Here’s 14 Surprising Reasons Why You Must Visit Morocco Soon – Mediterranean Sea Chronicles 1

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Port of Mohammedia, Morocco

Located between the cities of Casablanca and Rabat in the west coast of Morocco is the Port of Mohammedia. The most important oil refinery of Morocco, the Samir Refinery can also be found at this port. This is the heart of the Moroccan petroleum industry. Originally named Fedala from the Arabic word Fedi Allah (favor of God). Back then in the 14th and 15th centuries, Fedala Port was already visited by merchant ships from Europe trading for cereals and dried fruits. As a French protectorate in 1912, Fedala Port became the 1st and most modern oil port in North Africa. It was renamed into Mohammedia on June 25, 1960 after King Mohammed V. He restored Moroccan independence from French yoke. During that time he also laid the foundation stone for Samir Oil Refinery. Port of Mohammedia is mainly used by tankers, fishing vessels and at times general cargo or bulk carriers.

Morocco is a mountainous country on the Mediterranean coast. It lies across the Strait of Gibraltar. Since the 2nd B.C. it has been the home of the Berber people (from the Sahara Desert). Then it was annexed by Rome as port of Mauritania in AD 46. The Arabs came in 685 AD bringing their Islam religion into Morocco. Later, both Portugal and Spain invaded the country until 1660 when it is under control by the Alawite Dynasty. It is believed that they descended from the prophet Muhammad and rule the land up to the present. In 1904, France and Spain agreed to divide Morocco under their spheres of influence. The Sultan of Morocco, Moulny Abd Al-Hafid agreed that the country be a French protectorate in 1912. King Mohammed V restored Morocco’s independence in 1956. Officially, the country is called Kingdom of Morocco. The current monarch is King Mohammed VI from the Alawite Dynasty. It is mostly inhabited by the Berbers, so it has 2 languages: Berber and Darija Arabic. French and Spanish is still in use as well as basic English. Morocco is famous for its Kasbah or medina (a group of buildings that make up a city). It may be an African country but then it’s not a member of the African Union. And because of its proximity to Europe, this country has a stunning mix of cultures. And it has a diverse landscape of beaches, snowy mountains, oases and the Sahara Desert which covers a large portion of Morocco. Thus it is a popular destination for culture lovers, backpackers and adventurers.

I was under contract with the IVS Kingbird in 2016 when we were in Morocco sailing along the Mediterranean Sea. It’s just 8 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar. IVS ships are bulk carriers. We docked at the Port of Mohammedia to discharge our load of timber. Morocco was once the cultural hub of medieval Islamic world. And did you know that Moroccans were the original travel blog writers? It was the medieval traveler and Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta who started the craze of traveling and writing a journal about his adventures (Rhila, The Travels written 1350s). A country which is also famous for its couscous and souks, people come to this North African nation for its rich history and diverse culture. Here’s 14 surprising reasons why you must visit Morocco soon.

The City of Fez has the oldest university in the world, Al Karaouin University built in 859 AD.

Fez is the spiritual center of Morocco and home to many Islamic scholars. If you are a history buff, visit Fez. The entire medina is a UNESCO World heritage site. And if you think that Oxford is the oldest university in the world, you are absolutely wrong. Al Karauoin University in Fez was founded in 859 AD. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. This school of higher learning still continuous to give out bachelor degrees for over 1,100 years. It was built by Fatima Al Fihri from a wealthy family in Al Kairouan (now a part of Tunisia) who settled in Fez.

Al Karaouin University in Fez, Morocco

Chefhaouen, Morocco is the only place in the world known as The Blue Pearl.

Nestled in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco is Chefchaouen (Xauen in Spanish). This is a city known for its buildings painted in shades of blue color. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. The painting of blue color on structures is a tradition introduced by Jewish refugees in the 1930s. For them, it is a reminder of Yahweh and a reflection of the sky and heaven. A town like no other in the whole world, it was primarily constructed as a fortress in 1471 against the Portuguese invaders. A settlement later grew outside the Kasbah especially the Jews who had fled Europe during World War II. They started the practice of painting their houses in blue to keep their religious and cultural traditions. The trend continuous up to this day. Sometimes, the locals think that the blue color represents the shimmering blue palette of Mediterranean Sea.

It is a blend of French and Islamic culture in the capital city of Rabat.

Rabat, the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. It is located on the south coast of Atlantic Ocean. It may smaller in size than the city of Casablanca but Rabat offers an interesting picture of French and Arabic culture. When France made Morocco its protectorate, they brought to Rabat a wave of wealth and European sophistication. After Morocco gained its independence in 1956, the Moroccan king still made Rabat the capital. Because of this awesome mix of history, this city has earned the title: Modern Capital And Historic City. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. The old Fortress of Chelah here in Rabat is a remnant of the Roman times. It has since abandoned in 1154 but very much preserved. Hassan Tower is the proposed site of a massive mosque. Construction began in 1195 but the Sultan died 4 years later and the work was never completed. The massive column are still there for viewing. Jardins d’ Essais is an excellent example of French-influenced botanical garden. Mussee de l’Histoire et des Civilisations de Rabat is a museum built in 1920. It displays the history of Morocco from pre-historic times to the Islamic period.

The Old Fortress of Chelah in Rabat, Morocco.

Cosmopolitan Casablanca is Morocco’s savoir faire city.

What in heaven’s name will bring you to Casablanca? Sometimes it evokes the romance of Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart’s 1945 film. But Casablanca, the largest city of Morocco is a thriving business center and one of the most important cities of North Africa. The world’s tallest minaret is found in this city. And the 2nd largest swimming pool in the world, Orthlieb saltwater pool is in Casablanca. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. Casablanca offers a dynamic image of the country in the 21st century. It is dotted with French-style Art Deco buildings and tree-lined boulevards. The legacy left by France is obvious for everyone to see.

The red city of Marrakesh was the film location of the movie, The Mummy (1999).

Steeped in mystery and allure, the red city of Marrakesh is vibrant and unique. It’s scarlet-colored buildings earned its nickname the red city. Established in 1062 by nomads called Almovids, Marrakesh was the location filming of The Mummy in 1999. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. Marrakesh is an epic city popular for film producers in the world. It is also a city where snake charmers and street dancers will stir up your senses. The fashion czars Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Paul Gaultier bought properties in Marrakesh. It is popular as the site of second homes of many French celebrities. The largest souk (or market) in the whole of Morocco is found in Marrakesh.

The Mummy filmed in Marrakesh.

Inside the home of YSL in Marrakesh.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Marrakesh mansion.

Morocco is the only producer of Argan oil in the world.

Known as the “liquid gold” and the rarest oil in the world, Argan oil is produced only in Morocco. Because the country’s climate is hot and dry most especially in the Sahara Desert, the Argan tree thrives in this kind of atmosphere. The rarity of the Argan oil thus made Argan forests in Morocco a UNESCO world heritage site. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. The oil produced from the Argan nut is famous as a beauty miracle. It works as part of an effective skin care regimen. Although it’s only been introduced to the world lately, Argan oil has been used for centuries by the Berber women in Morocco. It has high content of vitamin E that is why it is named the liquid gold. It is highly valued throughout the world. Argan trees are found in southwest Morocco.

Berber women harvesting Argan nuts from the (Argan) tree.

And of course there is a ski area in Morocco, Oukaimeden Resort.

Up, down and woosh…Yes, at Morocco’s Atlas Mountains is the highest ski resort in Africa, the Oukaimeden. If you think Africa is just a Sahara Desert or the grassland of Serengeti, then you’re mistaken. It also has skis and sleds. And Morocco boasts a towering 10,603 ft. above sea level ski resort. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon, Oukaimeden is Africa’s hidden gem. It may not be the best skiing experience you can get but the view from the top down to the Sahara Desert is breathtaking. And it is a one-of-a-kind place in the world where a donkey will carry your skis.

Around 120,000 tonnes of dates are exported by Morocco each year.

For centuries, dates played an essential part in Moroccan food. Regarded as the “tree of life”, it is also eaten after fasting during the Ramadan period. Since it has a desert, Morocco is a good area for the cultivation of dates. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. It exports about 120,000 tons of the fruit to the world every year. There are at least 100 varieties of the fruit found in the country but the most popular is the medjool. It is referred as the “king of dates.” At some point it was once reserved for the Moroccan royalty.

In Morocco it’s “yes, you have captured my liver” not the heart.

No doubt about it, the liver is the symbol of love in this corner of the world, not the heart. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. Although Europe is just 8 nautical miles off from the Strait of Gibraltar, life goes by differently here. In this country, it is believed that a healthy liver promotes good physical condition. When a Moroccan say: “you had captured my liver” it means he/she is in love with you. And you better take a good deal of silymarin for that.

Green tea with mint is the Moroccan whiskey.

Brewing and drinking tea is a respected tradition in Morocco. It is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. The preparation is carried out with great care. Mint tea is served all through the day. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. Drinking mint tea is a meaningful thing. This national drink is not just as simple as pouring hot water over a tea bag. Here in Morocco, it is an art and the skill that has to be learned and mastered over the years. The green tea leaves are brewed with fresh mint and mixed with a generous amount of sugar. And never ask your host to leave out the sugar, otherwise you will receive an awkward look. Considered as the Moroccan whiskey, green tea holds a special part in the “liver” (heart) of its people.

Dades Valley celebrates the Festival of Roses yearly.

Tucked in the oasis of Dades Valley in Morocco is the “pink town” of El-Kelaa M’Gouna or simply the valley of roses. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. This town is famous for its pink Persian rose scenery. And it has a distillery plant, Capp et Florale that produces liters of rose water for Morocco’s cooking and perfumery. El Kelaa also produce other goods out of eau d’ rose like soaps, oil, creme and dried flowers. The French brought in 1938 the damask rose to Dades Valley. Capp et Florale distillery was also opened. Within a short period, the 1st Rose Festival began and from thereon, it’s been a tradition ever since. If you go to Morocco in the month of May, don’t miss out Dades Valley. Rose is in the air.

The Berber women of Ait Ben-Haddou wore tattoos.

By the foothills of the southern slopes of Atlas Mountains in Ouarzazate province is Ait Ben-Haddou. This is Morocco‘s famous ksar ( a group of earthen houses surrounded by a fortification). It is a traditional Sahara dwelling. Another UNESCO world heritage site, Ait Ben-Haddou is a sight to behold. And in this place, you can find the ancient Berber tradition of facial tattooing on women. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon, the Amazigh (or Berber) women put tattoo on their faces for beauty, health and protection. It tell the stories of tribes, connect women to their land and bear links to families. To young girls in the Berber community, it is a symbol of coming into womanhood. And as they age, they receive more tattoos. Sometimes it means a woman’s social and marital status but most of all it portrays beauty. Also in Berber culture, this year 2020 is actually 2970. Based in their calendar, it is 950 years ahead of the Gregorian one we use. But the Kingdom of Morocco uses Gregorian calendar though.

Tangier, Morocco was once the trading center of the Phoenicians.

A melting pot of many cultures, Tangier is a 2,500-year old city of Morocco nearest to Europe. It was once the trading center of the Phoenicians (they are Semitic-speaking people from the eastern Mediterranean region, now modern day Lebanon) up to the independence era of 1950s. It was also the destination of European and American diplomats, spies, writers and businessmen. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon. Due to its strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar, this city if very important to the trade of Europe and Africa. Sometimes it is called the “white city” of Morocco due to its white-washed buildings. It is also the home of the tangerine orange which it got its name. And the people of Tangiers were once called Tangerines.

Thuya, the most coveted wood in the world can be found only in Morocco.

Found only in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, thuya wood is synonymous with luxury. The most desired evergreen tree since the Roman times, it was the first wood to be used as dashboard in Rolls Royce cars. A surprising reason why you must visit Morocco soon, thuya (pronounced as tweeya) is found only in the seaside town of Esaeuira in southern Morocco. The resin of this tree is a component of varnish which is useful in the preservation of paintings. Known for its scent, artisans in Morocco have mastered the art of making treasure boxes, chests and tables of thuya.

Morocco indeed is a great place for everyone. It is known as one of the tolerant Muslim countries. Moroccans are friendly people. Next to Egypt among the Arab nations in encouraging a friendly relation with Israel. It was also the first country to sign a treaty with the USA in 1786. That only shows how warm and accommodating Morocco is as a nation. What are you waiting for? When this pandemic is over, book your ticket. As-Salaam Alaykum.

Reference: Wikipedia