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Morocco
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The easiest way for a Westerner to get a taste of the Arab world.

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Mosque, Casablanca

After one visit to Morocco (1999), my information is sketchy.  What I can say is this.
 
It is easy to reach Morocco by air from Madrid or Paris, as well as from other European cities.
 
Rabat is 100 times more interesting than Casablanca, which has morphed into a generic big city.  Rabat has the Suk, the old quarter with the bazaar.  There, you will be able to see the old Morocco.
 
There is a series of picturesque towns worth stopping in on heading west from Casablanca, such as El Jadidah.  I am not a golfer, but there are some excellent golf courses in this region.
 
Everyone who has been there says that Fez is one of the world's great destinations.  A night behind the city walls is said to be like a night in old Jerusalem, with no modern distractions.
 
I found the people to be extremely friendly in Morocco.  A knowledge of French is a real asset, but more and more people know English or Spanish.
 
I pass on advice from a friend of mine who had a career in our foreign service, with a posting in Morocco:
 
"I would suggest deemphasizing Casablanca (at this point it's pretty much homogenized, not much of Humphrey Bogart and I think most people would be disappointed).  Rabat is more interesting - storks wintering there from Europe, a souk you can wander without fear of getting lost, close to the coast and the fantastic sardines.  Fez is a 'do not miss,' as is Marrakech, but don't go into the souks without a guide, you may never be found.
 
"Marrakech also has a square (name of which I forget) just outside the main entrance to the souk where they have incredible street performers.  I would have loved to have gone into the desert areas but I didn't have the time in the winter months, which is the only season when the heat is not intolerable.
 
"Tangiers has its areas, including the historic hotel, but it also has a lot of touristy-things including camels.  Meknes is worth a stop between Rabat and Fez; it's one of the imperial cities and the palace, especially the stables, is in pretty good condition; you can pick up an English-speaking guide there.

"Moroccan food is great.  Tajines are essentially stews but with different spices (but not hot), usually served with couscous.  There is a pigeon pie (which now is chicken), that is more or less a special occasion dish, but some restaurants have it on the menu.  Fruits and vegetables are great.  (Morocco exports a lot to the EU).  My maid would serve sliced oranges with cinnamon for dessert.  Morocco also has excellent wines."

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Spice Market, El Jadidah

Last updated November 23, 2002.