Exotic Larache, Morocco
By Karla Erovick
Looking for a truly exotic vacation? Larache, Morocco provides an authentic cultural experience in a seaside town, where locals and visitors alike enjoy their leisure time. To Westerners, Morocco represents intrigue, mystery and the exotic. With a warm Mediterranean climate and located on the Atlantic Ocean this is a perfect destination.
To visit Morocco was a dream for many years. Paired with a trip to Spain, Morocco is the perfect side-trip. Extreme temperatures during many months of the year made the choice of where to go an easy one, a beach town. Since surfers always know of the best undiscovered beaches, Larache seemed a good choice. Close enough to Tangiers to take the high-speed ferry but ninety minutes from the big city to be relaxing and experience local culture.
Larache possesses a checkerboard history of occupation by Portuguese, French, Spanish, and Moors leaving a beautiful town full of historic architecture, sumptuous food and a rich cultural heritage.
Larache is a city over 6,000 years old. As a port city it has played an important role in trade and rule in this part of the world as a gateway between Africa and Europe, East and West. This dichotomy makes Larache an intriguing city. Much of the architecture is very old and imbues a sense of history. This blend of historic architecture from many cultures creates a mélange of beautiful buildings to explore.
Five times daily “The Call to Prayer” reminds the faithful to pray and the visitor’s that they are in a foreign culture. While Larache is a vacation spot for Moroccans and Spanish, the dress is conservative for Western women. Keeping shoulders and knees covered saves harassment. A female traveling with a male companion will feel most at ease. This is a Muslim country so avoid public displays of affection. Save those for back in your room.
Larache, while a tourist destination in Morocco, doesn’t have a lot of Western Tourists. This makes the experience feel more real. You won’t be hassled here as in many tourist destinations and will feel safe. Languages spoken include English, Arabic, French and Spanish. Many people visit Larache for its beach, located on the Atlantic, which is accessed via a water taxi.
For the most genuine Moroccan experience stay in the old medina where the central market is held daily, in La Maison Haute (meaning tall Moroccan house), complete with rich colors, handcrafted furniture and two amazing roof decks overlooking the town. It is tucked away inside the market which makes locating it a challenge. But once there a wonderful experience awaits you. You may not want to leave. A new resort, Port Lixus, planned in the nearby town of Lixus, scheduled to open in 2010, will be a fun day trip.
Enjoy the evening “paseo” as the river of people walking through town carries you along without jostling or touching. To be part of the flow is an unusual and peaceful experience. Being buoyed along with all of the other people in town is quite exhilarating. Enjoy the colorful mix of dress, some colorful clothing, some western clothing contrasting with the traditional Moroccan djellaba and Arabic robes. Staying above the old medina is a colorful experience as the market stays open late, vendors cook their food and the aromas of charcoal and cooking meat blend with the cacophony of sounds of many types of music played on boom-boxes. The town stays up late and so do you – it is impossible to sleep with all of the noise and activity. The roof deck becomes a perfect location from which to spy on the goings on of the locals down below and to live vicariously.
The food is a mixture of traditional Moroccan, Mediterranean cuisine and sea food. And you can find pizza with little effort. At the outdoor pizza restaurant located near a park, patrons were openly smoking all manner of cigarettes. Groups of friends were meeting to eat and hang-out together. Traditional Moroccan cuisine of tagines (stews) served over couscous with vegetables and rich flavors and spices colored with saffron are delicious. Moroccan style mint tea with fresh mint brewed in the cup is found in all of the cafes along with Arabic coffee. Fish is fresh and plentiful. Olives are incredible. The market had 20+ varieties of local olives cured in a variety of ways. Most restaurants provide olives as tapas or garnish with meals. If only the variety of Moroccan olives was available in the States.
In the souk you can find leather shoes and traditional slippers but it can be rather challenging if you have large feet. Clothing is colorful, cool and has Arabic design elements. Djellebas come in many styles and fabrics, a practical form of dress in Morocco but probably not the States.
Traditional Moroccan “poufs”, leather ottomans are everywhere and without the stuffing are relatively easy to bring home as a souvenir. Jewelry is intricate and beautiful and in the souk you are allowed to bargain. The retail stores aren’t as flexible in their prices.
Local music includes Arabic and Indian pop music, Arabic fusion, Bollywood and Western Music. Some vendors may let you listen to the music before you buy. This makes excellent souvenirs to enjoy long after you return.
The experience of Morocco will linger in your memory forever. Morocco is like a complex puzzle; in order to understand it you must immerse yourself in its art, cuisine, culture and traditions.
Dress: Women will feel more comfortable and less conspicuous in conservative dress, long skirts or pants, no tight fighting or low necklines, keep collar bone covered and men should not wear shorts and tennis shoes unless you are confined to a resort.
Get used to being stared at: Regardless of how you are dressed you will be stared at in Larache.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon, including holding hands and kissing.
Many languages are spoken in Larache: Arabic, French, and Spanish. Some menus can be found in English.
Currency is the Moroccan dirham. In larger stores credit cards are accepted. ATM’s are available.