PLACES NOT TO MISS
Beneath the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in the city center of Marrakech lies Djemaa el Fna, a famous UNESCO recognized city square, where you can discover a world of mysterious bazaars set amidst the ancient city walls of Marrakech's medina. Djemma el Fna is a unique L- shaped square best described as a labyrinth of mazes. There are souks sprawling off the sides of crowed alleys that sell carpets, spices, metal and wood works and tourist trinkets.
Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech is Morocco's most famous square and attracts travelers from around the world. Marrakech's old medina was built around Djemaa el Fna and is often referred to as the heart of Marrakech. In the evening, snake charmers, fortune tellers, monkeys & musicians transform this city center into a medieval circus.
Djemaa el Fna means 'assembly of the dead' because once upon a time Christians and criminals were executed and made an example here. To locals it is known simply as "la place" (the square). Djemaa el Fna was once also a destination along the Sahara Caravan Route. Until 1000 BC caravan traders would journey along this route carrying items such as gold, medicines, slaves and spices. It is said that the entertainment that remains today is similar to that when the Caravan traders were around.
During the daylight, Djemma el Fna is every Moroccan travelers shopping paradise and an exciting, fun place where you can gain insight into Moroccan culture. Children come to be entertained by story tellers telling Moroccan legends. Travel Exploration hires fully licesnced guides to take you to famous historical sites and monuments in Marrakech and Djema el Fna. Djema el Fna's the many alleys, which can sometimes be a bit overwhelming as each alley specializes in different products such as spices, carpets, jewelry, furniture or brass-work. If you are thirsty, you can choose a freshly squeezed juice from any one of the orange juice vendors; for a snack, try the delicately delicious Moroccan dates.
As the sun sets, the real excitement starts. Easily, this mysterious place can be compared to a land of Arabian fantasies. With its wild and colorful characters, Djemaa el Fna will stop at nothing short of bedazzling and astounding you. At night, the air fills with aromatic smoke fumes lingering off the delicious delicacies sold in the streets and the sounds of Moroccan music. There are full groups performing in the evening such as the Aissaoua Sufis, the Gnaoua trance-healers and Andalous musicians.
Quickly, the square turns into one of the world's busiest open air restaurants. Food is prepared hot and fresh everywhere along the lines of countless food stalls. The entire square is dark except for the gas lamps lighting up the food vendors cooking area and illuminating the towers of greasy smoke sailing over the Djemaa.
The Erg Chebbi dunes at Merzouga are indisputably one of the greatest sights of Morocco. These giant hills of smooth sand line the Algerian border and are a must see for everyone.
Today, arriving to the Erg Chebbi dunes of Merzouga is a breeze in comparison to decades prior; there are many options to take you there. The easiest way is by 4x4 however for those who have time to explore the Sahara, camel trekking is also popular.
Whether you choose to go by camel or explore by foot, you will have an equal opportunity to observe the desert flora and fauna.
The weather of the Sahara desert is seasonal, at times it is completely still and silent, however, when sand storms with winds arrive, they create a hissing sound so strong they may take you by surprise. If you have long hair, it is advisable that is firmly fixed back. During your desert travels, ask your guide to help you purchase one of the dark blue flowing turbans that the Tuareg, a nomadic people who are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior, and Berber men of the desert wear. They keep your head cool in summer and warm in winter.
Recognized as a UNESCO site, the Ksar AÃ¯t Benhaddou in Ouarzazate is one of the most extraordinary Kasbahs in Morocco. This giant fortification, which is made up of six kasbahs and nearly fifty ksours (individual kasbahs), is a great example of pisÃ© clay architecture. Ait Benhaddou Kasbah and the Ouarzazate region should be top on your Morocco Travel list.
AÃ¯t Benhaddou sits amidst a valley near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, just thirty-two miles from Ouarzazate, the film capital of Morocco. Ouarzazate first came into the international spotlight with the Hollywood film Lawrence of Arabia; AÃ¯t Benhaddou made a feature appearance in this film. Orson Welles used it as a location for Sodome and Gomorrah; and for Jesus of Nazareth the whole lower part of the village was rebuilt.
Historically, traders carrying spices, slaves, and gold on the Sahara Trade Route passed by AÃ¯t Benhaddou and its Ksours on their way to Timbuktu or the Western Sahara. Today, the usage of this old trade route is fading and as a result many Kasbahs along it have turned into relics.
The village of AÃ¯t Benhaddou sits on top of a hill and protects a series of Kasbahs and Ksour earth houses. Inside, the AÃ¯t Benhaddou village is decorated with a labyrinth like series of sandstone colored towers and walls. To one side of the village, a riverbed of the Mellah (old Jewish quarters) as well as several palm groves and trees can be spotted growing along the river bank. The village is particularly spectacular if you visit during the evening hours, at sunset, when the light and colors of remain transparent and glisten above AÃ¯t Benhaddou, making it glow.
AÃ¯t Benhaddou village is divided in two parts. The modern part is filled with tourist shops and parking spaces. Upon crossing the Oued (dry riverbed), you will enter into the Ksar, the real highlight.
The most popular things to photograph include the Kasbahs within the village, palm trees, decorative motifs, charming small streets filled with donkeys, or storks making a home on top of a mud house. To get an overall picture of AÃ¯t Benhaddou, you can climb to the top of one of the neighboring hills.
In the AÃ¯t Benhaddou area, the only parts not well preserved are the badly damaged mud houses (ksours). Although most of them are now in ruins as a result of their former inhabitants moved closer to the modern road, the homes are interesting to explore because each one has a unique charm and tells its own story. There is currently a restoration program in place to keep these homes from further erosion; with a goal to eventually repopulate the village.
Essaouria is a fun-filled and relaxing day trip from Marrakech. After breakfast at your hotel, depart for Essaouira.The former Portuguese fishing village offers up only a few roadside towns and the occasional Berber village. In the '60s and '70s, Essaouira was a pitstop on the hippie trek from Marrakesh. Jimi Hendrix made the pilgrimage, as did Bob Marley and Cat Stevens. Essaouira was the inspiration for Hendrix's song "Castles Made of Sand". â€¢ The medina of Essaouira (formerly "Mogador" as it called by European sailors and traders, Essaouria is known for its annual Gnaoua Music Festival that attracts 300,000+ people in June) is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, as an example of a late-18th century fortified town. â€¢ The sea-side medieval town that boasts lovely white-washed and blue-shuttered houses, colonnades, thuya wood workshops, art galleries and mouthwatering seafood. Take a stroll along the town's sunlit pedestrian main square, Place Prince Moulay el Hassan and the Skala du Port, the fishing harbor, offers breathtaking views of the Portuguese ramparts. Explore the ramparts and the spice and jewelry souks of the medina. â€¢ On the Raod to Essaouira you will have an opportunity to visit an Argan Cooperative to see how women make Argan Oil, Nut Butter and cometics from the Argan nut. Option to continue directly to Essaouira or visit a local winery for a wine and cheese tasting. Enjoy the local wines produced in the region of Essaouira. â€¢ After lunch visit Orson Welles' Square and memorial, designed by Samir Mustapha, one of the towns artists, which pays homage to Orson Welles filming of Othello in Essouaria. Essaouira's history is a reminder of the times when Spain, Portugal and England fought to maintain control over its coasts. It has a typical Portuguese harbor that is a stunning example of Moorish and Portuguese architecture