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Morocco can seem intimidating, particularly if you’ve never visited a country in Africa or the Muslim world. However, thanks to a combination of rapidly improving infrastructure, a relatively small footprint and this concise guide, you can see the best the country has to offer in only a week. From the souks of Marrakech and the great mosque of Casablanca to surfing Essaouira and riding camels into the Sahara, you’ll be surprised by how much you can see and do in seven days.

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Touchdown in Casablanca

Morocco’s main international airport is in Casablanca, and while the city you encounter might not evoke the seminal movie of the same name (which was filmed in California), there are still a few things to check out before blasting off to Marrakech. Most notable among them is Hassan II Mosque, a notable feat of architecture made even more impressive by its location right on the sea. From here, get a taxi to Casa Voyageurs Railway Station, where your week in Morocco begins in earnest.

Weekend in Marrakech

It’s just a few hours by train from Casablanca to Marrakech, but arriving in Morocco’s most beautiful city feels like a revelation. Check in to your riad (the name given to old Moroccan houses that have been converted into hotels), then head immediately to Djemma al-Fnaa, the city’s central square, or medina. As the sun sets, visit the numerous food stalls to sample Moroccan specialties like couscous (prepared in a traditional tajine) and mint tea, or walk through the adjacent souk market for a whole new world of shopping possibilities.

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Photo by Robert Schrader

Enjoy a lazy first morning in Marrakech with a light breakfast in your riad, before making a mid-day journey to colorful, lush Jardin Majorelle Garden. At night, trade a traipse through the square for a bird’s eye view of it (the snacks and sweets on offer at the rooftop of Cafe du Monde are also nothing to sneeze at) and spend day three exploring historical attractions in the city center, such as 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque or 19th-century Bahia Palace.

Photo by Robert Schrader

Excursion to Essaouira

On day four, take a four-hour bus ride (or a three-hour taxi ride—your riad’s concierge can arrange this) to Essaouira, a coastal town that’s as famous for the mysterious seagulls that fly along its oceanfront fortifications as it is the camels that walk along its turbulent beaches. (TIP: If you have more than a week in Morocco and are passionate about surfing, continue heading south to Agadir, which is perhaps the best surf spot in the area, not to mention a favorite haunt of Jimi Hendrix.)

If you set off early, head back to Marrakech the same day, which will give you time to arrange your three-day foray into the Sahara desert, starting the next morning. Otherwise, choose a cozy Essouaira riad (Villa Maroc is popular choice), and spend the evening exploring Essaouira’s own souk before making your way back to Marrakech the next morning at (or, more likely, before) the crack of dawn.

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A desert dream

Most Morocco desert tours start (and end—more on that in a second) in Marrakech, so you can save yourself any hassle by mentioning this to your riad’s staff upon check-in. Regardless of which company or private guide you choose, and whether you book in advance or at the last minute, your three-day journey through the Moroccan desert will follow a predictable trajectory.

On day one, you’ll depart Marrakech and head over the Atlas Mountains, visiting the kasbah (and popular film set) at Ouarzazate before resting your head at a guest house near the dramatic Dades Gorge (in the “rocky” part of the Sahara) right as the sun is setting. Day two will take you through the town of Zagora (you’ll enjoy a scenic lunch here) and to Merzouga, where a caravan of camels will be waiting to take you into the dunes.

You’ll wind down with a meal cooked by indigenous Berber people, and an illuminating performance featuring their traditional music and dance. The next morning, your camel caravan will take you back to Merzouga, where you’ll head back to Marrakech—unless you’re not ready to leave just yet.

If you have more than a week in Morocco

Assuming you’re in the country for more than a week—10 days in Morocco, let’s say—you could head to the city of Fes (notable, among other reasons, for its long-forgotten Jewish community) or to the mountain town of Chefchaouen, whose winding alleyways and stacks of houses are painted baby blue.

Alternatively, head to the Mediterranean coastal city of Tangier (which sits just across the water from Spain) or to Rabat, Morocco’s oft-forgotten capital.

The bottom line

Morocco seems exotic, but you can see a lot of what the country has to offer in just a week. Watch the sunset over the smoky medina square of Marrakech, chase seagulls in coastal Essaouira and ride a camel through the dunes of the Sahara Desert. Have a few more days to spend in Morocco? Even better! Colorful mountain villages and cities that hide forgotten communities are waiting to be discovered.

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Tagged: Africa, Morocco

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Robert Schrader
Robert is a writer and photographer who's spent the better part of the past decade roaming the globe. Read hundreds of inspiring, informative travel articles on his blog Leave Your Daily Hell, or see the world through his eyes on Instagram, where he's @leaveyourdailyhell.
Robert Schrader

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