Honeymoons in majestic Morocco

Honeymoons in majestic Morocco

Think Morocco and you’ll likely think Marrakech. But there’s plenty of honeymoon romance to be had elsewhere in this North African gem, as Alexandra Gregg discovers

Want to get off-the-beaten-track on your honeymoon? Read on. While all the other newlyweds are flocking to Morocco's most popular destination - Marrakech - you'll be discovering the equally impressive (and comparatively uncrowded) Rabat, Fez and Casablanca. These cities are not as familiar to the everyday tourist, so you can see the sights and feel the romance with your loved one, without jostling with crowds.

Romance in Rabat

From its modern, elegant monuments to the ancient fortifications; old collides with new in Rabat. Its sprawling streets stretch for miles, but it's still best explored on foot: all the places of interest are conveniently within walking distance of each other.

History lovers can stroll along the 5km Almohad Wall, admiring the 12th-century brickwork, or explore the Grand Mosque, which sits opposite a perfectly-preserved 14th-century fountain. Then there's Bab Oudaia, a mammoth gate overlooking the medina. A masterpiece of Moorish architecture, it is undoubtedly one of the most striking sights in this cosmopolitan capital.

Next, explore the high-walled garden of Chellah. A peaceful paradise that has somehow stayed off the tourist radar, it's a confection of fairytale corners, Arab necropolis ruins, and charming gardens. Spring (March to May) is a great time to visit: hundreds of storks nest here and the air trembles with the sounds of their birdcalls. Treat your belle or beau in Souk es Sebat, a covered market where you can splash your cash on Moroccan gold-stamped leatherwork, embroidered slippers, filigree belts and ornamental hats.

For good views of Salé (Rabat's sister city across the river), Bou Regreg, and the Atlantic Ocean, head for the platform of the former Oudaia Signal Station. Visit at the end of the day to see a beautiful sunset - the fading daylight and gentle breeze make for an incredibly romantic experience, not to mention a welcome reprieve from the soaring temperatures.

Medieval magic in Fez

Fez - the most complete Islamic medieval city in the world - is a place of timewarp alleys and ancient medinas, packed with donkeys, traders and the scents of Africa. It's split into three sections: Fez-el-Bali (Old Fez), enigmatic, fiercely Muslim and home to a maze of hidden quarters and mosques; Fez Jdid (New Fez), the 13th century Imperial City; and the French-built Ville Nouvelle (New Town), a mishmash of new developments, wide avenues and convenience.

For views of this magnificent metropolis, head for the Merenid tombs. The 16th-century ruins are a bit worse for wear - the splendour of the coloured epitaphs somewhat diminished - but their hilltop vantage point still offers an impressive panorama. Equally as impressive is the triple-tiered, UNESCO-listed Fondouk el-Nejjarine. Once a caravanserai (roadside inn), providing food, rest and shelter to weary traders, it is now one of the most renowned buildings in the city, lauded for its delicate arches and 18th-century architecture.

Get your spice shopping sorted at the El-Attarine souk, before heading towards the neighbouring souks of Slipper and Henna. All three are well worth a visit, and a good starting point for catching a glimpse of nearby Karaouiyine  - one of the oldest and most illustrious mosques in the world. If nature is more your thing, head for the Musée Dar el-Batha. Here sits a beautiful courtyard, dotted with colourful tiles and mosaics, surrounded by a large Andalusian garden that's ripe for exploration together.

Shakespearean courtship in Casablanca

In the 7th century, Casablanca was no more than a tiny Berber settlement. Today it is unlike any other Moroccan city: modern-minded, with a skyline dominated by towering office blocks and expansive suburbs. Discover the grand streets of the French-built New Town first, in particular Boulevard Mohammed V - the commercial heart of the city. Decorated with Art Deco cladding and faced with friezes, balconies and geometric carvings, it feels almost Shakespearean - perfect for reenacting a present-day version of Romeo & Juliet (without the tragic ending, that is!). Make time to explore the Old Town too; a mishmash of crumbling 18th, 19th and early 20th-century houses and streets, but without the labyrinthine layouts of Marrakech or Fez.

For shopping, try the Nouvelle Medina - a rare example of a hassle-free, elegant souk. Once you've had your fill of Moroccan wares, head for the nearest seafood restaurant to enjoy a candlelit dinner with your beloved; the freshly-cooked fish in Casablanca is to die for.

No visit to this city is complete without a trip to the vast Hassan II Mosque. It's the second largest building of its kind in the world, accommodating 25,000 people, and is the only working mosque in Morocco that's open to non-Muslims. You'll have to catch a taxi, bus or tram to get there, but it's well worth the effort. Gaze in awe at its 200m-high minaret, bronze-clad doors, cedar-panelled domes and marbled columns, doorways, fountains and stairs.

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Image: Dreamstime

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