Morocco is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.
Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, and even though the status of the territory remains unresolved, the government is trying to conceal this, e.g. on all maps in Morocco, Western Sahara is drawn as an integrated part of the country.
Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997, although the king still possesses the actual political power. The press is relatively free, although clampdowns have occurred following criticism of the authorities or articles concerning the Western Sahara situation.
Electricity and voltage
The voltage in Morocco is generally 220 V, and outlets will fit the two-pin plug known as the Europlug. It's probably the most commonly used international plug, found throughout continental Europe and parts of the Middle East, as well as much of Africa, South America, Central Asia and the former Soviet republics. Europlugs are included in most international plug adapter kits.
Watch out for American and Canadian appliances, which are made to use with 110 V. That means that even with an adapter, plugging them into a 220 V socket may damage them. If your appliance is "dual-voltage", it should be fine (it's designed for both 110 and 220 V). If not, you'll need a power converter as well as an adapter.
The biggest event on the Moroccan calendar is the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims fast during the day time and break the fast at sunset. Most restaurants are closed for lunch (with the exception of those catering specifically to tourists) and things generally slow down.Travelling during this time is entirely possible, and the restrictions don't apply to non-Muslims, but it's respectful to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during the fast. At the end of the month is the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, when practically everything closes for as long as a week and transport is packed as everybody heads back home. Alcohol consumption is not prohibited for tourists during Ramadan, there a few restaurants and bars serving alcohol. Also, alcohol can be purchased in a supermarket if a tourist shows their passport to the staff as Moroccans are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol during the holy month.
hosts all sorts of towns and cities, several Spanish enclaves and some important ports
North Atlantic Coast
the northern half of Morocco's coast is home to the capital and Casablanca, interspersed with more laid back beach towns
South Atlantic Coast
the southern coast is more laid back, home to gorgeous beach towns like Essaouira and Agadir
covering the High Atlas mountains and the surrounding areas including Marrakech
covering the Middle Atlas mountains and the surrounding areas including Fez and Meknes
the vast desert region of Morocco runs along the border with Algeria; camel safaris and sand dunes are the name of the game here
the southern portion, covering Tarouddant down to the Western Sahara border
For the sake of travel, Western Sahara is treated as its own entity
Rabat – The capital of Morocco; very relaxed and hassle-free, highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
Casablanca – This modern city by the sea is a starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the third largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon
Fez – Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
Marrakech (Marrakesh)– Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souks and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed.
Meknes – A modern, laid back city that offers a welcome break from the tourist crush of neighbouring Fez.
Ouarzazate – Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn't destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
Tangier –Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain. An enigmatic charm which has historically attracted numerous artists (Matisse), musicians (Hendrix), politicians (Churchill), writers (Burroughs, Twain) and others (Malcolm Forbes).
Taroudannt – A southern market town.
Tetouan – Nice beaches and is the gateway to the Rif Mountains.
Agadir – Agadir is best-known for its beaches. The town is a nice example of modern Morocco, with less emphasis on history and culture. Take the local bus for a few cents and go 2 or 3 villages North, where there are additional beaches
Amizmiz – With one of the largest Berber souks in the High Atlas Mountains every Tuesday, Amizmiz is a popular destination for travelers looking for a day trip that is easily accessible (about an hour) from Marrakech
Chefchaouen – A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier, evoking the feeling of a Greek island
Essaouira – An ancient sea-side town newly rediscovered by tourists. From mid-June to August the beaches are packed but any other time and you'll be the only person there. Good music and great people. Nearest Coast from Marrakech
Merzouga and M'Hamid – From either of these two settlements at the edge of the Sahara, ride a camel or 4x4 into the desert for a night (or a week) among the dunes and under the stars
Tinerhir – This town is the perfect point of access to the stunning High Atlas
Volubilis – 30 kilometers North of Meknes, biggest Roman ruins in Morocco, next to the holy town Moulay Idriss
2012 (1433): Jul 20 - Aug 18
2013 (1434): Jul 9 - Aug 7
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr is held after the end of Ramadan and may last several days. Exact dates depend on astronomical observations and may vary from country to country.
The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (Dh or MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes (c).
There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, Dh 1, Dh 2, Dh 5, Dh 10 coins, although coins smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Notes are available in denominations of Dh 20, Dh 50, Dh 100, and Dh 200.
While the dirham is the only currency officially accepted in Morocco, some hotels may accept your EUR/USD unofficially.
Money Exchange: It's illegal to bring more than 1000 Dh of local currency out of the country, so you can't get dirhams outside Morocco. By law, exchange rates should be the same at all banks and official exchanges. Make a note of the exact rates before you go to make sure you're getting a fair deal.
Don't expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, although in larger cities there are often an ATM near the main gates, and even one or two inside the large souqs (if you manage to find your way). You may also encounter "helpful" people who will exchange dollars or euros for dirhams. Unofficial exchange on the streets outside souqs or medinas doesn't seem to exist.
Besides banks and dedicated exchange offices, major post offices provide exchange, and work until late hours. There are several exchange offices in Casablanca airport.
ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern ville nouvelle shopping districts. Make sure that the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before you put your card in.
Try to have as much small change as possible and keep larger bills hidden separately.
What to buy?
Apart from classic tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things from this region that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique:
Dates: 10 Dhm for an orange box seems an adequate price after some bargaining.
Leatherware: Morocco has a really huge production of leather goods. Markets are full of mediocre models and designer shops are hard to find.
Argan oil and products made of it such as soap and cosmetics.
Tagines: Classic Moroccan cooking dishes made of clay will improve oil/water based meals you make if you plan to bring Morocco to your kitchen back home.
Birad: Classic Moroccan tea pots.
Djellabah: Classic Moroccan designer robe with a hood. Often come in intricate designs and some are suited for warm weather while other heavier styles are for the cold.
Carpets: Genuine handmade Berber carpets can be purchased direct from the artisans who weave them. If you go to small villages, such as Anzal, in the province of Ouarzazate, you can visit the weavers, watch them work, and they will happily serve you tea and show you their products.
If you're looking for T-shirts, consider designer items by Kawibi--they look much more inspiring than boring traditional set of themes. They are available in duty-free stores, Atlas Airport Hotel near Casablanca and other places.
Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected. It is not really possible to give an accurate indication of how much to start the bargaining at in relation to the initial asking price, but a general idea would be to aim for approximately 50% off. Prices are set on a daily, even, hourly basis, depending on how much has been sold on a given day (or period of hours), while also reflecting the vendor's personal estimation of the potential client. The souks are often a good reflection of the basic economic principles of supply and demand, particularly with regard to the demand side. If a lot of products have been sold by a particular merchant he/she will raise the price, and may refuse to sell any more products for the rest of that day (or for days) unless the price is much higher than usual. If there are many tourists around prices go higher and bargaining even small amounts off the asking price becomes quite difficult. In addition, the seller will generally inspect the client, whose dress and possessions (particularly if the potential client sports an expensive Swiss watch, camera, etc) are usually the main indication of how high the price may be set above the usual. However, the potential client's attitude is also taken into consideration.
Taking all this and other factors into account (such as the time of day, day of the week, season, etc.), initial prices may be up to 50 times or more in excess of normal prices, especially for more expensive items, such as carpets. Carpets, however, are a very specialized item and it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of production techniques and qualities. If possible, an ability to distinguish between hand-made and machine-made carpets, hand-dyes, and the like is helpful to avoid being utterly duped.
Bargaining is an enjoyable experience for most vendors and they prefer clients that don't appear hurried and are willing to take the time to negotiate. It is most often actually necessary to give reasons why you believe the price should be lower. The reasons you might give are limited only by your imagination and often lead to some very entertaining discussions. Common reasons may include: the price of the item elsewhere, the item not being exactly what you are after, the fact that you have purchased other items from the stall/store, that you have built a rapport with the vendor after discussing football and so forth. On the other hand, if there is little movement in the price after some time, the best advice is to begin leaving, this often has the result of kick-starting the bidding anew, and if not, it is likely that the merchant is actually unwilling to go further below a given price, however absurd.
It is also important to show a genuine interest for the workmanship of the product for sale, no matter how uninterested you may actually be in what you are buying. This does not, however, mean that you should appear over-enthusiastic, as this will encourage the vendor to hold his or her price. Rather, it is important to project a critical appreciation for each article/object. Any defects are either unacceptable or a further opportunity to bargain the price down.
You should take caution to never begin bidding for unwanted items or to give the vendor a price you are unwilling or unable (with cash on hand) to pay. Try to avoid paying by credit card at all costs. In the event you do pay by credit card, never let it out of your sight and demand as many receipts as possible. There is typically a credit card carbon copy and an official shop receipt.
Never tell a vendor where you are staying and 'never tell a vendor how much you paid for any other purchases. Just say you got a good price and you want a good price from him or her too. And, above all, never be afraid to say 'No'.
It must also be said that, as is true for buyers, not all sellers are actually very good at what they do. A vendor that is completely uninterested or even aggressive is unlikely to give a good price. Move on.
Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on cafe and restaurant menus throughout the country. Most restaurants serve dishes foreign to Morocco considering that Moroccans can eat their domestic dishes at home. Apart from major cities, Morocans do not generally eat out in restaurants so choice is generally limited to international fare such as Chinese, Indian and French cuisine.
Couscous made from semolina grains and steamed in a colander-like dish known as a couscoussière is the staple food for most Moroccans, and is probably the best known Moroccan meal. It can be served as an accompaniment to a stew or tagine, or mixed with meat and vegetables and presented as a main course. Almost all Moroccan restaurants uphold the tradition of serving couscous on Fridays.
Tagine, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name). Restaurants offer dozens of variations (from Dh 25 in budget restaurant) including chicken tagine with lemon and olives, honey-sweetened lamb or beef, fish or prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce. There are many variations of this dish.
A popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is kaliya, a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.
A popular delicacy in Morocco is Pastilla, made by layering thin pieces of flakey dough between sweet, spiced meat filling (often lamb or chicken, but most enjoyably pigeon) and layers of almond-paste filling. The dough is wrapped into a plate-sized pastry that is baked and coated with a dusting of powdered sugar.
A Dh 3 - Dh 5 serve of harira or besara will always include some bread to mop the soup up and will fill you up for breakfast or lunch:
Moroccans often elect to begin their meals with warming bowl of harira (French: soupe marocaine), a delicious soup made from lentils, chick peas, lamb stock, tomatoes and vegetables. Surprisingly, among Moroccans harira has a role of nourishing food for "blue-collars" rather than a high-flying cuisine.
Soups are also traditional breakfasts in Morocco. Bissara, a thick glop made from split peas and a generous wallop of olive oil can be found bubbling away near markets and in medinas in the mornings.
Many cafes (see Drink) and restaurants also offer good value petit déjeuner breakfast deals, which basically include a tea or coffee, orange juice (jus d'Orange) and a croissant or bread with marmalade from Dh 10.
 Snacks and fast food
Snackers and budget watchers are well catered for in Morocco. Rotisserie chicken shops abound, where you can get a quarter chicken served with fries and salad for around Dh 20. Sandwiches (from Dh 10) served from rotisserie chicken shops or hole-in-the-wall establishments are also popular. These fresh crusty baguettes are stuffed with any number of fillings including tuna, chicken, brochettes and a variety of salads. This is all usually topped off with the obligatory wad of French fries stuffed into the sandwich and lashings of mayonnaise squeezed on top.
You may also see hawkers and vendors selling a variety of nuts, as well as steamed broad beans and BBQ'd corn cobs.
Although a predominantly Muslim country, Morocco is not dry.
Alcohol is available in restaurants, liquor stores, bars, supermarkets, clubs, hotels and discos. Some Moroccans enjoy a drink although it is disapproved in public places. The local brew of choice carries the highly original name of Casablanca Beer. It is a full flavored lager and enjoyable with the local cuisine or as a refreshment. The other two major Moroccan beers are Flag Special and Stork. Also you can find local judeo-berber vodka, mild anise flavored and brewed from figs.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal even if you took just one beer
As a rule, do not drink tap water at all in Morocco, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of minerals than the water in Europe. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for travellers from places such as Europe, drinking the tap water will usually result in illness. Generally this is not serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it is enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday.
Bottled water is widely available. Popular brands of water include Oulmes (sparkling) and Sidi Ali, Sidi Harazem and Ain Saiss DANONE (still). The latter has a slightly mineral and metallic taste. Nothing with a high mineralization produced (so far?).
Any traveller will be offered mint tea at least once a day. Even the most financially modest Moroccan is equipped with a tea pot and a few glasses. Although sometimes the offer is more of a lure into a shop than a hospitable gesture, it is polite to accept. Before drinking, look the host in the eye and say "ba saha ou raha". It means enjoy and relax and any local will be impressed with your language skills.
Note that a solo woman may feel more comfortable having a drink or snack at a pastry shop or restaurant as cafes are traditionally for men. This doesn't apply to couples though.