Facts about Imperial cities

As you tour Morocco with us youwilldiscoverthatMorocco’scities are quitesimplystunning and much of the country’sintriguing culture canbeseenhere. They all have an ancientwalledArabic area called a medina as well as a new town or ville nouvelle. Theseamazingwalledcities of Moroccohold a magical fascination and are crammed full of ancient architecture and culture. The Imperial Cities are the four historiccapitals – Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and the current capital, Rabat.

Casablanca

This sprawling city, the largest in the Maghreb, is not one that most tourists stay in for long. It lacks the exotic charm of many of Morocco’sothercities but has huge importance and is definitely looking to the future. Casa, as it is known, alsoboastsNorthAfrica’slargest port, home of the MoroccanNavy but its true treasures the Hassan II Mosque, one of the largest in the world. The build statistics of this stunningly beautiful building are absolutely incredible and, as one of the few Moroccan mosques non-Muslims are allowed into, it definitely shouldn’t be missed. Beyond simply impressive it needs to be seen to be believed.

Fes

Morocco’soldest city.

Feiss the worlds largest, intact medieval city and home to thousands of traditional craftsmen.Themedinawasoriginallybuilt in the 9th century and consists of a network of narrow, twisting and utterly confusing alley barely wide enough for a donkey. 100,000 people live inside the medina and

many have never been outside of the walls.

Fes was a centre for culture and learning using the oldest university in the world and it was the demand for book leather that resulted in what is now the oldest leather tannery in the world dating back nine centuries. With a sprig of herbs held to the nose to ward off the sometimes overpowering smell, you can stand on the balcony overlooking a site like no other. The many stones vessels contain a vast range of naturaldyes. The processturns the animal hidesinto the highestqualityleatherproductsyouwilleversee. Fesis the spiritual centre of Morocco and issomehowsuspended in time existingquitehappilywith or withouttourists. There issomethingverypowerful about thisfascinating city.

Marrakech

The name Marrakech means Land of God. Famousthroughout the world for its souks, square and pinky-red buildings, Marrakeshnestles at the base of the spectacular High Atlas Mountain range. This mystical city pulsateswith life and manages to bebohemian, cultured, traditional, magical and romantic. In the main square Jma el Fnaa, exoticwares, snakecharmers and musicians line the streets as you’retantalised by the most vibrant array of colours and scents to befoundanywhere. Escape the grey skies of home for this rose-tinted city where the beauty is in the detail. Choosefrom a number of beautifulgardens to escape the hustle and bustle for a while and stay in a riadwhereyoucan escape the hustle and enjoy the sightsfrom a roof-top garden oasis. The medinatakesyou right back to the middle ages and is made up of many areas. The central area around the Ben Youssef Mosque has an impressive collection of museums, madrassas and historic attractions showcasing art and cultural artefacts, photos and rare videofootage, kaftans and evenperfumes of Morocco. The oldest building in Marrakech, the Almoravid Kouba featuressome of the mostremarkable architectural decoration in the whole of the Islamic world. There isalso the Moukefwhichis a gathering place of workers for hire. The Polishers Street iswherevendorsbring items to bepolished, the Souikais full of fruit and veg, Souk Leghzelsells baskets, spices and herbs. A year-round destination and greatstarting point for a number of day trips or longer excursions, Marrakech has somuch to offer. Itstraditional, modern mix iscaptivating and entertaining. Our advicewouldbe to spend a couple of dayshere at the beginning or end of yourholiday and experience the “Real Morocco” on a tour or desert tour with us. Intoxicating and chaotic – a people watchersparadise.

Meknes

17th Century Spanish-Moorish City The ancientimperial city of Meknesisotherwiseknown as the Versailles of Morocco. This is a city of fortifiedwalls and gatescreated by the tyrannical Moulay Ismail, steeped in folklore and culture. The fifthlargest city in Morocco, Meknes has a dynamiceconomythriving on olives, wine and minttea. Withitsbeautifulgates, ramparts, mosques and palaces, the city has charm and style and issurrounded by beautifulcountryside. Meknesishistorically important and containssomewonderfully grand Moorish architecture and on itsdoorstepsits the most important archaeological site in Morocco – the city of Volubilis – a partlyexcavated Roman city, developedfrom the 3rd century as a Phoeniciansettlement. Nowlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being “an exceptionallywell-preservedexample of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the Empire”. Most of the structures are in impressive condition with a beauty not dimmed by time.

Rabat

Modern Capital and historic city. The modern part of the city isAfrica’smostambitiousurbandevelopment. Rabat has a distinctive style characteristic of contemporaryMorocco and demonstrates an innovativeapproach to city planning. The influence of the cultural history of Rabat isevident in the architecture. There is a tangible Europeanfeelwith a new tram system and redeveloped marina. Carry on up the hill and you move back in time with the remains of the old Roman city and medievaltombsstillpartially visible. On the opposite side of townyouwilldiscover impressive Art Deco architecture withwidetreelined avenues and the partiallybuilt Hassan Tower of 1196. This isnextdoor to the Mausoleum of King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah, whichisguarded by traditionallydressedsoldiers. The souks are a muchgentlerexperiencethan in Marrakech. In fact Rabat is a gem of a city and itscharm lies in its silence. There is a lot to shout about here – but no-one does.

Taroudant

A smallwalled city, thisBerbermarkettown has excellentlypreservedtownwalls. This iswell off the beatentrack and has few tourists and a lovely warm winterclimate . Hereyouwillget a trulyauthenticexperience and relaxedatmospherewith diverse scenery. The two souks are hassle free and full of interestingproducts and lowprices. Particular good buys are jewellery and carpets. The ramparts of the town are six km long withnumerous intact gates all of whichcanbeseenfrom a horse drawncarriage ride. Surrounded by the Atlas mountains, thisis a good base for trekking.
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