The Ultimate Guide to Morocco
The Kingdom of Morocco offers a fascinating insight into Berber, African, Arabic and Islamic cultures. This uniquely exotic land, which captures your imagination like no other country, is easily accessible. It may be only 8 miles from Spain yet is literally like stepping into another world.
A hugely diverse landscape – from the wild Atlantic coast, dotted with charming towns with world standard surfing opportunities, to the magical Sahara Desert where you can ride a camel into the dunes to sleep under a blanket of stars and live like a nomad, just for a while. Visiting the Imperial cities, a culture steeped in religious and traditional influences reveals itself, whilst the spectacular Atlas mountain ranges provide excellent opportunities for more active excursions with the chance to witness views seen perhaps once in a lifetime.
The combination provides an intriguing and unforgettable holiday with something to offer everyone – individuals, couples, families and groups. The local people are engagingly friendly and rightly proud of their history and will welcome you to Morocco where you will be spellbound by its stunning beauty and historically important way of life.
It has been said that Moroccan food is “The perfumed soul of our culture”
The fusion of influences from Africa, Arabia and Europe create the distinctive cuisine that Morocco is respected for. Spices and fruits feature extensively and the ingredients are fresh, natural, home-grown and delicately balanced.
Meal time is a very important part of home life and usually begins with olives and bread.
Followed by the classic tagine, a slow cooked stew made in an earthenware dish known by the same name. This is placed in the centre of the table for everyone to share and is often accompanied by couscous, considered a gift from Allah, or a colourful Moroccan salad.
The ubiquitous green tea with mint, referred to as Berber Whiskey, is a ceremony in its own right and you will be welcomed almost everywhere you go with this wonderful Moroccan custom.
Fine fabrics and brightly coloured silks.
The Moroccan custom, still very much alive, is to wear the traditional dress of Morocco. The djellaba, a long, loose, hooded gown is seen everywhere as are the slippers known as babouche. If you tour the country with us you will notice the dress varies from region to region but apart from in the major cities it is always modest but not overly conservative. Most young Moroccan women don’t wear a veil, but they might wear a headscarf.
Muslims effectively keep covered, particularly the women. How this impacts of the tourist is dependent on whether you are in a tourist area / hotel or not. We suggest being respectful in your dress and behaviour in order to avoid offending others. Short and skimpy clothes should be reserved for the beach and it’s useful to carry a scarf which can be draped around you to avoid causing offence in the more rural areas. However, Morocco wholeheartedly values and welcomes tourists and allowances are made.
Sexual harassment is not the problem here that it is in other North African countries and many parts of Southern Europe. Modest dress and respectful behaviour will, in general protect you, but there is no doubt that; in general, harassment of tourists is more persistent than it is in northern Europe or the English-speaking world.
Morocco is known as “The cold country with the hot sun.”
The Moroccan Climate is perfect for year round travel thanks to its wide variety of temperatures. The climate ranges from the snow-capped mountains to the Sahara desert. Daily sunshine hours range from 6 in the winter in the North to 13 hours in the desert.
The north coast has a Mediterranean style climate being generally hot and sunny in the summer months. The hot temperatures cool extensively in the breeze of the Atlantic coast and the climate grows drier and hotter as you move south.
While the cities can get very hot in the height of summer, the right accommodation, an afternoon nap and an air-conditioned car will make it manageable. Day trips to the cooler coast and mountains are easily accessible.
The desert can be enjoyed all year although July and August may be too hot for some. In the winter in the dunes you will enjoy cloudless, blue skies although the nights will be cold.
In Morocco, people greet each other by touching their heart and saying “Salam Aleikum” which means “peace be with you.”
The Moroccan form of Arabic is the main language spoken. In addition Tarifit, Tamazaight and Tashlhyt are the three Berber dialects used in different regions of the country. French is also widely spoken and less so, English.
A few useful phrases in Arabic will be hugely welcomed and people will be very friendly and helpful, as a result.
|You are welcome||Marhba bikoum|
Religion in Morocco
In Morocco the pre-Islamic Berber beliefs have blended with Islam to produce a unique belief system.
Morocco is a Sunni Muslim country with small pockets of Christians and Jews. Morocco and its Malakite rite of Islam is the most welcoming Muslim country in the world and Moroccans are extremely hospitable to non Muslims, but, with a couple of exceptions, they don’t allow them access to Islamic religious monuments.
One of the wonderful experiences of your visit to Morocco will be to hear the call to prayer. The adhān recited by the muezzin in the mosque five times a day summons Muslims for prayer.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims spend each day during this month in a complete fast by abstaining from food, drink and other physical needs during daylight hours. It is a time to purify the soul and focus on the practice of self-sacrifice. This is a time to re-evaluate lives, to make peace and to strengthen ties with family and friends.
The fast is broken with a harira, a rich lentil soup, chebakiyas (cookies), eggs, dates, juice and milk. Then later comes the main meal, after which locals walk outside with their families, to socialise in the cooler air.The atmosphere is very festive and the souks stay open later. Tourists will not be unduly affected but should not eat or drink in open public spaces and you will need to be understanding if service is a little slower than usual.
In 2016 Ramadan will run from 6th June to 5th July.
The Moroccan Dirham (MAD or DH)
Like Cuba, Vietnam and Tunisia, Morocco has a closed currency. This means that you cannot take local currency outside of Morocco. It is also difficult to obtain Dirhams at all but the largest airports. So you may not be able to exchange money before leaving home and you are not allowed to take more than 1000 Dirhams into or out of the country. However this will not present you with a problem as there are many ATM machines at the airports and in the towns. Foreign currency may be exchanged at the Bureau de Change at the airport on arrival, at a bank or possibly at your hotel. Most hotels and shops will accept major credit cards. Even in the markets, when buying larger items, cards may be accepted.
Please note Travellers Cheques are not used in Morocco.
Don’t forget to inform your bank that you are going to Morocco to prevent a security stop being placed on your account when you try to use your card on holiday.
North African equivalent of a Turkish Bath
A Hammam is a culturally important part of every Moroccan’s life. Men and women (fully segregated) will visit at least once a week. Ritualistic washing, massaging and laughter and conversation make these rich social places.
Consisting of three common rooms, cold, warm and hot, you use a bucket, exfoliating glove and black tar soap to wash and be scrubbed with the whole experience lasting for hours, leaving you very, very relaxed.
Many hotels and riads offer their own sanitised and sophisticated version of a traditional hammam. Expect to be massaged with essential oils in an elegant, private setting.
Shopping in Morocco
To shop is to haggle!
Haggling (debating and negotiating price) is almost unavoidable in Morocco. Many Europeans are uncomfortable with this and you can always ask your Driver Guide to take you somewhere with fixed prices. However – we would encourage you to have a go. Not only will you find some amazing bargains (dependent on your haggling skills) but you are also entering into the spirit of the way of life here. Haggling means that you take time to engage and browse and often you will be served refreshments at the same time.
We would suggest the following – always try to remain good natured about the process. Don’t begin negotiations unless you are sure you are interested in purchasing. Perhaps start at a third of the asking price and be happy to pay half the asking price. If you feel strong willed and walk away from something you really want – don’t worry – it’s probably not over yet as the shop keeper will quite likely come after you and offer another price.
If you are not sure what a fair price would be, ask your Majestic Morocco Tours Driver Guide and he will give you some indication. Our drivers will also encourage you to avoid certain “tourist shops” and take you somewhere where the quality will be higher and the price will be lower.
That said – Morocco is a shopper’s paradise. Whilst you might be baffled about why everyone wants to sell you a carpet when your whole house has laminate floors, the fact is Moroccan carpets are stunning in terms of craftsmanship, history and tradition. By all means tell your Driver Guide if you don’t want to be “sold a carpet” but if you go through the experience at least once you will come away enriched with cultural information.
Leather – we all wear it but do you have any idea how it is traditionally produced? It’s an amazing story told so well in Fez but also in Taroudant. The leather you buy in Morocco should feel like nothing you have ever felt before. Exceptionally soft and comfortable.
Foodstuffs – Olive Oil, Argan Oil, Saffron, as well as nuts and spices. Majestic Morocco Tours loves cooking and we can help you find the highest quality, responsibly produced, value for money products. Cutting out the middle man and going directly to the small scale producers that the local people favour. Did you know – Moroccan men use saffron to help them keep their wives “happy”, goats climb trees to eat Argan nuts and you can buy the finest quality extra virgin “Oil Olive” directly from your Driver Guide? (please order in advance)
Arts, crafts, wooden items, jewellery, ceramics, cloth, lamps . . . the list goes on and on.
Safety in Morocco
Is Morocco Safe?
Morocco today remains one of a handful of continuously stable countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The monarchy ruling this Kingdom’s is strong and very popular. The relationships and strategic partnerships between Morocco and Europe and the USA help to foster the continuance of Morocco’s stability over the longer term.
Politically this is a stable country which is peacefully progressing towards modernising democratic reforms. The current King, Mohamed VI has a strong vision for Morocco’s future. Under his leadership, there seems to be a tendency towards more democratic and liberal values in Morocco
Moroccans practice a moderate, peaceful and tolerant form of Islam and any incidents of extremism are severely punished. Morocco has been praised internationally for their comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, which is a model for combating terrorism in the region and around the world. They are cited as not only identifying and neutralizing existing terrorist threats through traditional law enforcement and security measures, but are also engaged in preventative measures to discourage terrorist recruitment through political reform and policy measures. King Mohamed VI leads this effort by unambiguously condemning terrorism and those who espouse or conduct terrorism; he recently called terrorism something “alien to Islam and contrary to religion and law.”
The Ebola outbreak in other parts of the African continent is a threat taken seriously by Morocco and they have taken extreme measures to prevent any threat of the virus entering Morocco. All flights to infected countries are on hold indefinitely and they cancelled the arrangement to host the FIFA Africa Cup to avoid Africans from infected countries entering Morocco.
Tourism is an important part of Morocco’s economy and there is an effective registration and licencing system in place for guides. Tourist police are present in every city and crime is low, commonly confined to petty theft on public transport.
What you need to know before travelling to Morocco
Passports / Visas
Check the current validity of your passport. It will need to be valid for a minimum of 6 months following your departure date.
Ensure your passport has blank visa pages. These will be stamped on arrival and departure from Morocco.
Ensure you have a return ticket.
Visa requirements are country dependent (please check this information with your embassy or by using www.visahq.co.uk) but, for EU subjects, you only need to complete the landing card to obtain a Tourist Visa. Nationals of the countries below do not need a visa to stay in Morocco for up to three months. On your flight you should be given a landing card to complete for Passport Control – you will need your accommodation name and address. If the airline does not supply this you can also pick up a form in the Passport Control Hall.
|National of||Visa Required?|
|Australia & New Zealand||No|
Please discuss immunisation with your doctor in advance of your trip. However mandatory vaccines in Morocco are not required.
You are strongly advised to take out your own comprehensive travel insurance.
Morocco operates on 220v 50Hz, the same as the rest of Europe, but different from North America. The sockets are usually the same as those in Europe but different from Britain or the US. So if you are coming from the UK or USA you will need a converter / adaptor. There are two different types of electrical sockets commonly found in Morocco. Older sockets are two pin, similar to, the CEE 7/16 europlug. The newer type will have a grounded version of the two-pin socket in which an earth pin sticks out from the socket, CEE 7/5. Unless your adapter has a hole to accept the earth pin you WILL NOT be able to physically insert the adapter into the socket.
There is good network phone coverage in Morocco. Contact your phone company before hand to ensure your phone is set up to use abroad and remember to turn off roaming or you risk paying a fortune in data charges.
There are internet cafes in most parts of Morocco and many riads and cafes also have wifi.
Keyboards in Morocco are set up in the French style which is not the QWERTY layout.