Recent research shows that more than half of British travellers prefer a city break over any other type of holiday, and Morocco is an ideal place for an urban adventure.
Marrakech, Casablanca, Fez… just the names immediately conjure up a host of enticing images – far away cities full of sun, adventure and promise.
But in reality you can fly to this ‘distant’ land in just 3 hours 40 minutes direct from Manchester, opening up a world of holiday possibilities.
Marrakech is, in many ways, still the legendary city of old, but these days comes with an extra dimension of modern luxury. It was Trip Advisor’s Best Destination in the World 2015, and consistently appears at the top of ‘must-visit’ lists created by travel experts.
The living heart of the city is the photogenic Djemma El-Fna, the largest square in all of Africa. It’s in this UNESCO World Heritage Site that you’ll find the snake charmers, acrobats and storytellers providing entertainment for the crowds. However, it’s when the sun dips below that the place really comes to life as hundreds of chefs start cooking and people come from all around to be part of this joyful cascade of sights, smells and sounds.
You’re spoilt for choice when you’re looking for somewhere to stay, from the luxurious Royal Mansour – hotel of choice for world leaders and Hollywood A-listers – to low-cost riads and hostels for the budget conscious.
Marrakech is famous for its hustle and bustle, but it’s easy to escape the crowds should it all get a bit too much. The hammam is a traditional Moroccan steam bath and massage treatment that is designed to leave you feeling completely relaxed.
Alternatively, spend some time on the fairway. There are over a dozen quality golf courses in and around the city, designed by the likes of Gary Player, Colin Montgomerie and Robert Trent Jones. Prices are a fraction of their European counterparts and the golf is simply stunning.
Speak to anyone who has been to Essaouira and it won’t be long before the word ‘relaxed’ comes up. There is certainly a laid-back vibe that can be felt throughout this blue and white coastal city, whether you’re walking along the massive Portuguese ramparts that border the Atlantic, enjoying a meal of fresh seafood in one of the many excellent restaurants, or making the most of the world-class windsurfing and kite-surfing conditions that attract watersports enthusiasts from around the world.
Casablanca is a long way from its movie namesake, instead this large city is a fine example of Mauresque architecture, a mix of European art deco and Moorish stylings. The huge Hassan II Mosque – the largest in Africa – is a big draw, as is the Corniche, the city’s waterfront entertainment district. And yes, you can order a drink at Rick’s, or one of the many other street cafes. Sit at a table in the sunshine with your coffee or mint tea and watch people go about their business as time goes by.
Fez is ‘old Morocco’, the perfect place to visit if you love history, heritage and just a touch of the mystical. It’s a world away from modern European cities and has the best-preserved medieval medina in the Arab world. It’s also the world’s largest car-free urban zone, so instead there is a mix of donkeys, carriages and bicycles winding their way through high-sided streets and alleys. You should definitely attempt to see Bou Inania Madersa, a stunning 14th century religious college, covered in intricate patterns and flowing carved script. Bab Boujeloud, the grand entrance to the medina, is equally breathtaking, but in all honesty examples can be found across the city on some of the most mundane buildings and neglected corners, such is the wealth of heritage to be found in Fez.
To many people, Morocco’s most famous feature is the Sahara desert, and the sun-baked city of Ouarzazate is the largest settlement before you reach the sands. As such there are numerous companies here offering treks to the desert and the spectacular gorges nearby. It’s also a favourite destination of Hollywood who have filmed countless films here including Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, and you can see various large props, backdrops and more on a visit to the Atlas film studios.
Visit your travel agent or tour operator to discover the perfect Moroccan city for you.
You’re just a short flight away from Morocco, with Marrakech and Agadir easily reachable from Manchester in under four hours. easyJet offer several direct flights a week to Marrakech from £22.49 one-way. Twice-weekly scheduled flights from Thomson go direct to Agadir throughout the winter season.