Chefchaouen is probably the most iconic town in the northwest of Morocco. All buildings in the city center are painted blue. (Shutterstock/-)
Morocco has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers departing from Europe. Several budget airlines fly to the country's main airports. From major hubs in Western Europe, the journey to Morocco, located in the northern part of Africa, only takes about three hours.
For Indonesian passport holders, traveling to Morocco is easy as no tourist visa is required. The country’s attractiveness lies in its various options for accommodation, restaurants and activities for both budget-conscious travelers and those wishing to splurge.
Having spent two weeks in the country, here are my top-five ultimate Moroccan experiences.
Stay in a Moroccan riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house with genuine Andalusian architecture. Built using colorful tiles and terracotta walls, rooms usually face a central semi-open patio with a water fountain.
Riad Claire Fountaine.( Youtube /Jason Brooks)
In Morocco, the cost of staying in riad varies, depending on service and location. If converted to rupiah, a night’s stay ranges between Rp 200,000 (US$15 ) to Rp 1.5 million. Based on my experience, a Rp 400,000 riad was a good choice.
Besides many of the classic riad found on traditional booking sites, a range of hidden riad gems can be found on Airbnb at more affordable prices.
Don’t forget to check other travelers’ reviews before booking to avoid being scammed!
Get lost in a Marrakesh souk
Marrakesh markets, which are called souk, are paradise for those who love shopping for leather, accessories, souvenirs, food and spices. They are also fun places to test your negotiation skills as souk sellers mark up prices as much as they can.
Marrakech Souk.(-/Cherika Hardjakusumah)
The price of a necklace in one shop can be doubled in another shop, so it is important to do a proper survey before making the decision to buy. However, souk are like mazes, so it is easy to get lost.
The heat, noise, smell and crowds in Marrakesh’s old town, or medina, can be overwhelming. But there are several cafés and restaurants in the medina that offer rooftop areas with great views of the High Atlas mountains.
They are the best place to escape hassling sellers and chill out while sipping cold mint tea, which is the most popular traditional drink in Morocco.
Ride a camel and sleep in a Berber tent
The locals say that “if you haven’t visited the desert, you haven’t actually been in Morocco”.
There are several ways to explore the Sahara desert, but it is recommendable to go with a tour, either private or shared. Both types of tours run on a daily basis, with departures from Marrakesh or Fez.
Sahara Desert.(-/Cherika Hardjakusumah)
Traveling from the point of departure to the desert takes more than half a day by car, and to reach the main sand dunes takes about an hour by camel. It is a long journey, but the Moroccan landscape is amazing so it is definitely worth it.
Asilah mural.(-/Cherika Hardjakusumah)
To top off my Moroccan experience, I stayed overnight in a Berber tent (with nature as its toilet!). The view of the night sky was very clear and it was so peaceful as there was no noise at all. I was able to watch the glittering stars from the top of the sand dunes with nobody else around. It felt as if I owned the whole Sahara desert!
When booking your Sahara tour from Morocco, act as if you were in a souk and bargain over the price.
Stroll around picturesque towns in northwest Morocco
Chefchaouen, or Chaouen as it is known by locals, is probably the most iconic town in the northwest of Morocco. All buildings in the city center are painted blue.
In the early 1900s, the blue marked the presence of the Jewish community, but today it has become purely a charm for tourists.
From Chaouen, two hours west by train to the northwest tip of the Moroccan Atlantic coast, lies a small town called Asilah. There is nothing extravagant about the place; it has a tiny medina and is by the seaside.
However, when I walked around the old town, I found the true charms and hidden gems of Asilah: its murals. Mohammed Melehi, an artist and curator, and Mohamed Benaïssa, a photographer and politician, began painting the walls of Asilah’s medina in 1978. Since then, a mural festival it has become an annual event, attracting international artists and graffiti enthusiasts every summer.
Visit Casablanca’s mosque by the sea
As an Islamic country, mosques can be found everywhere in Morocco, but the biggest one is situated in Casablanca. Apart from its size, the Hassan II Mosque is unique because it is located by the sea, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Hassan II Mosque.(Shutterstock/-)
Built in the 1980s by a French architect, the Hassan II Mosque was and is still the most ambitious structure ever built in Morocco. Today the mosque is a fully functioning place of worship, and also a place for the community to gather and socialize.
There are of course many more things to see and do in Morocco as the country is rich in history, culture and nature.
For me, Morocco was certainly an interesting first step to experience the African region!
Cherika Hardjakusumah works in an international organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She can be reached via her Twitter account @cherikanh.
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