Morocco is a gateway to Africa, and a country of dizzying diversity. Here you’ll find epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, sweeping deserts – and warm hospitality.
Language: The official language is Classical Arabic but Morocco has a distinctive Arabic dialect called Derija that is widely spoken throughout the country, while most of the words find their root in Standard Arabic, some words are borrowed from Spanish, French and Berber. French, Spanish and English are spoken in many cities and towns popular with tourists. Moroccans are very friendly and hospitable, so try saying “salamu ‘aleykum” (peace be upon you) and “insh’allah” (God willing).
Religion: The overwhelming majority of the Berber community are Islamic (Sunni Muslim).
A large Jewish Berber population could be found in Morocco up until the 1960’s, now much smaller after their numbers decreased dramatically as a result of emigration.
Many Christian Berbers have also emigrated, mostly to France, with only a handful remaining in Morocco.
People and Culture
Moroccans are known for their warmth, humor, openness and sociability. Your experience will be shaped by the great tradition of hospitality during your encounters with ordinary Moroccans, in cosmopolitan cities and remote villages alike.
If you are invited to eat with a family, you will typically sit on the floor and eat from a communal plate, placed in the middle of a small table – eat with your right hand. Utensils are not used although, as a visitor, you are likely to be offered a fork or spoon.
If you are invited to a home you should try to take a small gift such as fruit, nuts or sweet pastries.
Although Morocco is considered more relaxed than many other Muslim countries you still need to be respectful of the culture and traditions of the local people.
In the cities of Marrakech, Fes, Agadir, Casablanca etc., Moroccan men and women often dress as they would on the streets of European countires. However, outside of the cities and especially in the rural villages, we recommend that you follow local tradition where both men and women cover their knee (shorts or skirt) and shoulders. (short-sleeved T-shirts).
In the High Atlas mountains, a warm jacket and long pants are needed for desert and High Atlas nights outside of the summer months. For winter, a warm coat, thermal underwear, a hat, gloves and wool socks are essential. A windproof jacket is also essential for walking treks in the desert or in the Atlas mountains.
Moroccan cuisine is delicious and offers you traditional dishes such as Harira (tasty and nourishing bean soup traditionally served for breakfast), Tagine (succulent meat cooked with spices and vegetables in a conical shaped pot), meschui (whole roasted sheep/goat), Tangia, a Marrakech specialty, Couscous, fresh salads and fruits, hot steaming bread and other delicacies. Café au lait, or café “nous-nous’ with pastries is a popular pastime in the street side cafes and mint tea awaits you wherever you go.
In the cities is fine for washing and brushing teeth etc., but we do not recommend that you drink quantities of tap or well water.
Excellent bottled mineral water is available everywhere.
Shopping in Morocco can be an challenge rather than a casual pass-time. A visit to the souk (a market consisting of hundreds of tiny shops), will possibly involve sharing a glass of mint tea with the merchants while you examine variety and quality of the craftsmanship, and haggle for a bargain. All this takes time. Enjoy, it can be a lot of fun.
Moroccans are very skilled salesman – if you do not want to buy something from every shop that you enter you must learn to say no. If you do not want to buy anything and are approached by a salesman just smile and say “non merci” and walk on. The shopkeepers will offer you mint tea and to sit in the cool of the shop, they will offer you a very good price. the last price and the best price. Keep in mind that it is unlikely you will get any real bargains, the salesman are very practiced. It is good fun to bargain but you should only bargain for items that you are willing to buy and you should know how much you are willing to pay and keep to your price.
Enjoying Morocco starts with nothing more strenuous than its national pastime – people-watching in a street cafe with a coffee or a mint tea. Use the opportunity to plan your next moves – hiking up North Africa’s highest peak, learning to roll couscous, camel trekking in the desert, shopping in the Souks or getting lost in the medina. Between the activities, you can sleep in boutique riads, relax on panoramic terraces and grand squares, and mop up delicately flavoured Tajines – before sweating it all out in a restorative Hamam.
Morocco is a storied country, that has over the centuries woven its ties to sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and the wider Middle East into whole cloth. Its mixed Arab and Berber population forms a strong national identity, but an increasingly youthful one, taking the best of its traditions and weaving the pattern anew – from the countryside to the city, from the call to prayer from the mosque to the beat of local hip hop. Morocco has a hundred faces and sounds, all ready to welcome the traveler looking for spice and adventure.
Mountains & Desert
From Saharan dunes to the peaks of the High Atlas, Morocco could have been tailor-made for travelers. Lyrical landscapes carpet this slice of North Africa like the richly colored and patterned rugs you’ll lust after in local cooperatives. The mountains – not just the famous High Atlas but also the Rif and suntanned ranges leading to Saharan oases – offer simple, breathtaking pleasures: night skies glistening in the thin air, and views over a fluffy cloudbank from the Tizi n’Test pass. On lower ground, there are rugged coastlines, waterfalls and caves in forested hills, and the mighty desert.
Morocco’s cities are some of the most exciting on the continent. Join the centuries-old trail of nomads and traders to their ancient hearts, from the winding medina maze of Fez to the carnivalesque street-theatre of the Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh. In the rocky deserts medinas are protected by kasbahs, on the coast by thick sea walls. But it’s not just a heritage trip, as Morocco’s cities are forward-facing too, with glitzy new urban design in Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier looking to the future as well as paying homage to their roots.
History and geography
Its location at the intersection of Europe and Africa make Morocco a real crossroads bordered by the waters of the Mediterranean and open to the vast stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. This “farthest land of the setting sun” is rich in contrasts, a destination that beckons you to discover two millennia of history.
Here where influences converge, you will find vestiges of the great Mediterranean civilizations, such as the Roman ruins at Volubilis in the north and architectural works attesting to the old French presence in Rabat. Your curiosity will be piqued by the treasures of Muslim civilizations scattered throughout the rest of the country, including the Kasbah of the Udayas, the green expanses of the Menara gardens and many other examples of the myriad dynasties that succeeded one another.
The landscapes themselves are magnificent. Morocco features both sea and mountain and is home to the full range of Mediterranean climates, which surrender to the sands of the Sahara. The country serves up marvelous vistas that you will enjoy soaking in and discovering for yourself. With its mix of diverse, captivating panoramas and a rich kaleidoscope of culture, Morocco is an unbeatable destination.