Things to Do in Atlantic Coast
Rising above the northeastern corner of Rabat, Hassan Tower(Tour Hassan) stands as a visual promise of what the city’s historic residents hoped it to be: a grand city, even a capital city (which it now is). Its construction began in 1195 during the Almohad Dynasty, and it was built as part of a larger mosque, which was meant to be the largest in the world.
But alas, when the sultan passed away, work on the project came to an end, leaving the mosque unfinished, and its minaret – the tower – standing only 44 meters high (some say half as high as it would have been). Then, come an earthquake in 1755, the incomplete mosque was further destroyed. Today, though, you can still see the surviving, sandstone Hassan Tower, along with the mosque’s remains, such as the columns and walls. Other highlights while here include impressive city and sea views, as well as a visit to the nearby, free-to-enter Mausoleum of Mohammed V.
With its regal cliff-top perch overlooking the ocean and a soaring 210-meter high minaret (the world’s highest) that shines a beam toward Mecca during the evening hours, everything about the Hassan II Mosque is grandiose. The magnificent mosque is among the largest in the world, with space for up to 100,000 worshippers.
Lined with bars, restaurants, and surf shops, Essaouira Beach (Plage d'Essaouira) is a Moroccan hot spot for surfers, windsurfers, and kitesurfers, thanks to its steady, year-round winds. The town has a charming hippie atmosphere, and travelers who are not indulging in water sports enjoy horse, camel, or quad rides along the broad sandy beach.
Agadir Beach (Plage d'Agadir), for all its fame, doesn’t really feel like Morocco. Depending on what you’re looking for this can either be good or bad, and if it’s a break from Moroccan food and tea the Western influence is welcome. If, on the other hand, you’re lusting for authentic experiences and rich doses of culture— you might want to just give Agadir a pass or accept it for what it is. As Morocco’s largest and most popular beach resort, Agadir caters to pre-packaged tourists much more than the independent traveler. Resorts and restaurants line the sand that stretches for nearly six miles, and cabanas, cocktails, and crashing surf round out the coastal scene.
The temperature here is surprisingly mild during every month of the year, where the sun continues to shine through winter but stays relatively cool through summer. Though Agadir was rocked in 1960 by a hugely destructive earthquake, the old Casbah on the hill above town has walls dating back to the 1500s and inscriptions in Arabic and Dutch. More importantly, the view looking out over Agadir Bay is arguably the best in the city, with a Casbah sunset offering a view you’re sure to never forget.
On your visit to Rabat’s medina, take a few steps farther north to explore the 12th-century Kasbah of the Udayas (Casbah des Oudaïas or Kasbah les Oudaias), the city’s oldest quarter, which was built during the Almohad dynasty. The tightly packed neighborhood has evolved through the centuries, with many of its signature, whitewashed and blue-based houses built by Moroccan refugees from Spain during the 16th century.
Today, there are many highlights to behold during a visit to Rabat’s wall- and tower-surrounded Kasbah. Entrance through the grand 12th-century Almohad gate of Bab Oudaia hints at the discoveries to come, including a walk down the neighborhood’s main street Rua Jamaa and past the city’s oldest mosque, El Atiqa; a visit to the palace-located Museum of Oudayas; and especially the unparalleled views of the river and sea (and inviting shoreline), best taken in from the various terraces.
In the north of the city between the port and the seafront Hassan II Mosque, the Old Medina of Casablanca contains the last vestiges of pre-20th century Casablanca. Though the modern city sprawls in every direction, the historic quarter remains a maze of alleyways and a vast souk, tucked in by the remnants of ancient walls.
With a prime location on Morocco’s windswept Atlantic coast, just north of Agadir, Taghazout beach has made a name for itself as one of the country’s top surfing destinations. Running for just under four miles (six kilometers), the sandy beach south of Taghazout town is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars and surf shops, with ample opportunities to rent boards, learn to surf or join a beachside yoga class. Numerous surfing outfitters dot the sand, teaching visitors a thing or two about hanging ten.
The best time to catch a wave is between October and April, but surfing and windsurfing are possible all year-round. There are surf spots for all levels, including gentle waves for beginners and some more challenging breaks for seasoned surfers; Hash Point, Panorama, Anchor Point and Killer Point are among the most popular. When you’re ready to spend some time on land, head into the fishing village for a bite at a makeshift cafe on a warm summer night.
Though today’s Agadir is concentrated along its long beach dotted byumbrellas, ancient Agadir once used to be an altogether different place — and located in a different place, too. Situated on a hilltop, above giant, hard-to-miss Arabic lettering (which translates as "God, Country, King"), sits that former town - the Agadir Kasbah - or, at least, what remains of it.
Also called Agadir Oufella, this historic area was constructed in the 1500s, but much of it was ultimately destroyed during the region’s great earthquake in 1960. What now exists is its still-intact and very visible-from-afar wall, which once protected the old town and its some 300 residents, and that now surrounds unmaintained ruins and rubble. What most people come for, though? Unparalleled views that stretch along the entire city and coastline, making the journey an impressive one whether you’re keen to see a historic site or to simply gape at the Moroccan landscape before you.
A masterpiece of Islamic architecture, surrounded by picturesque orange groves and elaborate water features, the Royal Palace of Casablanca is a suitably grand abode for the King of Morocco when he’s in town. Located in the Habous Quarter of the city’s New Medina, this is the King’s principal Casablancan residence and throughout the year hosts royal receptions.
Across from Rabat’s sky-reaching and unfinished Hassan Tower, sits an equally visit-worthy structure, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V (Mausolée de Mohammed V). The building was constructed between 1962 and 1971 on the order of the late King Hassan II for his father, Mohammed V. Now it is the resting place of not only its namesake but also his sons, including the one who commissioned it.
The exterior is simple yet stunning, with a green-tiled roof; the building’s entrance protected by handsomely dressed royal guards. The interior, on the other hand, exudes nothing but royalty, featuring marble floors, and walls of elaborate mosaics, and gilt and carved wood. The tombs, which are situated on the lower level, are the centerpiece, and can be viewed from the balcony above. There’s more than just the mausoleum to see here too; visitors should plan to explore the entire grounds of Yacoub Al Mansour Square, which is home to not only Hassan Tower, but also the remains of an ancient, never-completed grand mosque.
More Things to Do in Atlantic Coast
With around 6,000 shops and stalls crammed into a walled compound in the old medina, Agadir’s rambling market is one of the biggest in all of northern Africa. Visiting Souk el Had is an experience in itself, with a maze of colorful goods on sale, from Moroccan lamps to handcarved bowls.
Join the crowds of locals and tourists to haggle over handicrafts and authentic souvenirs; watch local craftsmen at work; or browse the rows of bargain clothing, cosmetics and household goods. The market is also the best place to shop for fresh foods, with huge piles of vegetables, flowers and exotic fruits, plus a rainbow of pungent spices, dried fruits and candies. Don’t forget to sample the argan oil!
Flanked by Casablanca’s most striking architecture, Mohammed V Square forms the central hub of the city’s buzzy new town. Laid out in the early 20th century and named in honor of the former Sultan, the plaza centers around a monumental fountain, dramatically lit up in the evening hours.
Habous Quarter in southeastern Casablanca is one of the city’s most atmospheric districts. French colonizers in the 1920s created the area and small tree-lined squares, neat alleyways, elegant arcades, and a curious mix of French colonial buildings and traditional Maghrebi architecture still remain. Throughout, small souks sell handicrafts and leather goods.
Just southeast of Agadir, Crocoparc is one of Morocco’s most unusual and popular attractions—a botanical park that’s home to more than 300 Nile crocodiles. After entering the park through a huge, artificial crocodile mouth, visitors roam the five thematic gardens to see the crocodiles in pools and admire the park’s flora.
The city’s most fashionable suburb, Ain Diab Corniche is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The district is bisected by Corniche Boulevard, from the Hassan II Mosque in the east to the El-Hank Lighthouse in the west, but the main attraction is the scenic promenade along the Casablanca seafront where everyone comes for at least a stroll.
All too often overshadowed by the magnificence of the Hassan II Mosque, the Notre Dame de Lourdes Cathedral is an important center of worship for Morocco’s Roman Catholic population and serves as a striking example of Casablanca’s modern architecture.
Located along the busy shopping street of Mohammed V Boulevard, Marché Central de Casablanca is the city’s main market. Crammed with locals, the daily market is a fascinating place for tourists to get a taste of local culture, while picking up bargains on everything from food to fresh flowers and traditional clothing.
Learning more about the Amazigh people and their past is a key part of understanding Morocco and its culture. Often called Berbers, the ethnic group is native to North Africa and has a diverse history in Morocco that can be explored at Agadir's Museum of Amazigh Culture (Musée Municipal du Patrimoine Amazighe d’Agadir), which sits just steps away from the city’s sandy coastline.
Although it’s not a very large space, the museum displays a wide range of Amazighe items from the 18th and 19th centuries. While there, explore exhibits featuring everything from pottery to carpets, art, traditional costumes, and cooking utensils. The highlight for many are the collections of jewelry, which include exquisite pieces worn during wedding ceremonies.
Located at the gateway between the historic Old Medina and the new Casablanca built during the 20th-century French rule, United Nations Place is the city’s busiest public squares. The futuristic steel lattice cupola, designed by jean Francois Zevaco, marks the pedestrian underpass, where the city’s principal boulevards intersect.
Those looking to be pampered Moroccan-style will find everything they need at the Argan Palace, one of Agadir’s most luxurious spas. As well as enjoying a steam, scrub and soap massage in the traditional hammam, a range of massages and treatments are available, from a typical Berber massage to relaxing oil massages and reflexology.
Alongside the spa and hammam, the Argan Palace runs a shop selling its top quality, organic cosmetics and perfumes, enriched with the region’s famous argan oil.
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