, was for many years a must-stop on the old hippietrail. Although themagic that broughtthe tuned-in and dropped-out crowds in the1960s and 1970s is still here, things havechanged, not least that instead of spendingseveral days in a crowded minibus travel-ling overland, you can now fly direct fromthe UK not only to Casablanca but to Fez,Agadir and Marrakech itself. It’s also verygood value for money, though it would sound strange to describe it as a budgetholiday destination.Despite decades under Spanish and French colonial rule – which produced thenew town quarters to mirror the old Medinadistricts in the major cities - this is still obvi-ously very much a traditional Islamic culturewith the vibrant indigenous Berber way of life in no sense under threat. My own firstintroduction to Morocco was as a 19-year-old student when I spent the whole of a sum-mer wandering around the country. It was amarvellous experience, one that I’ll never forget (especially as it was my first introduc-tion to the art of haggling: see below for some hardwon advice!). You could easilyspend six months travelling around thecountry and only scratch the surface – onthat first visit I spent most of my time inMarrakech and the High Atlas mountainsand while I didn’t regret a minute of it, the brief time I then spent in Tangier,Casablanca (which feels more French thanMoroccan in many ways) and Fez gave mean appetite to return.
World Heritage Site
– a former capital of Morocco - maynot have the international fame of Marrakech and is rather more traditionallyconservative, but it is more than a match for it architecturally and is arguably the coun-try’s intellectual centre, home to probablythe world’s oldest university and nearly 800mosques: the Al Qarawiyin Mosque,Morocco’s oldest, retains its originalminaret, built in 956. The city has over 8kmof fortified walls but it’s the medina, thewhole of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is absolutely unforget-table, not least because it’s so narrow and mazelike that first-time visitors are almostguaranteed to get lost within it.
‘...that Tardisfeeling of hiddendepth and light istruly astounding...’
It’s also a bustling and very much work-ing area where transport is by bike or don-key, never car, and you can happily stumblearound for others, enjoying the specialitiesof each district, whether they be dyers, pot-ters, woodcarvers or weavers. As in the rest
Only an hour away from Spain, Morocco feels like a world awayfrom Europe, says
But if you want toexperience a different way of life, this could be the perfect choice.