Situated on the northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco is bordered with Algeria to the east and southeast, Mauritania to the south and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country is divided into three natural regions; the fertile northern coastal plains along the Mediterranean which contains Er Rif, mountains varying in elevation up to about 8,000 ft; the rich plateaus and lowlands lying between the rugged Atlas mountains, which extend in three parallel ranges from the Atlantic coast in the southwest to Algeria and the Mediterranean in the northeast; and the semiarid area in southern and eastern Morocco, which merges into the Sahara Desert, The Atlas Mountains, with an average elevation of 11,000 ft, contain some of the highest peaks of North Africa, including Mt. Toubkal (13,665 ft), the highest of all. South of the Atlas lie the Anti-Atlas Mountains, with volcanic Mt. Siroua (10,000 ft). Morocco is one of the most exotic tourist destinations in the world. Its richness in tradition and culture makes it a preferred choice for travelers who want to experience everything that the country has to offer.
ENTRY and EXIT REQUIREMENTS
Travelers to Morocco must have a valid passport that will remain valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of your trip. Visas are not required for American tourists traveling to Morocco for fewer than 90 days. On your first arrival in Morocco you will be given an Entry Number. Please keep it handy as it will be asked on arrival in every hotel you will stay in. Note: Please check with your nearest Morocco Consulate for up to date information for other than US citizens. Morocco requires departing travelers to complete an Exit form, and display their currency exchange and purchase receipts. All countries forbid the export of their “national treasures”. Generally, trade in bona fide antiques is illegal, antique items will be confiscated and their buyers open to prosecution. Responsibility rests only with the purchaser. Morocco bans the export of Dirham in any amount. To export any merchandise, which has value as an art item, you must obtain a certificate from Morocco’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
PEOPLE and CUSTOMS
Morocco is an Islamic country. The religion is an integral part of the culture. The holy book is the Koran, based on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Each observant Muslim practices the five tenets, called the Pillars of Islam. These require that the faithful profess their faith, pray five times a day, practice charity, fast during Ramadan, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Morocco is a land of Tolerance, where Jewish, Christians and Muslims live together in peace. The main restriction a tourist will encounter is the prohibition on visiting mosques, unless you are Muslim. This is unfortunate since much of the most beautiful artistry in the country is inside these mosques. There are certain historic mosques which allow visitors and you should check for these wherever you visit. The story of prohibition for non Muslims to enter mosques goes back in history to the French Resident- General Lyauty who made that compulsory in 1912 in fear that the French authorities would abuse the heritage. If you visit during the month of Ramadan when most people fast each day until sunset, you are likely to have a somewhat different experience than a visit at other times of the year.However, you won't be expected to fast and you'll find places to eat during the day almost everywhere. It is also a mark of respect to avoid smoking, drinking and eating in the streets during Ramadan fasting hours. As in all foreign countries, it is considered polite to adhere to and show respect for local customs. Urban culture is greatly influenced by Western culture, but in rural areas traditional values and crafts continue. You should always ask permission before taking photographs of local people as offence may easily be taken.
The local currency is the Dirham, and the exchange rate is approximately 7.4 Dirhams to the U.S. dollar. Banks are generally open Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:00pm. Please note the following tips on money matters:
- ATMs are installed in most major towns so this is a secure and cost-effective way to retrieve money from your bank account or credit card (usually up to maximum of 2000 Dhs) - please check costs involved with your bank or card issuer. Generally it is better to use debit cards if possible. Don't put your card in an ATM unless you see the symbol that matches your card on the machine.
- US Dollars, UK Sterling cash, or Euros are easily changed into local currency at any hotel, airport or bureau de change. The exchange rate is fairly fixed and commission rates low or non-existent.
- Credit cards (MasterCard, Visa and American Express…) are relatively widely accepted, even in some shops in the souks, particularly for carpets, however, it is advisable to have cash for petrol/diesel.
Keep your exchange receipts to convert Moroccan Dirham back into US Dollars, Euro or British Pounds. It is illegal to import or export Moroccan currency.
Morocco has a diverse geography, from the cooler, wetter Mediterranean and Atlantic coast in the north, to the desperately hot, arid deserts and mountains of the south. You can encounter a wide range of climatic conditions and you should be prepared for this variation. Wherever you go in the country, you should carry bottled water with you, and drink as much as you can to ward off dehydration.
March – Mid June, September – October - warm temperatures (25 to 35 degrees Celsius) in the south, very little chance of rain and warm evenings, except in March and early April where evenings and mornings can be cooler (13° to 17°C). Easter is a peak travel time.
Mid November – Mid February - mostly warm (15 to 25 degrees Celsius), can be very chilly in evenings and it may rain but rarely for long periods. This is the winter shoulder season. New Year is a peak travel time.
Mid June – August - can be very hot in Marrakech and the south (up to 45 degrees Celsius), but more pleasant in mountains and on coast. This is the summer/hot season. We would suggest afternoons by pool or a siesta and make use of the long days for sightseeing early and late into the warm evenings.
FOOD and WATER
Moroccan dishes are flavorful including tajine, a thick vegetable and meat stew, djaja mahamara, chicken stuffed with couscous, almonds and raisins, mchoui, roasted or grilled mutton, and mint tea, available everywhere you go. Morocco is famous for its traditional food served alongside international cuisine which is incited from most parts of the world. Even if it is safe in most big cities, it is always advisable not to drink tap water or eat raw vegetables especially in Desert Areas. Bottled mineral water is available throughout the country.
The electricity supply is 127/220V AC, 50 Hz.
As is common around the world, hotels in your destinations may impose a hefty surcharge on international calls placed through their switchboards. We urge you to check hotel policy before placing any call through your hotel. To avoid hotel markups use a calling card service. Another option is the use of a prepaid phone card, available in Morocco. A number of cell phones manufactured today have the ability to operate overseas on the GSM (Global System for Mobile) standard. We recommend that you contact your cell phone service provider to determine if your phone operates on the GSM and what, if any, activation may be required. If your phone does not have the GSM feature you may find that renting a phone specifically designed for use overseas is the most practical option. There are private telephone offices (téléboutiques) everywhere in the main cities and in most small towns, too. They work with coins or cards (télécarte). Some also have a fax machine. Faxes can also be sent from the post office, and are usually available in hotels. Morocco’s country code is 212. The outgoing international code is 00. Mobile phones work in most parts of the country through Moroccan operators.
Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year.
Arabic is the official language of Morocco, however, the English-speaking visitor will have no problems while traveling in the main tourist areas of the country. French is widely spoken throughout country and Spanish primarily in the North.
GRATUITIES and PORTERAGE
The following guidelines are general local standards:
- An amount equivalent to approximately 150MAD (US$20) per full day of sightseeing is suggested as a tip for your local guide, with 100MAD (US$13) suitable for your driver. For half day excursions, equivalents of 100MAD (US$13) and 50MAD (US$6) are appropriate for guide and driver respectively.
- Taxi drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s polite to round up the fare
- A charge for service is often added to restaurant checks but, if it’s not, a typical gratuity would be equal to 10% of the total. These tipping guidelines are suggestions only and decisions involving tipping are entirely discretionary.
Tips to airport and hotel porters are generally included if for private airport transfers. Service charges are not automatically included on the bill.
2 Avenue Mohammed Al Fassi
WHAT TO BUY
At the heart of all Moroccan towns are the souks which group together traders and craftsmen: cobblers and jewellers, apothecaries and leather makers, carpet and fabric sellers, potters and weavers. They very often set up shop in separate but neighboring districts according to ancestral tradition and local custom, hence the maze of streets. Although each town has its market, some souks like the ones in Marrakech, Fez and Meknes have become legendary and an essential place to visit. A key feature in traditional town planning, the souk is explored rather than just visited. Protected from the sun by plaited reed panels, it is a pleasure to walk through the narrow, bustling streets. Here, machinery has remained simple. Rugs, pottery, leather items, baskets or jewelry are made with the same confident and precise gestures that have guided Moroccan craftsmen for generations. As everywhere in the orient, haggling is part of tradition. It is a subtle exercise that combines social relations, games and acting. Accept the mint tea you will be offered, look around the goods presented and hide your interest if you like something. All the pleasure of haggling comes from the time spent in the coolness of the shop. Discussions focus on a carpet or piece of jewelry of course, but also on the country, traveling and life. A golden rule: take your time!
- January 1 - New Year's Day
- January 11 - Signing of the declaration of Independence
- May 1 - International Labour Day
- July 30 - Coronation Day
- Aug 14 - Allegiance Day
- August 20 - King & Public Rrevolution
- August 21 - Youth Celebration; King’s Birthday
- November 6 - Green March Day
- November 18 - Independence Day
There are also the festivities associated with the Islamic (Lunar) Calendar which vary from year to year; back through the Gregorian (Solar) Calendar by approximately 11 days each year.
- 2nd September – 1st October 2008
- 23rd August – 20th September 2009
Aid el fitr
(end of Ramadan)
- 2nd October 2008
- 21st September 2009
Aid el Adha
(called Aid el Kebir as well, is the feast of the sacrifice)
- 9th December 2008
- 28th November 2009
(Islamic New Year)
- 8th January 2008
- 29th December 2008
(Prophet Mohammed's birthday)
- 20th March 2008
- 9th March 2009