In many ways, Morocco is a country apart. It nestles in the north-western tip of Africa, separated from the rest of the continent by the towering Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Known to the Arabs as al-Maghreb al-Aqsa, or "the Farthest Land of the Setting Sun", its climate, geography, and history are all more closely related to the Mediterranean than to the rest of Africa.
Morocco is an initiation into the exotic magic of the Islamic, Arabic, and African worlds. It retains a European patina, the legacy of the French Protectorate. Morocco's charm lies in its diversity: Ancient cities, red baked-mud Kasbahs, forgotten villages, green valleys, towering mountains and shifting sand dunes. Morocco is a land full of contrast and surprises with fantastic trekking in mountains, gorges and deserts. It’s no wonder that Morocco’s popularity is increasing quickly.
Due to its climate, the country offers something for everyone. For the sun-worshipper, there are miles of beaches on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. For the cultural explorer, the imperial cities with palaces, mosques, Koran schools, labyrinth-like Medinas (old towns), exotic Souks (bazaars) and shady gardens provide an atmosphere directly out of the Arabian Nights. As one moves south and east, though the beautiful ranges of the Atlas Mountains, Morocco's Mediterranean and Arabian characteristics melt away like a mirage. Inland is the land of the Berbers, the indigenous tribes of Morocco. The Atlas Mountains are ideal for hiking and mountain bike tours in the summer and for ski tours during winter time. Beyond the Atlas are the fringes of the Sahara, with shifting sand dunes and oases where the caravans once stopped on their way south to trade in spice and ivory - and the desert stretches out to the horizon.
The Rif mountain (highest peak is Djebel Tidghine, 2,465 m / 8,088 ft) is extremely diverse. Almond trees and oleander blossom in the high valleys, mountain routes give way to wild-romantic panoramas. On the Mediterranean coast golden-coloured sandy beaches and silent bays below the rocky cliffs invite a rest. The Medias of Tetouan and Chefchaouen are among the most picturesque in Morocco.
The Middle Atlas (highest summit is Djebel Bou Naceur, 3,340 m /10,958 ft) is of rare and wild beauty. Endless cedar forests extending to the horizon are home to the nomads. The outdoor splendour of The Middle Atlas is certainly one of the best-kept secrets in all of Morocco.
The High Atlas is the highest mountain range in North Africa (the highest peak of North Africa is Djebel Toubkal, 4167 m / 13,671 ft, the second highest mountain is the M'Goun, 4068 m / 13,346 ft). The High Atlas rises in the west at the Atlantic coast and extends 700 km (435 miles) in an eastern direction to the Moroccan-Algerian border. At the Atlantic and to the southwest the range drops abruptly and makes an impressive transition to the coast and the Anti-Atlas range. High peaks force the clouds to surrender large amounts of rainfall. The High Atlas has numerous fertile valleys surrounded by rivers and waterfalls. The rivers that flow down the southeast side of the High Atlas support long, narrow, and lush river valleys that resemble linear oases.
The Anti Atlas is the oldest mountain range in North Africa being formed some 300 million years ago as the result of continental collisions. The Anti Atlas extends 500 km (310 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest toward the northeast to the heights of Ouarzazate and further east to the city of Tafilalt. In the south-east, Morocco's mountain ranges yield inexorably to the desolate expanse of the Sahara.
Sahara - The name itself conjures up romantic images of vast unending sands, charming desert oases, and, of course, the sheltering sky. In the north the Sahara is bordered by the High and the Anti Atlas. The classical 100-m-high sandy dunes of Morocco are in the eastern part of the Atlas Mountains in the Drâa valley and in Tafilalet, on the coast with Laâyoune and in the south along the Mauritanian border. In the oases, dates, citrus fruits, grain and olives are grown. About half of the inhabitants are Berbers.
The Atlantic coast of Morocco offers numerous great beaches with small sand dunes and Argan forests, as well as a number of fascinating old coastal cities. The port Essaouira (in Arabic „the perfect “) is one of the nicest places in the Atlantic with its completely preserved Medina and its long sandy beaches.
Agricultural areas of Morocco are located primarily in the rainy, fertile lowlands: Sais (between Meknes and Fez), Triffa (with Berkane), Haouz (with Marrakech) as well as in the areas close to Atlantic Doukkala, Chaouia and Gharb. Olive groves and cork oak woods prosper here; artificial irrigation transforms arid grounds into fertile farmland. Extensive fruit groves and vegetable crops are grown both for export as well as for local consumption.
Morocco's climate is moderate and subtropical, cooled by breezes off the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In the interior the temperatures are more extreme, winters can be fairly cold and the summers very hot. Marrakech has an average winter temperature of 21ºC (70ºF) and 38°C (100°F) in summer. In the Atlas Mountains temperatures can drop below zero and mountain peaks are snow capped throughout most of the year. The winter in the north of the country is wet and rainy, while in the south, at the edge of the Moroccan Sahara, it is dry and in the night bitterly cold.