Morocco’s rich African and Arab cultures combine in a unique identity showing remarkable continuity with the past that has been dominated by Arab and Berber dynasties. Morocco has breathtakingly beautiful and varied landscapes, from its fertile coastal plain and Atlas Mountains to the pre-Sahara. In the north and on the coastal plain are Mediterranean-influenced towns, Tangier and Chefchaouen, and the imperial Islamic cities of Meknes and Fes. Marrakesh, Morocco’s pink southern capital, reflects the heavy influence of sub-Saharan Africa. The port of Essaouira has fine, white mosques, shrines and houses. Fes’ crowded souqs sell diverse wares from fine copper to carved wood, textiles, ceramics and carpets. Here, you pass from teaming narrow streets with myriad sounds and smells into the quietude of beautiful Andalucian style Marinid madrasas and funduks (caravanserai). They are exquisitely decorated with ceramic tiles (zelliges), intricate plasterwork and sculpted cedar wood. South of the Atlas Mountains, in the pre-Saharan oasis valleys of the Ziz, Tudgha, and Dra’a rivers, are mudbrick towns and villages like Sijilmasa, Tinghir, Ouarzazate and Tamgrut, staging posts in the medieval trans-Saharan trade. They remain repositories of traditional Berber culture and architecture. The vast, open vistas of the pre-Sahara and Atlas Mountains seem unpopulated until you enter a crowded, verdant oasis in which every inch of arable land is cultivated. Here, donkeys carry huge loads of hay, dates, grain or wood. Urbanites of Fes whose families have inhabited its old medina for centuries, contrast to sub-Saharan Africans whose forebears were brought to oases like Erfoud as slaves.
Morocco’s gardening traditions bear a dynamic relationship to the country’s unique and diverse environments. Gardens vary from Andalusian urban courtyard gardens to date plantations and palmeries in the desert and around Marrakesh. The High Atlas Mountains have very different gardens and plantations. These gardening traditions have inspired European expatriates to create ecologically sustainable desert gardens, whilst in cosmopolitan Tangiers there are wonderful expatriate houses and gardens and in Marrakesh Yves Saint Laurent’s and Pierre Bergé’s extraordinary garden in which verdant plants contrast with vivid blue buildings.
Explore Morocco’s rich culture in gardening and landscape design, art, architecture & craft in medieval cities with old palaces and souqs, on high mountain ranges and in pre-Saharan desert fortresses. Read more