Morocco’s Imperial cities are the treasures from the many old dynasties that have settled in these parts of the world for centuries. The old capitals from ancient times are well preserved and as you are strolling through the medina’s, you’ll find yourself lost in time
Morocco has four imperial cities; Rabat being the current capital of Morocco today and the Alaouites dynasty, Fes which was the old capital of Morocco and four other dynasties, Meknes being the capital of the Alaouites dynasty and Marrakech being the capital for three dynasties throughout history. I was very fortunate to travel to all four cities and plenty more.
Casablanca the city, not the movie
The only reason why people know Casablanca is because of the famous Humphrey Bougart movie. Most people seem to forget this bustling city in Morocco and don’t even visit it. To be honest there is really not much to see in comparison to other cities in Morocco. The must see is the Hassan II mosque, situated right on the shores of the ocean. Its minaret is like a beacon since its the tallest in the world. Even though seeing Casablanca and impressive mosque, there is something that really impressed me the most. The way people communicate with taxis without even getting in. A simple hand gesture will notify the driver which district the customer wants to get to. I mean with all the technology in the world making life easier by day, these simple hand gestures ensure that nobody wastes anybodies time and it works perfectly. So next time your in Casablanca be careful how you put up your hand in the air.
After spending two days in Casablanca it was about time to do a day trip to Rabat. The capital of Morocco was only an hour away with the train. Rabat in Moroccan standards is a very clean and organized city. I guess the kings presence has something to do with that. The main attraction for me to see was Chellah, the ancient Roman city that has been left alone for centuries. After the Romans left the city many dynasties came and left but what remained is the ruins and the history behind it.
Click here for pics from Rabat
The amazing Fes
Fes has it all; the medina, the tanneries, the history, everything. When you walk in the souqs, you will genuinely feel as if you werent in the year 2013. Fes is known for being the spiritual capital of Morocco. Its not as open minded as Casablanca or Rabat and not as crazy as Marrakech. I was staying in a Riad in the heart of the medina. Even though you have a map in your hand, you’ll get lost in that maze of streets. I’m surprised how the locals know their way around in the medina.
From Fes I did a day trip to Meknes, Moulay Idriss and Volubilis. It becomes relatively cheap and easy if you hire a car with 3-4 people rather than hopping on trains or buses and trying to bargain with taxi drivers to take you to certain sites. If you start early in the morning, you have plenty of time to see most of the sites and wander around in Meknes since the medina is quite big as Fes. Meknes is pretty much the copy of Fes but without the tourists, touts and hassle. Its amazing to see the difference between the two even though they are only 40 mins away from each other.
I’ve always heard stories from travellers that some Americans tend to use the Canadian flag on their backpacks to hide that they’re American. Well I was very fortunate to meet such person whom we’ve shared our room together for two days. Later he told me on the third day that he wasn’t actually Canadian. It didnt take me too much time to find out on my own although I guess he couldn’t keep up with the lying anymore and had to tell the truth. Apparently he was a soldier working on a base in Germany. After getting over the fact I shared my room with an American soldier who pretended to be Canadian, I set my way to Marrakech.
Click here for pics from Fes
My trip to Marrakech will be something that I’ll never forget in my life. I took the morning train from Fes and since there isnt a direct route to Marrakech, I had to go through Casablanca. Just 10 mins shy from the main station in Casablanca the train stopped in a run down neighbourhood. The conductor started to pull down the blinds on every window so people outside wouldnt see inside. I dosed off and a hour later when I woke up, we were still in the same spot. I dosed off again and woke up 30 mins later and yet again we were still in the same spot. I was getting a bit anxious of why we werent moving so I tried to find the Canadian guy I met in Fes and ask. As I was looking for him, I noticed that the little window next to the door to get on the train was smashed into pieces. I asked what had happened and he mentioned that the train in front of us ran over a small child and killed him. Therefore both the family members and people in neighbourhood decided to protest and sit on the tracks. Of course the next train was us. Some people were angry enough to try to get on the train but fortunately they didnt. After tough negotiations with the officials, the police and military backing them, in 3 hours we were back on track to Marrakech.
Marrakech; Imperial city or mad house
Thats what I said when I walked into Djeema El Fna square in the middle of the night. There was people everywhere, motorbikes zig zagging, snake charmers, fortune tellers, etc. I thought I was never going to make it out alive. Although Marrakech is filled with weekenders from Europe, its still a must see in Morocco otherwise your trip will not be complete.
Marrakech is situated next to the High Atlas mountains and you’ll find the Sahara desert further east towards the Algerian borders. Instead spending your time in the city, its a great city break to go to Ait Benhaddou, the Cascades d’ Ouzoud waterfalls or if you have more time then a desert trip. I had a chance to go to old city Ait Benhaddou. The city is actually well known in the Hollywood world with many famous movies filmed here. Its amazing to see the city still standing regardless the time and age. Many of its residents moved away to modern homes next to site although there are still a few remaining families who live there.
Click here for pics from Marrakech