afternoon at the Roman ruins at Volubilis (above) and the nearby hilltop town of Moulay Idris, one of the most important Muslim pilgrimage places in the country!

• On the wonderful drive from Erfoud to Ouarzazate, stop at the spectacular Todra Gorge just outside the charming town of Tinghir. Then continue through the Dades Valley dotted with oases, palm groves and mud brick houses.

• Spend some time every day sipping sweet mint tea, the “Berber Whiskey.” It is a wonderful sociable experience. You will see people drinking it all over the place!

• Wherever you are in Morocco, explore the cities and towns by night as well as by day. The atmosphere is incredible. The locals are “night owls” — grown-ups and children alike.

Morocco is a magical place to visit, explore and study. Check out more of my photos on our Facebook page. I would love to share its treasures with you and your group. Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call me, and I would be happy to put together a fabulous itinerary for your next travel adventure.


Steve Hart
Hart Travel Partners