Visiting Morocco In Winter, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Morocco Winter Vacation, Kasbah Tamadot

Morocco Winter Vacation, Kasbah Tamadot

Morocco is the perfect travel destination regarding of season. Visiting Morocco in winter can make for a rewarding holiday travel experience. The period around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year is a popular time to take vacation and a great time of year to get away from it all. Morocco is a cold country with hot sun. Morocco enjoys sunny, mild weather year round and makes a perfect winter vacation destination.

Depending on the type of vacation you seek as a Morocco traveler a private tour can be arranged with varied trips that focus on one or two centers as well as tours encompassing as much or as little of this fascinating country as you have time and interest to visit.

To give you some idea of the variety Morocco has to offer, here are a few suggestions…

The coastal resort of Agadir enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year and is the perfect base for a family holiday or for exploring Morocco’s Southern Atlantic Coast. The daytime temperature is typically around 70°F (although evenings are cool – pack a sweater) and although the sea is cooler than in summer, most hotels and resorts have heated pools and there is none of the sea fog characteristic of the hotter summer months. With a new marina development, Agadir offers fine dining and also plenty of nightclubs and casinos for those looking for a party!

Agadir is also a great base or starting point for a more active vacation. Morocco’s Southern Atlantic Coast is world-ranking for surfing and other water sports. December to March is the peak surfing season in Taghazout (15 miles north of Agadir), when the big winter swells from the North Atlantic hit. Equipment and instruction is easily obtained locally and non-surfers can enjoy deserted beaches and mountains for long winter walks as well as yoga lessons and plenty of opportunities to relax gazing out at the ocean, coffee or wine glass in hand.

Maybe the ocean isn’t your thing and you prefer the mountains? From Marrakech, the High Atlas Mountains are within easy reach, including the ski resort of Oukaimden. Yes, you read right – skiing in Africa! Facilities are not as developed as in the European or North American resorts, but if you fancy skiing at Africa’s highest resort (5 runs at 11,000 ft) and experiencing snow sports ‘Moroccan style,’ this is your chance! Trekking is also possible in the Atlas Mountains in winter, although ascents of snow-covered Mount Toubkal (North Africa’s highest peak at 13,671 ft) are only recommended for those experienced in winter conditions.

From snow-covered peaks to vast sandy deserts…. Morocco’s Sahara Desert is very accessible in winter, once the heat of the summer has died down. At night, you will need the winter clothes you wore to get here, but you will experience stunning clear, starry skies as you sit around the campfire with your Berber hosts. And early risers will catch the unique sight of sunrise over the sand dunes. Morocco has two principal dune ranges: Erg Chebbi and Erg Chegaga. We can arrange trips and overnight stays in both starting from the desert city of Ouarzarzate – in luxury Berber tent or boutique kasbah accommodation. Including camel rides, of course!

Moroccan-Berber-Carpets

Moroccan-Berber-Carpets

If all of that seems rather active for your winter vacation, Morocco’s medinas (old cities) offer plenty of distractions – and relaxation opportunities. Indulge in an authentic Moroccan hammam where you will be scrubbed clean and warmed from the inside out. Spa treatments are also available. Shop til you drop and haggle for bargains in the souks of Marrakech, Fes and Essaouira. And don’t worry – the vendor will be happy to ship that carpet right to your door back home! At the end of the day, enjoy a fireside dinner of traditional Moroccan cuisine in your historical riad guest house (restored townhouse, often more than 200 years old) or modern resort hotel. In either you will be surrounded by the famous Moroccan warmth and hospitality.

Events winter vacationers may wish to travel for include:

Marrakech International Film Festival – 5-13 December 2014, Marrakech. Annual festival features new Moroccan and international films plus retrospective categories and is attended by a star-studded jury.

New Year’s Eve – 31 December 2014. Moroccans typically don’t celebrate new year according to the lunar calendar, but there are plenty of events in tourism centres catering for those wishing to ring out the old and bring in the new!

Marrakech Marathon – 25 January 2015. Road race in this historic city with Half Marathon option.

However you decide to spend your winter vacation in Morocco, a private tour company like Travel Exploration can design your trip of a lifetime!

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients. You can contact Lynn at: lynn@maroc-o-phile.com

For more information about Visiting Morocco in winter or a Private Tour to Morocco

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Essaouira’s Atlantic Andalucía Festival, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Photograph - Lynn Sheppard -  Jalal Chekara and Chekara Flamenca, Essaouira Atlantic Andalucia Festival

Photograph – Lynn Sheppard – Jalal Chekara and Chekara Flamenca, Essaouira Atlantic Andalucia Festival

The Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques (Atlantic Andalucía Festival) celebrated in October 2014 its 11th year in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Southern Atlantic coast. It is now a well-established fixture in the annual schedule of this festival city, alongside the Gnaoua World Music Festival (which held its 17th edition in Essaouira - 2014) and the Printemps Musical des Alizés (the Spring chamber music festival initiated in 2000).

All three festivals celebrate the rich cultural diversity of Morocco and in particular the urban coexistence of different religious and ethnic groups in Essaouira (or Mogador, as it was once known). Despite its modest size, 19th century Mogador was Morocco’s foremost port. This was Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah’s strategic objective. He had created the kasbah (King’s Quarters) of Mogador to house his officials alongside the families of 10 Jewish merchants he invited to develop trade with Europe and the new world. European traders and consuls soon followed and the Sultan’s recognition of US independence in 1776 (the first head of state or government to do so) assured a significant market for the erstwhile ‘port of Timbuktu.’

Some of these prominent Jewish families – and the less wealthy families who followed them and found their home in the Mellah of Essaouira – were descendants of the Megorachim, who had fled the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th century after the fall of Al-Andalus. They came to Mogador from cities such as Tangiers, Tetouan and Fes, where many exiles has settled. This cultural melting pot of Muslims, Jews and Christians, of Arabs, Berbers, Europeans and Africans, fuelled great intellectual and artistic collaboration. This is typified in the Andalusian style of music, which draws on Jewish, Arabic, Berber and Spanish influences.

The poster for the 2014 edition of the Essaouira Atlantic Andalucía Festival features French painter Eugène Delacroix’ work, ‘Jewish Musicians of Mogador’. Delacroix didn’t visit Mogador, but was present during the visit of a French delegation to the palace of Sultan Moulay Abd Er Rahman in Meknes in 1832. Wishing to present the best of his Empire, the Sultan brought an Andalusian style orchestra of Jewish and Muslim musicians from Mogador to play for the visitors. The 2014 festival presented a recreation (without the aid of any written records) of the piece which this group played for the Sultan’s guests almost 200 years ago.

Photograph by Lynn Sheppard - Neta Elkayam at the 2014 Essaouira Atlantic Andalucia Festival

Photograph by Lynn Sheppard – Neta Elkayam at the 2014 Essaouira Atlantic Andalucia Festival

The annual Festival celebrates this common yet diverse heritage, as does the Conservatoire (Music School) of Essaouira, which today trains young musicians to preserve these rich traditions. The young artists, such as local talent Hicham Dinar Souiri, follow in the footsteps of great masters – some of whom, such as Abderrahim Souiri, (‘Souiri’ meaning ‘of Essaouira” and by extension its traditions), were on stage during the festival and who themselves have been influenced by the great names of the genre, such as Samy el Maghribi.

In 2014, Festival-goers were also treated to the great Andalusian Orchestra of Tetouan, directed by Amine Al Akrami; flamenco dance and song from Chekara Flamenca in collaboration with both Rabbi Haim Louk (a master of Moroccan Jewish liturgy) and Abir al Abed (lead vocalist with all-female group, Arige); and the modern ensemble of Neta Elkayam (a gorgeous, talented and energetic female singer of Moroccan origin based in Israel) and Maher Khalil Deeba (Palestinian singer and oud musician from East Jerusalem).

The significance of this Festival is not only in celebrating this past, but its contribution to a future in Morocco where inter-religious and intra-community tolerance and respect continues. As Mr André Azoulay, Patron of the Festival, Adviser to HRH King Mohammed VI and Jewish son of Mogador said on the occasion of the 2014 festival: “This story is not only written in the past.” Morocco lives these principles today – no more so than in Essaouira.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients. You can contact Lynn at: lynn@maroc-o-phile.com

For more information about Essaouira’s Atlantic Andalucía Festival or an Essaouira Tour  

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Morocco’s Great Spice Trade, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Marrakech Spice Market

The great sea voyages of the Portuguese explorers Ferdinand Magellan, who served for a while in Morocco, Vasco de Gama and the Spanish captain Christopher Columbus expanded trade routes around the world and especially the spice trade and the security of these routes was crucial. Morocco was on the route between Europe, the Middle East and Asia and therefore acquired a number of spices as Portuguese and Spanish enclaves and ports were established along the Moroccan coast.

Spices are a key element in Moroccan cuisine. Freshly ground spices in colored mounds can be spotted in all Moroccan souks. With their distinctive smells, Moroccan spices are recommended to be used after being freshly ground.  Many spices and ingredients once imported are now home grown in Morocco such as Saffron from Talouine and Cumin from Tazarine.

Moroccan Saffron

Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and is widely used in Moroccan cuisine for coloring and flavor. The production of one single kilogram of saffron requires 150,000 flowers. The separating of the stamen from the purple flower is  done exclusively by women.  One gram of saffron can cost on average US$6.28 depending on quality and quantity. The world market today for spices is said to be valued at US $ 4 billion.

Other Moroccan spices used include cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, saffron, white pepper, red chili, cloves and sesame. All can be found in Moroccan souks. As of recent Morocco is now a big exporter of spices as well.  The main Moroccan spice export is Ras el Hanout which translates as the “head of shop” which is essentially a mix of over 30 spices. A Moroccan Ra el Hanout mix can be purchased or can be made along with a local shop keeper by his suggestion of spices.

Ras el Hanout can be sprinkled on chicken or fish before baking, frying or grilling. The blend of spices delivers flavor and a subtle fragrant aroma which is one of the many secrets of Moroccan cuisine. Moroccan housewives will likely have their own spice recipes for lamb tangine or couscous. The art is to develop your own spice recipes although at first you are like to follow other people’s. Spices are essential for tajines, couscous and for lamb dishes. For sweets the spice mixture bssibissa kakalu is high recommended.

Spices can be derived from a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Sometimes a spice is used to hide other flavors. They can have medicinal properties, garlic for instance can be an antibiotic.

In the Middle Ages spices were prized because refrigeration did not exist and therefore dried and salted meat became extremely dull fare. Spices brought to life the taste of food and inspired to otherwise less interesting dishes.

Moroccan cuisine has become increasingly popular with Moroccan restaurants springing up all over America and Europe and throughout the Middle East.

A combination of targeted publicity, excellence and a number of distinguished cookery authors such as the renowned American cookery expert Paula Wolfert, have encouraged this popularity along with tourists who have been inspired to try their hand at cooking Moroccan dishes at home. Spices are part Morocco’s international success story as a diverse and fascinating places to visit for those who are foodies and have a penchant for exotic cuisine.

Written by Colin Kilkelly

For more information about the Spice Trade or Cuisine Tours to Morocco 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

A New Art Museum Opens in Rabat, Morocco

Mohammed VI Musée National d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine Art

King Mohammed VI of Morocco inaugurated the first Moroccan National Museum of art on October 14th, 2014 in Rabat. Mohammed VI Musée National d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine is the first major museum to be built in Morocco since it gained independence from France over 50 years ago. A visit to this new museum in Rabat is a must when visiting the Imperial Cities of Morocco and is essential as part of a Rabat historical and cultural tour.

The Mohammed VI Musée National d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine is located in Morocco’s Imperial City of Rabat. This new national museum in Morocco will trace offer a complete overview of the country’s art history from the beginning of the 20th century to the present.

The Mohammed VI Musée National d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine consists of three-levels and covers a total of 22,350 square meters. It will house a combination of a vast permanent collection, temporary exhibits, a multimedia library, an auditorium, an education center, and a multimedia library along with a café. The museum was under construction for ten years.

Mohamed Rachdi was named the curator of The Mohammed VI Musée National d’Art Moderne et Contemporaine in 2011 and responsible for developing the museum’s mission. The museums conceptional architect is Karim Chakor.

For more information about the National Museum of Art in Rabat or a Rabat Historical Tour  

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today. 

Morocco’s Erfoud Date Festival, Your Morocco Tour Guide

The Erfoud Date Festival takes place in early October for 3 days (dependant on the harvest) and makes for the perfect pitstop on a Morocco Private Tour. Erfoud is a small oasis town in the Moroccan Sahara desert, about 6 hours to the east of Ouarzazate.  It is a quiet little town with red buildings surrounded by beautiful scenery and date palms stretching from Er Rachidia to the North, and Rissani to the south to form the largest expanse of palm groves in Morocco.

Date Picking Draa Valley & Erfoud

Each October, after the dates are harvested, the town comes alive for the celebrations of the annual Date Festival.  Erfoud is at the centre of the date producing area with almost a million date palms. The festivities are accompanied by traditional music, dance and processions and it is a chance for tourists to sample the local festival food, especially dates, and enjoy the fun of the three day celebrations which include a fashion parade through the streets and the crowning of the ‘ Date Queen’. There is also an exciting dromedary race.

Erfoud Date Festival

There are official tents for companies and cooperatives to promote their dates or date related products, with an official Governmental opening held on the first day. There are a hundred different varieties of Moroccan dates with 45 alone in the South of Morocco.

There are various hotels in Erfoud where visitors can stay during the date festival . It is essential to book well in advance. These include the Kasbah hotel, Chez Tonton, Auberge Derkoua Chez Michel and the Belere hotel, amongst  others.

Dates have played an important part in Moroccan cuisine for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests the cultivation of dates all the way back in 6,000 BC in Arabia. The date palm was a major source of life for thousands of people throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa and is said to have provided people with thousands of different uses including the palm and fronds to make  thread, mattresses, lumber, rope making, and many other household and dietary uses.

Dates are part of the first breaking of the fast, Iftar, along with milk and a bowl of harira soup. Dates are also very important in Islam with the date palm regarded as the “tree of life” as mentioned in the Story of Genesis They are also important for the local and national economy. Around 90,000 tons of dates are exported from Morocco annually, so the festival allows the people give a harvest thanks giving and pray for a good crop next year.

Moroccan Dates

The largest and perhaps the best-known variety of the Moroccan dates is the Medjool date. Often referred to as “the king of dates” it was once reserved only for Moroccan royalty and their guests. They were, and still are, considered a precious confection and are typically the most expensive of the date varieties because their cultivation is more labor intensive. The date has a soft wrinkled flesh that gives way to a firm meaty center. When ripe, the date turns a dark brown color and with hints of wild honey, caramel, and cinnamon it is no wonder this date is considered a gourmet dessert.

In the 1920’s date palms in Morocco were threatened with extinction by a disease, to save their dates Morocco sent eleven date palms to the USA. Nine of the eleven palms survived and are responsible for the millions of Medjool dates that can be found throughout California and in parts of Arizona.

The Deglet Noor date, originally from Algeria, are the dates commonly used in Moroccan stuffed date recipes. Primarily an export crop, these dates are semi-dry with a firm texture and a sweet and delicate flavor.

The Halawi Date is a soft wrinkled date with a meaty flesh and a sweet caramel flavor. While not as large or as favored as the Medjool Date the Halawi Date is still considered a delicacy and because of its soft sweet flesh and high sugar content it is often served as a dessert at Moroccan meals. Other  date varieties include Boufeggous, Bouskri and  Jihel.

For more information about Erfoud and the Erfoud Date Festival 

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Islamic Architecture in Morocco, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Saadian Tombs, Marrakech

Morocco has the richest Islamic architectural heritage in North Africa. Key to this was the influence of Muslim Andalusia, as Muslims were expelled from Spain as a result of the Christian Reconquista led by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. This Andalusian style, which was a rich fusion of European and Arab creativity had a far greater architectural influence, than the Middle East.

Morocco was at the centre of the Hispano-Moorish architectural movement for almost six centuries (11-17th Century). Algeria and Tunisia came under the Ottoman empire but Morocco maintained its independence and withstood the Ottomans. Morocco’s early Islamic architectural heritage was  enriched by  the Arab conquest in the seventh century and the indigenous Berber culture which continues to thrive today.

Due to Islam’s forbidding of all human representation, most decorative art was based on geometric patterns, arabesques and floral motifs. Cursive or Kufic script also features prominently.

Such motifs can be found in stone, brick or wood, but Hispano-Moorish art particularly favored two materials. The first, stucco, was applied in plaster form to surfaces covered in nails and sculpted while still damp, often into stalactite forms. The second, zellij tiling on panels, is a Moroccan decorative feature.

The basic layout of the mosque has not changed since the beginning. It always faces Mecca, the direction of which is shown by the mihrab, an alcove in the middle of the qibla wall. Next to it is a minbar , a platform or pulpit, made out of wood or marble, on which the spiritual leader stands to deliver his sermon. In Morocco, the minaret is a square-shaped tower, topped with a battlemented platform where the muezzin stands to call the faithful to prayer five times a day.

Ben Youssef Medersa, Marrakech

A madrasah is a college of theology. The building’s specific function gave birth to an equally specific architectural style. An elaborately decorated door with awning, opened onto a narrow central courtyard surrounded by classrooms and a prayer room. The masters and students lived in cells on an upper gallery overlooking the central courtyard. The courtyard contains the madrasah’s sophisticated decorative features: central fountain, zellij floors, intricately carved stucco fanlights, carved cedar wood corbels and cornices. The Ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakech was the largest theological college in North Africa. It was founded during the Merinid dynasty (14th century) by Sultan Abu al-Hassan and allied to the neighboring Ben Youssef Mosque. The building of the madrasah was re-constructed by the Saadian Sultan Abdallah al-Ghalib (1557–1574).

A koubba, better known as a marabout, is a mausoleum built for pious Muslims who had achieved something approaching sainthood on their deaths. Their distinctive white domed roofs – koubba originally meant dome – and little cubic buildings are a familiar sight throughout the Moroccan countryside and they are the object of pilgrimages.

Very little remains architecturally of the first two or three centuries of Islam in Morocco, of the 8-10 centuries. The excavations of the ancient city of Sijimassa and the former royal city of Aghmat near Marrakech by a team was led by Professor Ron Messier, from Vanderbilt University USA and Professor Abdallah Fili faculte des letters Universite d’El Jadida. They found that the mosques in both locations were extensive with a mobile minbar, which could be moved on rails. When these locations began to decline because of factors like loss of water and population change. Their buildings were dismantled to create new structures nearby in time honored Moroccan fashion and as communities changed buildings also changed their functions. The hammam at Aghmat became a pottery.

The two most important mosques of Fès, the Qarawiyin and the Andalusian Mosque were both founded in the mid 9th century, were the work of immigrants from Andalusia.

The  Almoravid dynasty  (1070-1147).

Desert nomads, the Almoravids clearly had no architectural traditions and naturally enough adopted those of Andalusia, which they had just conquered; hence the term “Hispano-Moorish” given to this art symbolized by semicircular Moorish arches and a decorative style.

The Almohads’ hatred of the Almoravids led them to destroy all Almoravid works, which were considered too frivolous; consequently, almost nothing remains of the Almoravid edifices in Morocco itself: exceptions being some parts of the Qarawiyin Mosque in Fès, extended in 1130 and the Koubba Ba’Adiyn rediscovered in 1950 in Marrakech.

The Almohad dynasty was influenced by Andalusia, like the Almoravids and was responsible for one of the greatest artistic movements of Morocco’s history. The scale of design and the sobriety of the decoration, the handsome proportions and pure lines characterize Almohad architecture.

The fortifications and Great mosque at Taza, together with the superb funereal mosque at Tin Mel, recently restored, date from this period.

Almohad mosques have grand proportions and impressive minarets. A typical Almohad minaret is somewhat squat and square-shaped: its height is equal to five times its base, and it is constructed from freestone. The Kotoubia mosque in Marrakech was completed in the 1190’s during the reign of the Almohad Sultan Yusuf El Mansour. (1184 to 1199). Its minaret, which is 253 feet high, inspired the Giralda at Seville and the Hassan Tower at Rabat. This iconic minaret is the greatest testament to Almohad religious architecture. Moroccan square minarets continue to be built today and are unique to Morocco.

The golden age of the Marinades (1278-1358)

The Merinids’ reign, up until the mid-14C, was one of the most fertile periods of Moroccan architecture. Ornamentation became more important, even in edifices such as fortifications. The main door of the wall around Chellah (Rabat) built in 1339 is a fine example.  Abu el-Hassan and Abu Inan, the two main Merinid sultans and patrons of architecture built many mosques and madrasas. Merinid madrasahs include the Bou Inania, Attarine and Sahrij at Fès, Abu el-Hassan at Salé and Bou Inania at Meknès are among the best known.

A continuing tradition of Hispano-Moorish art persisted under the Saadians and the Alawites (16th -present). In the 20th century, the last manifestation of Hispano-Moorish art to be built was the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca.

For more information about an Imperial Cities Tour and the architecture of Morocco

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

The Ouarzazate Festival, Folk Music Talent, Your Morocco Travel Guide

Ouarzazate Ahidous Berber Musicians

The 2nd edition of the Ouarzazate Festival will take place from September 14th – 19th, 2014.  The Ouarzazate Music Festival serves as an opportunity to promote the young artistic talents of Ouarzazate and its region. The outdoor spaces “3 March” and “Al Mouahidines “, as well as the Kasbah Taourirt will be the home of theaters and entertainment programs for this festival.

The program will be rich and varied featuring both Moroccan and international artists.  The singers Sami Rai, Hatim Alv, Naser Megri, Nabyla Maan, along with local Folk music are planned for this edition of the festival.

The Ouarzazate Festival will feature Ahidous music, a traditional dance performed by Moroccan Berber tribes in form flowing circles accompanied by percussion rhythmic songs.

Ouarzazate Festival Awash Musicians

Also featured is Ahwash music.  Ahwash music and dance is a local village folk dance performed by Berbers  and a significant part of Amazigh culture in Atlas and the Souss region of Morocco. Ahwash incorporates  the dance, poetry, songs with varied rhythms, and is different among each tribe.

The festival is organized in partnership with the provincial council of tourism (CPT) of Ouarzazate and the Moroccan national Office of Tourism (ONMT).

Best Places to Stay in Ouarzazate : Ouarzazate Riads

Ksar Ighnda – A 5 Star Kasbah with great charm and unique architecture in the Ait Benhaddou region, just 25 minutes from Ouarzazate city center. French owned the property offer the perfect experience for Southern Morocco combining location with out door swimming pool, cozy places to sit back and read a book and good food. Located just 5 minute walk to Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah.

Le Temple Des Arts – A 5 Star luxurious Riad in a restored villa offering rooms decorated with a film inspired theme. Perfectly located in Ouarzazate’s city center this relatively new property is theme oriented and ideal for warm months with its shaded interior. It is Moroccan run. Service is good.

Riad Dar Chamaa – A 4 Star boutique Modern Moroccan style hotel with majestic views, swimming pool and great charm. Moroccan – Spanish owned. The perfect place to stay with those on a limited budget. Located in Tabount, just 10 minutes from Ouarzazate city center.

 

Where to Eat in Ouarzazate:  

Le Kasbah Des Sables – A gastronomic experience with a menu that combines the cuisine of Fes, Meknes, Tangier, Arab and Berber with 5 class fare.  This restaurant offers a museum- quality atmosphere as its’ decor has been hand stitched together and is filled with Berber, Morocco traditional furniture and art that was hand crafted by local artisans in the Ouarzazate region. Each section of the restaurant offers an intimate environment and the opportunity to eat on tables that are hand painted and adorned with silver fibulas, Amber and other regional jewels.

Chez Dmitri – This restaurant is a landmark in Ourazazate and was the first one to open in 1928. This family restaurant’s reputation quite simply comes from its memorable international cuisine, as one may choose from a vast range of exotic dishes. The walls are decorated with photographs of many actors who have dined here while filming.It has gained an illustrious reputation and maintained it well. The restaurant is frequented by both tourists and locals who are looking for a quality meal in a charming, French-Moroccan atmosphere. Chez Dmitri offers authentic international cuisine and a wide variety of alcoholic drinks.

For more information about the Ouarzazate Music Festival or Ouarzazate Tours 

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