Why we love it: Morocco

Here's another in our Why We Love It series. Today's focus is on Morocco. Why We Love It is a series of blogs written by passionate Peregrine staffers about a place that holds special meaning for them:

Medieval monuments and modern wonders, endless medinas full of quiet moments and bizarre sights, mosaics and mosques, banquets and bartering – Morocco’s great cities are a magnet; every time I want a fix of cultural exoticism, they keep pulling me back.

I don’t have a favourite. Or rather, wherever I am is my current favourite – they’re seductive that way. No matter how many times I explore them, the alleys and lanes of Meknes, Fes or Marrakech always harbour new sights and surprises.

The last occasion I was in Marrakech, I visited Ben Youssef Madrasa for the first time. This is a medieval Islamic college hidden within the medina warren. It’s a beautiful place that I’d recommend to any visitor to the city. The geometry of the design is classically Arabian, a beautiful simplicity that conceals rich details that really require hours of exploration to get the most of the place. One of the courtyards makes for a beautifully peaceful place for a glass of mint tea as well.

Another Marrakech must: the Majorelle Gardens in the New Town. If you’re like me and the medina can sometimes get a little much – the bargaining of the souk, the dust, the heat, the human traffic are captivating but undeniably intense – then these gardens are a godsend, so peaceful, with amazing tropical and sub-tropical collections, the perfect antidote to a morning’s souvenir-hunting! Take a stroll around, then flop at the cafe or on a shaded seat with your book.

Escaping the cities
The cities are what first attracted me to Morocco. Photographs and articles in newspapers and journals painted an enticingly ‘other’ culture, and the reality didn’t disappoint. I still feel a thrill as I disappear into Fes-el-Bali, ready for whatever comes my way. But increasingly it’s the rural landscapes that I’m exploring when I visit.

I may have travelled along a more stunning route than the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, but it doesn’t come easily to mind. It’s Arabian Nights-fantastic, fairytales Kasbahs like Ait Benhaddou sitting amidst rugged, varied scenery, from the high peaks of Atlas Mountains through limestone gorges to the golden sands of the Sahara. Whenever someone tells me they’re visiting Morocco for the first time, I recommend they take this route.

Lastly, I couldn’t forget the seaside town of Essaouira (pictured above). It’s got quite a different atmosphere to other places in Morocco, with a very laid-back feel and a definite artistic bent. Plus, after the sands and parched lands, to sit by the little fishing port and watch the day’s catch being offloaded (choosing my evening meal in the process) is a real treat. Any place that's good enough for Orson Welles and Jimi Hendrix is good enough for me – Essaouira is always the perfect end to any Morocco holiday.

What was your favourite place in Morocco? Tell us about it in the comments section below. If you have images or stories to share, or simply want to ask a question, head to twitter and Facebook. The Peregrine community is growing bigger every day and we love to hear from you!

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