Criss-crossing culture and handful of widely spoken languages make Morocco hard to pin down. This pocket of North Africa is beyond unique, backing onto the Western Sahara yet only an hour ferry trip to Spain. Beyond the mighty desert in the country's south are cities that resist definition, all at once ancient and modern, laidback and frantic.


The urban ensemble of Rabat earns UNESCO status for its shared heritage as both a modern capital and historic city – while there is a definite air of French influence, some parts of town date back to the 12th century. Visit the time-worn medina to browse, buy and absorb Rabat's character, afterwards unwinding in picturesque Oudayas Kasbah amid the whitewashed, blue-hued buildings looking out to the Atlantic.


A launching point for many, the legendary Casablanca is a hive of activity, keeping up appearances as the country's industrial and economic hub. Liberal and slightly tousled, Casa is the most Westernised Moroccan city where young locals soak in the sun at Plage Ain Diab before dancing the sand off at the nearby Corniche nightclubs – an impressive contrast to the grand Hassan II Mosque just 20 minutes along the boulevard.


Inland Morocco is the abode of Marrakech (Marrakesh), existing on the edge of old and new at the foothills of the white-tipped Atlas Mountains. While the modern world intrudes, Berber and Arab tradition remain strong. Work your way through maze-like Djemaa el-Fna marketplace or swap souk stalls for boutiques in the Ville Nouvelle. Marrakech's enigmatic mosques, tombs, museums and gardens warrant at least a few days to truly take in.


Coastal Tangier is possibly the most eclectic Moroccan city of all, a heady mix of North African, Spanish, French and Portuguese culture. If you're ready to rock the Kasbah, take a stroll to the Kasbah Museum, formerly the Sultan's Palace, before enjoying an afternoon aperitif of mint tea and a trip through time at the medina, just off the port that put Tangier on the map.