Tangier, (Morocco)

“Berber: Tin Iggi”, “Roman: Tingis”, “Arabic:‎ Tanja”, “The door of Africa”

Tangier, Morocco, May 2016

The second part of this weekend trip to northern Morocco and after visiting the UNESCO city of Tetouan, we returned to the base where we landed (and from where we would depart the following day back to London), Tangier. Although one of the most modern cities we’ve been in Morocco, nothing to compare with the beautiful historical 4 Imperial Cities of Marrakesh, Rabat, Meknes and Fez, it is still an incredible nice city to visit, especially if this is your base for exploring the nearby famous tourist magnets of Tetouan, Chefchaouen, the beach resorts or one of two of the small Spanish posts in Moroccan’s soil, Ceuta.

While the city heavily relies on tourism in search of beach and sun which is one of the most important figures of its economy, it is way more than just sandy beaches. It does have a rich history through the millennia due to its very desired key location at the tip between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, and its colonial history goes back to just some dozen of years when both the Spanish and French occupation ended in 1956. While Arabic is the main language, Spanish and French are widely spoken and understood. Signs can still be seen in dual language, mostly for its proximity and relation with Spain.

The old Medina is one of the smallest in Morocco and it is still on the process of restoration and modernisation after many decaying years. It is also pretty much everything the city has to offer in the sense of sights hence why you do not need much time in this city. The beaches, however, if that is what you are looking for, are quite deserted and recently revamped. The Sables D’or Beach is beside the harbour and just few minute’s walk from the southern edge of the Medina. (more…)

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Tetouan, (Morocco)

“Berber: Tittawin, meaning The Eyes, The Water Springs”

Tetouan, Morocco, May 2016

Another short weekend in Morocco after we found another impossible to miss deal with British Airways+Iberia. Not only the air fare was great, but was also having such interconnecting flights via Madrid all with the Oneworld Alliance, meaning more Tier Points and Avios that we can for sure use to keep booking reward flights as we generally do through the year. As you can imagine, not every flight we are doing every weekend is paid by cash; but having a good planning and organisation means getting free flights or paying a tiny fraction of the full price for great destinations.

After the impressive experience 3 weeks ago when visiting Casablanca, Rabat, Meknes, Volubilis and Fez; this time our trip was way simpler and easier. While landing in Tangier, we left immediately towards the beautiful and so historic city of Tetouan, main reason for this trip. Once more, another city included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing because of its impressive ancient Medina, palaces and mosques covering so many centuries of history and architecture, and that great level of preservation and restoration, plus the “new city” next to the Medina, in traditional southern Spain architecture. A remark in here, this region of Morocco in the north was part of the Spanish colony, not the French who had the southern half of the country.

Often bypassed by tourist en-route to other destinations such as Tangier, Ceuta or Chefchaouen, it is perfect for spending half a day. There is no need to calculate any longer because of its small overall size with the sights very near each other and resumed to just the Medina and immediately around it at the “new city”. Our time was also very limited, hence why we returned to Tangier later in the afternoon on this same day where our hotel was. (more…)

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Volubilis, (Morocco)

“Capital of the Kingdom of Mauritania”, “Southwestern-most post of the Roman Empire”

Volubilis, Morocco, May 2016

One last and quick stopover in this very busy trip so far for visiting the impressive Roman ruins of Volubilis, few kilometres north of the city of Meknes. This fascinating ancient city, the capital of the Kingdom of Mauritania back in the days and on the very western edge of the Roman Empire was the perfect way to finish this trip around this region of Morocco where we’ve visited Casablanca, Rabat, Fez and Meknes; and should you have the chance if you are visiting nearby Fez and Meknes, do not hesitate in including Volubilis in your plans, you will nor regret.

The archaeological park is been listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance and level of preservation of many of its fine constructions, specially the mosaics of the wealthy villas. In the other hand, do not expect grand constructions as theatres, coliseum and the likes. The city was abandoned for many centuries, and devastated by an earthquake in the 18th century, while right afterwards, many of its fallen structures were used as quarry to build the Imperial City of Meknes.

Nevertheless, what you currently have there to see is already fascinating, even though it is just a portion of what still remains covered awaiting for future excavations. And since it is a short drive from Meknes, makes it perfect to combine both cities on a day. Visiting this site generally takes 2.5 hours considering the drive there both ways, and around 1.5 hours on the site. It is physically impossible to spend more time as there is nothing else. Once you walk through all that’s it. (more…)

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Meknes, (Morocco)

“Berber: Imeknasen”, “City of hundred Minarets”, “One of four Imperial Cities”

Meknes, Morocco, May 2016

Next along this busy tour, right after visiting the city of Fez; and I say briefly since there is so much to see and do that less than a full day was definitely not enough, but we did not really have the time as we wanted to pack as much as we could in this trip; we made the move to Meknes. Another of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco, and the last one for us to visit after having been to Marrakesh 3 years ago, and Rabat and Fez in this trip. And what can I say! I cannot find any other words than another beautiful city, packed with history on every corner, yet again inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Coming from Fez was straightforward. Not only both cities are very near each other, they are extremely well connected by frequent buses and trains. For us getting the train was the easiest option, as we’ve been doing everywhere in this trip to Morocco between the other cities we’ve visited, and furthermore knowing that the hotels we’ve selected in this trip were all really near the train stations.

Once there we knew this would be a quite rushy visit, even though we stayed for the night. Lucky for us the day light was extremely long. With summer time and so much south, it was great to count with that extra hours that came very handy. In any case, the city can easily be visited in less than a day. After all, what we really wanted at this point is covering as many of the important sights through the Medina and main squares, not the ones off-the-path. And after two large Medinas back in Fez and long walk, here in Meknes the Medina is very small in comparison, with only 20 minutes from the south to the north gates (if not stopping along the way).

(more…)

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Fez, (Morocco)

“Mecca of the West”, “Athens of Africa”, “One of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco”

Fez, Morocco, May 2016

Continuing our busy trip after leaving Rabat the night before, today we spared for actually visiting 2 cities: Fez and Meknes. The remaining 2 of the 4 Imperial Cities of Morocco after Rabat, and Marrakesh that we visited 3 years back, and both UNESCO World Heritage listed with their astonishing Medina. With it, we complete what was once of our wishes to visit in Morocco, and definitely can openly say how beautiful and wonderful this country is and how much more it has to offer on every corner.

Fez has in fact two Medina! One of them believed to be the largest pedestrian urban zone in the world. Said that as you can imagine, expect plenty of sights all over. It is not only the Medina, but the many ancient riads, palaces and madrasas. And home to the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. With so much packed history, it is no wonder why it become added to the listing of UNESCO. Too much for sparing just a little over half a day since we had to leave to Meknes in the late afternoon to continue with our very busy tour. Luckily (for us), Fez is an easy city to fly into from London and many European cities, with many airlines serving the city, hence there is no doubt we will return and enjoy the city once more with a much better timing.

The city preserves pretty much intact majority of the buildings since its foundation in 789, many of them enlarged and further embellished through the pass of the centuries, to the point of having the best preserved old city in the whole of the Arab world.

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Rabat, (Morocco)

“One of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco”, “Ribatu l-Fath: Stronghold of Victory”

Rabat, Morocco, May 2016

Following a nice visit to Casablanca the day before, we came to the next city on this short tour around few cities in the area, following the once known “Imperial Cities” of Morocco: Rabat, Marrakesh, Meknes and Fez, all of which, UNESCO World Heritage sites. Having visited Marrakesh 3 years back, the remaining three cities were part of this tour since all of them are located very near each other and extremely well connected with each other. With an incredible busy agenda and such a short time overall, we planned to came to Rabat the night before in order to have the most of today before leaving later in the evening towards Fez, the farthest destination on this tour.

Rabat was made the capital city of Morocco upon the French invasion in 1912, moving it from Fez, and still after the colonial rule ended, it was decided for Rabat to remain as such the capital because of its great location right by the Atlantic coast and because of it being a “new city”, with wide avenues created by the French, space, order and everything built and on place. But even though Rabat is considered a “new city”, it does have an amazing historic quarter with a greatly preserved ancient Medina; a complete fortress citadel, the enormous Royal Palace, the historic site of the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the ancient city of Chellah; all of it listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site under the name of: Rabat, Modern Capital and Historic City.

With so much to do and see, a day was too short for us, yet just enough to visit all the major and important places I list below in the guide. I would recommend in any case at least 2 days to visit in full without rush; perfectly done in a weekend, or in combination with Casablanca. (more…)

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Casablanca, (Morocco)

“Berber: Anfa”, “Kaẓa”, “Portuguese: Casa Branca”, “Spanish: Casa Blanca”

Casablanca, Morocco, April 2016

It is nice to be back in Morocco, specially since we’ve only been to Marrakesh 3 years ago and that city is probably the exception to the rest of the country, quite annoying in the sense of the hundreds of people trying to sell you anything or trying to make you go to their shop or restaurant. On and on and on! What a relieve to be honest not to experience such a hassle in Casablanca, nor the rest of the cities we would visit in this trip.

Although Casablanca is one of the cities with the “less sights” compared to most of the other large and medium size cities in Morocco, it is still a nice city very worth to visit. We’ve heard before from people and friends saying there is only the Great Mosque and nothing else, but as usual in these cases we prefer to rather trust more our experience and intuition and see for ourselves and boom!, we were right. It is in fact a modern city with many things to do and see. Already it is nice just to walk the wide avenues and admire the pretty French colonial buildings everywhere, most of which are in immaculate state of preservation with hundreds more being restored. A very clean and elegant city, nothing to compare with the rather messy and stuck in time Marrakesh of our previous experience.

The location of the city also makes a difference. Right by the Atlantic coast, although it does have in fact a very Mediterranean flair, even though this is the other coast! But the white colour of the buildings, the nice Corniche promenade by the coast and beach, and the very long daylight are all a great bonuses. (more…)

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Marrakesh, (Morocco)

“The Red City”, “The daughter of the desert”

26th and 27th of January, 2013

[flickr size=”medium” float=”left”]7657313@N08/8631532878[/flickr]

Another of our winter, low season trips take us this time to one of the most historical cities in Morocco, and what is best, for such a great low air fare with Easyjet. I keep recalling on this, honestly, if you are the kind of person who loves culture and sights (rather than relax and beach only), consider visiting countries as Morocco in low season, this is, during European winter months. Also it’s a nice treat escape cold January days for 25 degrees and sun.

On this occasion I will be quite honest and direct to the point. Marrakesh was not a city that will leave some legacy in my list of great destinations. Instead I was surprised to find quite a dirty place but worst of all, the annoying people everywhere trying to sell you anything, pushing you, grabbing and touching you to drive attention to what they have to offer.

Noticeable in the main market square, and towards the evening, if you are looking around for a restaurant, you will not have a second of peace and silence. You will be surrounded by one after another “restaurant waiters” trying to get you on to what they claim “the best ever restaurant”. Learn to send them away, say no, (don’t even look to them), and have your time to check the menus by yourself, don’t hesitate in saying no rudely to whoever comes from the restaurant nearby.

(more…)

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