What to know about Morocco

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The Kingdom of Morocco is a beautiful country in the North of Africa. It is rich in culture and history and the landscape is extraordinary. You will find ancient cities, mountains, deserts and even beaches.

There is much to know about this country. That’s why in this blog I wrote about the following:

Medical number: 15

Police: 19 in the city or 177 outside the city

Information that you must know about Morocco

In the touristic areas most people speak English but the moment you’re outside those areas it can be challenging to communicate with the locals.

Some general information that you need to know:

  • Capital: Rabat
  • Currency: Moroccan Dirham (DH)
  • Official languages: Arabic and Standard Moroccan Berber
  • Largest religion: Sunni Muslim
  • Neighboring countries: Algeria and Mauritania via Western Saharan territories
  • Surface: 710,850 km2
  • Inhabitants: 37,340,000 (2021)
  • Independence: 2 March 1956

Besides the general information there are some important things you should know before you go:

  • Morocco is a big country so it’s almost impossible to visit everything in one short trip.
  • There are al lot of people that can speak French in Morocco, so if you speak French it’s easier to communicate with some locals. You can buy a book to learn some French.
  • On Friday many shops and places are closed because it’s a Muslim country and that is their holy day. Also check the holidays. For example, don’t go during Ramadan because it will be difficult to find a place to eat.
  • Most mosques are not allowed to be visited if you are a non-Muslim. You can visit the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.
  • Don’t drink tap water, always use bottled water but make sure the bottle is closed well because sometimes they refill bottles and sell it. You can bring a water filter bottle to filter tap water.
  • Bring pack of tissues with you because many toilets don’t have toilet paper. Besides that, alcohol gel might be handy as well. It’s handy to have wipes with you.
  • Make sure you always have cash. Small markets and cabs can’t be paid by card.
  • Always have enough change with you to avoid overpaying.
  • Bargaining is the key to pay less in markets. It’s a normal thing to do in Morocco and you can easily get 25-50% off the price.
  • For a cab make sure the price is set before you get in. In the city it should be around 30DH, but you can always bargain the price.
  • It’s normal to leave a tip. In local places 1DH is enough and in nicer places you can give 3-5DH.
  • There are many scams so watch out! Don’t always believe what they say. Some will try to guide you but just say politely that you don’t want that. Always stay away from the ‘free tours’ or ‘free directions’. They will ask for money afterwards! When the people are overly friendly in the big cities most of the time, they will ask money afterwards.
  • Shop owners can be really pushy but don’t fall for it and again bargaining is the key.
  • Always ask before you take a picture but watch out, sometimes they ask money afterwards! If they ask money, make sure you first bargain about the price otherwise it can get expensive. Some don’t want to be on the picture so always ask!
  • Watch out when you buy souvenirs. Make sure you buy real things and not fake things. You will see a lot of saffron, but it can be artificial or a mix with fake stuff.
  • The higher the tea is poured the more important the guest is.
  • Djellaba’ the national Moroccan costume.

Tip: wear decent clothes. In touristic areas you will see some tourists with shorts etc. but have respect for the culture so cover up your knees and shoulders.

Basic Moroccan:

  • Hello = as-salaam Alaykum (peace be with you)
  • Hi = salam
  • How are you = labas
  • Good = mezya
  • Thank you = shokran
  • Good bye = beslama
  • Yes = wah ; no = la

Weather and landscape in Morocco

There is sun all year round and summers are quite hot around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius. In the winter temperatures can drop to 5 degrees Celsius in the Sahara so during the nights it can get really cold. The most rain fall happens from November to March.

The best time to visit Morocco is during autumn or spring because then the weather is not too hot and not too cold. This means visiting September-November or March-April is ideal.

Tip: in the winter it can get cold so make sure you bring warm clothes when you visit during the winter. Besides that, it’s better to stay in a hotel during the winter because most riads and apartments are cold. Read the reviews online.

The land of the distant sunset

The landscape is something special. There are four natural landscapes. The Northwest Atlas, the Atlas Mountains, the High plateau of Eastern Morocco and the Reef. Read more about the landscapes on their website.

Transport in Morocco

There are many options to travel around in Morocco. The trains are affordable and easy to take in Morocco. You can visit the website of Morocco Trains to see which train routes they offer. You can also look on Rail.Ninja for trains. The trains are perfect to take when you want to go from one big city to the other one. There are even night trains that you can take if you like.

Besides the train there are shared Grand Taxis. It’s like a bus but they are smaller, carry around six persons, and are way faster than the bus. Sometimes they are even faster than taking the train. It’s better to take the Grand Taxis instead of buses.

The buses are run by CTM, which is the national company. It’s better to take this one because they are more reliable. Online you can check the schedule. There are some other big companies like SATAS and Trans Ghazala that are also good to take. Another bus service is Supratours express which is owned by the train company ONCF.

Stay away from the small private buses because they only drive when the bus is full and that can take a while. You can buy the ticket at the bus stations. You can buy a ticket in advance for the more popular trips that only run once a day. Then you’re sure you have a spot. You pay to get your baggage loaded.

There are also domestic flights from Royal Air Maroc. It’s only good if you want to go from North to South or when it would take too long with a bus or a train. For example, Casa to Dakhla almost takes around 30 hours by bus so then it’s better to take a flight.

In the cities you can just take a Taxi but make sure you first set the price. You can easily bargain with the taxi driver. In the city a trip should cost around 30DH.

It’s also perfect to rent a car in Morocco and drive yourself but make sure you have a full insurance and a spare tire before you hit the road. You need to know that they can drive crazy and aggressive. Many accidents are happening due to their behavior on the road.

You can read more about getting around Morocco on the website of Rough Guides.

Food in Morocco

There are many dishes served with couscous which is made from wheat or corn flower, so it’s like tiny little grains of pasta. Couscous is the national dish of Morocco so you must try it. They serve this with meat, fish or vegetables. In their dishes there are a lot of flavors, and they use many herbs. The kitchen is influenced by Berber, Arab, Jewish and the French culture.

Some dishes you just have to try out are:

  • Tagine is a slow cooked dish in a clay pot. They make it with different ingredients. You can have it with meat, fish or vegetarian.
  • Tanjia is a dish with lamb or beef and many spices. It’s traditionally cooked in ‘Farran’ which is a bakery. So, you should try this from a traditional bakery.
  • The side dish Zaalouk is made with tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, spices, and olive oil.
  • Fish Cermoula is a mix of seafood with herbs.
  • A lentil soup from Morocco called Harira.
  • Bisara is a soup made from dried fava beans.
  • Bastilla is a pie made with chicken or pigeon.
  • Khobz is the typical bread from Morocco. Some other bread that you must try out are the harha, baghrir or the rghaif.
  • Msemen is a Moroccan bread eaten with jam, cheese, or olive oil.
  • Steamed sheep head
  • Calves’ liver is a fried dish
  • Trotters are cow and lamb feet cooked with hot spices and hummus.
  • Brochettes of lamb, chicken, or beef.
  • Fried sardines stuffed and cooked with spices on them. Afterwards they deep fry it.
  • Mint tea you will find this everywhere.
  • Some sweets you need to try: Briwat, Chebakia and Kaab el Ghazal

Of course, this is just a selection because there are many more dishes. Explore the Moroccan cuisine and discover all the flavors.

Tip: make sure to bring some Imodium because many people have stomach problems after eating Moroccan dishes. Never drink from the tap and avoid ice in the drinks. It’s also better to eat cooked food, so no raw salads if you easily get stomach problems. You can bring a water filter bottle to filter tap water.

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