Morocco Journals

Morocco: Medinas and Mezze

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An October 2008 trip to Morocco by midtownmjd

Caves of Hercules Photo, Tangier, Morocco More Photos
Quote: On my first trip to Morocco, I explored the country's north: otherworldly Fez, laid-back Chefchaouen, melting pot Tangier, and legendary Casablanca.

Fez

Les Merinides

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Hotel | "Room with a View and Stereo Sound, Too"

Les Merinides Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
Stay at Les Merinides for its sweeping views over the medina of Fez, and you won’t be disappointed with your choice. The hotel’s location atop the bowl of old Fez is the perfect setting for its swanky Moroccan-style indoor-outdoor lobby and one of the world’s great spots for a drink. Even in a steady drizzle of rain, I was drawn to sitting on an outside chaise (under the cover of awnings) to take in the foggy, golden city below; it’s even become a sunny day in my memories.Since you can’t spend all night sipping drinks on the terrace, the good news is that the rooms are equally welcoming havens from the chaotic town below. Draped in a royal-red theme, my second-floor room was comfortable an...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Les Merinides
Borj Nord
Fez, Morocco 30000
212 0 35 64 52 26

Riad Laaroussa

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Hotel | "An Oasis in the Medina"

Quote:
Full disclosure: I didn’t stay at this guesthouse; I only wish I did. While I was touring Fez, I took a peek at their hammam and rooms, and WOW. It looks perfect, from the gorgeous courtyard to the seven suites to the rooftop breakfast nook, and its spa looks and smells amazing. The owner, a Frenchman from a Moroccan family, has painstakingly seen to every detail, including a doorbell that rings with a bird’s call, iPods with speakers available to guests, and incredible furniture designed by him but crafted by locals.I took a look at one room, the green suite, that had a three-floors-high ceiling, unbelievable tilework, décor elements from Indonesia, and a huge desk. It goes for 220...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Riad Laaroussa
3, Derb Bachara, Talaa Sghira

+212 74 187 639

La Maison Bleue

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Restaurant | "One of Morocco’s Best Meals"

La Maison Bleue Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
From the moment you enter the Fez medina and walk into La Maison Bleue—through sky-high carved doors, down a blue-and-white-tiled hallway lined with luminaries, and into an interior courtyard aglow with candelabras—you know you’re in for a special experience, and the food and service do not disappoint.We settled into a table in the courtyard, the focal point of the Maison Bleue riad and a sort of anteroom before meals are served, and were plied with cocktails and tasty snacks like popcorn, peanuts, salted almonds, olives, and pickled vegetables. Two gnaoua musicians played on the floor, filling the riad with perfect acoustics. Under their trance, and the influence of d...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

La Maison Bleue
2, Place d’Istiqlal-Batha
Fez, Morocco
212 35 74 18 43

Cafe Clock

Restaurant | "A Lively Expat Hideaway"

Cafe Clock Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
This expat favorite, located in a typical dar, is a great place for a coffee stop in the medina. Each level of the old house is decorated with tradition and whimsy (think zellij tiles and utensils hanging from the ceiling), and besides a quirky menu of couscous and camel burgers, it offers fun flavors of tobacco to try in the hookah. If you’re in Fez for a while, they host all kinds of cultural get-togethers, like Sunday night henna tattoos, contemporary dance classes, and concerts.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Cafe Clock
7 Derb El Magana, Talaa Kebira
Fez, Morocco
212 (0) 35 637 855

Neq Broderie

Attraction | "See Stitching in Action at Neq Broderie"

Neq Broderie Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
This Fassi embroidery shop produces incredible pieces, from handkerchiefs to tablecloths, all handcrafted with amazing skill and consistency. The women who sew them begin between the ages of 18 and 20, and at 30 reach the peak eyesight needed for intricate designs like those that require white-on-white stitching. You can watch them work as you browse, and then buy; prices run from 450 dirham for a basic tablecloth with 12 napkins to 35,000 dirham for a highly ornate tablecloth (which takes years to make) with eight napkins.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Neq Broderie
67 Derb Rehba, Talaa Kebira
Fez, Morocco

Coin Berbere

Attraction | "Good Place to Buy That Moroccan Carpet"

Coin Berbere Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
You can’t go to Morocco and not engage in the dance of negotiating for a carpet. Do it at Coin Berbere, where owner Abdul and family lead a friendly and fair price debate as you watch them lay out carpet after carpet while sipping on your mint tea (the purpose of which, of course, is to get you absolutely loaded on sugar and loose with your cash). They have unique carpets from tribes all over the country and like to explain the story of each piece, so even if you’re not in the market for a Moroccan carpet, you’ll learn a lot about carpet art.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Coin Berbere
67 Talaa Kebira
Fez, Morocco

Abdul Ali's Fabric Shop

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Attraction | "Get a Stylish Scarf from Ali's Loom"

Quote:
"One-Armed Ali" runs this weaving shop where you can watch silk and wool creations being woven on looms by barefoot men and shop for everything from scarves to bedspreads. The most vibrantly hued fabrics cover every inch of the shop—I don’t know when I've ever seen blue look so blue.The story we were told by a Fez resident to give the shop even more character was that Ali was a ruthless, corrupt carpet salesman until losing his arm in a motorcycle accident and having a change of heart. I can't speak to his intentions (though he was very pleasant to deal with), but his goods are incredible and his shop is definitely worth seeking out.I'm not a big shopper when I travel, b...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

The Mat Man

Attraction | "A Step Back in Time"

The Mat Man's Tools Photo, Fez, Morocco
Quote:
His place doesn’t have a name, but it’s in his one-room, dirt-floored shop that the last remaining "mat man" weaves grass prayer mats for the city’s mosques. The room smells like tea and looks a bit like a basement or barn, and its humble craftsman beams with kindness and gratitude as he sells you placemats for 10 dirham apiece. His tools are basic—a loom that consists only of holes in which to stand reeds of grass and an old pair of scissors—but his handiwork is beautiful. This shop, if you can call it that, gives you a view of how mat-making probably looked in Fez for centuries, before mosques and worshippers began buying mass-produced mats from abroad. Stop here and step back in time—and make an ol...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Serghini Maitre Potier

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Attraction | "A Pretty Pottery Depot"

Quote:
This pottery depot is not in the medina, so you’ll need some transport, but it’s not far, and it’s worth the detour if you’d like to buy genuine Fassi ceramics. Plus, it’s interesting to take a tour and see how the pieces are made, from their heating in olive-pit kilns to their embellishing with horse-hair brushes. Watching artisans hand-cut mosaic tiles at a century-old business under plumes of black smoke being sent over Fez from burning olive pits—well, shopping doesn’t get much better than this. A giant gift shop awaits, of course, where you can shop for pottery both from Fez (gray clay on the bottom) and from Southern Morocco (red clay on the bottom). Popular pieces range from small perfume bottl...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 17, 2009

Volubilis Archaeological Site

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Attraction | "Truly Impressive Ruins"

Volubilis Archaeological Site Photo, Meknes, Morocco
Quote:
The Roman ruins at Volubilis compose one of the best archaeological sites I’ve visited, ever. Located a couple of hours’ drive from Fez, close to Meknes, and just below Moulay Idriss, they’re a convenient stop for any visitor to north Morocco.It’s easy to see why, in 1997, they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Well preserved, beautifully situated, and expansive, the ruins are known as one of the best preserved examples of a Roman-empire town.My group met up with a guide hired through our original Morocco guide. The downpour dampened our spirits a bit, but not his; Rashid was incredibly cheerful and injected a lot of humor into the tour (which may not be so difficul...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 27, 2009

Volubilis Archaeological Site
Near Town of Moulay Idriss
Meknes, Morocco

Chefchaouen

Hotel Atlas Chaouen

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Hotel | "Spartan but with Simple Charms"

Hotel Atlas Chaouen Photo, Chefchaouen, Morocco
Quote:
When I arrived at the Hotel Atlas Chaouen on a rainy October night, I wasn’t thrilled to find that my room was chilly, dim, and full of rather hard furniture. The TV only featured a few fuzzy French channels, and while the bathroom had a nice sink area, the shower was as pitch-black as the hallway outside.That said, the hotel’s hilltop location, comfortable common areas, delicious breakfasts, and helpful staff made up for the shortcomings.Rooms have small balconies, which come in handy around 5am; the hotel overlooks the medina of Chefchaouen, and the pre-dawn call to prayer reverberates through the valley. Views of the town and the Rif Mountains are even better from the terrac...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 3, 2009

Hotel Atlas Chaouen
Rue Sidi Abdelhamid
Chefchaouen
212-24-29-16-17

Restaurant Tissemlal

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Restaurant | "A Cozy Spot for a Great Meal"

Restaurant Tissemlal Photo, Chefchaouen, Morocco
Quote:
I had the best meal of my stay in Chefchaouen at Restaurant Tissemlal inside the Casa Hassan guesthouse. Admittedly, my other meals consisted of an underwhelming pasta dinner at Hotel Parador, a picnic lunch in the Rif Mountains, and various coffee stops at cafes on the Place Uta el-Hammam. Still, Restaurant Tissemlal is a great place for a traditional Moroccan meal in a comfortable, stylish space—even if it comes with its fair share of tourists.Tucked away in the medina not far from Place Uta el-Hammam, the restaurant is centered on a fireplace and an open kitchen and is full of arched entryways, hanging lanterns, plush pillows, and mosaic-pattered dishware. It’s beautifully lit and there...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 3, 2009

Restaurant Tissemlal
22 rue Targui
Chefchaouen, Morocco
039 986153

Cemetery Above Chefchaouen Photo, Chefchaouen, Morocco
Quote:
Chefchaouen (or Chaouen, as it's more often called in Morocco) is known for two things: its blue-and-white-splashed medina and its cannabis. Having explored the lovely medina extensively, we set off on a guided hike in the Rif Mountains to learn about the city's cannabis culture. On the short trek, we got an education in kif from a local, and great views of the city to boot.As we walked uphill from the medina, we passed a white-washed cemetery, and our guide talked about burial customs in Morocco. He said that the reason these graves don't include name markers is that the families come often enough to never forget which is which. He talked about families breaking fast over graves during Ra...Read More

Tangier

El Minzah Hotel

Hotel | "A Legend Among Hotels"

El Minzah Hotel Photo, Tangier, Morocco
Quote:
Like other hotels I stayed in or visited in Morocco, the El Minzah features grand public spaces but offers well-worn, almost threadbare guest rooms. The El Minzah, though, is grander than most, and the beautiful lobby, restaurants, and bar feel just as glamorous as they must have when Winston Churchill, Rita Hayworth, Rock Hudson, and Aristotle Onassis were there (separately, I presume).That 1930s-glam character, plus fantastic Moorish architecture, a perfectly central location, water views, and friendly service make it a great choice for Tangier accommodation. The rooms aren't the reason to stay, but they are reasonably large and completely adequate; it's the grand lobby and plush halls t...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2009

El Minzah Hotel
85 RUE DE LA LIBERTE
Tangier, Morocco
212 39 935885

Tangier American Legation Museum

Attraction | "A Must-See in Tangier"

Tangier American Legation Museum Photo, Tangier, Morocco
Quote:
The American Legation is a must-see in Tangier; its role in diplomatic history, its art collections and libraries, and its notable architecture make it a wonderful place to spend an hour or so.The only US National Historic Landmark located outside the US, the building began its life in 1821 as the home of the US diplomatic mission to Morocco. Some of the artifacts on display predate that, though, such as Morocco’s letter establishing it as the first country to recognize the United States of America in December of 1777. Since the American embassy moved to Rabat in 1956, the building has served as a consulate; an Arabic language school for American diplomats; a Peace Corps training center; a...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 27, 2009

Tangier American Legation Museum
8 Zankat America
Tangier 90000
+212 539 93 53 17

Caves of Hercules

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Attraction | "A Tourist Trap Worth Your Time"

Caves of Hercules Photo, Tangier, Morocco
Quote:
As tourist traps go, the Caves of Hercules, or Grottes d’Hercule, are pretty cool. Whether or not Hercules rested here between performing his 12 labors, as the legend goes, the mirror image of Africa through which the caves’ open into the sea is impressive, particularly when the colors of sunset stream through. Apparently this reverse map was created by a mixture of ocean waves and early Bedouins who mined the caves for olive-press millstones.It won’t take you long to see the entire cave, and then you can head upstairs to a café where you can watch the rest of the sunset over the beach.The caves also provide a great excuse to get out of the city and see surrounding areas: On th...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 11, 2009

Caves of Hercules

Tangier, Morocco

Saveur de Poisson Mediterranee

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Restaurant | "Fresh Seafood at a Local Secret"

Saveur de Poisson Mediterranee Photo, Tangier, Morocco
Quote:
The front-desk staff at the El Minzah recommended Saveur de Poisson Mediterranee when we asked for a local’s-only place to have lunch. Conveniently located around the corner, it was the perfect call for a drizzly day! This cozy, family-run seafood restaurant served up what was easily one of my favorite meals in Morocco.The space is cluttered-casual, its walls covered with tiles, Moroccan art, and maritime memorabilia. Lights hang from the ceiling in wicker baskets, and plastic tablecloths, paper placemats, and wooden spoons line the nine tables. The dining room’s best feature is the open kitchen; as we waited for lunch, we watched fresh herbs and fresh fish arrive and then splash into pot...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 11, 2009

Saveur de Poisson Mediterranee
2 Escalier Waller
Tangier, Morocco
039336326

Gran Cafe de Paris

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Restaurant | "A Bite of Croissant, A Bite of History"

Gran Cafe de Paris Photo, Tangier, Morocco
Quote:
I love a good cup of coffee more than just about anything, and it just so happened that the legendary Gran Café de Paris was a few doors down from the El Minzah, so I grabbed a seat as quickly as I could.Famous as a meeting place for artists and expats during Tangier’s days as an international zone, the Gran Café occupies a prime corner where you can choose from a view of the Place de France and the French consulate or the port and the Terrasse des Paresseux. I went with the busy Place de France, and even in a light rain enjoyed sitting outdoors under a substantial awning.I tried a delicious chocolate croissant and cappuccino and enjoyed people watching for a long while. I even...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 11, 2009

Gran Cafe de Paris
Place de France
Tangier, Morocco

Casablanca

Golden Tulip Farah Casablanca

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Hotel | "A Chic Spot in Casablanca"

Golden Tulip Farah Casablanca Photo, Casablanca, Morocco
Quote:
The epitome of a chic chain hotel, the Golden Tulip Farah was the most luxurious place I stayed in Morocco, but it wasn’t without a few quirks.First, the great parts. The building was renovated in 2007 and it absolutely shines; it’s all marble floors, glass chandeliers, and sleek lines. The lobby is inviting, with black-and-white sitting areas where you can chat or watch CNN International. And my room was beautiful, with a fabulous bed and shower and nice extra touches like a red rose in full bloom. The lighting was unusually dim, but that didn’t really bother me (and hey, the glow from the big flat-screen TV helped).The front-desk staff was wonderfully friendly, happy to chang...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 11, 2009

Golden Tulip Farah Casablanca
160, Avenue de L'Armee Royale
Casablanca, Morocco
+212 22 31 12 12

Hassan II Mosque

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Attraction | "Don't Make the Same Mistake I Did"

Hassan II Mosque Photo, Casablanca, Morocco
Quote:
My biggest regret from this trip was not taking a tour inside the mosque; I left without protest when the rest of my group did, and I wasn't able to return later.However, wandering around outside it for about an hour was an absolutely incredible experience. It’s truly a must-see in Morocco; there’s simply no way to describe the massive scale of the building with words or photos. It's one of the most beautiful manmade things I've ever seen.Turn after turn, arch after arch, fountain after fountain, and from the foot of the plaza to the tip of the minaret, each architectural detail is perfect. It’s a photographer’s dream and a people-watcher’s pleasure. I saw families playing and ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 11, 2009

Hassan II Mosque

Casablanca, Morocco