Top 12 Tips for Magical Morocco: World Heritage sites, souks & snake charmers

Tilework in Fes by Gloria DeLucaKnown for stunning landscapes, bustling souks, fabulous food and amazing architecture, this North African nation is a feast for all five senses.  Academic Arrangements Abroad will discover the palaces, kasbahs and imperial cities of exotic Morocco during our “Treasures of Morocco” program from February 19 to 28, 2014.  Here are a few tips for the capital city of Rabat (literally “Fortified Place”); the historic capital of Fes; and Marrakesh, the “Jewel of the South.”

RABAT

Good museum for an over view of Morocco’s history: Visit the Archaeological Museum, opened in 1932, which boasts an extensive collection of artifacts dating back to prehistoric times. Treasures housed in the museum include bronzes from Volubilis. Most of the exhibits are labeled in French and Arabic, so it is helpful to know one of these languages or visit with a guide.

Jardin de Roses in Rabat by Gloria DeLucaA wonderful place to stay: The Sofitel Jardin des Roses is located in the heart of the city, near the Royal Palace. This luxurious hotel is surrounded by Andalusian gardens with 3,000 roses, and the architects combined French design and Moroccan art.

An amazing music festival: Love world music?  Time your visit for the Mawazine festival, which happens in May. Last year’s event featured well-known pop and R&B icons such as Rhianna, Enrique Iglesias and CeeLo Green as well as some of the great figures of Moroccan and Arab music. Street shows around Rabat are a highlight of the festival.

Volubilis capital by Gloria DeLucaBest stops between Rabat and Fes: Travel through forests of cork, oak and eucalyptus en route to Volubilis, one of the best-preserved Roman towns in North Africa. At this UNESCO World Heritage site, houses are adorned with mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.  You might also want to stop in Meknes to see the beautiful Bab Mansour gate.

FES

Great place to see Moroccan art: Visit the Ensemble Nejjarine, a 14th-century caravanserai (inn) that is now a museum of wooden arts and crafts.  On the top of the building, there’s a terrace where you can enjoy a drink and great view of Fes.

An elegant hotel: The 5-star Palais Jamaï Hotel, located in an 1879 palace, has Moroccan decor and luxurious gardens. Some rooms offer views of the medina (old city), a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fes tannery by Gloria DeLucaTop shopping (and photo) opportunity: Tour director Valerie Harte loves the “originality of the market in Fes, with its wonderful colors, crafts, foods, antiques, people and the everyday of a working souk.” See how world-famous Moroccan leather is treated and dyed at the oldest tannery in the world. A visit here is a fascinating journey back in time as you observe these age-old techniques, and you can enjoy some excellent shopping for leather goods.

A sumptuous spot to eat traditional Moroccan food:  The restaurant at Le Maison Bleue, serves incredible Moroccan salads, tasty tagines and local wines. Most evenings there is live Berber music. It is located in a riad (traditional Moroccan house) that was the home of the late Si Mohammed El Abbadi, a prominent astrologer, famous judge and professor.

MARRAKESH

Not to be missed: Be sure to see the famous Djemaa el F’na Square, an ancient meeting place where dancers, storytellers and snake charmers still practice their trades.   There are different performers during the day, when many stalls sell fresh orange juice and the atmosphere is more sedate, and night, when the square comes to life with food stalls and shopping. In 2001, UNESCO declared Djemaa el F’na Square a “Masterpiece of World Heritage.”

Beautiful places to explore:  Visit the Ben Yousef Madrasa, a beautifully restored 16th-century Koranic school, known for its amazing architecture. There are lots of fantastic photo opportunities here!  You might also want to admire the gardens and beautifully painted rooms at the Bahia Palace, former home of a 19th-century Grand Vizier. 

Great spot for a cocktail: Enjoy drinks at La Mamounia’s legendary Churchill Bar. Located in the lavish La Mamounia hotel, the bar has hosted distinguished guests including (you guessed it!) Winston Churchill. The bar’s atmosphere is redolent of the 1930s and features leather furnishings and fine wood paneling. Most nights there is live piano music.

Majorelle by Gloria DeLucaAn enchanting garden oasis in the middle of the city: Stroll through the lush and colorful Majorelle Garden, created in the 1920s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle.  The Berber Museum, within the gardens, houses a stunning collection of Berber jewels, textiles and tools.

We hope you’ll join us in February to explore superb Roman ruins, stroll in ancient souks, sip mint tea in tiled courtyards and experience superb accommodations.  For additional details about Academic Arrangements Abroad’s “Treasures of Morocco” program, please visit our website or call us at 800-221-1944.

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