Best Things to Do, See, and Eat in North Africa

Cityscape of Cairo City - North Africa

North Africa is a region that captivates with its intricate blend of cultures, stunning natural landscapes, and rich historical world. From the bustling souks of Morocco to the majestic pyramids of Egypt, each country in this vibrant region offers unique adventures and culinary delights.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the best things to do, see, and eat in North Africa, guiding you through its wonders and providing practical travel tips.

Morocco: A Cultural and Natural Haven

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Our Favorite Moroccan Cities

  • Chefchaouen is best known for its charming blue-painted streets. The city’s historic medina and Spanish colonial vibes offer a unique blend of cultures.
  • Fez, on the other hand, is home to a historic medina and the ancient University of Al Quaraouiyine.
  • Marrakech, a former imperial city, boasts bustling souks, palaces, mosques, gardens, and food markets.
  • Essaouira, a coastal town known for its windy beaches, is perfect for surfing and enjoying the local hospitality.

Camel Trekking in the Sahara and Traversing Atlas Passes

For adventure seekers, camel trekking in the Sahara is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Sahara Desert offers stunning landscapes and the opportunity to witness the traditional way of life of the Berber people.

The Atlas Mountains, shared between three Maghreb countries, offer canyons, oases, and rivers for hiking enthusiasts.

For hiking enthusiasts, the Atlas Mountains offer breathtaking trails, including the stunning Cascades d’Ouzoud waterfalls. Traverse the majestic Todra Gorge, a canyon with towering red rock walls that will leave you in awe.

Morocco’s natural beauty is not limited to its deserts and mountains. Todra Gorge, a series of limestone river canyons, is a popular destination for hikers and climbers.

Cascades d’Ouzoud, a set of waterfalls located near the Moyen Atlas village of Tanaghmeilt, is another great destination.

Imilchil Moussem Festival and Barbary Apes

Cultural experiences in Morocco include participating in festivals like the Imilchil Moussem Festival, which offers insights into Morocco’s diverse heritage and traditions. Watching Barbary apes in their natural habitat is another unique experience that Morocco offers.

Beach and Leisure

Unwind on the wind-swept beaches of Essaouira, a charming coastal town known for its laid-back atmosphere and excellent surfing conditions.

For a unique experience, visit Sidi Ifni, a former Spanish enclave that boasts a blend of Moroccan and Spanish colonial architecture.

Algeria: A Blend of Cultural and Natural Attractions

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Historical Landmarks and Monuments

Discover Algeria’s rich history through its impressive landmarks and monuments. Visit the Notre Dame d’Afrique basilica in Algiers, a stunning church that offers panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.

Explore the lush gardens of La Jardin d’Essai du Hamma, a 19th-century botanical garden showcasing a diverse collection of plants from around the world.

Pay your respects at the Memorial du Martyr, a monument dedicated to the Algerian War of Independence, and admire the imposing Fort Santa Cruz, which reflects the country’s Spanish influence.

Natural Beauty

One of Algeria’s great wonders is the Pont Sidi M’Cid bridge, an iconic structure that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. La Rue Didouche Mourad, a picturesque tree-lined street in the heart of Algiers, showcases the city’s charming architecture.

Culinary Journey

Algeria’s cuisine is a fusion of African, Mediterranean, and French influences. You’ll enjoy fresh seafood along the coast and a variety of sweet pastries and desserts.

There are traditional dishes like couscous, a staple made from steamed semolina served with vegetables and meat, and shakshouka, a flavorful dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

Tunisia: Historical Sites, Parks, and Restaurants

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Tunisia is a country that has many things to see, do, and eat, including historical sites, parks, and restaurants.

El Jem Amphitheatre and Carthage Archaeological Park

El Jem Amphitheatre, a well-preserved Roman amphitheater, Carthage Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers insights into Tunisia’s rich history.

Medina of Tunis and Sidi Bou Said

The Medina of Tunis, one of the oldest medinas in Northern Africa, is full of historical and architectural gems. Sidi Bou Said, a picturesque coastal town, is known for its narrow streets, traditional food, and Mediterranean-style architecture.

Djerba Island and Hammamet

Djerba Island, known for its sandy beaches and clear waters, is a popular destination for beach lovers. Hammamet, a coastal town, is known for its pristine coast and vibrant food scene.

Egypt: A Web of History and Culture

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Egypt is a country that offers a rich history and culture, with activities ranging from exploring Cairo’s multicultural history to diving at shipwrecks and staying at luxury resorts in Hurghada.

The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx

The Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are must-see attractions that showcase the mysteries of the ancient rulers.

Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple Complex

Luxor, an open-air museum on the east bank of the Nile River in southern Egypt, is home to the Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple Complex, which tell the stories of Egypt’s pharaohs and gods.

Abu Simbel Temples and the Valley of the Kings

The Abu Simbel Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Valley of the Kings, a burial ground for Egyptian pharaohs are simply amazing.

Nile River Cruise and Khan El-Khalili Bazaar

The Nile River cruise provides a unique perspective on Egypt’s ancient sights, while contemporary experiences like shopping at Khan El-Khalili Bazaar and exploring modern Cairo add to the diverse offerings.

Western Sahara: Seafood, Camel Rides, and Desert Camps

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Western Sahara is home to many attractions, including seafood, camel rides, and desert camps.

Dakhla

Dakhla, known for its seafood, offers outdoor dining on the seafront, where you can eat clams, fish, and other seafood.

Camel Rides and Desert Camps

Camel rides are a relaxing way to see the desert and experience desert life. Camels can also get through areas that are inaccessible by car. You can experience nomadic life by traveling by camel through the desert and spending the night in a nomad camp.

Erg Chebbi and Kasbah Amridil

Erg Chebbi, a popular location known for its sand dunes, is a popular place for overnight camping. Kasbah Amridil, a 17th-century destination, is well-preserved and offers views of the surrounding landscape.

Erg Chigaga and Quad Biking

Erg Chigaga, a sand dune, is ideal for those looking for offbeat experiences. You can rent a quad bike and book a guided tour to explore the dunes, visit local villages, palm groves, and more.

Libya: Historic Sites, Mountains, Castles, and Museums

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Libya has many attractions, including historic sites, mountains, castles, and museums.

Leptis Magna and Roman Sabratha

Leptis Magna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman cities in the world. Roman Sabratha is another great site for history buffs.

Ghadames City and the Arch of Marcus Aurelius

Ghadames City and the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, a monument from the Roman era in Tripoli, are very popular tourist destinations.

Tripoli’s Jamahiriya Museum and Karamanly House Museum

Tripoli’s Jamahiriya Museum, a specialty museum, and Karamanly House Museum, a historic house and museum in Tripoli associated with the Karamanli dynasty, offer insights into Libya’s rich cultural heritage.

Jebel Akhdar and Tripoli’s Red Castle (Assai al-Hamra)

Jebel Akhdar, a mountain range, offers stunning views and hiking opportunities. Tripoli’s Red Castle (Assai al-Hamra), a castle, is a gem for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.

Akakus Mountains and Cyrene

The Akakus Mountains, a mountain range on the border with Algeria, offer stunning views and hiking opportunities. Cyrene, an important place to visit on the east side of Libya, is another must-visit destination.

North African Cuisine: A Blend of Flavors and Techniques

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North African cuisine is a part of the region’s historical and cultural richness, offering a blend of flavors and techniques that have evolved over centuries.

Couscous and Tagine

Couscous and Tagine are emblematic dishes that demonstrate the shared culinary heritage and the regional variations that make each country’s cuisine unique.

B’stilla and Harira

The use of spices, herbs, and the combination of sweet and savory elements, as seen in dishes like B’stilla, showcase the sophistication and complexity of North African and Maghrebi food. Harira, a traditional soup, is a staple in the daily and religious culinary practices of the people.

Mechoui and Ful Medames

The preparation of dishes like Mechoui and the communal aspect of sharing a meal highlight the importance of food in social and cultural expressions of hospitality in North Africa. Ful Medames, a fava bean dish, has historical roots in North Africa dating back to the 4th century.

Shakshouka and Pastilla

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Shakshouka, a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and cumin, is a versatile meal enjoyed across North Africa.

Pastilla, a sweet and sour pie made with pigeon or other meats and encased in pastry, is a delicacy served as an appetizer during significant events.

Traditional Ingredients and Cooking Techniques

Traditional ingredients across North Africa include olives, olive oil, preserved butter, floral essences, preserved lemons, harissa sauce, garlic, couscous, onions, oranges, dates, figs, and lamb.

Cooking techniques such as using the tagine, a special cooking vessel, are central to the cuisine, producing well-spiced stews with tender, slow-braised meats, fish, or vegetables.

Practical Tips for Traveling in North Africa

Travel Essentials

When planning your trip to North Africa, consider the following travel essentials:

  • Pack lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for the warm climate.
  • Bring a scarf or shawl for visiting religious sites to cover your head and shoulders.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your adventures.
  • Ensure you have the necessary visas and travel documents before your trip.
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover any unforeseen circumstances.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit North Africa depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to do. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities, as temperatures are mild and pleasant.
  • Summer (June to August) can be very hot, especially in the desert regions, but it’s a great time for beach vacations along the coast.
  • Winter (December to February) can be cool and rainy in some areas, but it’s a good time for skiing in the Atlas Mountains and exploring the Sahara Desert.

Wrap-Up

North Africa is a region filled with diverse landscapes, from desert plains to bustling cities, offering a range of experiences from cultural retreats to beach holidays.

The region’s cuisine is characterized by its vibrant flavors and use of spices like Ras El Hanout, saffron, and cumin, which create dishes with a delicate balance of sweet and savory.

The food culture is influenced by various factors, including Algeria’s French occupation and Jewish population, and the traditional diets of the Berber tribes, with staples like couscous, olives, and honey.

From Morocco’s Chefchaouen and Fez to Egypt’s Luxor and Cairo, North Africa offers a rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

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