Morocco is one of those places that lives up to its reputation. With memorizing landscapes and so many incredible walled medieval cities there’s no wonder it’s top of the list for Hollywood filmmakers. In my humble opinion, it wipes the floor with its North African rival Egypt.
It’s not exactly a place to go to get laid or party, but if you’re looking for a really good travel experience, I’d recommend it.
Below I give a good beginner’s itinerary for the country and review of some of the highlights.
Itinerary for 2 weeks
Cheap Ryanair flights operate out of Fez and Marrakesh (and also a few lesser known cities), so I chose to start north and work my way down. I wanted a diverse trip, but I also decided to save the coastline for another trip to Mauritania/Mali. As such, the likes of Rabat and Casablanca are not included. (Plus, I hear they’re pretty dull anyway).
After a lot of research, here was the itinerary I made:
- Fez: the Arab world’s oldest medieval city.
- Chefchaouen: famous for its beauty and hashish.
- Meknes: another Imperial city more off the beaten track.
- Erg Chebbi: The most famous desert dunes in the country.
- Aït Ben Haddou: Ancient city used to film tons of movies.
- Marrakesh: Best nightlife and women in Morocco. A good place to end.
Note: A good add-on to this trip would be Essaouira, a seaside town near Marrakesh that comes highly recommended by other travelers.
Appearance: Don’t expect sexy belly dancers like in the picture above. In general, Moroccans aren’t very attractive. They’re a few rare beauties in the upper classes—and when they’re good looking they’re very good looking—but on average the women are very underwhelming.
Most Moroccan women are of Arab-Berber descent. They typically have slightly tanned skin, dark hair, sharp features, a prominent nose, and a rather plain face. Inbreeding is also a common custom between cousins, and as such many also look a bit “hunch-backy”. Aside from more liberal cities like Marrakesh and Meknes, most women dress very conservatively and sport the hijab.
Like most places in the Arab World, the non-pro girls you meet at bars and nightclubs tend to be well-off, light-skinned, and wear way too much make-up. The best looking girls tend to be mixes, with Moriscos (Spanish blood), Jews, and French Moroccans topping the poll.
Attitudes: Morocco, like other North African countries, is extremely conservative. In most cities you won’t find women in bars unless they are prostitutes. Marrakesh is a notable exception; here you can see unmarried couples walking hand-in-hand and groups of girls in short skirts lining up for nightclubs just like in any other European city, and among this privileged group pre-martial sex is not seen as a big deal.
Gaming Strategy: If you want to get laid in Morocco, Marrakesh is the best place to be. I’m not a big fan of the city, but it’s here where the women are most liberal and westernized. It also has the most female tourists.
Being so conservative, discretion is important. As such, online dating is increasingly common in Morocco. Many women don’t drink, so this is by far the best method to meet a nice Moroccan girl.
Fez, the Mecca of the West, is the Arab World’s oldest medieval walled city. It also has the world’s oldest university, and is said to be the world’s largest urban car-free zone. With its winding streets and colorful souqs, it make you feel like you’ve traveled back to another age.
If I was ever to return to any of the places I visited in Morocco this would be my no. 1 spot.
There’s no main square, but unlike Marrakesh it doesn’t have motorbikes nearly knocking you over every 5 seconds, and there’s not nearly as many tourists.
It also has some cool 800-year-old tanneries and is quite possibly the best place in the world to buy a bad-ass leather jacket. (Pro-tip: Buy from the main street. The tanneries rip tourists off and charge triple. I got an amazing black one for $75. Don’t pay more than $100.)
On the con list, unless you’re willing to take a taxi ride to the new town, the nightlife around the old medina is virtually non-existent, with most of the action happening around the few restaurants around the Blue Gate. If you want a beer or to try your luck shoring, the only viable option I found was after midnight at the depressing Hotel Batha.
Did you know the Rif Mountains legally produce 42% of the world’s cannabis?
Well it’s true, and the best place to experience the infamous “Rif Kif” and high-quality golden brown hashish is the little walled town of Chefchaouen. For about $15 you’ll pick up 10 grams: enough to get you high every day for a fortnight.
Many also consider it to be the most beautiful city in the country. Perched at the bottom of two mountains, the town is distinctive for it’s Andalusian-style blue and white buildings. I especially liked the town’s main square pictured below.
Even if you don’t smoke, this is an amazing place to spend two or three days. There’s zero nightlife, but if you’re desperate for a drink or want to watch a bit of soccer, the best option is Restaurant OumRabie (you will not find women there, however.)
Meknes is the most relaxed of Morocco’s four imperial cities, but it’s easily the most under-rated. It has old-world charm similar to Fez, but there’s a few more drinking spots and less hijabs. There’s also a great square like in Marrakesh.
But the best bit? There’s practically no tourists!
I had only one night here, but I wish I stayed longer. For me, Meknes has the perfect balance of old and new Morocco. For other nomads out there, it’s definitely a place that merits further investigation.
Erg Chebbi (The Saharan Desert)
The Erb Chebbi dunes are the most famous in Morocco. The pictures speak for themselves. Most visitors stay a night in either Merzouga or nearby Hassilead, and then take a camel ride out into the desert to stay overnight in a Berber tent. It usually includes a huge meal and breakfast. I can’t recommend this highly enough if you’re there in the off-season. Most hotels/hostel also offer free sandboarding.
I was there in January when there were no tourists, but in high-season it’s supposedly infested with them. I recommend renting an apartment at Bivouac House. They have a pool and only charge €30 for their desert trips.
Aït Ben Haddou
This ancient city has been in countless movies. It’s a great place to explore for a day and breaks up the journey from Erb Chebbi and Marrakesh nicely. Don’t make the mistake most travelers make by staying in nearby Ouarzazate (it’s boring and not worth it). Go straight to Ait Ben Haddou and stay in a hotel out there; you’ll have a much better time.
I’m not a big fan of Marrakesh, but if you want to party and get laid, this is the place to be.
This is the only city in Morocco where I’d rather stay in the new city rather than in the old medina. The main square is an exciting place to visit, but it also has more tourists, beggars, and scam artists than anywhere I’ve seen in years. You can’t even enjoy shopping in the souqs because of all the motorbikes. On top of these negatives, nearly all the decent nightlife happens in the new town anyway. It’s expensive, but at least it’s plentiful.
For more info on Marrakesh check out my city guide.
Oh, and here’s a pic I took in my Marrakesh Riad, smoking a pipe with my new leather jacket.
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For more info on Morocco, or if you have any questions, check out the links below or leave a comment.
There’s also a Morocco Discussion Thread on the Forum.