We all have what I call “Our own scale”. I mean that we get acquainted to the usual distances, time scheduling, and rhythm of life, that, all together, compose that scale. That’s what makes our life predictable and controllable, easing decisions and the life itself. When we move to another country or society, sometimes things are different, forcing to an adapting time, until getting “fixed” in the new scale.
A tourist, usually, doesn't have that time, so, travelling demands a special attention the “the scale”. In a global world under the American culture, the differences are fading, turning the adaptation quick and easy. But, sometimes, surprises do happen. Then, you better be attempt to that notion of scale. If you do, you get a new point of observation of the visited place, and will be able to enrich your knowledge understanding the differences. But if you don’t then you will probably feel rather uncomfortable, and, if you need to go on planning next step of your trip, you risk to make serious mistakes, spoiling the trip.
In my trips, I really felt out of scale twice: the first in 1982, in my first visit to Fes, in Morocco; the second one in Florida, in 1992 in my first visit to the USA. I was prepared, and really enjoyed the feeling. To know the details just follow the links.
Well I look at, and have done for a long time now, that I got through the hard work of dealing with the hard work so that now its so much easier for me and Im at home in Morocco, I love it there - every now and then some things get a bit much but I love the place, do something or go somewhere that I know and like and Im okay again.
Ive been many times and I hardly ever get hassled when I go about the place - they can read when you know what you mean and mean what you say - particularly from an experienced and respectful stance, hopefully not from and inexperienced and possibly as in unfortunately much seen ignorant tourist stance.
I say no because I know I mean no - and I think they see that.
I recommend a lot of the items for sale there, Morocco and Moroccans esp the Berber have been famed for their art and craftsmanship - remember beautiful Andalucian design and colour comes from the Moors!! eg carpets - I dont at all suggest staying away from the wonderful souks and all the sights where there are touts and annoying husslers throwing the most ridiculous prices at you - but its preparation - learning and preparation and go with a good open mind. and haggle and have a bit of a laugh...take it all with a grain of salt and most will like and respect you for it!
Ive not made it to Egypt yet - Id like to, but some of what puts me off is how bad the hustle sounds there - to real rudeness point - whereas in Morocco there are still many many well meaning and hospitable and kind people.
Have a read around my pages if its of help. and get a good guide book such as the Lonely Planet, DK eyewitness guide and particularly the latest Footprints and get some preparation and inspiration in.
all the best
This is a fantastic book that gives an account of the years that the Glaoui brothers ruled over South Morocco while the French were in power and the King or Sultan of MOrocco was in exile...
Gavin Maxwell gives an authoritative insight into what went on during the years leading up to the brothers reign from their headquarters in Telouet and Ouarzazate - the international visitors that coloured or influence palace life and the developing culture of the tribes and people in this area and the eventual downfall and ousting of the Glaoui and the French colonialists.
I lived next door to their palace in Telouet for a year and a half and never ceased to be fascinated by the beauty and mystery of the place. the kasbahs of the Glaoui still remain on in the area and make interesting visit for history or architecture buffs.
A brilliant, thoroughly recommended book.
Fez is one of the four imperial cities of Morocco, having served as the nation's capital at different times during its history. Today's city is composed of three distinct quarters: Fez el-Bali (the old walled city), Fez Jdid (the "new" city that grew around the ancient walls), and the Nouvelle Ville (the modern section established by the French during the era of the French protectorate).
Fez was founded on the banks of the Fez River in about 789 A.D. by King Idris I, the founder of the Idrisid Dynasty. Although the surrounding region was controlled by the Berbers, most of the inhabitants of Fez were Arabs that had immigrated from Spain and Tunisia. Each group established its own walled city. Refugees from the Spanish province of Andalusia, who fled from a rebellion in Córdoba between 817 and 818 A.D., founded the Adwat al-Andalus; and 2,000 families from Kairouyine, Tunisia who were expelled during a rebellion in 824 founded the Adwat al-Qarawiyyin. (It was some of these refugees from Kairouyine, Tunisia who founded the Kairouyine University in 859 A.D., making it the oldest continuously functioning university in the world). During this period, Fez served as the imperial capital of Morocco under the Isidrids.
During the 870s, Berbers from the Madyuna, Gayatha, and Miknasa tribes united and occupied the city for some time. Although they were eventually expelled by Yahya ibn al-Qassim, some Berbers slowly began moving into the city, ultimately influencing its architecture, food, and culture.
In 1069, Fez became a united city after the walls between the two quarters of the city were demolished. Soon afterwards, the Almoravids made Marrakech their capital and Fez was no longer an imperial city. However, it remained the religious and intellectual center of the country, attracting Muslims, Christians, and Jews from the Arab world, as well as Europe, who came to study at the university.
In 1250, Fez again became the capital of Morocco under the Marinid Dynasty. (And it remained the seat of government until the French moved their capital to Rabat in 1912). In the late 1200s and into the 1300s, Fez became a major center of trade between the cities of the Barbary Coast and Timbuktu and other outposts in the Sahara Desert. During this period, Fez was the world's only source of the distinctive Fez hats, or tarbooshes. The tarbooshes eventually became associated with the Ottoman Turks, who had occupied Morocco for a short period beginning in 1579. (Over time, Fez lost its monopoly over the manufacture of tarbooshes, almost all of which were ultimately manufactured in Turkey).
Nowadays, Fez is the third-largest city in Morocco, with about 1,700,000 inhabitants. Because of its world-famous souq, distinctive architecture, and unique blend of Berber and Arabic cultures, Fez is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco.
Morocco has been a base for movie making for many years now - well known movies such as old movies such as Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah and Ben Hur - and newer movies such as Gladiator - particularly at sites such as the ksar village of Ait Benhaddou - and nearby Ouarzazate has become the centre of movie making with several film studios set up there which are also open for tourist visits
Movies to watch if you want to see scenes from around Morocco:
Hideous Kinky with Kate Winslet - based on Esther Freuds time in Morocco in the 1960s particularly life in the main square Djma Elfna
Babel - made at Tizzarine in the rugged area near Nkob
Gladiator with Russell Crowe
Kingdom of Heaven - the props that were the city of Jerusalem were out on the plain behind one of the studios for a couple of years
The Mummy with recognisable scenes such as the Todra and Dades Gorges and dunes in the Moroccan sahara around Merzouga
Sahara with Penelope Cruz and Matthew McConaughy with scenes from the palace museum at Rissani and both stoney and sand dunes desert around Ouarzazate and Merzouga
Hidalgo - 2004 - beautiful scenes of the dunes around Merzouga and remote landscapes around the Ouarzazate area - Tamdaght kasbah 7 km from Ait Benhaddou also recognised - with Omar Sharif and Viggo Mortensen - a pony express rider is persuaded by an Arab Sheik to take part in a 3000 mile desert horse race
As a Muslim country, Morocco has some restrictions concerning alcohol. As a touristy country, Morocco was forced to adapted to visitors' tastes and needs, sometimes with... imagination.
I will not confess that the tea pot had a very good and cool white wine. How could you imagine such a thing?
It was a delicious Iced Grape Tea, that's what it was!
Moroccan Dirham is not an internationaly traded currency and not much sought after in other countries. I believe you can buy Dirhams at Gatwick airport. If you are bringing more than £1000 in cash into Morocco you must disclose it to an official at the airport on arrival. You will be given a declaration paper. When changing hard currency in a bank you may be asked for proof that this money was brought into the country legally, you will then have to show your documents.
The regulation is to discourage money laundering.
ATM's are everywhere but in Essaouira can run out of cash by Sunday afternoon, so plan for every eventuality !
Take some Euro's with you as back up but the ATMs are reliable in Morocco and their are plenty around so you shouldn't have any problems taking money out. Never had any use for US dollars.
Done 4 trips so far to various parts of Morocco and never had any problems so far.
The official currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham, denoted as MAD or Dh. The Moroccan Dirham is composed of 100 centimes; notes are available in denominations of (Dh) 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10 and coins are available in denominations of (Dh) 10, 5, 2 and 1, or 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes. Travellers should be aware that there are 2 types of 5 Dirham coin in circulation; one is large and silver and the other is small and gold and silver.
The Dirham is officially designated as a closed currency meaning it can only be traded within Morocco, however, there are reports of the Dirham being sold and bought in travel agencies in several countries. The import and export of the currency is tolerated up to a limit of 1000DH. Currency purchased during a visit to Morocco must be converted back before departing the country, with the exception of the 1000Dh level. Travellers should be advised to keep the receipts of currency exchange, as these will be required for the conversion of Dirham back to foreign currency prior to departure.
Most of the main foreign currencies may be exchanged at a Bureau de Change in the airport or port upon arrival, at a bank and in most hotels although smaller hotels in more remote areas may not be able to exchange large amounts at one time without prior notice.
Most hotels will exchange at the same rate as banks and without charging commission. Exchanging money in the street is illegal, so travellers should look for an official Bureaux de Change which is identifiable by a golden sign.
When bringing paper currency into Morocco (U.S. Dollars, British Pounds, Euros etc.), these must be in near perfect condition - no tears or ink marks. Do not bring Scottish or Irish Sterling notes as they are impossible to cash as are Australian and Canadian Dollars.
Some shops and especially restaurants quote prices in Euros and Dirhams; in the days where there were 10 dirhams to the euro it made conversion easy, now 1€ (Euro) is approx. equivalent to 11Dh but some traders still prefer to use the rate of ten to one which means you are slightly overcharged. Current exchange rates can be checked at http://www.xe.com/ucc
Please remember that the rates provided by xe.com are for wholesale transfers but are generally close to the exact rates of exchange found in Morocco.
Most credit cards are accepted (especially Visa, MasterCard), although surcharges will likely apply as the cost of redit card processing in Morocco is fairly expensive for businesses. Do be aware that only a relatively small amount of businesses in Morocco have the ability to accept credit cards, although the number is growing slowly.
Advise your bank or card issuer that you intend to travel abroad so that no block will be put on the usage of your credit or ATM cards. Notify the issuer and give them a 'phone number where you can be contacted abroad.
Before travelling, ensure you make a note of all credit card numbers and associated contact numbers for card issuers in case of difficulty. The numbers are usually free to call as you can reverse the charges, make it clear to the operator at your hotel, riad etc that you wish the call charge to be reversed. Preferably get a pre-paid card, with good exchange rates and low withdrawal fees eg fairFX.
ATMs can now be found in abundannce in most towns and accept Visa, Maestro, Cirrus etc and these will usually incur charges of around 5%. You should check with your bank as charges for using ATMs abroad may make exchanging cash a better option.
Popular destinations such as Tangier, Marrakech, Agadir etc have ATM's in large tourist international hotels as well as on all main roads. The medina of Marrakech has in excess of 20 ATM's.
Using a credit card (VISA etc) to obtain money from ATM's is also possible but one must remember that interest is charged from the moment money is dispensed. The normal practice of an interest-free period which applies to purchases, typically over 50 days, made on the card does NOT apply to cash withdrawals. Banks will allow cheques to be cashed but must be supported by a guarantee card.
ATM's generally dispense only 100 and 200 dirham notes so getting change for small everyday purchases like water, taxis etc can be a challenge. At weekends you may have difficulty acquiring cash as machines are not generally restocked until the following Monday. Sometimes your card may work in some machines and not others, or may support smaller withdrawals rather than larger ones, and may work at some times and not others. You should ensure you have a backup means of funding your visit. Some cash changing ATM's will not always accept the new UK £20 note.
Be prepared for a complete meltdown of ALL the ATM's in Essaouira which are working fine the following day.
Travellers are advised not to take travellers cheques as it is very difficult to find a bank that will cash them and although some hotels may still cash these, the commission rates are high. If you do take them, take larger value denominations to reduce the commission as this is charged per cheque.
TC's are becoming less popular in North Africa and Middle Eastern countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
When making payments with a credit card, for example at a hotel for services, it is vital to memorise the PIN as signatures in many instances are no longer accepted, however certain establishments such as restaurants may still use the old method of signing.
Fondest memory: Tagines, beaches, hot sunshine and feeding stray cats for now.
The area that would one day become Rabat was first settled in the third century B.C. by Berbers. The settlement, located at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River, was called Chella. In 40 A.D., Chella was conquered by the Romans, who changed its name to Sala Colonia. The Romans remained until 250 A.D., at which time they abandoned their colonies in North Africa.
Sala Colonia was ruled by local rulers until 1146, when the Almohad sultan, Abd al-Mouman used the town's ribat, or fortress, as a base from which to attack Spain. The fortress was called Ribat el-Fath, or "Fort of Victory", which was eventually shortened to Rabat, the name of today's city. It was during this period that Yacoub al-Mansour moved his capital to Rabat. He built the Kasbah of the Oudayas, and started construction on what would have been the world's largest mosque. However, that project was abandoned upon his death.
After the death of Yacoub al-Mansour, Rabat's importance declined significantly. Political and economic power shifted to Fez, and the town lost most of its population. In 1515, it was reported that there were only 100 inhabited houses left in Rabat.
In 1627, Rabat and the neighboring town of Salé united to form the Republic of Bou Regreg, which was run by Barbary pirates. They used the port as a base for launching attacks on shipping. Although the republic collapsed in 1818, Rabat remained under the control of pirates. The city was shelled by the Austrians in 1829 after one of their ships had been attacked by pirates.
In 1907, the French established a protectorate over Morocco. The French administrator, general Hubert Lyautey, made Rabat the capital in 1912 because of instability in Fez, which was the capital at the time. During French rule, the Nouvelle Ville, the modern section of the city, was established as an administrative sector. After Morocco gained its independence in 1956, King Mohammed V decided to keep his capital at Rabat.
Nowadays, Rabat is a city with about 2,000,000 inhabitants. Although residents of Casablanca consider it to be a provincial city, there are many interesting attractions that date from Roman times up to the present.
With over 5,500,000 inhabitants, Casablanca is Morocco's largest city, as well as its chief port (which is also one of the largest ports in Africa) and commercial center.
The area that would one day become Casablanca was first settled by Berbers in the seventh century B.C. They called their town Anfa. The strategic importance of the port attracted the Phoenicians and then the Romans, who each controlled the port and countryside for some time. By the fifteenth century, however, Anfa had become an independent state under the Merinids. During Merinid rule, Anfa was a safe harbor for pirates and privateers. In order to protect their ships from raids by these pirates, the Portuguese attacked and destroyed Anfa in 1468. They built a fortress on the site, and a settlement began to grow up around the fort. The Portuguese called the settlement Casa Branca, or "White House." Between 1580 and 1640, Casa Branca changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish, who called the town Casa Blanca, Spanish for "White House."
In 1755, a major earthquake leveled Casablanca, and the Europeans abandoned the city. The city was rebuilt under the orders of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah. Under Arab rule, the city was called ad-Dar al-Bayda, which also means "White House." (Nowadays, many inhabitants simply call their city "Kaza").
In the nineteenth century, Casablanca was a major exporter of wool, most of which was sent to the United Kingdom which was undergoing a textile boom at the time. The city's economic importance increased during this period, as well as its population as people moved from the countryside looking for jobs.
In 1907, the French invaded Morocco and established a protectorate. However, they did not gain full control over Casablanca until 1910. During French rule, Casablanca was heavily influenced by the French culture. Although Morocco gained its independence in 1956, the French influence can be seen in the architecture and the lifestyle of many of the inhabitants. Much of the architecture is European rather than Moroccan, and many of the people, especially the elite, have adapted a western lifestyle.
Despite a strong European influence, the Arab influence is visible as well. The Old Medina with its maze of narrow streets, neighborhood mosques, and whitewashed walls is clearly Arabic, as is the huge Hassan II Mosque on the sea coast. And although many women are attired in the latest European fashions, many choose to wear the traditional l'tam, or face veil, and the robe-like djellabah.
Perhaps the most exotic city in Morocco is Marrakech. Nicknamed the "Red City" because of the red stone used in the construction of its historic buildings, it is the most visited city in Morocco. Travelers are drawn to Marrakech by the Djemmaa el Fna, the Koutoubia Mosque, the Menara Gardens, the souq (which is the largest in Morocco), and the fascinating mix of Berber and Arabic cultures. Most travelers I met considered a visit to this city a highlight of their trips.
Marrakech was founded in 1060 by the Almoravids, fanatic religious nomads from what is now Western Sahara. Its founder was the Almoravid sultan Abu-Bakr ibn Umar, who wanted to move his capital from the nearby city of Aghmat. He chose the site, a plain near the Tensift River, because it was a neutral area between the territories of two tribes vying for the honor of hosting the new capital. Marrakech was the first capital of a united Morocco in the eleventh century.
Marrakech's name probably derives from either mur-n-akush, which is Amazigh for "land of god" or marra kouch, or "land of the Kouch", a nomadic warrior tribe from Mauretania.
The golden age of Marrakech occurred under the rule of Yacoub al-Mansour, a period when the city had become the economic, political, intellectual, and military center of Morocco. It was during this time that the Koutoubia Mosque and Menara Gardens were built, poets and scholars moved into the city and brought about an intellectual renaissance, and the economy flourished from trade. Marrakech was one of the most important destinations for traders arriving from Timbuktu across the Sahara Desert with gold, salt (worth as much as gold at the time), and slaves.
Marrakech remained the capital of Morocco until 1258, when the capital was moved to Fez. This was because the caravan routes had shifted, and Marrakech had gone into a steady economic decline. The city had also lost a large portion of its population as well. But in 1554, Marrakech again became the capital of the country under the Saadian Dynasty.
Nowadays, although no longer the national capital, Marrakech is the largest city in southern Morocco, with about 1,700,000 inhabitants. It is also the most economically and politically important city in the region.
Its fine to travel Morocco on your own as a single female, im heading off my own again on Feb because I need some time off
- as much as Morocco can be a bit hectic/hardwork to get about with a bit hustle and hassle here and there and things a bit more make-do than we are use to if one remember the culture and the society and the government that runs the place then its quite a fun place to be.
The biggest warning I would have is that the guys love a female, esp if shes young and pretty of course, but old and ugly doesnt matter either, they do love females, theres something about the foreign female that is able to be independent and with the possibility of having a relationship with her for curiousity and whatever other worldly pleasures and interests but societywise their females have certain expectations of them and a lot of restrictions even though its getting easier, too easy, in some places such as the cities and I hear about Moroccan women getting up to all sorts as if thats keeping up with the modern western women but its a bit embarrassing if thats what they think we are all really like....
there are many guys managing to entice foreign females but mostly it ends up for whatever benefits them - particularly in the finanicial/economic states as Morocco is still very poor, many poor people, guys particularly - and its hard to get an education enough to get into higher paid work - even tour guides are supposed to go to uni and get official certificates and thats hard if you are from the country where its really poor and youre not the only child
- many of them have to make their way early from a very young age and go to work to earn money for the family - many do this by learning how to deal with tourists and therefore by the time they are young adults they are professional at manipulating and charming the often naiive and straightup tourist, esp if a female and getting charmed by the adventure of the country.
So there are many aroung managing to have relationships with foreign girls - i read before I got there about the juggling and so on and when I came face to face with it couldnt believe or understand really but since got to see the reality of the awesome degree of juggling that they do do - its a total reality that they juggle so many females and manage to have several longterm relationships at the same time and even get married and still continue them. Its a very lucrative business.
As for travelling on your own enjoy it and just be prepared and careful. there are a lot of friendly helpful people about, a lot of touts and husslers eg looking to take you to a carpet shop -as they make huge money from their sales - the women who make them get paid hardly anything - and the shops have flooded the country so generally poor guys withno education get work for these shops to go and bring tourists into them.
theres a few things you could see along the way depends what you want to do and how much time you have. there are buses or grande taxis from agadir to marrakech, you could catch a train up to casablanca and up to tangier but on the way top at Casa to see the Hassan mosque which is amazing and theres quite nice andinteresing art deco mix architecture around the city centre, and up to rabat to see a few sights there. you can even get off at very lovely Asilah about half an hour before Tangier and stay the night there even. its a lovely town by the sea.
or you could go from Marrakech by bus to Fes and then bus up to Chefhchouen and stay there a night or two, and then a couple of hours in Tetouan on the way to Tangier - you can still go to Asilah if you wanted.
ive done a lot of trvelling by rental car and private car with my Moroccan connections, and some local buses between Tangier and Marrakech and Tangier and Asilah and Tetouan and Chaouen, and CTM bus from Fes to Marrakech.
they are all fine and interesting ways to travel - the local ones take longer but are slightly cheaper but all public transport is pretty cheap anyway - the local ones you get to get closer to the ocals too of course. going by grande taxi is good too, faster and with only 6 seats to sell they tend to leave sooner than buses do that have to wait for a certain number of seats to sell first.
you could also go by bus to Teouet from Marrakech, and then grande taxi to Ouarzazate and then buses and grande taxis to ER Rachidia, bus down to the desert of Rissani and Merzouga, or keep on going up to Fes and then either train from there to the north or carry on up on buses or taxis.
so theres quite a few options but all generally safe.
ive felt safer usually in Morocco than in London half the time.
have a read through my travel pages too for some ideas, and lots of other VTers have good pages with pics and info to enjoy too.
all the best.
Cedar forests grow extensively in the Middle Atlas region, estimated to be planted on 100,000 hectares, making it the largest concentration of cedars in North Africa and the Western Mediterranean. These forests host a number of wildlife, including the Barbary Macaque or Ape, now considered an endangered species. In the central Middle Atlas may be found up to 75% of the world's remaining population of this species. The forests are, however, under threat from increasing and uncontrolled human activities such as illegal logging, and thus further endangering the remaining wildlife to be found there.
Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to see these ancient, famed trees, as we were just passing on our way to Marrakech.
I have visited Morocco several times -- and think it is great, at all seasons.
In the summer some places in Morocco can be wery hot, but others are just great.
It depends on, where in Morocco you go --- I think a good choise is to visit some of the beautiful towns and villages along the Atlantic Coast.
My favourite town (in the whole world) is Essaouira -- a beautiful town, with a peaceful atmosphere, a lot of historical buildings and other attractions - just the perfect place to enjoy life. Because it is located by the sea, the summer-temperature is perfect here, but it is a nice place also in the winter.
If you like, you can see some of my photos from Essaouira here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanne-ln/
Every year in june there is a music-festival in Essaouira, where you will have the possibility of experiencing the special, very exiting gnawa-music -- and the atmosphere in Essaouira during this event is great.
The town has many art-galleries with paintings in a special, very colourful and very "african" style -- it seems to be painted in the spirit of the gnawa-music!
In the beach you can be surfing -- and all over the town you can find nice restaurants with great food and very cheap prices.
Do not miss taking a walk in the harbour in the late afternoon, when the fishing-boats are coming in.
For experiencing some of the countryside you can have a ride on the beautiful moroccan horses - or camels - along the beach or in the mountains. For this I will recommend you Ranch de Diabat, located a little south of Essaouira -- see:
You can also from Essaouira make day-trips to small villages nearby with some of the local busses -- or rent a car and see some of the beautiful coast-line to the north or south.
So - for plenty of reasons, go and see Essaouira and have some wonderful experiences !!
Fondest memory: Riding the Moroccan horses has become a true passion for me.
It is a special type of horse, a mix of barb and arab blood, a very strong and fast horse. In Morocco all horses used for riding are stallions - but do not worry, Moroccans know how to train a horse!
Breeding and riding these horses is a very old part of Moroccan culture, and also today Moroccan people love the horses - you sense it in the atmosphere, when you are with horse-people. And riding one of these horses along the beautiful Atlantic coast -- well, for me it is not possible to imagine anything better.
This riad is consider the oldest- may be the fiart- and best riad in Marrakech. Hoever. it is a bet...more
La Maison du Chameau (House of the Camel) is this incredible little inn located just at the entrance...more
I worked very hard during the day in a office witout air conditioned. You can understand how I was...more
More Regions in Morocco