Exploring the Imperial Cities of Morocco

Morocco is an eye opening effervescent experience. It draws influence from the Middle East to Southern Europe, and boasts unique vibrancy forged throughout history. Its sweeping seaside cities and pink  medinas are enough to enchant even the most seasoned traveller. From King’s Palaces to mosques and city squares, the four Imperial Cities of Rabat, Meknes, Marrakech and Fez are must see destinations on any Moroccan itinerary.

1. MARRAKECH

The starting point of any Moroccan adventure begins in vivacious Marrakech, possibly its most famed tourist destination. From the lively Djemaa El Fna Square, the heart of the Medina, fused with a modern cosmopolitan city centre, Marrakech combines the old and the new Morocco seamlessly. The historical significance of Marrakech is profound, with sites such as the towering Kotoubia Mosque, dating back to the early 11th century overlooking the media square. Highlights include the stunning El Badi Palace, built in the 1500s, and the decorative Saadian Tombs,  the final resting place of the ruling family of the Saadi Dynasty over 600 years ago.

2. FEZ

Seemingly in constant pandemonium, the inner Fez medina is beyond mindboggling, yet the 70,000 locals who call this city home seem to manoeuvre through it with no apparent trouble. Fez’s central medina is the biggest in all of Morocco and is the major drawcard to the city for tourists from all over the world. From delicious fresh fruit to it’s tantalising spices, hand-made leather goods and glowing silver lanterns, Fez retains its medieval history and remains the world’s largest car free central urban area.

3. MEKNES

Quieter than Fez, the former Capital of Morocco Meknes is packed with cultural history. Although only now a glimmer of is former glory, Meknes is home to some of Morocco’s most remarkable architecture such as the Bab el-Mansour, the grandest gateway of any Imperial City in Morocco. The Bab el-Monsour is inscribed in Arabic, translating to, ‘I am the most beautiful gate in Morocco. I’m like the moon in the sky. Property and wealth are written on my front.’

4. RABAT

Capital city, Rabat, is strategically placed on the Atlantic ocean and is the country’s political hub. It also blends beautiful seaside views with ancient architecture and picturesque Kasbahs. Featuring Morocco’s very own imitation of Beverly Hills,  the palmed-lined streets of Rabat boast charm and beautiful buildings. Strolling the quiet alleys of the Kasbah les Oudaias also provides an insight into the lives of the everyday Moroccan. Finally, a visit to Rabat’s most famed landmark, the Le Tour Hassan (Hassan Tower), rounds out Rabat’s must-see spots. The tower is surrounded by beautifully tended gardens and offers a sweeping view of the city.

BONUS CITY: CASABLANCA

Although not one of Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Casablanca is the country’s economic powerhouse  and home to the largest Mosque in the country. Perched strategically on the coastline, Casablanca is possibly Morocco’s most modern and cosmopolitan city. Its beaches are well equipped for tourists with the major drawcard to the city being the Hassan II Mosque, a staggering 72 foot tall, hand tiled, grand mosque. Unlike other mosques in Morocco, the Grande Mosque is also open to tourists at certain points throughout the day.

TRAVELLING IN MOROCCO:

Morocco is vast with varied landscapes en route to its various Imperial Cities. From winding mountainous roads to sandstorms sweeping the highway, it is possible to self navigate through Morocco, but your time will be much better spent travelling with a quality tour company.  Navigating the inner workings of Morocco’s medinas, city centres and souks can be a headache for the unprepared traveller. Morocco is also a fantastic destination to travel as a female, couple or solo traveller at any age. Encounters Travel is a fantastic, small scale and budget conscious tour operator that specialises in tours of the Imperial Moroccan Cities. Their eight-day tour takes in all the highlights necessary in discovering these amazing cities and really takes the legwork out of planning.

I’ve  toured with this company on this very tour, along with my mother. The tour was perfect for both of us, it covered our delicious meals, accommodation in central spots and a fantastic, local knowledgeable guide who taught us more about Morocco in eight days than we were likely to learn in a lifetime!

About the Author:

Hailing from the sunny Land Down Under, Australia, Alexis is a fulltime nomad and travel blogger for online travel website Mermaid Tales Adventure. She loves travelling to adventurous and outdoor-centric destinations with a focus on budget conscious and backpacker travel for all ages. Alexis comes from a background of marketing and writing and also specializes in surf photography as a side project. Follow her adventures online at www.mermaidtalesadventure.com or get social and connect on Instagram @mermaid_tales_adventure

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