With the ocean to the west, the desert to the east, and the Atlas mountain range cutting through its center, Morocco is a land of many wonders. A melting pot of cultural influences, this captivating North African country is guaranteed to stimulate your senses and seduce you with its golden glow.
There’s no shortage of animation while in Morocco. Your journey’s beginning will probably find you in the coastal city of Casablanca — made famous by the classic film of the same name — where you can visit the second largest mosque in the world, and admire Mauresque and Art Deco landmarks. Surf enthusiasts will revel at the chance to catch a wave in Essaouira, where windy shores and soft water breaks create the ideal condition for hanging ten. Other popular destinations include Agadir, Tangier, Fes, and Rabat, where organized chaos fill the streets and life is centered around the maze-like medinas. Marrakech, often referred to as the Red City, is a tourist hot-spot— and for a good reason. With its boisterous main square and proximity to desert excursions, the hub provides a digestible culture shock for first-time visitors.
The official languages of Morocco are Arabic and Berber, though French is widely spoken and taught at school. Because Islam is the primary religion, The Call to Prayer is played five times per day and can be heard most predominantly in the medinas. Men and women should dress conservatively while out in public, taking care to cover their knees, shoulders, and midriffs.
Before planning your travels, it’s important to consider the Ramadan period and how it will affect your visit. The month-long religious celebration bases its dates on the Islamic lunar calendar and is a time for spiritual reflection, prayer, and good deeds. During this time, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, souks and markets are largely empty, and historical sites and other attractions may have shorter opening times. As a non-Muslim, you may eat, drink, and smoke in the privacy of your villa, but are prohibited to do so in public.
Morocco enjoys a diverse topography that grants you with many different opportunities to explore its great outdoors. Whether you dream of riding camelback through the golden sands, skiing or hiking above the clouds, or taking the day off with a visit to a traditional hammam, it is sure to be an experience you’ll never forget.
The largest square in Africa, Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna is a dizzying display of sights, smells, and sounds. Here, local vendors set up shop to sell goods such as handmade leather bags, fragrant spices, colorful tiles, mosaic lanterns, and traditional jewelry. Snippets of music and pockets of fragrances fill the air, while snake charmers, storytellers, and food stalls populate the bustling center.
A Moroccan hammam is the perfect place to unwind after a long day spent gallivanting. Cleanliness and purification are essential elements of the Islamic faith, and hammams are a favorite ritual among locals. A typical visit will have you warming up in a steam room, followed by an exfoliating scrub and a mud clay mask treatment.
The Atlas mountain range cuts through Northern Africa, crossing Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The tallest mountain in North Africa, Jbel Toubkal, stands at over 13,000 feet and is located 40 miles south of Marrakesh. Adventure enthusiasts can both ski and hike in this area, and camp in local refuge base camps along the way.
Built somewhere between 1578 and 1603, these burial chambers in Marrakech were discovered in 1917. The final resting place for 60 members of the Saadi Dynasty, the tombs are an architectural masterpiece. Step back in time and marvel at the beautifully constructed domed ceilings, marble and wood carvings, and stunning mosaics.
Arabic markets, also called souks, are plentiful throughout Morocco and can be found in every city. A maze of similarities, locals come here to exchange goods and shop for treasures. Bartering is an expected custom, and prices usually start high, especially for tourists. If you’re shopping for a big-ticket item, like a Moroccan carpet, you’ll probably be invited to share a sweet mint tea with the shop owner as you peruse.
While Morocco has many deserts, the most popular are the Agafay and the Sahara, the former being just an hour drive from Marrakech. Camel rides and Berber camping tours can be arranged by your concierge, and are a fantastic opportunity to take a step back in time. And while camel-back riding is not the most comfortable activity, seeing the stars shine to their full potential over the cool desert floor is simply mesmerizing.
Created by French Oriental artist Jacques Majorelle in 1923, the large botanical garden was bought and restored by Yves Saint Laurent sixty years later. According to the fashion designer, Marrakech taught him color. Get inspired by this captivating garden laden with verdant palms, prominent cacti, and tropical flowers.
For a dose of the great outdoors, travelers can make their way to the impressive Ouzoud Falls, 93 miles northeast of Marrakech. Locals and tourists alike bathe at the bottom of the falls, jumping from level to level. Further down the stream are small restaurants serving freshly squeezed orange juice and tasty local fare.
Hearty and full of unexpected flavor combinations, Moroccan dishes are often meant for sharing. A trip to the region would be incomplete without tasting a traditional tagine, scooped up with an airy chunk of bread. The dish is made by combining spices, vegetables, dried fruit, and often times meat in a ceramic tagine pot. The ingredients then stew together for hours, marrying their unique flavors.
If you happen to be in Morocco during Ramadan, you might be invited to share a bowl of harira. During the celebration, this rich soup of tomatoes, lamb, and beans is the preferred way for Moroccan Muslims to break their daily fast. Soak up the concoction with a chebakia, a fried pretzel-like pastry that pairs unexpectedly well with the dish.
Then there’s couscous— a beloved staple in all Moroccan households. Usually served over meat with steamed vegetables pressed up against the sides of the bowl, you may taste several different variations depending on where you are. Berbers, for example, serve theirs with buttermilk for an extra punch of nutrition.
When visiting Marrakech, villas neighboring the medina provide a quiet refuge in the heart of the city. Only a 10-minute drive from the medina, our properties are fully staffed and features all of the comforts of home. After a busy day spent bartering and spice shopping, step into your private hammam room for an invigorating steam, followed by a visit from a masseuse in the villa’s massage room. In the morning, enjoy a traditional Moroccan breakfast from your balcony as you take in the views of the commanding Atlas Mountains. Evenings can be spent stargazing and lounging in your mosaic-tiled swimming pool, or visiting the town with recommendations from your personal driver.
At the north end of Marrakech lies the tropical La Palmeraie gardens, an oasis of palm groves, olive trees, and aromatic plant gardens. Brimming with sweltering beauty and refreshing pops of color, the verdant plot of land is home to high-end resorts such as Nikki Beach, and several big-name golf courses. Villas in La Palmeraie offer a well-balanced mix of high-end living in proximity to Marrakech’s most popular sites and excursions.
Our villas in La Palmeraie are surrounded by lush greenery and boast views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, perfect for sunset mint tea rituals. While the curved Moorish entryways will keep you grounded in Morocco, the surroundings and amenities rival those of the highest caliber in Palm Springs. Take the time to pamper yourself with on-site hammams, infinity pools, and hot tubs. Active travelers can work up a sweat playing golf or tennis, then take a dip in the pool before sitting down to delicious local cuisine prepared by your in-villa chef.