The Moroccan medinas figure among the country's top attractions, and they are the hearts and souls of the various cities and towns where they are found. For those who may not know, a medina is a Moroccan city's old district, and it is usually walled. Within the walls are maze-like streets that create a labyrinth effect. The medinas in Morocco were built by Arabs as far back as the ninth century, and they are home to many of the country's most historic structures. Mosques typically figure among the historic structures that can be found in any given medina, as do palaces and fountains.
Upon setting foot in the Moroccan medinas, visitors are soon surrounded by the sounds, the smells, and the overall ambiance. The maze-like streets of the medinas are often crowded, and shopkeepers vie for the attention of tourists in various ways. Morocco is a shopper's dream, and it has a lot to do with the medinas. Ornate carpets figure among the most popular items that tourists buy while visiting the various medinas in Morocco, and leather goods are popular as well. Numerous jewelers also set up shop in the country's old districts, offering pieces that can make for excellent keepsakes.
Mixing with the sounds of shopkeepers in the Moroccan medinas are savory scents that lure visitors to various food stalls, cafes, and restaurants. Stopping at a café for some coffee or mint tea is a good idea when a break is in order. Should hunger hit, grabbing a large piece of bread, a brochette of meat, some dates, or something more substantial at one of the food stalls or restaurants is always possible. The Fes el Bali Medina of Fes is the largest medina in Morocco, and it boasts what are known as palace restaurants. These kinds of restaurants are quite lavish, and they offer meals that are more than complete.
In addition to the Fes el Bali Medina, Morocco visitors who are interested in exploring the country's best medinas will also want to head to Marrakech. Arts and crafts figure among the goods that can be purchased in the Marrakech medina, and visitors can pick up some interesting antiques. Shopping isn't the only thing worth doing while exploring the medina in Morocco's top tourist destination. Taking in the ambiance of the central Jamaa el Fna Square is one of the pleasures of a visit to the Marrakech Medina, especially when late afternoon sets in and the food stalls start to open. The entertainers that take to this famous square range from storytellers to monkey handlers, and the snake charmers are omnipresent.
The Marrakech medina and the medina in Fes are the two main medinas in the country, but they certainly aren't the only ones worth exploring. Numerous destinations boast attractive old districts of their own, and they include Tangier and Essaouira. Orson Welles filmed parts of his Academy Award-winning version of Othello in the Essaouira medina. This film came out in 1952, and it can be credited with helping to put Morocco tourism on the map. The ramparts of the city's medina make it especially attractive, not to mention photogenic. As for the medina in Tangier, it boasts more Spanish architecture than most of the other medinas in Morocco, which helps to make it an interesting place to explore. Visitors to Tangier can also head to the nearby city of Tetouan to explore its attractive medina, which also features Spanish influences. The medina in Casablanca and the small one that can be found in the capital of Rabat are two others that travelers might also add to their itineraries.
When visiting the medinas in Morocco, it's important to remember that pickpockets are relatively common and that some of the shopkeepers can be overbearing. Thankfully, the shopkeepers don't hassle tourists for business as much as they did in the past, and a firm response is usually enough to dissuade the more aggressive candidates. Many of the shopkeepers in the medinas are quite pleasant and can be fun to bargain with.
Tours of the Moroccan medinas are available for those who want to have a guide, and they are easy to book. A tour of the larger medinas, such as the Medina of Fes, is an especially good idea for travelers, as it can be very easy to get lost. For some, however, getting lost is part of the fun. Whether going it alone or with a guide, keeping an eye out for the pack-laden donkeys is a good idea. They get the right of way when passing through, as they are often weighed down and unwilling to stop for anyone who might be in the way. More often than not, the donkey drivers will often call out repeatedly to signal their presence.