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Morocco

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Travel Guide Africa Morocco

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Introduction

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Morocco (Arabic: المغرب‎ "Al-Maghrib") is separated from Spain and Europe by nothing more than the needle-thin Strait of Gibraltar, but its position on the African continent has led to a more common association with the African world. Berber culture has been long-standing and remarkably robust in the face of foreign invaders, including the Romans, the Arabs and France during colonial days. Since power was handed back to Morocco in 1956, the country has developed into a devoutly Muslim nation that is being drawn into the waves of modernity. Western fascination with the country has been prime ever since Hollywood produced a series of Morocco-glorifying films in the middle of the 20th century such as the 1942 Casablanca. Its stunning Atlas Mountains, outstanding trekking opportunities, invigorating cities and cultural exoticism have continued to make it a deserved favourite amongst travellers.

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Brief History

Like the rest of Northern Africa the region we now call Morocco was inhabited from early times. The first connection to the rest of the Mediterranean world came by Phoenician trading colonies and settlements in the early Classical period.

In 670 AD, the first Islamic conquest of the North African took place, and the Arabs imported their customs, culture, and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted, forming states and kingdoms. In 788 Idris ibn Abdallah founded the Idrisid Dynasty, covering most of the territory of modernday Morocco. This dynasty became largely independent of the caliphs that ruled them from far away places, and made Fez the capital. The dynasty lasted for almost 200 years. After the fall of the Idrisid Dynasty the country was ruled by several other dynasties, including the Caliphate of Cordoba, the Almoravid dynasty and Almohad dynasty. But those lost their influence when the Spanish reconquista meant that they lost control over Al Andalus, which also meant a huge inflow of muslims from Iberia. In the 17th and 18th a smaller but wealthier and more united Morroco emerged.

In the 19th century Morroco became a prime target to add as a colony for many European countries, including France, Germany and Spain. The Treaty of Fez (signed on March 30, 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France, with Spain taking over control over the Saharan zones. By the time of World War II, nationalist parties were pushing for independence for Morocco, which led to complete independence from France in 1956. Later adding parts that were ruled by Spain, and annexing Western Sahara, which still leads to controversy.

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Geography

Morocco is bordered by Algeria, Mauritania, and Western Sahara, the latter being treated as part of Morocco by the country itself, but this is not internationally recognized. Morocco also borders to Spain due to the presence of the two small Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in the North. Morocco can roughly be divided into three parts: the coastline, the mountains and the desert. Much of the coastline is quite rough with cliffs, rocks and caves but with some nice secluded beaches as well. More to the south Agadir is a popular beach destinations with better and longer beaches for swimming. The coastline and the immediate interior are one of the more fertile areas in Morocco although the Rif Mountains and Middle Atlas mountains are relatively good areas for agriculture as well. To the south it becomes to dry, especially south from Agadir the coastline becomes more barren. In the north are the Rif Mountains, where the famous kif (Moroccan marihuana) is grown and this is Berber country. The Middle Atlas is located south from the Rif Mountains, in between which is a lower area. The Middle Atlas rises to over 3300 metres above sea level and is one of Morocco's agricultural heartlands. Southwest of the Middle Atlas the High Atlas is extremely rough and scenic with snowcapped peaks from December to early June, the highest peak being Mount Toubkal at 4167 metres above sea level. This area is great for skiing during the wintermonths and there are several very scenic roads to take south and west of Marrakech across the mountain chain. South of here you will find the Anti Atlas, a lower but equally beautiful mountainous region with the Ameln Valley at its heart. To the south and west of the mountains, the Sahara desert starts with mostly dry, barren and stony areas which are relatively flat. The sanddunes of Erg Chebbi near Merzouga and Erg Chigaga 60 km west of M'Hamid are characteristic Sahara parts as well, though the bigger sandseas are located in Algeria.

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Regions

Absolute Marrakesh

Absolute Marrakesh

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Morocco has 16 administrative regions, from north to south being:

  • Tangier-Tétouan
  • Gharb - Chrarda - Béni Hssen
  • Taza - Al Hoceima - Taounate
  • Oriental
  • Fès - Boulemane
  • Rabat-Salé - Zemmour - Zaer
  • Meknès - Tafilalet
  • Grand Casablanca
  • Chaouia - Ouardigha
  • Doukkala - Abda
  • Tadla - Azilal
  • Marrakech - Tensift - El Haouz
  • Souss - Massa - Draâ
  • Guelmim - Es Semara
  • Laâyoune - Boujdour - Sakia El Hamra
  • Oued Ed - Dahab - Lagouira

Of these last 3 southern regions, only the last one lays entirely in the Western Sahara, which is a twisted area, considerd by Morocco part of its surface. The other 2 (Guelmim and Laâyoune) are partly located in Morocco and partly in the Western Sahara.

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Cities

Casablanca Mosque Hassan II

Casablanca Mosque Hassan II

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  • Rabat - The nation's capital and on the Imperial Cities. Salé is the newer part of the city across the river.
  • Casablanca - Morocco's largest city.
  • Marrakech - The southernmost Imperial city, with a great location at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.
  • Fez - one of the northern Imperial cities.
  • Meknes - another Imperial city, probably the least visited.
  • Taroudant - a small but charming city in the south of the country.
  • Nador - a port city along the northeast coast.
  • Tanger - the northernmost city, just across from Spain.
  • Agadir - main beach resort.
  • Oujda - northeast of the country.
  • Ouarzazate - gateway to the desert and famous for it's movie industry.
  • Essaouira - gem along the Atlantic coast, the City of wind with a great medina.
  • Tetouan - a few hours south of Tanger, with Spanish influences.
  • Chefchaouen - the blue city in the central north of the country.
  • Ait Benhaddou - a mysterious Kasbah in the mountains
  • Zagora - the eastern gateway to the Erg Chigaga.

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Sights and Activities

Agadir

Agadir is the number one beach resort in Morocco and a great place to end (or start) your Morocco trip. The endless boulevards lined with small restaurants and cafes are a great spot for people-watching or enjoy the nightlife. Agadir is sun, sea and sand Moroccan style with a splash of the cosmopolitan Spanish costas. Agadir is not everyone's cup of tea as the resorts are often not in the traditional Moroccan style, so for those who are looking for a more authentic coastal feel, then Essaouira is probably a better bet. But, if you fancy relaxing in a comfortable resort serving international cuisine and hanging out by the pool after a dusty desert safari or a hardcore trek into the mountains, then Agadir is perfect.

Agadir doesn’t really have any major cultural sights, but the covered souks at the edge of the town centre are great to wander around for a couple of hours. The easiest way to get there is by petit taxi (about 10 dirham). The souks sell everything under the sun. Colourful fruit and vegetables are piled high like the pyramids of sweet smelling herbs and spices that make your mouth water as you walk by. There lots of stalls offering rather convincing fake designer shoes, clothes and watches. Tempting, but bear in mind you risk a hefty fine if you import fake goods into the UK.

Just outside the city you'll find the souk Al Had (closed Mondays, main market day on Sundays). It’s more touristy and you’ll generally find more expensive items here. The real souk is more fun but if you’re on the hunt for souvenirs, the souks Al Had may be worth a visit. There’s also a miniature train every half hour for a tour through the town and Agadir beach. It’s great for kids, and a fun way to see the town.

Atlas Mountains

Atlas Mountains

Atlas Mountains

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Morocco has one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world and the Atlas Mountains are a very impressive mountain range, with the highest mountain being the Toubkal at 4167 metres. Although much of the Atlas Mountains is part of Algeria and even Tunisia, the highest parts are in Morocco. Activities are numerous and in winter skiing down the slopes is possible, just an hour away from Marrakech. Oukaimeden is a good place to ski and Imlil is a good place to start some serious hiking. Of course, if you are less adventurous, there are some passes up to 2000 meters or higher which can be reached by a regular car. The views are tremendous!

There is a great little loop from Amizmiz (1 hour by bus from Marrakech) along narrow winding paths, through tiny Berber villages, with forest clinging to the slopes and past terraced fields of vegetables and grain. This can be done in a day or extended to up to 4 days with homestay stops on the way. Our first stop was at a family home in a tiny village called sllamt. They welcomed us into their house and up onto the roof where we drank mint tea and watched the women preparing fresh bread on the open fire. We ate this with goats milk butter from the village, homemade olive oil and walnuts from the trees outside. It was simple but delicious and definitely prepared us well for the uphill climb to Ait Hamd. This trek is a really valuable experience if you want to see the real Morocco and enjoy the incredible hospitality of the local people. The scenery is stunning and the area is accessible from Marrakech which is handy for travellers who are short on time.

Dades Valley

The Dades Valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains is made up of bizarre rock formations, bright green palm valleys and rugged mountain peaks in all shapes and colours alternated by small traditional villages and breathtaking views. It's quite easy to reach this area, especially if you have a hire car, and it's nice to explore the incredible scenery at your own pace. The Dades Vallety is about half way between Marrakech and Erg Chebbi, so makes a great place to stop off on your journey into the desert.

Desert adventure

Erg Chebbi - Shadows

Erg Chebbi - Shadows

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In the east of the country you can find one of the most world's most beautiful stretches of sandy desert. The Erg Occidental (western great sand sea) starts here and you can visit these high dunes from places like Ouarzazate, M'Hamid and Merzouga. From these towns at the edge of the Sahara you can go out and ride a camel or 4wd vehicle into the desert. You can choose to spend only the day in the desert but if you want longer trips there are many overnight options as well, even a week or more is possible and you will reach some parts that most people never visit. The one near Merzouga is called Erg Chebbi and easily be visited by just staying in one of the places at the edge of the dunes (a short piste drive of the main road) and walk into the dunes, preferably at sunset or sunrise when colours are more beautiful and temperatures lower. Erg Chigaga is located 60 kilometres west of M'Hamid in the southeast of the country and is reached by 4wd (roughly 2 hours across rough pistes) or by a 2-3 day cameltrip. Although more off the beaten track, it is not more beautiful than Erg Chebbi, both have their charmes.

Essaouira

Essaouira is a friendly coastal town halfway between Casablanca and Agadir, where the sea breeze always blows. It’s a lovely spot for sun-worshippers, shopaholics, surfers and seafood lovers, who congregate with the cheerful musicians and artists that have made Essaouira their home. The lively souks are a warren of narrow streets filled with tiny shops and stalls. If you don't have time for the desert, you can take a camel ride along the seafront and spend the night in a charming little riad hotel overlooking the ocean. Essaouira is probably one of the nicest spots to start, or end, your Morocco trip.

If you want to hit the beach, then walk towards the harbour, turn left at the gate and you’ll see a beautiful wide sandy shore stretched out before you. You can rent a sunbed at the parasols for about 20 dirham a day. It’s worth it, as there’s always a breeze blowing here. The eternal sea breeze attracts lots of windsurfers and kitesurfers and you can rent a surfboard if you fancy riding the waves.

In Essaouira town the street scene is an eclectic mix of locals buying their groceries in the souks, and foreign visitors wandering along the shops and stalls. You could lose yourself forever in the labyrinth of little streets and it’s a fantastic place for browsing around. Essaouira is also a centre for local arts and music, and you’ll find that the souvenirs on sale here are just a bit different to what you’ll find in Fez or Marrakech.

Hassan II Mosque

The Hassan II Mosque is one of the biggest mosques in the world, after the ones in Mecca and Medina (Saudi Arabia), which generally are off limits to travellers. This might just be one of the most famous ones amongst travellers anywhere in the world. It is located in Casablanca, just next to the Atlantic Ocean, giving it some extra charm. The minaret at 210 metres is actually the highest in the world. The architectural style has Moorish influences and has strong similarities with the Alhambra and Great Mosque, both in Cordoba. It is actually one of a few mosques in Morocco that is actually open for non-moslims, so definately worth a visit while you are touring around this Magreb country.

Marrakech

The Medersa Ali Ben Youssef is a Koran school which are rarely open to the public, so really is a must see when visiting Marrakech. The architecture is beautiful, the mosaics and wood carvings are some of the best you’ll see and it’s a nice peaceful place to get away from the madness outside. It’s also interesting to see the tiny rooms that the young boys lived in while dedicating their minds to the Koran.

The Palais El Badi is a ruined palace that was once one of the grandest in the world, but was destroyed and plundered, so really the main buliding is now just a carcus that plays home to a flock of storks. They have enormous nests on top of the ramparts and you can climb the stairs to the top and get quite close to them, while admiring the amazing view across the souqs beyond. The colour of the stone glows as the sun drops in the sky and the scent from sunken orange groves below is beautiful. It’s also a peaceful place to sit in the sun and read a book away from the craziness of the city if you have time.

Marrakech

Marrakech

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In the very heart of the Medina is Djemaa el Fna, the busiest square in Africa. Tourists are drawn by day to witness the square's acrobats, dancers, mystical story-tellers, water sellers, snake charmers and musicians. By night tourists are just as plentiful, enjoying the transformation of the square into a huge open-air restaurant as the food stalls kick into gear. Unlike so many other locations, tourism has not taken away from the atmosphere, but only seems to be adding to it. The Djemaa el-Fna is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Medinas

Morocco has several of the most beautiful cities anywhere in Africa or the Arabic world and many of the oldest parts of these cities, the medinas, are placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These include those of Fez, Marrakech, Tetouan and Essaouira. There are many jewels to be found in the medinas, including palaces, the Kasbah, mosques and gardens and fountains. Many of these medinas date back to the time between the 8th and 14th century.

Northern Imperial Cities

Rabat
The easiest way to get around the city of Rabat is by the blue ‘petit taxis’ you’ll see driving around everywhere. Trips cost between 10 dirham and 20 dirham to most of the sights within the city. Make sure you agree on a price beforehand. Get the petit taxi to drop you off at the impressive Kasbah Oudaias on the edge of the old part of the city (the medina), and then continue on foot. If you want to grab a cheap bite to eat, try the Baahia restaurant little further up. Built within the city ramparts, it’s a great little find.

As you walk out of the kasbah you’ll see a lovely little street (Rue des Consuls) with lots of small shops selling aromatic spices, leather, silver, rugs and wood carvings. Other interesting sights include the Bab Chellah, considered by many to be the most beautiful city ramparts in Morocco, the Parc du Triangle, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V and the uncompleted Hassan Minaret.

Meknes
Most of the sights are quite close together and it’s all easy to do on foot. The covered souks (local market) are well worth a visit. There are rows of spices in all shapes and colours piled high, dozens of varieties of olives, figs and dates just waiting to be tasted. For those with a strong stomach, pay a visit to the meat department where goat’s heads, bull’s testicles and sheep’s entrails are displayed as fine delicacies. Other interesting sights in the area include the Dar Jamai Museum with its fine collection of Mid-Atlas rugs. On the other side of the Bab Mansour lies the Kouba el Khayatine where royal kings once received ambassadors who came to negotiate the ransom of Christian prisoners.

Diagonally across the square is the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the founder of what is now Meknes. You’ll pass several different souks, divided into separate sections according to their ware; tapestries, textiles, bric-a-brac, tents and finally musical instruments.

Fez
If you're staying in the Ville Nouvelle, it’s easiest to take a petit taxi to the medina in the old part of the city, otherwise you should be able to find your way on foot with the help of a map. To get the most out of your stay in Fez, buy the travel guide Fez from Bab to Bab, available at one of the many book stalls close to your hotel for a couple of pounds. The book is an interesting read and has some great tips for thing to see and do this afternoon, like the doors of the Royal Palace and the Jewish Quarter with its pretty balconies. This is the most authentic, inhabited ‘medieval’ city in the Arabic world. The medina is divided into separate quarters, each with its own bakery, mosque, fountain and hammam.

Fez is a journey back in time. Walking through the narrow streets, you can sense medieval Morocco coming to life as you peer into the centuries-old workshops. The tanneries in particular are well worth seeing. Don’t worry about getting lost in the maze of little streets. Most of the streets are signposted, so with a map it’s easy to find your way. Otherwise, just ask for directions. The inhabitants are extremely friendly and helpful.

There are two good viewpoints for an unlimited panorama of the city and beyond. The Borj Nord is best to visit in the afternoon, the Borj Sud in the morning. You can also pay a visit to one of the many potteries on the edge of the medina to see how they make the colourful Moroccan pottery as well as hand-painted fountains, tables and traditional tajines. Bear in mind that everything in Fes closes early. The restaurants and food stalls start packing up at 9.30pm, so if you want to enjoy a slow, relaxed dinner go around 6pm.

Like everywhere else in Morocco, the imperial city of Fez has plenty of small restaurants where you can get a delicious tajine for less than 30 dirham. A tajine is a clay pot filled with chicken, beef, goat’s meat and vegetables, stewed over a charcoal fire for about an hour. For dessert, order a pot of mint tea at one of the outdoor cafes. Sipping on your glass of hot tea you can watch the locals on their evening stroll along the boulevard.

Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou

Ouarzazate and the surrounding valleys and farmland are worth a look, and it's a good place to spend the night if you are on your way to the desert or Ait Benhaddou, the famous Kasbah on the edge of the desert. The land gets more and more dry and sandy as you approach the Kasbah. During some of the year there is a river to cross to get to the Kasbah, but for most of the year, this has dried up to a trickle so you can easily cross on foot. The Kasbah itself is grand and exotic and stands atop a huge mound surrounded by desert sand. It’s a famous spot as it has been used as a location for films including Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth and most recently Gladiator. The walls look as though they have been raised from the sand and date palms grow out between the walls.

Ouzoud Falls

Cascades d'Ouzoud

Cascades d'Ouzoud

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The Ouzoud Falls are located about 150 kilometres from Marrakech in the southern central parts of Morocco, in the High Atlas mountains. It is one of the best known natural features in this area and is a popular day trip from Marrakesh. It is a surprisingly wet and green area in a mostly arid and rocky moutainous area. There are several mills located on the summit of the falls and even monkeys can be spotted in the green parts surrounding the falls. The bottom of the falls is accessible through a shaded path of olive trees.

Taroudannt and Tafraoute in the Ameln Valley

If you want to get further off the beaten track and into the Anti Atlas Mountains, then a trip to Taroudant and Tafraoute will take you through tiny mountain villages, rustling palms and surreal rock formations. You can reach the Anti Atlas from Agadir in about 3 hours. The hills are covered in argan orchards. The olive-like fruit of the argan tree are harvested to produce the highly prized and nutricious argan oil that you'll often find on your breakfast table in Morocco. The Ameln Valley, nicknamed Paradise Valley, is a striking landscape of towering cliffs, rock formations and a fertile oasis - this really is Morocco off the beaten track.

Other sights and activities

Volubilis

Volubilis

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

Morocco has a diverse climate. Although in summer most of the country is dry and warm to hot, in winter the differences are bigger. Summer temperatures can reach almost 50 °C in the south and eastern desert areas, but in winter frosts are possible at night here. Most other parts have temperatures of 30 °C to 35 °C during the summer months, except the Atlas Mountains which can get rather cold at night and even chilly during the day, especially when you want to climbing. Snow in winter is possible here and there is a skiing season from December to March, though recently snow has been less even during these colder months. Much of Morocco's coastline has warm and dry summers and mild and wet winters, typically for the Mediterranean area. South of Essaouira, temperatures are even nice in winter, generally between 16 and 24 °C which makes a good time for a visit as well.

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Getting There

By Plane

Mohammed V International Airport (IATA: CMN, ICAO: GMMN), located 30 kilometres southeast of Casablanca, is the busiest airport in Morocco. Royal Air Maroc, the flag carrier, is based at this airport and has destinations to major cities in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.

Other airports with flights to mainly European destinations are Al Massira International Airport (IATA: AGA, ICAO: GMAD) in Agadir and Marrakech-Menara Airport (IATA: RAK, ICAO: GMMX) in Marrakech. From the latter, there is a growing number of flights from southern and western Europe, including low cost airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair.

Several other cities with international connections include Rabat, Fez, Al Hoceima, Nador, Oujda, Tangier and Ouarzazate, though with considerably less flights, some of them only seasonal. Destinations in Europe from these cities include Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.

By Train

There are no direct trains into Morocco, you'll have to take a ferry from mainland Europe.

By Car

You can travel by car to Ceuta and Melilla and south to the Western Sahara and Mauritania. The border with Algeria has been closed for years now. Nowadays it is pretty easy with a regular 2wd car to drive across Morocco and the Western Sahara to Mauritania and further on to other countries in West Africa. Be sure to have your papers including insurance in order though.

By Bus

The only 'international' connections to and from Morocco are the buses that travel between Western Sahara and Morocco, or buses to and from the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. CTM is the main operator to these places. CTM also has buses which take the ferry (see below) to Europe, connecting Casablanca and other cities in Morocco with destinations in Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.
There still isn't a regular bus connecting Dakhla in Western Sahara and the border with Mauritania, but you might be able to catch a ride in a jeep or overland truck, especially in the wintermonths of November to March.

By Boat

Several ferries go to and from Morocco. Algeciras in Spain is the port which most travellers use and there are boats to Ceuta and Tangier. A ferry between Algeciras and Ceuta takes 40 minutes, and less than 2 hours to get to Tanger. Another option is to go from Tarifa, on the southernmost tip of mainland Spain, which takes 35 minutes. Other Spanish ports that have connections to Morocco but which are used less are Malaga and Almeria which have connections to Melilla, which is close to Nador in Morocco. Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service. If you want to travel from France directly, there are options from Sète near Montpellier and Port Vendres near Perpignan. This will take much longer and will be much more expensive. From Italy, there are connections from Genoa and Naples.

Below are the main ferry operators and their routes between Morocco and mainland Europe.

Spain:

  • GNV operates services from Barcelona to Tanger.
  • Ferrimaroc has boats plying the route between Almeria in Spain to and from the Moroccon city of Nador.
  • Euroferrys travels between the southern Spanish town of Algeciras to Tanger. It's also a major operator to the Spanish exclave of Ceuta.
  • FRS has boats travelling between both Tarifa and Algeciras (Spain) and Tanger and between Gibraltar and Tangier.
  • Comarit travels from Algeciras to Tanger as well.
  • Trasmediterranea plies the route between Algeciras and Tanger and between Almeria and Nador. Trasmediterranea has many connections to the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla from Algeciras, Almería and Málaga in southern Spain.

France:

  • Comanav has services between both Tanger and Nador and Sete, which is located between Marseille and Montpelier.
  • SNCM also operates a service between Tanger and Sete.

Italy:

  • GNV operates services between Genoa and Tanger, in northern Morocco.
  • Comanav has services between Tanger and Genoa as well.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Agadir, Casablanca, Errachidia, Essaouira, Fez, Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Oujda are served by Royal Air Maroc, among other cities.
Atlas Blue has a number of domestic services as well.
Regional Air Lines flies between Agadir, Al Hoceima, Errachidia, Essaouira, Goulimime, Marrakech, Nador and Oujda.

By Train

Trains connect Marrakech and Tangier via Casablanca and Rabat and a branch line goes inland to Meknes, Nador and Oujda near the border with Algeria. For more information you can check the ONCF website.
Fes to Rabat and Casblanca and Marrakech to Casablanca are probably the best routes, with regular day and overnight services, and sleeping cars and restaurant cars are generally available. Supratours provides services to complement its train network by ONCF (see below).

By Car

Getting around Morocco by car is a perfect way of seeing a lot of the country with a maximum flexibility. Although you don't really need a car when you prefer to see the cities, it is very usefull when travelling in the southern parts, for example south and east of Marrakech. There are many international and local companies offering rental cars at airports or downtown in the major cities. Either go for the bigger companies or for the local ones that are mainly cheaper and be sure to get maximum insurance. You need an international driver's licence and the minimum age is 21. Car hire is relatively expensive in Morocco with the cheapest (usually a Dacia Logan with airconditioning) already costing as much as €28 a day, though you might get a better deal for long term rentals. Expect to pay more for bigger cars, especially if you need a 4wd car to drive the pistes in Morocco.

Roads in Morocco are generally in a very good condition with few potholes and routes and cities are well signposted most of the times. If you are not planning on doing some serious off road driving, there is no need to rent a 4wd car. Note that some roads across the Atlas Mountains can be impassable in winter, when snow is common. This is especially the case for the Tizi 'n Tichka and Tizi 'n Test passes, which travel to Ouarzazate and to Taroudannt respectively. Something to be aware off though is the Moroccan driving style and of course the fact that everyone uses the same roads, including pedestrians, bikers (donkeys and the odd camel a while ago). Also, Moroccans don't seem to be aware of the fact that they have mirrors and lights on their cars, so drive defensively.
Finally, Morocco seems to have shares in laserguns. Especially when driving into 60km/hour zones, stick to the maximum speed as a fine will set you back around 400 dirham.

By Bus

CTM runs many buses between cities and towns. Supratours has an extensive network as well and SATAS is convenient between Casablanca, Agadir and places further south from Agadir.
Shared taxis are often quicker though on most routes but can be a little crowded.

By Boat

There are no public passenger services as there are almost no notable rivers or lakes to cross and the coastline is excellently served by buses or minivans.

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Red Tape

Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days:

Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Republic of Congo, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guinea (Conakry), Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore (up to one month only), Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Venezuela. (Source: Consulate-General of Morocco in New York)

Permissions to extend a stay must be requested from the nearest Police Precinct in Morocco.

All others are required to obtain visas of single or double entries, and a stay of up to 90 days. If you want to stay longer, it is best to cross into Spain or the Ceuta and Melilla exclaves and go back again.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

The official currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD). One dirham is equivalent with 100 santimat (singular: santim).

  • Banknotes 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 dirham
  • Coins 1, 5, 10, 20 santimat; ½, 1, 2, 5, and 10 dirham

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Language

Tamazight & Arabic are the official languages in Morocco. It's very useful and much appreciated if you try and learn some basic phrases and words like 'shokran' (thank you) and of course 'es salaam aleikum' (peace upon you), Tanmirt (thank you in Tamazight) and of course Azul (which is Hello). Still, French is widely used and understood by most people as well. Tamazight (Berber) language is spoken in the Rif, Atlas Mountains and desert side mainly, more than 60 % of population is Amazigh (Berbers). In some areas, like Sidi Ifni and Tetouan, Spanish is still spoken by some people as well.

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Eat

Fusion isn't a new thing in Morocco, where the cuisine is a blend of Mediterranean, Arabic, Jewish, Persian, West African and Berber influences. Traditional Morocco food is nourishing and delicious with the staples being couscous (semolina) served with stews of lamb, chicken and vegetables. Main towns, like Fes and Marrakesh, have lots of international restaurants at reasonable prices including French, Italian, and Spanish dishes.

National specialties which you should try whilst in Morocco are:

  • Harira - a spicy tomato-based soup.
  • Pastilla - a pigeon-meat pie layered with flaky dough and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.
  • Couscous - a savoury semolina dish cooked with local vegetables and/or meat.
  • Tajine - a rich, fragrant stew, with some combination of lamb, chicken or fish with onions, olives, almonds, tomato, herbs or dried fruit.
  • Mechoui - slow-roasted stuffed lamb or beef.

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Drink

  • Moroccan Tea - prepared with mint and special dry tea leaves, very tastful and sometimes sweet.

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Sleep

Morocco has a wide range of accommodation options throughout the country. You will even find surprisingly good sleeping options in relatively remote places in the south for example.
The major cities have the widest range of places, with generally campings, hostels, hotels and charming places like riads, dars or kasbahs available as well. Especially cities like Marrakech, Fez and Essaouira have many riads (traditional house in medina) which might be a little more expensive but surely are worth the extra money for charm and service.

High season generally includes the Christmas and Newyears period, Easter and August when many Spanish and French people visit the country. July is almost as busy, especially at coastal resort areas like Agadir. It's advised to book in front at those times, though with some persistence you might find a room as well at last notice.
Naturally, these times are also more expensive regarding accommodation. Marrakech for example has high season from March to May and from October onwards to Newyears, with prices being lower during summer!

In many places in the south, some hotels offer half-board arrangements, which can be very good value.
At the outskirts of cities and towns throughout the country you will find camping grounds as well, which generally are well kept and offer you to pitch a tent or sleep in your campervan for very affordable prices.

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Health

See also: Travel Health

There are no legal requirements regarding vaccinations. Still, it's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Morocco. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is very rare, only in a few remote oases. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

Morocco in general is a safe country to travel around. As with most countries, the usual safety precautions are advised. Theft also is not a big problem, just keep your valuables out of sight, also in cars.

Especially in the north (Rif Mountains and surrounding cities) drugs are offered, but never ever accept them. Penalties are severe! It's also adviced for women travelling alone to take taxis after dark and don't wander around in back alleys late at night.

More an annoyance than a danger, people offering anything from goods to being your guide are quite usual around the country, especially in cities like Fez and Marrakech. Sometimes, it can be a little fun walking around with a guide which shows you the medina from a different perspective. Usually though they will drag you to a family or friend with a shop as well. If you don't want any, just walk by or say 'la shokran' (no thank you) and you will generally be left alone.

Although Casablanca was hit by a few bomb attacks in 2007, there is no need to panic at all. Chances are slim. Avoid demonstrations alltogether as well.

Traffic can be your worst nightmare in some cities as a pedestrian and take care when renting a car, as some people drive either very slow, or extremely fast and you have to share the road with cattle, people on foot, the occasional bike etc. Just drive defensively and you'll be ok.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.

Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.

Post

Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.

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Quick Facts

Morocco flag

Map of Morocco

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Local name
Al-Maghrib
Capital
Rabat
Government
Constitutional Monarchy
Nationality
Moroccan
Population
31 690 000
Languages
Arabic, Tachelhit, Tamazight
Religions
Islam
Currency
Moroccan Dirham (MAD)
Calling Code
+212
Time Zone
WET (UTC)
Daylight Saving Time
WEST (UTC+1)

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Morocco Travel Helpers

  • Utrecht

    Travelled through the southern parts of this beautiful country, across deserts and mountains and along the coast and to Marrakech.

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  • markwillen

    I live in Fes, and travel the country extensively. I'll help where I can...

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  • BenteK

    I have visited Morocco many times and have travelled outside the common tourist routes.

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  • Sahara

    I am a native born Moroccan, living in Casablanca, I know Morocco well and I can advise on our culture and the tourist attractions, travel information and how to get the best of your visit , about buying and bargaining at the souks, and the best places to see, the many attractions and the entertainment. I will be happy to give advice and deal with concerns or worries and myths about visiting our country .
    If you need a guide I may be available to do that as well.

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    you can get information about hotels .tours .rent car .iteniraries
    and travel by local transports like buses and taxis ...and prices
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Accommodation in Morocco

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