Morocco is colourful, friendly and exotic with a fascinating mix of Arab, Islamic, Berber, African and European influences. Blessed with spectacular landscapes, labyrinthine medieval walled cities and Berber fortresses, Morocco holds a special place in our hearts. Everyone should experience the ritual of haggling for a wealth of handicrafts and savour the fragrant spiciness of delicious Moroccan food. World Journeys offers a range of exciting itineraries inclusive of all transfers and sightseeing utilizing centrally located hotels and beautifully restored riads.
• Fes Medina
• Jemaa el Fna Square Marrakech
• Ait Ben Haddou
• Camping in Merzouga
• Dades Valley
While Morocco is a year round destination with a Mediterranean climate, it is important to remember the High Atlas can get very cold during the winter (Dec – Mar) and the summer heat (Jul – Aug) can be oppressive. We recommend travelling between March and June when the temperature is comfortable for sightseeing while the clear skies are a bright blue.
I love Morocco! It offers such contrast. Casablanca on the Mediterranean coast is a large bustling metropolis and often a stop on Mediterranean cruises. The souk (market) here is well worth a visit. But for the most interesting cities in Morocco, head for my joint favourites Fez and Marrakesh.
The old town in Fez is like a step back in time. There are over 9000 streets and alleyways where cars and trucks are banned and “traffic” comes in the form of heavily laden mules that carry supplies in an out of this UNESCO world heritage listed site. The mule handlers call “balak…balak!” and it is best to get out of their way! Fez is divided into various sections depending on what is on sale. Lanterns in one area, spices in another or leather goods elsewhere – allow lots of time or better go with a guide as it is really easy to get lost in the maze!
Wandering Marrakesh is both fascinating and fun and I highly recommend sipping some mint tea in the late afternoon from one of the balconies overlooking Djemaa el-Fna Square. Below you is a timeless scene made up of snake charmers, tooth-pullers, scribes, water-sellers and any number of other vendors plying their wares. Make sure you also look around the beautiful garden owned by Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh. There is also an excellent evening dinner and show at the fort called Chez Ali which ends with an unbelievable display of Arab horsemanship – I can be a little sceptical of this type of performance but was hugely impressed.
If you have the opportunity and the budget, stay in a Riad in Marrakesh. They are wonderful and an authentic style of hotel – there are some excellent choices in the old town. The rural roads in Morocco are all but deserted and generally of a very good standard. Drive from Marrakesh past the rosewater producing area of Morocco and over the High Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate or Erfoud situated on the fringe of the Sahara desert. The views of sunset over the dunes are fantastic and if you are a little adventurous, stay as I did in a comfortable Bedouin camp overnight. These people will make you feel so welcome. Elsewhere you may encounter friendly Berber tribesmen and take some tea with a Tuareg ‘Blueman’ as you drive past verdant date palm fringed oases on your way to the Todra Gorge.
Shopping is one of the pleasures in Morocco. Leather goods, beaten copper, ceramics, weavings and woven carpets are especially good buys. Be prepared to barter, keep it good natured and be a little firm with the salesmen and you will return with some great souvenirs from a fabulous country. Chris
Currency Moroccan Dirham
Language Arabic, French and English is widely spoken.
Why we love it With a fascinating blend of Arab, Islamic, Berber, African and European influences, Morocco is blessed with spectacular landscapes, magnificent snow-capped mountains, lush river valleys, vast tracts of desert, labyrintine walled medieval cities and Berber fortresses. Combine this with a wealth of beautiful handicrafts, traditional riads and exotic and fragrant cuisine, Morocco surely has something for everyone.
Weather With freezing winters in the High Atlas and scorching summers, Morocco is best visited in the spring (Mar – May) and Autumn (Sep – Nov).
Social customs & quirks When Moroccans greet each other they take their time and converse about their families, friends, and other general topics before broaching the matter at hand. Handshakes are the customary greeting between individuals of the same sex.
Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on both cheeks, starting with the left cheek while shaking hands, men with men and women with women. In any greeting that does take place between men and women, the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head in greeting. When entering a social function, shake hands with the person to your right and then continue around the room going from right to left. Say good-bye to each person individually when leaving. If visiting a local home, a small gift like sweet pastries, nuts, figs, dates or flowers are offered to the hostess.
Festivals & events There are many festivals celebrated throughout the country. Most popular are the harvest festivals for cherries, figs, dates, olives, honey and roses. There are also many celebrations of music, food, ceramics and culture. The horsemanship festivals at Tissa (near Fes) in Sept and Meknes in Oct allow local hosemen to showcase their animals and prove their prowess. As a muslim country, Ramadan is also celebrated with a month of fasting during daylight hours culminating in the Eid.