1 - The Sensory Experience.
Morocco is an assault on the senses. The bright colours, sounds, strong aromas abound everywhere you go and the feel of the atmosphere itself is tangible. This is particularly true of the cities and especially the bustling medinas, notably Fes and Marrakech, but you can find peace and tranquility in the countryside, though the sights, smells and sounds of nature can be just as memorable.
Towering cones of brightly coloured spices, the dyes used for cloth, vibrantly painted ceramics, and the people's garments, horses and donkeys will cross your field of vision everywhere you look.
The sweet aroma of spices, cooking meat, fresh bread and pastries and hot charcoal are perhaps preferable to donkey droppings, the reek of the tanneries and sweat, both human and animal, but it's all part of the rich tapestry of life that is Morocco.
Then there's the music, the shouting of street vendors and the singing of birds.
The unforgettable sensory experience of Morocco.
2 - It's Cheap and Cheerful!
You'll be delighted with the affordability of everything, from public transport to dining out, from hotels to souvenirs, Morocco really is a dream for those on a budget, the ideal destination for backpackers and travellers who don't wish to break the bank.
A decent restaurant will cost you about $15 for a three course meal, a moderate tourist place half that and a cheap local restaurant only $2 to $4. a dollar equals about 10 Moroccan Dirham (Dh).
Buying food is even cheaper. Fresh fruit, vegetables and bread are only cents and even snacks like cakes, yoghurts and chips are only one or two dirham.
3 - Fantastic Food!
Some of the food has a Mediterranean feel, similar to some of the dishes in Spain, Greece or Italy, but there is also an Arab influence and some superb local favourites.
Traditional Moroccan dishes include couscous, served with several vegetables and lamb, but each region of the country has its own style, pastilla, made with flaky pastry and pigeon (usually actually chicken) or fish, a variety of tagines, slow cooked vegetables, meat and spices cooked and served in a red ceramic pot with a lid, omelettes, cakes and pastries and grilled sardines nearer to the coast.
Don't miss out on the fresh fruits; the oranges, peaches, cherries , dates and figs are among the best in the world and try 'Hindia'; prickly pear cactus fruit available from mid-summer to the end of the year. Olives, olive oil and Morocco's unique and healthy argan oil are also highly recommended.
All the food is colourful, tasty and often spiced with pepper, cumin, turmeric and herbs.
4 - Refreshing Drinks!
Mint tea is the classic Moroccan beverage. Fresh mint leaves are brewed with green tea, often with sugar. The tea is then poured into tall glasses from a great height so that it is mixed with oxygen for a better flavour. In cafes, the glass is also full of mint leaves. Moroccan hospitality dictates that you be offered this whenever you visit a Moroccan home; so make the most of it. It's refreshing and delicious and, don't forget, hot drinks actually help you feel cooler in a hot climate.
Coffee is also popular, sometimes so strong it will make your eyes spin. It is also usually served very hot and sweet and will be sipped very slowly over quite a long period of time.
Do try the freshly squeezed orange juice and other fruit smoothies. Wonderful.
Alcohol is usually only served in a few dingy bars, but also at the main tourist hotels and restaurants. Moroccan lager is pretty good and cheaper than the moderately pricey European imports.
5 - Souvenirs and Shopping.
Traditional Moroccan handmade items such as pottery, leather, clothing and carpets make excellent souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home.
Intricately jewelled kaftans, leather slippers, delightfully crafted and coloured ceramics and the most wonderful rugs, made by ancient methods in the mountains can all be bought at great prices, especially if you are prepared to haggle, which you should.
Many of the best bargains can be found in the local souks (markets) away from the tourist areas. You will still begin at 'tourist prices' but bargaining can be fun.
Argan oil, great for the hair, skin and general health, is unique to Morocco and makes an excellent purchase for yourself or a gift.
And check out the health stores also for soaps, oils, teas, herbs and spices. Many of these will come with super stories, too.
6 - The Sahara Desert.
Many tourists come to Morocco primarily to visit the Sahara Desert, one of the most amazing places in the world. And in Morocco, it's easy to get to and safe. It is possible to book trips to the Sahara Desert with Fes Desert Trips , just for a day, or for two or three days, for a very small sum. These trips usually include traditional meals, camping in Berber tents, the essential camel trek. It does get very hot in the day, and sometimes cold at night, but the heat is a dry heat without the horrible humidity and if you wear loose clothing, sunglasses and a floppy hat and slap on decent sunscreen, you should be fine.
The experience or visiting the massive Erg Chebbi Dunes, the endless vista of gently shifting golden sands, climbing the dunes and enjoying the serenity as you watch a desert sunset or sunrise is unforgettable. And at night, when the millions of stars fill the sky and the huge moon seems close enough to touch, you can listen to the sweet strains of Berber music and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of it all.
7 - Magnificent Mountains.
Morocco boasts no less than four mountain ranges that cross the country from North East to South West. There's the Rif in the north, the Middle Atlas in the centre and the High Atlas and Anti Atlas down south. These mountains not only prevent the Sahara from encroaching over the whole country, as has happened in the other North African countries to a large degree, but offers some of the most incredible views, geology, hiking opportunities and even skiing in winter.
You will experience winding mountain roads through dizzying heights, rugged rock walls, twisting rivers, and small Berber villages clinging on to the edge of precipices. From the cedar forests and monkeys of the Azrou region to a hike up Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa, from the Blue City of Chefchaouen in the Rif, to the charming Imlil in the High Atlas, there is plenty to see and do.
8 - Beautiful Beaches.
Morocco's north is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, and it's long, long Western boundary is the Atlantic Ocean, so there are plenty of beaches in the country that offer something for everyone.
For Moroccans, the northern beaches around Tetouan and El Hoceima are favourite destinations of choice in the summer, due to the cool sea breezes, while foreign tourists often head to Asilah, Essaouira, Agadir and Safi.
All great for swimming, surfing and sunbathing and so refreshing in the long hot Moroccan summer.
Also these places are reknowned for their hospitality and, of course, for their marvelous seafood dishes.
9 - The Historic Cities.
There are so many that are well worth a visit, Moroccan cities are always throbbing, live and vibrant. They can be jam-packed and jostling, seemingly chaotic, but there are always quieter areas like museums, parks and gardens.
Go to Rabat for a more tranquil and relaxed city, Casablanca for a modern day Moroccan experience, Marrakech for the famous red walls and the famous Jemma el-Fna square, Chefchouen for its fabled blue streets, Essaouira to learn how to surf and shop, and Fes for the largest urban pedestrianized area in the world; its famous ancient medina and the oldest university on the planet..
10 - Amazing Architecture.
From the wattle and daub houses in the south, the Berber mountain villages, mighty kasbahs and narrow streets to the intricate wood carvings, beautiful tiles and arched doorways and city gates, there is an incredible diversity of architecture ranging from the impossibly intricate to the beautiful yet simple. Many of the buildings in the mountains and near the desert are made from red clay giving them a wonderful warmth. And, of course, there are mosques, usually with impressive towers everywhere, and much of Morocco is influenced by the Arab world and Islam, so there are lots of mosaics and architecture in this style, often using green and white, the colours of the faith.
11 - Understanding Islam.
It's a great opportunity to meet Islam face to face. Most Moroccans are Muslims and the religion seeps into their everyday lives. Mosques are found in seemingly every city street and village, of varying styles and splendour and the streets can be packed on a Friday lunchtime, the holy day prayers attract thousands. Most of the mosques don't allow non-Muslims entry, so you'll have to be satisfied with their often beautiful exteriors or a peek in through the doors, however, you can visit the interior of the huge and impressive Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, one of the biggest in the world. The call to prayer, which happens five times a day, and is a loud chanting played through speakers from the tops of the mosque towers, is very moving.
Also notice that most women dress conservatively as is required by the religion. many wear hijabs to cover the hair and some cover their hands and faces. It is polite for tourist women to show respect and dress sensibly too, though not required, as Morocco is a very tolerant country.
Many Moroccans put the decrees of their faith into practice every day, these include hospitality, charity, good manners and a respect for others.
12 - Fossils and Gemstones.
Morocco is rightly famed for the richness and beauty of its fossils and gemstones and you will find many shops in the centre, but particularly the south of the country selling fossils and crystals, even roadside stalls between towns. There are amythysts and quartzes, ammonites, trilobites and dinosaur teeth everywhere, at remarkable prices if you are prepare to haggle, but caveat emptor - there are a lot of fakes as well, so be careful!