From the southernmost tip of Spain, a one-hour ferry journey will take you across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco’s port city of Tangiers. Although as the crow flies it’s only a distance of 32 kilometres, the transition from Europe to North Africa is distinct and immediate. Whilst you may think immediately of bustling souks and vast swathes of desert, Morocco has so much more to offer besides: here’s our beginner’s guide to what you can expect.
Spring and autumn (mid-March to May and September to October) are great times to visit Morocco, particularly in the Atlas Mountains where summers can be scorchingly hot and winters can be cold and snowy. Ramadan is a month-long Islamic holiday which is celebrated at a different time each year, and although shop opening hours, transport and meal times can be affected, it’s also a chance to be part of a very special time, particularly at sunset when the daily fast is broken by worship and feasting.
From the intriguing blend of European and Moorish influences in Casablanca to the unique cave houses of Bhalil and the golden facades of Erfoud; from the deep canyons of Todra Gorge to the bustling souk of Marrakesh, Morocco is a vast and varied country that delivers a progression of stunning scenery, vibrant cities and ancient culture. Many tour operators offer itineraries that allow you to sample the best of everything.
As Morocco is a predominately Muslim nation, you are expected to dress conservatively. Women may find it useful to carry a lightweight scarf or shawl to provide extra coverage when it’s needed, but lightweight, cotton clothing is also a sensible choice as protection from the hot, North African sun.
From beautifully made leather shoes, bags and cushions to ornate ceramics and mouth-watering spices, Morocco is heaven for retail therapy. If you’re planning to spend any time in the medinas (old towns), come prepared to do a little haggling – it’s practically a national sport. If you’re shopping for bigger ticket items such as carpets, be sure to do your research before you start so that you have a clear idea of how much you want to pay. Above all, be respectful of the process and be prepared to say, “no thank you”, and walk away if the price is not right for you.
Moroccans speak a mixture of Arabic, Berber, English and French, depending on where you are. As with every non-English speaking destination, we think it’s a good idea to learn a few basic phrases: in Moroccan Arabic, hello is Saalam uwaleekum (literally “peace be upon you” and traditionally answered with Wa’aleekum salaam – “and also on you”) and thank you is Choukran. If you are not Muslim, you may not be allowed to enter many mosques, but you can content yourself with admiring their ornate exteriors. Check with your travel doctor whether any vaccinations are recommended.
Morocco is renowned for its warm and hospitable people, its flavoursome cuisine, its striking architecture and its melting pot of cultures. If you want to experience all of this for yourself, talk to your personal travel manager today.