Exploring the historic cities of Morocco

The North African nation of Morocco is home to as many as ten large cities, mostly spread out along the country’s long Atlantic coastline from Tangier in the north to Agadir in the south. While many of these cities are of mainly local importance — places where people live, work and spend their leisure time — others have reached a global significance. The historic cities of Casablanca, Fez and Marrakech have been important cultural and political centres for centuries while the capital of Rabat has been transformed from a sleepy French colonial backwater to a bustling metropolis in the space of less than a century.

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Although it is more likely to be known for the film of the same name it provided such a memorable backdrop to, the city of Casablanca has a long and proud history that extends back to its origins as a major Phoenician port three thousand years ago. Over the intervening millennia it has been invaded and attacked by the Romans, Moors, Portuguese, Spanish and French, each of whom have left their mark. It is home to the King Hassan II Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, and the one with the tallest minaret. It is one of only two large mosques in Morocco open to non-Muslims and is well worth a visit for that reason alone.

Casablanca King Hassan II Mosque, Morocco

Casablanca King Hassan II Mosque, Morocco

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Fez in north-central Morocco was founded in the year 789 and functioned as a great imperial centre for a succession of Moroccan political dynasties from its founding until its conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1579. Many Moroccans continue to regard it as the country’s true capital. It is home to perhaps the most impressive medina in morocco, a sprawling warren of lanes, alleys and bazaars that can be so full of activity it is overwhelming. While in Fez, be sure to visit the Bou Inania Madersa, a 13th century religious college that boasts spectacular architecture. Like the King Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, it is open to non-Muslims.

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Rabat too has ancient roots although until the twentieth century its importance was eclipsed by that of Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca. Today it is worth visiting to get a feel for modern Morocco and to explore the many museums that have relocated to the capital since the country gained independence from France in 1956. The remarkable Kasbah des Oudaias, a picturesque area of Rabat perched on a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean is a charming and timeless community which offers stunning views over the city and is a must-see

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In recent years, the city of Marrakech has usurped Casablanca and Fez as Morocco’s hottest tourist destination. Known as the Red City, it is located near the foothills of the imposing Atlas Mountains and is the gateway to areas of Morocco that most visitors don’t see. A tour of the medina and its numerous souks forms the centrepiece of many Marrakech holidays and it is possible to lose days to the colour and noise of the Old Town. The city is also home to remarkable palaces and gardens which offer a welcome respite from the noise of the medina, as well as spectacular views over the city.

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About the author
Jennifer is a part of the digital blogging team at digitalcrosstalk.com who work with a growing number of travel brands. For more information about me, or to keep up to date with the latest in travel news, check out my posts at digitalcrosstalk.com or visit my Twitter account, @dcrosstalk





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