High 5 Issues to Know for a Profitable Journey to Morocco

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I just lately ​took​​ ​an unforgettable 15-day journey to Morocco with my partner and 4 of our closest associates. Our itinerary included Casablanca, Marrakech, Erg Chigaga, Taroudant, and Essaouira. The surroundings was mind-blowing and the cities vibrant, however my spotlight was how pleasant and welcoming the locals have been, all over the place we went.  

We did lots of analysis earlier than deciding on an itinerary and reserving our journey. On this publish, I’ll share what I discovered earlier than and through my journey, and hopefully encourage you to decide on Morocco as your subsequent huge journey vacation spot.  

Lodging  

One of many appeals of visiting Morocco is to expertise the riads. Riads, Arabic for ‘gardens’, are conventional Moroccan properties with an indoor backyard or courtyard. These little city oases are normally situated throughout the historic elements of the cities and are insulated with partitions to protect them from the warmth and the noisy streets. In Marrakech, we stayed at Riad Botanica, and it was​​​​ one of many highlights of our journey. The employees have been extraordinarily pleasant and took excellent care of us. That is​​​​ among the best motels I’ve ever stayed at!  

Logistics  

Main cities are related by dependable, high-speed trains, with easy web sites to purchase tickets on-line. We took a practice from Casablanca to Marrakech. Our seats have been comfortable, and the employees have been pleasant. I like to recommend taking the practice over driving when doable, because it’s much less time-consuming.  

For locations not related by practice, we employed two drivers. The benefit of driving is you see a lot extra and may cease in random locations you wouldn’t be capable to go to in any other case, getting a greater sense of what the much less populated areas appear to be. On the draw back, we spent a few of our days principally inside vehicles (the estimated time offered by Google Maps and the tour firms have been all the time off by an hour or two). It can be uncomfortable for these of us who’re liable to automobile illness as some roads are windy. So, be sure to pack some Gravol ginger with you. The locals shared a pure treatment with us: cumin infusions do wonders for movement illness and abdomen points.  

To get round Marrakech and Casablanca, we relied on taxis. Though we weren’t initially conscious, most cabs in Morocco both don’t have or use metres. Due to this, it’s necessary to make sure you and the driving force agree on a value earlier than beginning your trip. When you’re unsure what’s cheap, both look it up on-line or ask your lodge or riad proprietor initially of the day. Additionally remember that taxis are costlier at night time, so that you received’t pay the identical fare to go to the identical vacation spot.  

Planning a desert tour 

Essentially the most memorable a part of our journey was our two-night keep within the Erg Chigaga dunes within the Sahara Desert. So much much less in style than the Agafay desert, which is situated solely 30 kilometres exterior of Marrakech, Erg Chigaga is much less accessible and requires an 8-hour drive from Marrakech. The drive was lengthy however scenic as we handed by way of the Atlas and anti-Atlas Mountains, visiting native argan oil producers and carpet makers, and stopping in attention-grabbing​     ​ cities we had by no means heard of. 

Erg Chigaga, or as our drivers known as it “the actual Sahara Desert”, is a feast for the eyes. We stayed in luxurious tents nestled between sand dunes and loved a once-in-a-lifetime expertise. The sand is skinny and smooth – it’s stated to treatment foot issues – and all we might see within the horizon have been sand dunes. We even noticed wild camels strolling and feeding off bushes. We met a household of Tuareg individuals, a nomadic Berber ethnic group travelling throughout the Sahara. They provided us mint tea and sand-baked bread. It was notably attention-grabbing for me as my great-grandfather was Tuareg. We sat on the sand at night time and admired the unobstructed night time sky – I counted 11 capturing stars in a single night time!  

When you’re planning a visit to the Sahara Desert, make sure you rent vehicles from a trusted tour firm with sufficient automobiles for off-road driving, and that they’ll present all meals and acceptable water provides for the complete length of your tour. Unsure, ask the tour firm what will likely be offered and skim the evaluations fastidiously. We additionally packed chips and pop for the drive.  

The meals is wholesome 

The meals was wholesome all over the place we went in Morocco. Tagines are a staple of Moroccan delicacies and are served in most eating places. They encompass a stew ready with spiced meat and greens, cooked slowly in an earthenware dish. This cooking course of is more healthy because it depends on steaming as a substitute of frying the meals with oil. There are numerous tagine recipes, every household having their very own, and they are often vegetarian.  

Being a pescatarian myself, I by no means had points discovering scrumptious choices suited to my eating regimen whereas consuming out.  

Discover the markets 

There are souqs (markets) in each Moroccan metropolis, the place you possibly can strive all types of scrumptious meals. A number of the stands are spectacular for his or her vibrant shows. You might be overwhelmed at first and go into sensory overload being surrounded by so many choices. I strongly suggest hiring a trusted native information to discover the markets for the primary time. We did this in Jemaa el-Fna in Marrakech and launched into a 20-delicacy tasting journey! We have been proven the place locals store, and we tried new delicacies we had by no means heard of earlier than.  

Recent fruits 

Fruits are some of the frequent gadgets bought within the markets. I like to recommend performing some analysis to familiarize your self with the native fruits earlier than venturing out. From freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, to juicy figs and dragon fruits, or dried citruses, to call a couple of, the markets are a paradise for fruit lovers.  

I used to be notably curious about tasting as many types of dates as doable – about 45 varieties are grown within the nation – so I discovered about them earlier than my journey. This fashion, I knew what to search for whereas wandering the markets and had a extra knowledgeable and enjoyable procuring expertise. The Medjool date was by far my favorite. It’s recognized for its glorious high quality as it’s bigger and sweeter than different varieties. 

Preserved lemons are one other delicacy to strive should you’re up for it. They’re ready by slicing the lemons and protecting them in salt earlier than sealing them in a jar for months, typically years. The lemon will develop and launch juice with time. The longer you retain it within the jar, the stronger the flavour.  

Amlou 

One other native dish to strive is ​​a​​​mlou​. This unfold fabricated from almonds, honey and argan oil is scrumptious. It was typically served to us for breakfast, and we couldn’t cease consuming it. You’ll find it in small shops and supermarkets. A small jar makes the right reward for family and friends.  

Argan 

Talking of argan oil, that is one product you’ll discover all over the place in Morocco. Argan is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the native argan tree. Throughout our street journey, we typically noticed them by the facet of the street. We additionally witnessed wild goats absolutely perched on them. Our driver instructed us that they’re interested in the candy odor of the argan. It’s utilized in cosmetics, for its pores and skin and hair advantages, in addition to in meals merchandise. There are shops focusing on argan, promoting all types of derived merchandise. We introduced lots of argan cleaning soap again with us as their compact dimension made sensible presents.  

Don’t drink the water 

Morocco’s faucet water isn’t advisable to drink for foreigners. To keep away from frequent visits to the shops and having to hold heavy water bottles, to not point out the plastic waste, we bought Larq bottles earlier than our journey. These single-use water purifying bottles come in several sizes and are simple to make use of. They filter contaminants from the water making it protected to drink.  

In some smaller cities, public washrooms would possibly ration the water. We have been provided a scoop or two of water to scrub our fingers with out cleaning soap. So, should you enterprise into extra distant areas, I like to recommend carrying hand sanitizer or a small cleaning soap bar with you. You may additionally be required to depart a small tip for the washroom keepers, so bear in mind to all the time have a little bit of change in your pockets.  

You may additionally wish to take into account getting a Yellow Fever vaccine. Whereas not a requirement for entry, it’s beneficial by the Canadian authorities.  

Benefit from the rooftops  

Marrakech is particularly in style for its rooftop patios, however you’ll discover many in most cities, so be sure to reap the benefits of them and luxuriate in not less than one meal with a view. When you time it effectively, you’ll see a lovely show of orange and pink created by the reflection of the sundown on the colorful partitions, or an incredible view of the water should you’re by the coast.  

Foreign money 

You’ll be anticipated to pay with money in most markets. The Moroccan dirham is a closed forex, that means you possibly can’t carry it in or in another country. Ensure you don’t carry it with you at customs or you might find yourself being questioned by the authorities. I exchanged a considerable amount of money on the airport upon arrival, then went to the ATM once I later ran out. I normally keep away from shopping for forex from an airport sales space, however I used to be pleasantly stunned by the aggressive charge provided on the airport.  

Moroccan individuals converse many languages  

The Moroccan inhabitants is polyglot. The 2 official languages are Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and Moroccan Berber. Due to colonialism – France colonized Morocco from 1912 to 1956 – many individuals nonetheless converse French, particularly the older technology​s​. It’s additionally estimated that greater than 10% of the inhabitants speaks Spanish, particularly within the northern areas resulting from their proximity to Spain. Lastly, with the tourism business constantly rising, an increasing number of persons are talking English. Talking English and French fluently, it was simple to work together with the locals and cut price with the market distributors, however I additionally discovered the fundamentals of the native language (hey, thanks, and so on.) as an indication of respect.  

The artwork of negotiating

Bargaining is an artwork in Morocco, or as one native described it to us, it’s “a dance between the customer and the vendor.” Whereas much less frequent in Canada, it is a vital ability to accumulate for a profitable procuring expertise within the markets. We not often noticed value tags, so we needed to ask the store homeowners. That is the place the negotiating begins. A number of ideas I discovered:  

  • The primary provide isn’t the ultimate value, so all the time attempt to carry it down. The distributors offers you a better one anticipating you to barter.  
  • Play it cool! Certainly, should you appear too keen to purchase an merchandise, it’s much less possible the seller will budge on the worth.  
  • Don’t hand over; it’d take some persistence to carry the worth down.  
  • Know when to stroll away if the negotiation goes nowhere. It’d encourage the service provider to name you again and begin compromising.  
  • At all times specify the forex (US greenback, Canadian greenback, Euro, Dirham, and so on.). With vacationers coming from throughout, retailers typically negotiate within the purchaser’s forex earlier than changing it.  

Whereas bargaining would possibly make you’re feeling uncomfortable, the locals instructed us that store homeowners could have extra respect for you as a purchaser should you cut price.   

LGBTQ+ Legal guidelines 

Our group included 4 LGBTQ+ individuals and one lady, so we did intensive analysis on native legal guidelines and security measures. Morocco’s penal code criminalizes “lewd or unnatural acts with a person of the identical intercourse” and it may be punished with a jail sentence of as much as three years and a high quality of 1,200 dirham ($400 CAD). Our analysis revealed that vacationers have been very not often focused by these legal guidelines. Public show​s​ of affection are additionally strongly discouraged, and that goes for anybody. We used frequent sense and by no means mentioned our relationship statuses with our guides or the locals. We by no means had any points, however ​it​ is a tragic reminder of the battle LGBTQ+ locals endure every day. 

We have been cautious and emailed our lodging and tour firms to ask them in the event that they have been LGBTQ+ pleasant earlier than reserving something. The bulk welcomed us​​​​, except one tour firm who didn’t reply to our inquiry, so we knew to not ebook with them.  

Girls Security  

The one lady in our group felt high quality within the cities however did get known as out a couple of occasions within the smaller cities. Being a person, I didn’t expertise it myself so I’m not one of the best particular person to provide recommendation on this regard. So, should you’re a girl travelling alone, I like to recommend studying from the expertise​s​ of feminine travellers in Morocco earlier than travelling to sure areas.  

Terrorism Considerations 

We by no means felt unsafe throughout our journey​​​​. Actually, the final terrorist assault concentrating on vacationers (when this publish is being printed) was in 2018. Terrorist assaults are extra frequent in lots of European nations. Based on the World Terrorism Index, Morocco has a extra beneficial rating than most western nations, together with Canada! Merely ​s​tay up​ ​thus far with the newest journey advisories from the Canadian authorities and keep away from sure areas.  

Frequent scams 

Upon arrival, our riad homeowners warned us about frequent scams concentrating on vacationers. Some individuals will method you to supply a service and go it as an act of kindness then cost you for it later. Examples embody providing to take photographs of you and your group (typically with them) and providing instructions​​​​. We got here throughout it a couple of occasions, however they have been by no means aggressive, solely barely insistent. The very best factor to do on this state of affairs is to suppose earlier than you settle for something from a stranger and decline politely. ​I​f they insist, ignore them they usually’ll lose curiosity. We have been additionally instructed by the locals that one of the simplest ways to do away with them is to shout “Police!” We by no means felt unsafe, so we by no means went to that excessive. 

Different security ideas for any vacation spot  

I normally observe the next guidelines irrespective of the place I journey: 

  • Don’t go to ATMs at night time and solely withdraw from one situated inside a good financial institution, throughout enterprise hours to allow them to instantly retrieve your card if it will get caught. 
  • Use money over bank cards for smaller purchases in markets or smaller shops.  
  • At all times put your pockets in a closed pocket.  
  • Solely carry sufficient money with you for the day; depart your passport and different valuables in your lodge room protected.  
  • Analysis which neighbourhoods/areas are unsafe to go to earlier than heading out for the day.  

It’s all the time a good suggestion to familiarize your self with native customs earlier than a visit to make sure you don’t offend the locals. That is what I discovered each earlier than and through my journey. 

‘God, king and nation’ 

These three pillars of Moroccan society ought to by no means be disrespected. A superb rule of thumb is to keep away from discussing these subjects throughout your keep, whether or not amongst yourselves or with the locals. You possibly can offend individuals in the event that they hear you make informal remarks or make your information uncomfortable should you ask them what they consider the king, for instance.  

Ask permission to take photographs 

By no means take a photograph of somebody with out asking permission first. I used to be conscious of this whereas photographing the streets and monuments. Having a crowd within the background is okay however keep away from taking photographs of particular individuals or their retailers with out making certain they’re snug with it first. I personally consider this rule needs to be noticed extra broadly.   

Additionally, by no means {photograph} army installations or service individuals.  

Take your footwear off inside 

I’m an enormous believer of this rule, typically having to inform my visitors to take their footwear off at dwelling after they don’t do it mechanically. In lots of elements of the world​,​ corresponding to Morocco, it’s impolite and unsanitary to depart your footwear on at dwelling. Whereas this rule won’t lengthen to huge lodge chains, it is going to possible be noticed in riads. The identical goes should you’re invited to somebody’s dwelling.  

Mint tea  

Mint tea is rooted within the native tradition and is consumed every day. It’s even thought-about impolite to refuse it in case your host gives it. It’s typically served earlier than and after a meal because it helps with digestion. I indulged at first however then put a cease to it within the evenings because the inexperienced tea that’s blended with the mint leaves saved me up at night time.  

Consuming alcohol 

Alcohol is forbidden by Islamic legislation, however it’s broadly obtainable for vacationers. You should buy it in licensed liquor shops and, whereas not all eateries will serve it, a good variety of eating places have it on the menu. Take into account that consuming alcohol exterior of a licensed institution is prohibited and could also be punished by detention or different penalties.

Hammams  

Hammams are conventional Moroccan spas the place you get washed, scrubbed, and wiped with a towel in a steamed room. Within the extra conventional ones, the steam rooms are shared by all clients – however not between women and men. The one which we went to was hooked up to a much bigger spa the place we had a non-public steam room to ourselves (since we have been vacationers, women and men might keep in the identical room) and there was an indoor and an out of doors swimming pool. I extremely suggest you expertise this important a part of Moroccan tradition throughout your keep.  

Wild cats  

Wild cats are frequent sights in Morocco, particularly in city areas. The locals deal with them, and in return the cats deal with mice and rats. It’s a terrific unstated settlement. Most of them look well-fed and clear, however as tempting because it could be to pet them, they continue to be wild animals and will probably carry ailments like rabies. I had to withstand the urge to pet them many occasions, particularly after they got here near me, however I typically shared my meals with them. The city of Essaouira particularly was full of them.   

Visiting a mosque 

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is likely one of the few mosques that enable non-Muslim guests. Situated on a seawall alongside the Atlantic Ocean, it was accomplished in 1993 and may welcome as much as 105,000 worshipers. It’s essential purchase a ticket for a guided tour throughout visiting hours and respect the costume code and picture​-​taking tips. Whereas I didn’t go inside, I loved it from the skin. The view of this majestic monument accomplished by the crushing ocean waves makes for spectacular surroundings. If Casablanca isn’t in your itinerary, I strongly suggest making a detour solely to get pleasure from this sight.   

I hope you’re now impressed to discover lovely Morocco. The locals have been extraordinarily welcoming to us, and we had a improbable time! 

Secure travels,
Thomas

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