1. Fez – Bou Inania Madrasah
The cultural capital of Morocco boasts a royal palace, a historic Jewish quarter, fortifications and many religious buildings. Fez remains the country’s religious centre, and one of the few important religious sites open to non-Muslims is Bou Inania Madrasah, a 14th-century residential college where religion, science and the arts were studied.
2. Ouarzazate – Atlas Studios
Sitting between the Sahara and the Atlas Mountains, Ouarzazate is the hub of Morocco’s film industry. Movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mummy and Gladiator were shot here. When a film is not being produced, it’s possible to tour the sets and get a drink at the Gladiator Bar.
3. Tangier – Cafe Hafa
An international trading city for many years, Tangier was where people from different cultures passed through and settled in. Cafe Hafa, atop cliffs looking across the Mediterranean, was popular with writers such as Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs, as well as musicians like the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
4. Marrakech – Place Jemaa el-Fna
Morocco’s most popular tourist city has a colourful medina and busy souks for shopping, but what everyone has to do at least once is eat street food at this broad square in the evening. It is full of entertainers, such as snake charmers, musicians, dancers, henna artists and fortune tellers.
5. Essaouira – the ramparts
The location for Orson Welles’ film Othello, the old Portuguese port by the Atlantic was fortified with great sea walls in the 18th century. The picturesque city is also famed for its dramatic sunsets and the craftsmanship of its woodcarvers, who make boxes out of aromatic thuya wood.
6. Casablanca – Mosque of Hassan II
The modern commercial and financial centre of Morocco, Casablanca today looks nothing like the town portrayed in the Humphrey Bogart film. Dominating its coastline is a mosque built in 1993 to honour the father of the present king. It is so big (covering 9ha) that only the mosque in Mecca is larger.
7. Agadir – beaches
In the south of Morocco, Agadir has developed a tourist following for its 9km of beaches, which enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year. They are popular for activities such as jet-skiing and windsurfing. The old city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1960, but has been attractively rebuilt.
8. Meknes – Volubilis, an abandoned Roman city
Close to the Middle Atlas mountain range, the old fortified city of Meknes is a centre for olives, wine and mint tea, and serves as a gateway to Volubilis, 31km to the north. This huge Roman city was abandoned in the 3rd century AD. Visitors can walk through its triumphal arches and admire houses decorated with mosaics.
– TEXT BY ADRIAN MOURBY
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.