The fertile thumb of land north of the Atlas Mountains is the heart of Moroccan civilization. This is where Amazigh, Arab and French culture have fermented into a cosmopolitan melange that constantly bombards you with reminders that this is where the worlds of Europe, Africa and the Middle East have been submitted to the “will it blend?” challenge. Turns out it does.
This is part II of Memories of Morocco. In part I, I kicked off my trip around Morocco in the country’s wild southern desert.
Arriving from the southern desert, to me the north felt like a world apart. After weeks in dust and heat, I was caught in snow crossing the Atlas Mountains, before sloshing through half-flooded streets in my next stop, Marrakesh.
Marrakesh is surrounded by rings of hopeless slums, where families shelter from the rain in homes made of the city’s garbage and debris. Closer in, the sprawling Jemaa el-Fnaa square is the spiritual center of the city.
Once a strategic Portuguese port, today El Jadida is a laid back fishing village on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. At sunset, the eateries near the main market are great for scoring some crispy fried fish.
El Jadida’s iconic Manueline cistern, in the UNESCO recognised old Portuguese settlement.
Despite its image of romantic nostalgia abroad, Morocco’s largest city Casablanca is loathed by locals. It’s polluted, overpopulated and chocked with poverty. But, the meat-on-a-stick is pretty good.
The walls of the Chellah necropolis, which contains relics dating as far back as the Roman occupation.
A shop in the medina of Morocco’s capital, Rabat.
Just minutes away from the halls of power in this heavily centralized North African state, the medina’s antiquated charm is a breath of fresh air from the world of Rabati bureaucracy.
At the Medina walls, the old meets the new.
Morocco’s response to Subway sounds … gritty.
Sunset at Larache.
With its whitewashed houses and winding streets, Asilah looks more like Greece than North Africa.
There’s more than meets the eye in the seemingly nonchalant mountain village of Chefchaouen. This is the center of Morocco’s hash country, the Rif. The region around Chefchaouen is the world’s biggest producer of hash, and bricks of the stuff are everywhere.
Beware: everyone in Chefchaouen has the munchies, and will literally help themselves to food straight off your plate.
Snacks at Moulay Idriss.
The stunning Roman ruins of Volubilis. This crumbling ancient city is a short yet pleasant walk from Moulay Idriss.
The bustling streets of Meknes.
Bab Bou Jeloud, one of Fes’ most well known landmarks.
Bou Inania Madrasa in Fes was once one of North Africa’s most preeminent universities. Today, it remains beautifully preserved.
Fes’ old city walls.