Morocco occupies Africa’s far Northwest corner, lying less than (15 km) south of Spain, just across the narrow of Gibraltar. The ease with which it can be reached from cities throughout Europe and beyond has helped to make it a popular destination, and today it provides many visitors with their first introduction to Africa and Europe, Islam and Christianity, modernity and tradition, and perhaps most fancifully, between the pragmatic west and the exotic, romantic East-Morocco which the country is famed-the chaotic bustle of the medina, the great sweeps of Lawrence of Arabesque sand dunes-are often surprised by the sheer variety of experiences it has to offer.
Morocco has something for everyone: wide sandy beaches to relax on, plenty of history and culture to explore, great scenery in the plains and the high Atlas and Middle Atlas Mountain range, and fine restaurant dining, especially in the fashionable cities of Marrakech and Fes, plus accommodations that run the gamut from atmospheric Moroccan houses with courtyards(known as Riad) to luxury, top-name hotels in today’s Morocco, modern influence combine with the historic cultures of a wide mix of ethnic groups to give rise to great diversity.
The native people of North Africa( often referred to as Berbers by outsiders), who for millennia have inhabited the continent from Morocco’s Atlantic coast to Egypt’s western desert, have been joined by Arabs from the Arabian peninsula, Africans from area South of the Sahara, and thousands of Muslims and Jews who fled from Andalusia in southern Spain during period of unrest, today’s population is an eclectic blend of genes, cultures, cuisines, and languages, most joined by the national religion of Islam. This rich cultural legacy is in evidence everywhere.
The country’s official language is Arabic, but you may also hear people speaking French (particularly in the business community), Spanish (Morocco has two Spanish enclaves on its coast), and various distinct but related the centuries by the native people against stiff linguistic competition.
Morocco is an Islamic country, and the vast majority of its people are Muslims. Muslims pray five times a day, and you may be woken by the call to pray. Ramadan is the most important time of the year. It lasts a month; its timing varies from one year to the next based on the Islamic lunar calendar. Followers fast from sunrise to sunset, and you may find that some restaurants are closed during the day.
Moroccan culture generally varies from one city to another, or from one village to another, for example in the clothing styles, crafts, and cuisines, but also in the Berber-and Arabic-influenced music. Everyday life is accompanied by music, and the frenetic atmosphere of the souks, which is enlivened by rhythmic African and Arab pop sounds that gives a lift to every step taken within the labyrinths of goods, in the cities of Meknes, Fes, and the Northern coastal cities of Tanger and Tetouan, people favor a classical style of music that has its origins in Andalusia.
Festivals are held throughout the year, and these, too, feature various types of music, among them the rhythmic daqqa. In rural areas, Berber musical styles are popular, such as the ahouach, which tells stories of local life accompanied by tambourine sounds, while chaabi, a genre that has a more western sound, is all the rage in the cities.
The currency of Morocco is the dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes.
You will need to exchange your foreign currency into dirhams at a bureau de change or a bank when you arrive, and then change any remaining notes or coins on departure. It is strictly forbidden to import or export dirhams.
How to get to Morocco?
Entry Formalities – Passports & Visas
For most visitors to Morocco, all that required is full passport valid for a minimum of six months after the day of entry into Morocco. your passport should always be stamped with the day you entered the country at passport control.
Check that this has been done before leaving the airport, as visitors have experienced problems trying to leave Morocco without this stamp.
Lone parents travelling with children should take documentary evidence of their parental status to avoid running the risk of being refused entry or, if already in the country, refused permission to leave Morocco with the children.
These measures are in place to combat human trafficking, which has been required for visitors from any of European Union member states. The United States or Canada.
Make photocopies of your visa, insurance documents, and passport, and carry them separately in case you lose the originals.
People from almost any country, in fact, can stay for up to three months with just a valid passport.
As Visa requirements can change at short notice, however, do check before departure. Anyone wishing to stay longer than 90 days must make an application for an extension to the police.
You must always enter the country through an officially recognized entry point, such as an airport or seaport.
You may not enter across Morocco’s border with Algeria.
What to take?
Be sure to pack clothing that is suitable for the nature of your stay. Evenings on the coast and higher altitudes can get quite cold, so you will need a sweater or light jacket for warmth. Sunscreen and a hat are essential. Although such precaution are obvious during the summer months, it is important not to underestimate the strength of the sun even in winter.
This is especially true if you are hiking in the clear air of the high atlas. In the cities, you may not need layers specifically for warmth, but you will need them for etiquette.
Morocco is an Islamic country and, while attitudes toward western dress are becoming increasingly relaxed religious customs still hold sway for many, particularly outside the tourist resorts and cities of the North. Some Moroccan women wear head scarves according to tradition, but many prefer no to. It is not necessary ta wear head scarves. Nonetheless, visitors should be mindful that they will be treated more respectfully by the locals if they wear appropriate clothing. Shoulders should always be covered; women should not wear short pants and a long sleeved shirt. Dressy or smart casual clothing is required in the more expensive restaurants.
Items such as hiking gear can be bought in the major cities. But for the challenging trails of the Atlas Mountains, you would be better of bringing your own-in boots and other equipment.
It is a good idea to pack enough prescribed medicines to last the full length of your stay. It is also advisable to pack them in your hand luggage and to take a doctor’s note explaining what the pills are in case you are questioned at airport security.
You might consider bringing a first-aid kit and water purification tablets if you are planning trips to isolated areas. Those who are travelling with babies are advised to bring any formula milk or food they might need with them because, although these items are readily available in supermarkets, the brands will almost certainly be different than those your child is used to.
Taking out adequate insurance before you leave for Morocco, is strongly advised. If you need to seek medical or dental care during your stay, you will almost certainly expected to pay the full amount for your treatment at the time and then claim the amount back from your insures.
Be sure to tell your insurance company of any problems as soon as possible, not when you return home, and make sure you have sufficient cash, traveller’s checks, or credit cards, with you to cover your stay, and any unforeseen expenses.
To make an insurance claim, you will need to supply a receipt from your medical or dental provider. Be ware that some insurance policies exclude what they term “ dangerous “ activities, like white-water rafting, skiing, and mountaineering, and you may need to make provision for this should you be planning to engage in these activities. One thing to consider is the cost of getting home in the event of an accident, which can be especially expensive. Similarly, if you are the victim of theft and report it to your hotel or police, always keep a copy of any documentation for your insurance company.
When to visit?
Morocco has such a varied climate that choosing when to go depends largely on the activities you plan to do. Ideal temperatures for mountain trek would be quite different from those hoped by visitors on a beach holiday, for example. In general, spring and fall are ideal for coastal and city visits, as well as treks into the mountains where in winter routes can be impassable because of snow. The Mediterranean and Atlantic resorts are popular in the summer months, while the inland saharian regions experience temperatures above 40c in summer, with cooler spring, fall, and winter months.
Morocco is one Greenwich Mean Time (five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time), with the exception of the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta which are on Spanish time (six hours ahead of eastern standard time).
Electricity: 220 volts. The plugs used in Morocco are the same round two-pin type used in most of Europe. Adaptors are required, but relatively easy to find.
A service charge is not automatically included in restaurant bills, although you may find in cities like Agadir that it is. It is best to leave change on the table so that it reaches the person for whom you intended it. The easiest way to show gratitude to a taxi driver is to round up the fare, while for chambermaids or porters 20 dirhams or so should do the trick. Tipping is, however, entirely discretionary.
Morocco is by and large a safe country,and the safety of visitors is considered a priority,but is generally considered a politically stable country.
Morocco enjoys a number of public holidays. On these days, many businesses and some restaurants will be closed, roads my be more congested, and the beaches will be busier. The most important of these holidays is the Feast of the throne, a day of national celebration on the anniversary of Mohamed VI’s accession to the throne.
- January 1: New Year’s Day.
- January 11: anniversary of the declaration of independence.
- May 1: Labor Day.
- July 30: Feast of the throne.
- August 14: Fete oued eddahab (oued eddahab allegiance).
- August 20: Révolution du Roi et du people (anniversary of the king and the people’s Revolution).
- August 21: King Mohamed VI’s Birthday.
- November 6: Marche verte (anniversary of the green March).
- November 18: Fete de l’idépendence (Independence Day).
In addition, there are several religious public holidays each year. These are Mouloud, a festival to mark the prophet’s birthday, Aid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, Fatih Moharam, the Muslim New Year, and Aid al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting. Because the months of Islamic lunar calendar drift in relation to the seasons, dates of these holidays vary. For the next few years, Mouloud will fall in February, Aid al Adha in November or October, Fatih Moharam in November, and Aid al Fitr in August.
The consumption of alcohol is acceptable, and it can be purchased at supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants. If you are dining with a local family, be sure to respect their wishes if they choose no to drink wine or spirit.
During Ramadan, many liquor store closed, and some restaurants stop serving alcohol. It should also be noted that some visitors who look like they might be locals(particularly those of North African or Middle Eastern descent) may be refused alcohol during Ramadan if they cannot prove their nationality. This is because many local authorities prohibit the sale of alcohol to Moroccan Muslims during the month of Ramadan.
Airport & Airlines
Morocco has several international airports that are well served by European, Asian, and African airlines. Many Moroccan cities have airports that carry regional and internals flights, but the majority of international airline traffic is handled by the airports at Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, and Tanger.
Royal Air Maroc is the national carrier and, together with its budget subsidiary Atlas Blue, serves Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, and Fes, with connection to other cities, for example, from London’s Heathrow Airport; there are daily flights to Casablanca. From Casablanca, it is then possible to fly to Essaouira, Nador, Oujda, Ouarzazate, Laayoune, or Dakhla. From its hub in Casablanca, Royal Air Maroc flies to two airports in North America (New York-JFK and Montreal-Trudeau) and has connections via New York to Washington, Tampa, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
Although it is possible to fly direct to Morocco from North America, It is typically cheaper and more convenient to flay via one of the major European hubs, such as Paris-Chares de Gaulle or London –Heathrow. During the peak season, many European airlines operate regular flights to airports near popular tourist destinations such as Agadir, Al Hoceima, and Nador and increase the frequency of flights to the major cities.
The country’s largest airport is Casablanca’s Mohamed 5 international Airport (CMN, tel 0522539040, www.onda.ma). This busy airport handles more than 6 million passengers a year and serves as Royal Air Maroc’s transatlantic hub. The airport has hotels, car rental facilities, and regular bus and train services to the heart of the city. The capital city is served by Rabat-Salé international Airport(RBA,tél 0537808090, www.onda.ma), located in the sale district of Rabat, a short distance from the center of the city. Rabat-Salé sees flights arrive daily from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Marrakech’s Menara Airport (RAK, 0524447910, www.onda.ma) is located around (-km) from the city. Its experiences a significant increase in traffic during peaks and is a common port of entry for tourists arriving from Europe. Tanager’s Ibn Batouta international Airport (TNG, tél 0539393720, www.onda.ma) is being extensively modernised and expanded, but is currently little used.
At the strait of Gibraltar’s narrowest point, only (14,2 km) of water separates Morocco from Spain. For visitors arriving from Europe, the many ferries that ply this narrow channel are an excellent way to arrive the country. Most visitors travelling by boat will arrive at the port of Tanger on the Strait of Gibraltar, the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, or along the coast at Melilla or Nador. You can hop on board a fast boat that takes around an hour or a slower ferry with a sailing time of a little over two hours from such ports as Algeciras, Malaga, and Almeria (all in southern Spain) to Morocco. Departure from the port’s modern terminals is frequent, especially on the Algeciras to Tanger route, and usually several times a day.
Several ferry companies run services on this route. Among them are acciona trasmediterranea (www.trasmediterranea.es), which operates regular fast ferries, Comarit Espana (www.comarit.com) and Balearia (www.balearia.com). There’s no need to book your crossing in advance, although the facility is there for you to book online if you prefer. When returning, booking in advance allows you to avoid the hassles of Tanager’s port, which can be a stressful place. You can simply purchase your ticket offices when you arrive. It is likely there will be queue and you will need to complete and exit form before boarding, so allow time for this in your schedule. On your embarkation form and have your passport stamped before you board the boat and leave Morocco.
Some holidays companies offer packages whereby you can travel from, for example, from London or Paris to Morocco via train services combined with a ferry crossing. Eurostar runs between London and Paris, and a fast TGV rail services operated by SNCF links the French capital with Algeciras. Visitors also arrive by cruise ships that regularly pill into ports along the Atlantic Ocean coast, such as Casablanca.Morocco has around 30 ports receiving visitors by cruise ships or ferry daily.