Morocco is made up of a number of different regions, all of which have their own unique things to see and do as well as slightly different climates. Mediterranean Morocco in the north, along the coast is home to Spanish enclaves, important ports as well as the beautiful town of Chefchaouen with its white washed walls and blue doors, reminiscent of Greek islands like Santorini, except without the water. The northern Atlantic coast has several laid back beach towns and villages as well as the world famous city Casablanca and the capital city Rabat. Popular city Marrakech is more inland in the High Atlas region, evident by the view of the Atlas mountains from most areas of the city. Middle Atlas is home to Fez, where leather tanning vats are a huge tourist draw if you can stand the odour they give off.
A trip to Morocco isn’t complete without a trip out to the Saharan Morrocco region where you can stay a night in a Berber tent settlement and dine on traditional tagine dishes and listen to musical entertainment provided by your Berber hosts. Near to Merzouga which is almost literally a stone’s throw to the Algerian border, however a number of the Saharan villages may have options like this. An absolute must for visitors to the region. The trip can be around 12 hours from Marrakech in total, with a stop off in the Ouazazarte area to see villages such as Ait Benhaddou, where famous films like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were partially filmed on location.
Morocco is generally a very hot, dry country and the summers can be absolutely oppressively hot, even if you like the heat. Temperatures upwards of 45-50C aren’t uncommon in many areas and it can make it not just uncomfortable, but downright unpleasant to be anywhere without air conditioning. That being said, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are terrific times to visit, with the winter being fairly chilly and even receiving snowfall in some areas of the country. Summer is extremely hot, but the spring and autumn see fairly temperate highs and lows in most parts of the country.
Typically though, the coastal regions are the most controlled by the tropical winds that come in off the Atlantic, but the further inland you go the more extreme and unpredictable the weather can become, resulting in scorching summers and cold, snowy winters. In this sense, the best time to go for sunseekers is probably September into October to catch the last warmth of the summer without it being too high, or for those who don’t mind it a bit cooler, March, April and possibly May would be good times to go. Typically by late May into June it’s not uncommon for the temperatures in some areas to already exceed 40 degrees. Storms occur but are generally infrequent and can vary in severity, sometimes causing flash floods and other times providing barely a sprinkle.
Morocco is very Arabic in their culture and values and so you will find yourself hassled somewhat especially if you really look like a foreigner and appear unsure or lost. Many Moroccans in the city will approach you and offer to help you find your way, but for a price. Be expected to shell out a few Dirham or Dollars to pay someone who helps you. From personal experience, wearing more conservative clothing not only will protect you from the scorching sun in the summertime but will endear you to locals who will treat you more amicably and less like a walking wallet.
There are two types of taxis in Morocco – Grand (big) and Petit (small). The Petit taxis are generally only for local city travel and they don’t leave the city limits. For intercity trips, Grand taxis are one option and can be haggled with for a good price for you both. It can be beneficial to get a few other people to share your taxi to make the price less per person overall. There is a train service which is fantastic quality and value but with limited coverage. For more extensive coverage, check out the very comfortable VIP bus service which connects numerous small and large centers.
ATMs are not overly widely available but if you need one they are typically outside banks, hotels and in some of the larger souks or around city gates. The local currency is the Dirham (MAD) and it’s illegal to take more than 100 Dirham out of Morocco, however you can find them occasionally overseas to purchase before your trip.
Many nationalities are given a 90 day visa exemption upon entry at one of Morocco’s major ports of entry. Check before travel to see if you require a visa. One of the best products to purchase in Morocco is Argan oil and Rose oil, usually made by Berbers for use in things like soaps and beauty products and provides a great way to bring home a bit of Morocco. Black soap is also highly sought after and its use in hammams (a must do!) is widespread and provides a luxurious experience. To try a hammam without having to look for the local “popular” hammams, check out the Bains de Marrakech – the hammam experience set in beautiful surroundings with an icy pool.
Morocco is a Saharan north African country on the north east coast, south of Gibraltar and east of Algeria. Morocco is a fantastic combination of both bustling cities and quiet mountain villages with rich histories and is a great place for anyone who likes to get off the beaten track. Predominantly Muslim, Morocco is awash with beautiful mosques and Arabic inspired architecture and culture including bazaars and delicious food.
Morocco was initially owned by France until 1956 when it gained its independence. As a result of being a French colony for many years, French is widely spoken throughout the country. Following on from the Christian conquest of the Iberian peninsula a large number of people fled to Morocco and so there are pockets of the country which have people descended largely from both Portugal and Spain. In 1975, Morocco annexed a large portion of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory. The region remains somewhat contested to this day.
Political reforms that came about throughout much of the 90s resulted in a bicameral legislature where the King still possesses real political power and remains the final say on many issues. Throughout the Cold War, Morocco sided with the West whereas many other Arab nations remained neutral or sided with Soviet states.
Morocco is a mix of Arab and Berber heritage and in many places the two are mixed and live harmoniously side by side. You will find more Berbers out in the desert and in the high mountain regions of the Atlas. The Berbers in particular are proficient in developing rose and argan oil, picked from the bushes and trees of the Atlas regions and through this Morocco has developed a booming trade in argan oil and rose oil which are used for a number of great skin and health benefits.