Monthly Archives: March 2009

A History Tour of Moroccan Dates – 45 Varities & Delicious Recipes

dates

Dates have played an important part in Moroccan cuisine for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence suggests the cultivation of dates all the way back in 6,000 BC in Arabia. The date palm was a major source of life for thousands of people throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa and is said to have provided people with thousands of different uses including thread, mattresses, lumber, rope, and many other household and dietary uses. Dates are also very important in Islam with the date palm regarded as the “tree of life” as mentioned in the Story of Genesis and also eaten to ceremoniously break fast during Ramadan.

date-thinning

Moroccan Dates

Because of its arid deserts, Morocco is the perfect place for cultivating dates and today boasts over 100 different varieties of dates with 45 of those in the south of Morocco alone. Of the many different varieties of dates the most popular are the Medjool, Algerian stuffed date, and the Halawi date. The Draa, or the Draa Valley, in Morocco is known as the “Country of the Dates” as its hot arid temperatures offer the date palm the perfect climate to thrive.

Medjool Date

The largest and perhaps the best-known variety of the Moroccan dates is the Medjool date. Often referred to as “the king of dates” it was once reserved only for Moroccan royalty and their guests. They were, and still are, considered a precious confection and are typically the most expensive of the date varieties because their cultivation is more labor intensive. The date has a soft wrinkled flesh that gives way to a firm meaty center. When ripe, the date turns a dark brown color and with hints of wild honey, caramel, and cinnamon it is no wonder this date is considered a gourmet dessert.

In the 1920’s date palms in Morocco were threatened with extinction by a disease, to save their dates Morocco sent eleven date palms to the USA. Nine of the eleven palms survived and are responsible for the millions of Medjool Dates that can be found throughout California and in parts of Arizona.

Algerian Stuffed Date

The Deglet Noor date, originally from Algeria, are the dates commonly used in Moroccan stuffed date recipes. Primarily an export crop, these dates are semi-dry with a firm texture and a sweet and delicate flavor. Ranging from a light red to amber color these dates actually make up 90 percent of the Californian date crop and can be found in many Moroccan tagine recipes.

Halawi Date

The Halawi Date is a soft wrinkled date with a meaty flesh and a sweet caramel flavor. While not as large or as favored as the Medjool Date the Halawi Date is still considered a delicacy and because of its soft sweet flesh and high sugar content it is often served as a dessert at Moroccan meals.

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Moroccan Date Festival

Every October in the Moroccan town of Erfoud a three-day festival celebrating the date is held. The date is the main livelihood for the people of Erfoud so it is no wonder that this festival focuses on the celebration of the date harvest and prayers for a successful harvest to come. Endless music, dancing, and of course eating dates spans the three day celebration where locals and tourists alike gather together under the swaying palm trees.

Moroccan date recipes

Dates play an extremely important part in Moroccan cuisine and are used in both sweet and savory meals. Below, find the recipes for a Beef tagine that features honey and dates and also a sweet recipe for stuffed dates, enjoy!

Moroccan Beef tagine with dates and honey

Ingredients

3 lbs beef, trimmed and cubed

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1 lb of onion, peeled and quartered

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 lb of carrots, peeled and chopped

9 ounces of canned tomatoes

4 ounces of dates, pitted

6 ounces of prunes, pitted

2 tablespoons of honey

½ pint of beef stock

1 cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons of cumin powder

2 teaspoons of cilantro powder

1 teaspoon of ginger

1 teaspoon of turmeric

2 ounces of toasted sliced almonds

2 ounces of fresh cilantro chopped

Directions

  1. Par-boil the carrots for 3-5 minutes, at the same time pre-heat your tagine or croc pot.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until they have browned slightly then put them into the tagine.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the almonds and fresh cilantro, into the tagine and mix well.
  4. Put the beef into a pan and sear them until brown, add beef to the tagine.
  5. Cook the tagine in a hot oven for 6-10 hours or, if using a croc pot, cook on high setting for same amount of time.
  6. Serve over couscous and sprinkle with sliced almonds and fresh cilantro.

Stuffed Dates

stuffed-dates

Ingredients

375 grams of dates, pitted

1 cup of peeled ground almonds

1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar

1 egg white

Directions

Mix the ground almonds, sugar and egg white together. Put this mixture in a skillet and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes sticky. Add 1 tsp water and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the flame and let cool for several minutes. With this mixture stuff the dates and roll in confectioners’ sugar. Serve while the filling is hot or at room temperature.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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A Taste of Morocco: Vegetarian Dining The Amanouz Cafe

amanouz cafeAfter reading all about the traditional cuisine and sweet mint tea of Morocco I was more than ready to experience it myself when I headed to Amanouz Café in Northampton, Massachusetts. Located on Main Street this unassuming café specializes in the mouth-watering aromas and sumptuous tastes of Moroccan cuisine transporting it from the North African Sahara to this small New England town.

As I made my way to Amanouz Café on a sunny March afternoon I started wondering if I would be able to find anything on the menu that I would actually be able to eat. As a non meat-eater I have found myself in many situations at restaurants where I am forced to nibble on a few lettuce leaves or find myself, once again, ordering the tuna melt because every other option on the menu is loaded with meat. Having read up on Moroccan cuisine I knew that many of the dishes were stews that focused on meats such as chicken or beef and that lamb was often the king of the Moroccan table. Needless to say, Amanouz Café was not about to disappoint me and I walked away from my lunch incredibly full and tremendously satisfied.

Amanouz Cafe

vegetarian tajine Sitting at one of the small tables in the casual dining area at Amanouz Café I let the soothing Moroccan music wash over me as I surveyed the scene. The walls of the café are lined with the work of local artists and a small bookcase contains pictures and informational books on Mediterranean and Moroccan cultures. Having arrived just before the lunch rush the atmosphere is calm and hushed with many customers sitting alone with a book or a laptop, sipping on their tea and enjoying a moment’s peace. The kitchen is at the back of the dining area, allowing patrons to see and smell their meals being prepared with a large counter sectioning it off from the dining area. The counter itself is covered with sweet Mediterranean and Moroccan treats, from honey-filled pastries to pistachio nut-covered cakes. The aromas wafting from the kitchen remind my stomach how hungry it is and I turn my attention to the menu…

A Vegetarian Moroccan Meal

To my surprise, and delight, the menu at Amanouz Café was full of vegetarian options and vegetarian versions of classic Moroccan meals. What I didn’t realize is that meat is often a specialty item, especially for Moroccan peasants, and so many dishes featured vegetables and couscous with fish rather than meat. Fresh vegetables, herbs, breads, fish, couscous, and olives are main staples in Moroccan cuisine which means that as a vegetarian I still get to enjoy the traditional, and delicious, Moroccan meals.

Moroccan Mint Tea

The tea came served in a traditional metal tea pot with a water glass that had fresh mint leaves at the bottom. The sweet minty flavor of the tea was absolutely delicious and made me understand the reason for its popularity in Morocco.

Moroccan Sardine Salad

The Sardine salad came next, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, a hard boiled egg and peppers topped with a Moroccan salsa, fresh sardine fillets, and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Delicious, fresh, and simple, the perfect start to my Moroccan meal.

Moroccan Pizza

Next came the Amanouz pizza, a Moroccan twist on an Italian classic. This individual sized pizza, made on Moroccan pita bread rather than pizza crust, had an ingenious assortment of roasted peppers, Swiss cheese, tomatoes, onions, and olives; needless to say it wasn’t left sitting on the plate for very long!

Traditional Moroccan Lentil soup

The soup of the day at Amanouz Café was traditional Moroccan Lentil soup. A thick, dark, and rich soup chock full of tender lentils and finished off with a swirl of olive oil. The soup made a surprisingly delicious, and extremely filling, contribution to the meal.

Tagine Fish

To my delight I found that not all tagine dishes in Moroccan cuisine focused on meat, this tagine was a stew that consisted of rice, tomatoes, grilled green peppers, and finished with large balls of fish meat on the top. The fish balls were topped with slices of fresh lemon, grated carrots, and fresh parsley and cilantro. It was presented in a traditional tagine by the server who ceremoniously took off the top of the dish allowing the amazing aromas to waft out.

Moroccan Couscous

To accompany the tagine I had a side order of traditional Moroccan couscous. The couscous was light and fluffy and seasoned with just enough salt and pepper and finished off with a sprinkling of parsley. It made a great addition to the fish tagine but was also delicious enough to eat on its own. It is quite obvious why Moroccans serve couscous at every meal, as a versatile and delicious dish couscous can make a great addition to any meal or be a meal by itself.

My vegetarian Moroccan adventure came to a close with more Moroccan mint tea and a few nibbles of the delicious sweet pastries from the counter. Extremely full and more than satisfied by my delicious lunch I walked away from Amanouz Café that afternoon already planning what to order during my next visit. With so many delicious vegetarian options I was happy to know that I could enjoy traditional Moroccan cuisine in such a wonderful atmosphere so close to home.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Travel to Rabat’s 14th Jazz Au Chella Jazz Festival – A Moroccan Celebration

jazz-festival-rabat-3Last years cries from the violin still echo off the ancient Roman ruins and the night’s faint stars add to the enchanting song. For the last thirteen years Jazz au Chella has made its home in the thick fortified walls of Morocco’s own capital city, Rabat.

The Jazz Festival of Rabat serves as an annual mixer for world classical fusions and ancient Berber rhythms in efforts of uniting Europe with Morocco. The festival is programed and organized from combined efforts from the Delegation of the European Commission, the Ministry of Culture, the Embassies and Cultural Institutes of the European Unions member states with partneerships with the Wallonia-Brussels Delegation and the Wilaya de Rabat-Sale-Zemmour-Zaer.

jazz-festival-rabat

This five day jazz celebration features artists from over 15 different countries each with their own unique flair and specialties. A harmony of talented musicians join together to fill the city with the melodic rhythm of flutes, trumpets, strings and percussion. Crowded streets pulse with energy and spectators join hand and hand as they take part in a cultural exchange.

Rabat

Situated between the Atlantic and the Bou Regreg, Rabat draws cultural influences from across the distant shores. The old port town is also famous for its galleries, museums and theater. The population of Rabat is just over two million, making it one of the largest cities in Morocco. As a city that draws a large amount of tourism, Rabat is a must see for all visiting Morocco, and what better than to watch the city come alive during the Jazz au Chella.jazz-festival-rabat-22

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Travel Morocco on the Silverscreen: The Top 15 Films Made in Morocco

kundunFor years producers have been lured to Morocco’s captivating culture, magnificence and diversity. It has been praised for its varied terrain of winding streets, Mediterranean coastal towns, lush river valleys, snow capped peaks, sandy deserts and imperial cities. Morocco’s moderate and rather dry climate has contributed to the sets of many well acclaimed films. Since 1987 more than 500 motion pictures have been produced in Morocco including, movies, television shows, commercials, and documentaries.

Top 15 Films

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  • Body of Lies
  • Hideous Kinky
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Jesus of Nazareth
  • Cleopatra (the French version)
  • The Sheltering Sky
  • Kundun
  • Gladiator
  • Black Hawke Down
  • Alexander The Great
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Sahara
  • Babel
  • The Last Testament

A variety of different directors have flooded Morocco. Ridley Scott, who is know for his keen eye and stylish detail has ventured to the Sahara heat for a number of his recent films including Black Hawke Down, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Body of Lies. Other names like Breck Eisner, Gillies Mackinnon, Robert Aldrich, Henry Hathaway, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, John Hutson, Michael Douglas and David Lean producer of Oscar-winning epic tale Lawrence of Arabia have found Morocco to be well fit for their stage.

the-sheltering-sky-2jpeg1Filming Locations

Films are produced all throughout the 37 provinces of Morocco, in a wide range of cities. Babel was filmed in Casablanca, but surprisingly enough the film Casablanca was filmed entirely in Hollywood. Aït Benhaddou is a hot spot for filming. Five of the Top 15 films were filmed in the rustic sandstone city including: Sodom and Gomorrah, The Sheltering Sky, Jesus of Nazareth, Lawrence of Arabian and Kundun. Among other cities Agadir, Cassablanca, Erfoud, Essauiora, Fes, Meknes, Volubilis, Marrakech, Rabat, Rif and The Atlas Mountains are the most filmed.

babeljpegMorocco’s Own

Not only does Morocco serve as a host to a plethora of widely acclaimed films, it also has a booming industry of its own. Three of Morocco’s current films are shining limelight in the Pan African Film and Television Festival.  Since 2000 Marrakech has held the international acclaim for motion pictures, the Moroccan Film Festival. The festivals hosted by Prince Moulay Rachid and it is one of the biggest events dedicated to film in Morocco. Also in Morocco is the Atlas Film Studio is also a home to a variety of different sets a major tourist attraction for movie buffs.

alexander-the-greatjpeg

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Shopping Tour – Travel the Souks Of Morocco To Discover The Finest Leather work, Carpets, Pottery, Embroideries & Basketwork

Souk

Shopping in Morocco is a unique and exciting experience. No visit to Morocco would be complete without exploring the medinas (walled cities with maze-like streets) of Marrakesh, Fès and Ouarzazate  . Unlike shopping in the West, where people tend to visit local retailers, in Morocco a shopping trip involves visiting the old medina, and various souks  (markets) within them that sell specific goods ranging from clothing, to fabrics, shoes, food and carpets. Since most foreign currencies are strong in comparison to the Moroccan dirham, you can go on an extensive shopping spree and purchase various local Moroccan handicrafts such as Moroccan leather work, carpets, jewelry of silver, gold and copper along with ancient embroideries and basketwork.

souk

Souk Quarter

Souks and markets are a major feature in Moroccan life, and among the country’s greatest attractions. Each major city and town in Morocco has a special souk quarter. Villages in the country side also have local souks which are usually held one day each week in an open field or outside the towns kasbah walls. Large cities like Marrakesh and Fès have labyrinths of individual souks (each filling a street or square that is devoted tone particular craft). The city of Marrakesh, Fès and Ouarzazate are famous for their beautiful souks- which are Morocco’s posh and huge shopping centers. Some of the best buys in Morocco are dates, leather ware, handicrafts, carpets, pottery, wood carvings, traditional dress (djellabas) and various food products.

Daily Destination

Souks and markets are also a daily destination where locals shop for fresh meat, vegetables, household goods and other items that Americans for example, purchase at Wal-Mart or Target. In the country side, you can find large numbers of weekly souks (markets). A new alternative to souks in Morocco is Marjane, a Moroccan hypermarket chain, found in large cities like Marrakesh, Casablanca, Agadir, Fès, Tétouan and Tangier . Marjane is the “Moroccan Target” and sells a wide variety of items such as food, clothing, liquor, electronics and other household goods. Whether or not you are a big shopper, visiting a souk is a cultural experience that should not be missed on a trip to Morocco.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Bread Baking Tour To Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains With A Berber Family

bread-cooking-on-rocks-with-fire

Akin to Spain, bread  in Morocco is a key component of any Moroccan diet. There is an ancient proverb, “manage with bread and butter until God sends honey”. This ancient saying affirms that there is availability of bread to all groups in Morocco. For example, the Berbers of the Rif Mountains sustained themselves with bread made from Barely. While present times afford more variety in Moroccan’s diets and bread can be supplemented with potatoes, tomatoes, pepper, fruit or nuts, bread still plays an important role in the lives of Moroccans.  In cities, Moroccans can be spotted daily in the early parts of the morning carrying bags of assorted breads that they picked up at the market. In villages women can be found baking bread from scratch in earthen ovens.

Lunch

Traditionally, Moroccans eat three meals a day, with lunchtime remaining the most important as all family members still come home from school or work to eat together.At each of these meals, one person is designated to distribute the bread. 

Community Ovens

Historically, bread has played such an important role in the life of Moroccans. Until the 1980’s, almost all Moroccan families made their own bread. The Moroccan child wearing a padded hat would walk to the Fran, carrying a gssa or a red pan filled with yeast on top of their heads. Frans, strategically located community ovens, were found in every neighborhood, and baked dozens of loafs at once. These Frans can still be found and are utilized by the Fassis (local people) in the old Medina of Fes. As there were so many breads baking together, anything placed in the oven was marked with a rubber stamp.

Buying Bread

Today, a faster paced lifestyle in Morocco and an increasing number of households having two working parents has resulted in less use of the Fran. Regardless, if you find yourself being one of the lucky visitors to receive a dinner invitation from a native Moroccan, rest assured that the bread you try will be delicious. Enter any souk during the morning (a Moroccan shopping street in the medina) and you will surely feel a longing to come face to face with the mouthwatering aromas traveling through the air and playing flirtatiously with your sense of smell.  

Bread Types 

Upon entering a bakery, you will be confronted with many choices of breads usually made from coarse barely, flour, wheat, sorghum, or millet. The bread bakers are usually women who are expert in kneading the dough until it is evenly distributed and enriched with herbs, spices, proteins, and other goodies. The breads come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Some are leavened and others are flat and thin, being shaped into long and crispy donuts or Therfist -unleavened bread in sheets. The most common breads are heavy, spicy, soft crusted and highly absorbent as they are meant to be dipped into a Tajine or Tagine, a traditional stew or sauce. Examples of such breads include Tagella, a special bread made by the Tuaregs of the Sahara or ‘Blue people’. The bread is baked on hot sand. Also popular is Khboz Milka-a flattened circular dough cooked until brown on both sides. If you would like to enjoy an everyday bread, try your hand at Batbout. This tasty bread, best described as a soft chewy bagel or a thick pita, is eaten everyday expect during Ramadan. Some of the most exotic bread making experiences can be found in Morrocco’s Middle Atas Mountains with Berber families.

Baking

There is an ancient tradition of bread baking on rocks that dates back centuries and is still common among Berber families today. The process begins with the kneading of dough until it is brick-thick and then stuffing it with fresh herbs, fat, spices and chilies. Once the bread has been stuffed, it is placed on a round, short stack of rocks that have been heated evenly by brush fire. The bread is then covered with brush which is burned. Within 20 minutes after it is completely cooked, the brush is cleared off. The bread is then cooled with a whisk and served amidst mountain views and clear skies. This type of thick and wonderfully hearty dish – Berber Mountain bread- is akin to the taste of stuffed pizza.

Bakers

The bread is traditionally made by those Berbers of the Middle and High Atlas, who still retain a Nomadic lifestyle. For those who want to participate in this unique bread making experience it can be included as part of a tour in Southern Morocco whereby one discovers ancient Kasbahs, the Draaa Valley and life in a Berber village through Travel Exploration. 

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Nass El Ghiwane – A Musical Tour De Force & The Rolling Stones of Africa

Nass-el-Ghiwane

Nass El Ghiwane appeared on the scene in the late 1960’s in Morocco. Whenever mentioned in the Western literature, they are referred to as The Rolling Stones , as American Producer Martin Scorsese  once put it. They have been the most politicized of all the chaabbi-fusion groups and placed great emphasis on their lyrics, which are renowned throughout Morocco and North Africa. 

Nass-el-Ghiwane

History

Nass El Ghiwane are living legends who merged the rich repertoire of traditional Moroccan music with lyrics that sited political and social injustices. The group was formed by four young men from the poor district of Hay el Mohammadi in industrial Casablanca. Laarbi Batma (who came from the Chaouia region to Kariane Jdid) met Boujemaa Hagour (who came from the Tata (Morocco) region to Derb Moulay Cherif) through their mutual friend Omar Essayed.

Nass-el-Ghiwane

While performing the piece “Al Majdoub” in the theater troupe, Tayeb Essidiki, for Parisian crowds in the summer of 1969, they had the idea of using traditional music as a way to express themselves onstage. Hence Nass El Ghiwane was born. In a time where the only music available was middle-eastern pop music that sang about love, Nass el Ghiwane had prepared something new for Morocco: they mixed the Sufi chants and litanies of Zaouias (brotherhoods) like the Hmadcha and Aissawa with the elegant colloquial poetry of Melhoun adding to it the ancient rhythms of the Berbers and the healing dances of the mystical Gnaouas. Morocco just receiving its independence from the French and its population, still uncertain of what the future was hiding, was shocked and moved by the texts of Nass el Ghiwane: corruption, injustice and degradation of society. They were the first Moroccan band to mix such a diverse and rich heritage and to speak their minds even about the most forbidden subjects.

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Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Google on call Travel Exploration at (917)703-2078 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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