Explore Morocco a country located in North Africa that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has got Moroccan Western Sahara independence in 1973. It has borders with Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.
Ethnically speaking, Morocco is composed mainly of Arabs and Berbers or a mixture of the two. Sizeable numbers of Berbers live mainly in the country’s mountainous regions, long areas of refuge where they have preserved their language and culture. Some segments of the population are descendants of refugees from Spain and Portugal who fled from the Reconquista, the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula that spanned until the 15th century.
The major resources of the Moroccan economy are agriculture, phosphates, tourism and textiles.
24 Apr–23 May. Exact dates depend on local astronomical observations and vary from one country to another. Ramadan ends with the Eid ul-Fitr festival extending over several days.
The biggest event on the Moroccan calendar is the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day time and break the fast at sunset. Most restaurants are closed for lunch (with the exception of those catering specifically to tourists) and things generally slow down. Traveling during this time is entirely possible, and the restrictions don’t apply to non-Muslims, but it’s respectful to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during the fast. However, outside tourist “trap” areas it may be difficult to find any food at all day. Surprisingly this applies even to cities like Casablanca. At the end of the month is the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when practically everything closes for as long as a week and transport is packed as everybody heads back home. Although alcohol consumption is not prohibited for tourists during Ramadan, only a few restaurants and bars serve alcohol. In addition, alcohol can be purchased in a supermarket if a tourist shows their passport to the staff (Moroccans are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol during the holy month).
- Mediterranean Morocco hosts all sorts of towns and cities, several Spanish enclaves and some important ports
- North Atlantic Coast the northern half of Morocco’s coast is home to the capital and Casablanca, interspersed with more laid back beach towns
- South Atlantic Coast the southern coast is more laid back, home to gorgeous beach towns like Essaouira and Agadir
- High Atlas covering the High Atlas mountains and the surrounding areas including Marrakech
- Middle Atlas covering the Middle Atlas mountains and the surrounding areas including Fez and Meknes
- Saharan Morocco the vast desert region of Morocco runs along the border with Algeria; camel safaris and sand dunes are the name of the game here
- Rabat – The capital of Morocco; very relaxed and hassle-free, highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
- Casablanca – This modern city by the sea is a starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the third largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon
- Fez – Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
- Marrakech (Marrakesh)– Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souks and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed although the sheer number and concentration of tourists may be off putting for some.
- Meknes – A laid back city that offers a welcome break from the tourist crush of neighboring Fez. Was once an imperial capital and retains its extensive walls and an “old city” smaller yet similar to that of Fez. There are a number of vineyards in the area around Meknes.
- Ouarzazate – Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn’t destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
- Tangier –Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain. An enigmatic charm which has historically attracted numerous artists (Matisse), musicians (Hendrix), politicians (Churchill), writers (Burroughs, Twain) and others (Malcolm Forbes).
- Taroudannt – A southern market town.
- Tetouan – Nice beaches and is the gateway to the Rif Mountains.
- Al Hoceima – Beach town on the Mediterranean coast
- nLaayoun in Morrocco Western Sahara, known about its seafood, and considering as the capital of Sardines in the world.
- Dakhla is a city in Morocco Western Sahara known about its seafood and its seas and beaches, it knows also about surf.
- Agadir – Agadir is best-known for its beaches. The town is a nice example of modern Morocco, with less emphasis on history and culture. North town of Auorir and Tamri are great beaches
- Amizmiz – With one of the largest Berber souks in the High Atlas Mountains every Tuesday, Amizmiz is a popular destination for travelers looking for a day trip that is easily accessible (about an hour) from Marrakech
- Chefchaouen – A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier, evoking the feeling of a Greek island
- Essaouira – An ancient sea-side town newly rediscovered by tourists. From mid-June to August the beaches are packed but any other time and you’ll be the only person there. Good music and great people. Nearest Coast from Marrakech
- High Atlas
- Imouzzer a traditional Berber town perched in the Atlas Mountains, beautiful scenery and a wonderful waterfall. Excellent handicrafts, argan oil and berber jewellery.
- Merzouga and M’Hamid – From either of these two settlements at the edge of the Sahara, ride a camel or 4×4 into the desert for a night (or a week) among the dunes and under the stars
- Tinerhir – This town is the perfect point of access to the stunning High Atlas.
- Volubilis – 30km North of Meknes, biggest Roman ruins in Morocco, next to the holy town Moulay Idriss
Royal Air Maroc — More commonly known as RAM, is the Moroccan national carrier, as well as the country’s largest airline. RAM is fully owned by the government of Morocco, and has its headquarters on the grounds of Casablanca-Anfa Airport.
The main road network is in good condition. Road surfaces are good but roads are very narrow, in most cases only one narrow lane in each direction. Note that many roads in the south marked as sealed are actually only one lane total sealed with wide shoulders to be used every time you meet oncoming traffic.
Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.
Rental firms abound in the large cities. Most worldwide rental networks have offices in Morocco. There are also several local rental companies (5-7 have rep offices in Casablanca airport). They offer lower prices.
Some tour operators will arrange for you to hire a 4×4 or SUV with a driver/guide, and offer customized itineraries, including advanced booking in hotels, riads, etc. most of the drivers are fluent in foreign languages (French, English, Spanish…).
French and Arabic coexist in Moroccan administration and commerce.
It would greatly enhance your visit, increase your understanding of signs and notices, and avoid difficult situations if you were to brush up on your high school French or embark on a course of Arabic. Some shop owners and hotel managers in urban centers also speak English
Best top attractions in Morocco.
Don’t expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, although in larger cities there is often an ATM near the main gates, and even one or two inside the large souqs. You may also encounter “helpful” people who will exchange dollars or euros for dirhams. Unofficial exchange on the streets outside souqs or medinas doesn’t seem to exist.
Besides banks and dedicated exchange offices, major post offices provide exchange, and work until late hours. There are several exchange offices in Casablanca airport.
ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern ville nouvelle shopping districts. Make sure that the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before you put your card in.
Most businesses in Morocco accept credit cards(In big cities of course). Those that do are most likely to accept Visa or MasterCard however will often apply a surcharge to cover the cost of processing your transaction.
What to buy
Apart from classic tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things from this region that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique:
- Leatherware: Morocco has a really huge production of leather goods. Beware some Markets are full of mediocre models. Designer shops are found in the big malls.
- Argan oil and products made of it such as soap and cosmetics.
- Tagines: Classic Moroccan cooking dishes made of clay will improve oil/water based meals you make if you plan to bring Morocco to your kitchen back home.
- Birad: Classic Moroccan tea pots.
- Djellabah: Classic Moroccan designer robe with a hood. Often come in intricate designs and some are suited for warm weather while other heavier styles are for the cold. Chefchaouen is an excellent place to buy a heavy wool djellaba.
- Carpets: Genuine handmade Berber carpets can be purchased direct from the artisans who weave them. If you go to small villages, such as Anzal, in the province of Ouarzazate, you can visit the weavers, watch them work, and they will happily serve you tea and show you their products.
- Spices: Outside the medinas (cheap) in hot dry cities (high quality) will be the best.
- If you’re looking for T-shirts, consider designer items by Kawibi–they look much more inspiring than boring traditional set of themes. They are available in duty-free stores, Atlas Airport Hotel near Casablanca and other places.
What not to buy
- Geodes: Pink and purple dyed quartz are widely sold along with fake galena geodes which are often described as “cobalt geodes”.
- Trilobite fossils: Unless you are an expert, you will most likely be buying a fake.
Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected. It is not really possible to give an accurate indication of how much to start the bargaining at in relation to the initial asking price, but a general idea would be to aim for approximately 50% off.
What to drink
Although a predominantly Muslim country, Morocco is not dry. You can legally buy alcohol when you’re 18. However, there is no minimum legal drinking age.
Alcohol is available in restaurants, liquor stores, bars, supermarkets, clubs, hotels and discos. Some Moroccans enjoy a drink although it is disapproved in public places. The local brew of choice carries the highly original name of Casablanca Beer. It is a full flavored lager and enjoyable with the local cuisine or as a refreshment. The other two major Moroccan beers are Flag Special and Stork. Also you can find local judeo-berber vodka, mild anise flavored and brewed from figs.
As a rule, do not drink tap water at all in Morocco, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of minerals than the water in Europe.
Bottled water is widely available. Popular brands of water include Oulmes (sparkling) and Sidi Ali, Sidi Harazem and Ain Saiss DANONE (still). The latter has a slightly mineral and metallic taste. Nothing with a high mineralization produced (so far?).
Any traveller will be offered (sometimes very sweet) mint tea at least once a day. Locally known as “Moroccan whiskey” due to its similarity in color, the small glasses it is usually drunk from, and the fact that most Moroccans do not drink alcohol, even the most financially modest Moroccan is equipped with a tea pot, a few glasses, and an almost reverent attitude toward sharing this drink with a guest. Sometimes the offer is more of a lure into a shop than a hospitable gesture — use your wits to determine when to accept. Before drinking, look your host in the eye and say “ba saha ou raha”. It means “enjoy and relax,” and any local will be impressed with your language skills.
Note that a solo woman may feel more comfortable having a drink or snack at a pastry shop or restaurant as cafes are traditionally for men. This doesn’t apply to couples though.
Email & internet
Moroccans have really taken to the internet. Internet cafes are open late and are numerous in cities and smaller towns that see significant tourist traffic. Speeds are acceptable to excellent in the north, but can be a little on the slow side in rural areas. Most internet cafes will allow you to print and burn CDs for a small charge.
Moroccans have also really taken to 4G coverage. There is excellent access to email and the internet via Mobile Phones and it is relatively cheap. As a result, there are fewer Internet cafes in tourist areas. There is 4G access throughout the mountains and in the desert, as well as in all cities.