The Kingdom of Morocco is filled with cultural and natural treasures that will not disappoint even the most adventurous traveler. Morocco’s fascinating medieval cities like Marrakech and Fes lie in between the great Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean. Morocco is the gateway to Africa. Its mountains, desert and coast are populated by Berbers and nomads. The Atlas Mountains make up the backbone of Morocco, and this is where traditional Berber culture still thrives today. Morocco is part of the Maghreb region, in addition to Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, and Libya, with which it shares cultural, historical and linguistic ties.
Location: Morocco is in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Western Sahara
Area: Morocco covers 446,550 sq km of land, slightly larger than California, and slightly smaller than Spain.
Capital City: Rabat
Population: Just over 32 million people live in Morocco.
Language: Arabic (official), Berber dialects, and French which is often the language of business, government, and diplomacy.
Religion: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%
Climate: Hot summers (June – September) and cool to cold winters (especially in the Atlas Mountains). Avoid the desert during the summer months and watch out for sand storms February to April.
When to go: May to October for the beaches; November to April for the desert; April to October for the mountains, March to June and September to November to explore the imperial cities like Marrakech and Fes.
Travel to Morocco
Morocco’s International Airport: Mohammed V International Airport (Airport code: CMN) is Morocco’s main airport for long-haul flights. Marrakech also has a busy international airport, Al Menara Airport (Airport code: RAK), with service to many European destinations.
Getting to Morocco: Most people either fly into Morocco via Casablanca or Marrakech; or arrive by ferry from Spain and France.
Morocco’s Embassies/Visas: Most nationalities including those from the US, Canada and the UK do not need a visa to enter Morocco as a tourist.
Morocco’s Tourist Information Office (ONMT): Angle Rue Oued El Makhazine et rue Zalaga, BP 1910100 Agdal, Rabat, Morocco E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web Site:http://www.visitmorocco.com/
Where to travel
When you travel to Morocco, the best places to visit include the imperial cities of Marrakech, Fes and Meknes. This is where you find wonderful bazaars, palaces and bustling town squares. Morocco is also famous for its beaches and some of the best seaside towns include Essaouira, Tangier and Asilah. Morocco also has natural beauty. You can hire a camel and trek through the Sahara; climb North Africa’s highest peak; or stay in a traditional Kasbah in the fascinating Dades Valley. Moroccan Sahara Tours will handle everything for you!
Situated at the foot of the Atlas Mountains the imperial city of Marrakech is large, noisy, full of history, and beautiful. There’s a lot to see and do in Marrakech. Highlights include the central square of Djemma el Fna; the Saadian Tombs, Marjorelle Gardens, and the souqs (bazaars). Staying in a traditional riad will really enhance your visit to this fascinating city.
The most complete medieval city of the Arab world, Fes is a strange and appealing mix of Middle Ages meets the modern world. The extraordinary medina city of Fes El Bali is worth a few days walking in itself. Other highlights include the Merenid tombs, the Royal Palace and the Mellah (Jewish quarter). Fes was Morocco’s capital for more than 400 years and is still considered the religious and cultural center of the country.
A favorite with independent travelers, Essaouira is a great place to get away from the heat and bustle of the bigger cities. Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley enjoyed the beach scene here in the 1960’s. Highlights include strolling through the town’s beautiful narrow streets filled with red and blue painted houses, the ramparts, the beach and listening to traditional music of the Gnawas.
4. Chefchaouen (the Blue City):
Situated in the Rif Mountains Chefchaouen is a small town in a big landscape. Popular with independent travelers but not yet spoilt by them. Highlights include hiking, swimming in streams, sipping a drink on the main square (Outa el Hammam) and enjoying the beauty of the white houses and their brightly painted doors. (Add this on if you visit Meknes)
Merzouga is a desert town that lies a stone throw away from the impressive Erg Chebbi sand dunes, Morocco’s largest dunes. From here Moroccan Sahara Tours can organize trips into the desert and get a little taste of Bedouin life. The landscape around Merzouga evokes the classic images of the Sahara desert and won’t disappoint. There are plenty of places to stay to suit all budgets.
6. Jebel Toubkal – Trekking the High Atlas Mountains:
Jebel Toubkal, in the High Atlas Mountains, is North Africa’s highest peak at 4,167m (13,667 ft). It’s a challenging trek to the summit, but worth it for the spectacular views. While you can make it to the summit and back to the town of Imlil in a day, Moroccan Sahara Tours recommends you take at least 3 days to get the most out of it.
Meknes is smaller and a little more laid back than Marrakech and Fez yet this imperial city has similar charms. Highlights include a wonderfully preserved medina filled with souks that are fun and easy to navigate, with or without a guide. The Imperial City, built by the powerful Moulay Ismail in the 17th Century, is a showcase of Moroccan architecture complete with huge gates and impressive carvings. The nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis are also well worth a trip. (Add a trip to Chefchouen if you visit here! See above.)
8. Dades Valley:
The Dades Valley runs in between the Jebel Sarhro and the High Atlas Mountains and offers some of Morocco’s most spectacular scenery. The deep red cliffs on each side are lined with impressive Kasbahs, traditional Moroccan built forts. The best way to appreciate the valley and its Berber villages is to get out of your car and walk especially when you reach the Todra and Dades Gorges. Several Kasbahs in this region have been turned into hotels.
Tangier is the gateway to Africa for many travelers. While the city doesn’t have quite the charm it did in the 1940’s and 1950’s when you could rub shoulders with the likes of Truman Capote, Paul Bowles and Tennessee Williams there’s still a lot to see. Highlights include the medina, the Kasbah and the Ville Nouvelle. Tangier is well-known for its aggressive touts, but persevere and this unique city will grow on you.
Asilah is a wonderful beach town on Morocco’s North Atlantic coast. Asilah is very popular with Moroccan vacationers who flock to its sandy beaches in the summer months. The city walls are covered in colorful murals and the houses are white-washed making this town look like it could be at home in Greece. A popular cultural festival is held here every summer. Other highlights include the beaches, small shops, the ramparts and medina.
Anyone can speak another language. It’s all about confidence and just trying. Even if you learn just the very basics, your travel experience will be better for it. Just as important as the words we use, body language and our sense of humor have a role to play in understanding and being understood. Remember to relax and enjoy the experience!
In Morocco, Arabic is the official language. Many Moroccans can effectively speak many other languages, such as French, English, Italian, and German. In rural areas Berber is spoken, making it the second-most popular language in Morocco behind Arabic. French is the third most popular.
Here are a few words/phrases that will come in handy:
Thank you very much.
You’re welcome. (literal: You don’t need to thank me for my duty)
la shukran la wezhb
Peace be upon you.
How are you? (literal: No harm?)
Fine, thank you.
Goodbye. (literal: With peace)
If God wills (talking about the future or making plans)
What’s your name?
My name is…
We like Morocco!