May I introduce you to the wonderful world that is Morocco?
I have traveled the world over but when I first visited Morocco, I was completely entranced. I have returned over and over countless times and in 2014 i moved to Essaouira!
I specialize in introducing select groups to Morocco, often focusing on a number of areas of interest: history, architecture, music, and cemeteries. Also I am an expert in tour planning and since I moved here, believe I have an insider’s view on this fascinating country.
Jewelry, pottery, textiles and other treasures await the shopper’s delight. Many travelers go home with a selection of the excellent-quality arts and crafts available in this country.
Most obvious is the Moroccan Carpet. There are many styles including flat weave and pile, old and new; vegetal dyed and chemical; every size under the sun. Carpet vendors are accustomed to shipping these carpets all over the world, so if you fall in love with one, I’ll coach you how to bargain and how to assure its safe transport if shipping.
Other textiles abound, including geometric embroideries for the home and dress goods. Berber shawls may be used as table runners or scarves. Both men and women will want to go home with at least one caftan, some embellished with exquisite metallic embroidery!
There are distinct pottery styles in Morocco and here are three of them: Fes pottery is geometrically-designed in a variety of colors. I like to use their tableware in slightly different designs to bring interest to my dining table. Safi pottery is often incised in geometrics, piercing is also distinct. Safi pottery is generally mono-tonal and its texture invites your touch. Zagora pottery is a distinctive sharp green, a bit more rustic than its northern neighbors’ styles. Tiles, too are available to add to your kitchen or bath.
Whatever style catches your eye will bring back warm memories of your Moroccan days.
Silver and gold jewelry may be found in every city and village. However, there are some towns that specialize in jewelry making. It is said that the art of fine jewelry came from Jewish goldsmiths who migrated to Morocco during the Inquisition, when all non-Christians were “invited” to leave the Iberian Peninsula, only 8 miles north of Morocco. There are traditional Berber designs, some of which include exquisite enamel work, as well as Tuareg silver pieces. As a jewelry designer myself, I can tell you about the differences and when we might visit these enclaves of silver and gold workers.
Well, as can be found anywhere, there is fine art and then there is fine art! As someone famous once said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Galleries abound in every town of size. And prices (and quality) are from low to high, of course. And then you might stumble upon a gifted painter as I did recently in a kasbah near Ouarzazate. His watercolors of the kasbah and surrounds are exquisite. And the price was less than $20. Sculpture of wood is not uncommon, especially in Essaouira, where the unique thuya wood is fashioned into tiny toys to elaborate furniture. And in Essaouira, where I now live, there is a special enclave of fabulous painters and sculptors i would love to introduce to you. Sundays only.
Dreaming of camel treks and camping under a million stars in the Sahara? Book a night or two in the Berber tented bivouacs in the desert. Historic and architectural itineraries may be centered on ancient Kasbahs (fortified towns) in the south or the elaborate monuments, mosques and madrasas (Koranic schools) in the kingdom’s royal cities. Sports such as horseback riding, golf, climbing, hiking and windsurfing are other options.
There are many exciting destinations to visit in Morocco. Here are the highlights:
Casablanca, the international port, is most likely where your plane will land. It is the business capital of Morocco. Hard to believe just one century ago it was a small fishing port! Now it’s the country’s largest city. Try to visit the famed Art Deco quarter. (FYI the movie, Casablanca, never left Burbank, CA. Exquisite Hassan II Mosque was recently completed in 1999 and is breathtaking on its seaside location.
The most ancient of Morocco’s royal cities, Fes was founded in the ninth century. Home of the world’s oldest university, its medina (old city) with is maze-like streets and alleys is the most populated in the kingdom, with 200,000 living in a 1.2 square mile area. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1981.
The capital of Morocco’s South, Marrakech was founded in the 12th century. This rose-colored city sits on a plain with a backdrop of the snow-covered High Atlas Mountains to the south.A cosmopolitan city, there are designer enclaves within the city and resorts and estates outside in the Palmerie. Marrakech has something to offer everyone!
There are many delightful places to stay by the sea, from tiny villages to large international resorts where cruise ships call. Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier are all on the Atlantic as are Agadir and Safi. There is an isolated nature preserve far to the south with a charming hotel right on the beach. One lovely choice is south of Tangier, called Asilah. A popular home to many artists, I recommend saying here instead of the bustling, busy Tangier. My favorite seaside destination is Essaouira, also known as my second home. The ramparts were built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. This fishing port is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Rabat is the country’s official capital. Archeological findings have been traced to 4th Century BC.
There are dozens of historic monuments and other sites to see including the architectural gem of Mohammed V’s Mausoleum, the Tour Hassan, the Chellah Necropolis ~ this city has much to offer.
Sand dunes, camels, oases, caravan routes ~ the Sahara is vast and unforgettable.
Spending a night camping in a Berber bivouac is unlike any camping you have previously experienced.
The stars are a blur, there are so many of them!
Our campsites are comfortable, clean and the meals and other amenities are first rate.
Only 8 miles from Europe, this sparkling white city sits on a bluff overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea. An International Zone from 1923-1952, Tangier was also a magnet for many artists and Beat Poets, including Paul Bowles and Alan Ginsburg. Many visitors experience Morocco the first time via a ferry from Spain.
Shall we talk about the food? One of my favorite topics! While many spices enhance Moroccan cuisine, it is not “spicy” in the hot sense (unless you desire harissa, their fiery condiment.) Mostly the meat is stewed with a variety of sweet spices and dried fruits. Couscous is a tiny semolina pasta steamed in vegetable and/or meat or chicken juices ~ utterly delicious. Fish are simply grilled and served with a simple condiment of lemon, onion and tomato. Bread is freshly baked for every meal. Crepes and pancakes are freshly prepared for breakfast and served with local butter and honey. Local fruits are abundant.
Alcohol is readily available for tourists in restaurants. However, liquor stores may not be handy, so I always recommend stopping by the Duty Free at your departing airport for your spirit of choice.
Moroccan Mint Tea
Ubiquitous sign of the generous, Moroccan hospitality, mint tea will be offered to you at any opportunity. It is delicious and refreshing, traditionally served VERY sweet. However, nowadays most people ask if you care for it not so sweet, or even straight up. Because it is boiled, it is always safe to drink. But be careful ~ I will advise the etiquette of when it is appropriate to accept the invitation and when to decline.