Enjoying Morocco starts with nothing more strenuous than its national pastime people-watching in a street cafe with a coffee or a mint tea. Use the opportunity to plan your next moves hiking up North Africa’s highest peak, learning to roll couscous, camel trekking in the desert, shopping in the souqs or getting lost in the medina. Between the activities, you can sleep in boutique riads, relax on panoramic terraces and grand squares, and mop up delicately flavoured tajines before sweating it all out in a restorative hamam.
Mountains & Desert
From Saharan dunes to the peaks of the High Atlas, Morocco could have been tailor-made for travellers. Lyrical landscapes carpet this slice of North Africa like the richly coloured and patterned rugs you’ll lust after in local cooperatives. The mountains not just the famous High Atlas but also the Rif and suntanned ranges leading to Saharan oases offer simple, breathtaking pleasures: night skies glistening in the thin air, and views over a fluffy cloudbank from the Tizi ‘n’Test pass. On lower ground, there are rugged coastlines, waterfalls and caves in forested hills, and the mighty desert.
By mid-morning the soundtrack of snake-charmer flutes has already begun, but the show doesn’t kick off until sunset when restaurants fire up their grills, cueing musicians to tune up their instruments.
Fez’ medina can seem like it’s in a state of perpetual pandemonium; some visitors fall instantly in love and others recoil in horror. But its charms are many. Seemingly blind alleys lead to squares with exquisite fountains and streets bursting with aromatic food stands, rooftops unveil a sea of minarets, and stooped doorways reveal the workshops of tireless artisans.
In its highest reaches, snow falls regularly from September to May, allowing for winter sports in Oukaimeden, while year-round rivers flow northwards towards Marrakesh creating a network of fertile valleys the Zat, Ourika, Mizane and Ouirgane. Happiest of all are the secluded valleys of the central High Atlas, which include Zaouiat Ahansal, Ait Bougomez, Ait Bououli and Ait Blel.
In the High Atlas the main language is the Berber dialect of Tashelhit, with some pockets of Tamazight.
The heart of the medina is the shady, cobbled Plaza Uta el-Hammam. The plaza is dominated by the red-hued walls of the kasbah and the adjacent Grande Mosquee. The kasbah contains a lovely garden, an ethnographic museum, and an art gallery.
Figuig has an upper and lower town. The main road, Blvd Hassan II, runs through the upper (new) town, where there are ATMs, a post office and pleasant municipal gardens.