Tourism & Communications
Hustle & bustle
With its sandy beaches, long hours of sunshine and rich cultural heritage, Morocco attracts over eight million tourists each year. And the government has plans to more than double that number over the next decade.
Morocco’s fourth largest city, Marrakesh, is one of the key tourist attractions. It was founded in the 11th century by the Almoravid empire, before being destroyed and rebuilt in the 12th century – see History & Politics.
Important markers of its medieval history remain in the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque and the city’s walls and gates. The narrow streets of the medina or old town are famous for the bustle of the many souks and market stalls (though watch out for mopeds!)
Marrakesh is also famous for its Jemaa El Fna gathering place, which literally means ‘Assembly of the Dead City’. This square is home to fortune tellers, circus acts, snake charmers, dancers, storytellers, tattooists and market traders. The area is recognised by UNESCO as a site of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.
TourismTourismIn this video… Rafik is standing in a tourist hot spot in the centre of Marrakesh. He talks about the construction of new buildings and golf courses to help fuel Morocco’s economic growth.
Other popular destinations
A well-maintained road network makes it easy for tourists to travel further afield. Morocco’s mountainous regions offer a range of outdoor activities such as bird watching, hiking, rafting, skiing and horse riding.
For the more intrepid, mountain trekking in the High Atlas is becoming popular. Trekkers can hire a muleteer and mule for camping equipment and supplies, and a cook for preparing meals along the way.
Tourist locations along Morocco’s coastline offer a more sedate style of holiday. The 18th century fishing town of Essaouira is only three hours from the heat and dust of Marrakesh.
The old city of Fez, with its many ancient mosques and guilds of craftsmen working in wood, metal or cloth, gives a glimpse of medieval life.
The cities of Rabat and Casablanca have a more modern feel, forming the industrial, commercial and political heartland of Morocco. Here, the old and the new go hand in hand. It is not uncommon to see people in both modern and traditional Moroccan-style dress sitting alongside each other in old-style and internet cafes.
Pockets of peace
Those who want to get away from the hustle of souk sellers and the city crowds, make for Morocco's famed exotic gardens. These include the Aguedal and Menara Gardens which are enclosed inside palace walls. Emphasis is on pleasing all the senses:
Sight: Vibrant flowers contrast against green foliage, with trees such as laurel and cyprus providing shade.
Smell: Aromatic planting such as rosemary, roses and orange blossom is prized.
Sound: Water is not only a key element for irrigating the gardens, it is valued for its coolness and symbolic associations with purity. The many fountains and water channels provide a constant sound of trickling to soothe and calm.