A country of contrasts, Morocco has something new and exciting to offer around every corner. Its vibrant culture sees a fusion of Arabic, Berber, and Mediterranean influence, which permeates through everything from the architecture to the food. Expect decadent mosques with intricate mosaics, sensuous cuisine, and one-of-a-kind cities with ancient monuments. Alongside its constructed charms are also vast areas of natural beauty including mystical deserts, mountains, coastal vistas and forests. All to be enjoyed with Morocco’s famous hospitality, which will leave you feeling well looked after.
1: Prepare to meet the local people
Part of what makes Morocco such an attractive destination is the fusion of cultures which combine to make it a unique and vibrant place. The same can be said of the people of Morocco, whose culture and languages have been influenced by Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Here, 98% of the population is Berber-Arabic and many people speak multiple languages. Moroccan Arabic (Darija) is the most widely spoken and is a simplified version of Arabic which is spoken in the Middle East. Amazigh, the language of the Berbers, is Morocco’s second official language and is spoken by around 40% of the population. French is also popular in Morocco, with an estimated 33% of the population speaking it as a second language. When it comes to religion, more than 99% of the population is Sunni Muslim. Islamic practices and philosophy therefore influence many aspects of daily Moroccan life.
Top tip: Learn some key phrases in French or classical Arabic before you arrive, so that you can greet people or politely ask for basic necessities. Regardless, on a G Adventures tour your Chief Experience Officer (CEO) will be on hand to help you communicate as you go.
2: The food is delicious
There are many reasons to visit Morocco, but the food and drink definitely deserve to top the list. Expect cuisine bursting with flavour and a mixture of Berber, Andalusian, Mediterranean, and Arabic influence. Much of it includes a delicate blend of spices which are perfectly balanced and aromatic in taste.
Amongst the must-tries are tagine (a mixture of well-seasoned meat and vegetables cooked in a conical clay pot), couscous (Morocco’s national dish, only served on Fridays), and msemmen (a semolina pancake which can be served plain, sweet or savoury depending on your taste). For the full experience try a tagine cooking class, some of which involve exploring the souk or weekly market beforehand to buy up fresh, local ingredients. Don’t forget to wash it all down with Morocco’s famous mint tea, typically poured from a shiny metal teapot. If you’re vegetarian, don’t fret – there is often a meat-free option too.
Top tip: Don’t expect to drink a lot of alcohol in Morocco as it’s against the practices of Islam. However, if you head to some supermarkets and very touristic restaurants you will find that Morocco has an excellent selection of locally made wine.
3: It doesn’t rain much
While the main reason we travel is to experience new flavours, cultures, and ideas, it’s fair to say the weather is also an important factor. Morocco has a varied climate, ranging from arid desert, snow-capped mountains, and soaring temperatures as high as 50℃ / 122℉ in the height of summer. If you’re looking to book a tour of the country, it’s fairly mild even in the winter. It’s only when you head into the Atlas Mountains and higher altitudes that the temperatures really drop.
When it comes to packing, loose free-flowing layers or a t-shirt with pants or long shorts are a good starting point. Bring warmer layers for the evenings and a waterproof jacket, because even though it doesn’t rain a lot, it’s better to be prepared. It’s also worth remembering some parts of Morocco are fairly conservative, especially in remote areas. You’ll want to cover your shoulders, chest, and knees out of respect for the local culture.
Top tip: Bring a scarf or shawl, as it can protect your head from the sun, warm you up when it’s chilly, and help you cover up appropriately when visiting religious sites.
4: Haggling is a way of life
You haven’t been to Morocco if you haven’t haggled. Here, there’s no fixed price and it’s your job to figure out what an item is worth. Whether it’s majestic carpets, poufs so pretty it’s hard to pick between them, or decadent lamps shimmering in the light, there can be wild price variations in the souks and markets. It’s wise to shop around in the medinas, but the bustle combined with labyrinthine streets can make it difficult to re-find a stall once you’ve moved on. So, if the price feels right or you’ve seen something you love, grab it while you can. Google Maps may not help you find your way back!
When it comes to haggling, the general ‘rule’ is that for larger items there is a greater price difference, while on smaller items you can go ahead and pay the asking price. Do your research beforehand so you have an idea on what to pay, or even better ask your CEO to know if you’re getting a fair deal.
Top tip: Morocco is still very much a cash culture, so use a bureau de change in the city when you arrive. The dirham is a mostly closed currency, so your best bet is to convert your notes when you get there.
5: Prepare to plug in
Undoubtedly, Morocco is a picture worthy place, so come with your camera and be sure you can charge it. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the perfect moment, only to run out of battery life. You’ll need a type C or E adapter plug to use the sockets in Morocco. It’s also worth knowing that drones are banned and the local people can understandably get irritated when you point a camera at them. While it’s exciting to snap images as you discover new and amazing things, remember to be respectful. The same goes for when you’re in mosques and other places of worship – it’s best to check first whether you’re allowed to take photos or not.
The other thing to decide before arrival is whether you want a Moroccan SIM card. If your phone is unlocked, this is a simple process and you can buy an e-SIM online prior to departure or buy a pre-paid SIM card when you arrive. If you fly into Marrakech, there are several companies in the baggage claim area providing free SIM cards.
Top tip: If you want to purchase a SIM card at the airport, change a little bit of cash into euros or dirhams before you arrive to buy a data package. I paid 15 euro for my SIM which included 20 GB data and 60 minutes over 30 days, in case I needed to make calls in the country.
Ready to start packing for Morocco with all of these handy tips in mind? Here are a few of our suggestions starting with the trip Lydia went on herself: