Golf has soared in popularity in the Middle East and North Africa, from Algeria to Qatar. But one country in the region has a sizable head start: Morocco.
The sport has been here since the British exported it in the early years of the 20th century. But it gained momentum in the midcentury, thanks to King Hassan II — ruler from 1961 to 1999 — who was golf-crazy and saw the sport as a tool to help his country enter a market-based economy.
The king built several courses crafted by some of the world’s top designers, and in 1971 created a golf tournament now called Trophée Hassan II, a permanent part of the European Tour.
The country now has more than 40 highly regarded courses, and both their number and popularity are growing fast. It doesn’t hurt that golf is at the center of Morocco’s latest tourism push and that Prince Moulay Rachid, Hassan II’s son and the younger brother of King Mohammed VI, is an avid golfer. Or that the weather is sunny more than 300 days a year.
Along or near the country’s courses — which can be found near its coast, mountains, or popular cities — are some of the most beautiful homes in the region. Unlike many newer residences in places like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Egypt, which often showcase western styles and aspirations, these homes, whether traditional or modern, call on classic Moroccan motifs and approaches.
Inspired by their older counterparts inside city centers, they often take on sturdy earth-toned walls and subtle abstract forms. They are full of vivid colors, detailed ornament, hand-finished woodwork, ceramic, metal, and textile. They’re frequently softened with lush plantings, fountains, screens, shaded patios, and dappled inner courtyards. And their designs are often a hybrid of Islamic, Berber, Moorish, and French styles.