Sahara Sand Dune © Jamou
Morocco lies just under nine miles (14.3km) from Spain across the Straight of Gibraltar, the only place where the Mediterranean Sea mixes with the Atlantic Ocean. The mixing of the two seas which lap Morocco's coast serves as a useful allegory for understanding the North African country's rich history. Morocco is an elaborate weave of Arabic, Berber, French and Spanish culture which has captivated the imaginations of travellers for the better part of the last millennium; it is this heady mix of old and new which sees contemporary Morocco thriving.
Hints of Morocco's turbulent history still pervade daily life, and serve to strengthen its allure. Since the days of the Phoenicians, Morocco has attracted foreign interest from the Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and ancient Greeks until the coming of the Arabs in the 7th century, who brought Islam and the Alaouite Dynasty. European powers have had their day, too: France and Spain battled for control until nationalism triumphed and the Kingdom of Morocco gained independence in 1956, and evolved into the Morocco travellers experience today.
For some, the main appeal for visitors to Morocco has always been its balance of the familiar with the exotic. Morocco's seaside cities like Tangiers offer Mediterranean charm; while inland Marrakech thrums with vibrant souks, markets where legendary fine Moroccan crafts are made and sold, and Moorish architectural wonders loom overhead; and Casablanca is the economic centre of Morocco, playing host to an energetic business culture and international trade.
However, travellers to Morocco would do well to venture beyond the cities. The Rif Mountains in the north, and the High Atlas Mountains in the heart of Morocco, offer scenes of life in Berber communities where their languages and culture are well preserved. Adventurers will find paradise in mountain ranges which offer skiing on snow-capped peaks, trekking through gorges and fertile valleys, and kayak trips down powerful streams. In the south, the vast, bleak power of the Western Sahara enthrals travellers who choose to journey by camel or 4x4.
No matter the particulars of travellers' time in Morocco, they are sure to be fascinated by visions of snake charmers weaving their magic while the call of the muezzins wafts from the ancient minarets. Visitors can expect aromas of mint tea, elaborate carpets and vibrant squares, but they can also expect much more from contemporary Morocco which acknowledges its past while keeping pace with global development and interconnectivity.