Eating the Moroccan Way!
Favorite thing: In Morocco, eating is like a big social event! I've had dinners with friends that lasted 4 hours, one course after another. The key is, to eat a little of everything! Most meals often have up to 5 courses: starting with bstilla, thin pastry filled with chicken mixture, followed by a tasty kebab, then a tajine of couscous (granular semolina), which is steamed and served with spices, vegetables, nuts and raisins, and often served with rich spicy stews and roasted meats served with Khubz (a round spongy homemade bread), then fruits, pastries and tea at the end.
The common ritual is washing your hands and drinking tea before and after the meal. Traditional Moroccans, eat with their fingers (right hand) and sharing food in a big platter. Before eating, people give thanks to God by saying "Bismillah" and at the end of the meal the say "Al Hamdulilah".
Alcohol in Morocco
Favorite thing: Although Morocco is an Islamic country, there is a laid-back attitude towards alcohol, which is widely available in bars. Morocco is by far one of the more liberal Islamic countries. In fact Morocco produces its own beer and wines. Most local cafes don't serve it but restaurants, especially those run or owned by foreigners usually have some.
I'm not sure what percentage of the locals actually drink alcohol but my impression is that it's quite high more particularly among the under 30s crowd and teenagers.
As far as what drinks are available: Heineken is the most popular imported beer. They also the have local Casablanca (okay) Stork or Flag beers which are half the price compared to the European brands but they're not that good. The only time I think Stork was good was, when we went to the Merzouga dunes, it was so hot and dry that any cold beer will do.
Morocco also imports just about every kind of alcohol that exists: whisky, vodka, tequila, etc. but they are expensive.
As far as wine goes, red Clairet de Meknès , made reallyy light in French claret style is good. I heard Beauvallon is another good one, but is usually reserved for export. Other varieties worth trying include the strong red Cabernet, Ksar and Siraoua. Stick to the reds.
So for people who like to enjoy a glass of wine or beer it's no problem at all just don't expect to be served or offered some when you go to someone's home.
Cheers! Salud! Skal! Kampai! A vortre sante! Saude!
Favorite thing: Moroccan arabic is very different from traditional arabic.
I suggest buying the Lonely Planet Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook. It's only $5.95. I got mine back I think in 1996 so I'm sure there's an updated version. It helped me a lot and it's pretty accurate (well pronouncing it right is another thing --I can never get the tongue- rolling, tongue-twisting words). Anyway, it's a good reference to have on hand anyway!
But then again if you speak French, you don't need this book.
You'll also find that most young Moroccans (early 20s & below) speaks English--may not be perfect but good. For those who can afford, once they reach highschool, they go to an american school to study English.
Mineral Water is a must!
Favorite thing: Mineral water in Morocco is usually referred to by brand name, Sidi Harazem, Sidi Ali or the naturally sparkling Oulmes .
I prefer Sidi Ali--no taste. The other two have a distinct taste that I don't like. But then it's a matter of preference, you can try all three. They're really cheap and you can get them anywhere.
When to travel to Morocco
Favorite thing: Best between Sept-Oct, March-May
OK on winter months, Nov-Feb, are generally fine and warm except in the north or up the mountains.
Worst in July, Aug. Hot inland, though it can be the most pleasant time on the coast. Although, most of my travels were during these months since it's the only time I have month break from school.
Ramadan can be an awkward time as many locals neither eat nor drink during the day and may be tired [ this year is on Oct 15 - Nov 14 ].
Movies made in Morocco
Favorite thing: 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 raceRelated to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Favorite thing: 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.
Favorite thing: 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.
Females travelling in Morocco on their own
Favorite thing: Its fine to travel Morocco on your own as a single female, Ive been more than happier to travel around on my own in Morocco.
- 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 allure of the foreign female:
esp with being 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 side of things, 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 a bit further down the track, I 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. IN one area I know of nearly the entire generation of guys found foreign women to get them visas and passports overseas. and then they gradually reappeared back in Morocco with their foreign passports to freedom but the attraction of being in the close knit family with mother who is happy to find a wife who will cook and behave the right way.
As for travelling on your own enjoy it and just be prepared and careful. there are a lot of friendly helpful people about and even though 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 an interesing 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 Telouet 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 most of 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.
Fondest memory: Most of the accommodation tips recommended throughout my pages I would regard as also safe and reliable for solo female travellers. The thing to remember is that you are not the only female that comes along and Moroccans are very close knit family people so theres a lot of checking out to do before you believe any story that a Moroccan is unattached.
here also is a list put together by Morocco Gateway with a few suggested places to stay ww.morocco-gateway.com/female-travellers.html
There are a number of places that i would not recommend for single female travellers : -
Auberge du Sud, Merzouga
Erg Chebbi Auberge, Merzouga
Lahmada Auberge, MerzougaRelated to:
- Budget Travel
- Women's Travel
Local souqs and markets
Favorite thing: In every town I visited in Morocco, I had to go to the local souqs and markets.
I enjoyed to stroll around, to look at all the colourful stalls, the vendors, the visitors and to discover new stuff I never saw before and to find out what it might be.
Every souq in every town like Tangier, Fez, Marrakech, Taroudannt, Rissani has its own character.
But in every souq I experienced the same excitement of the abundance of colours and aroma's.
Local markets in villages
Favorite thing: When we are traveling in the country we like it to visit the local markets, where the villagers bring their local crops and do their shopping. Here we often also buy the delicious fruits of the area.
A nice market we visited was the small one in the Anti Atlas, on our way to Tata close to Igherm along the roadside (picture 2). Or the large market in Ouriki Valley south of Marrakech with a lot of cattle and a huge parking lot for donkeys (picture 1).
The first market I visited in Morocco was in 1975 in Rissani (picture 3), but also in 2008 the market in Rissani was still very colourful (picture 4). In the same year we spent the weekend in Nkob to visit its large sunday market (picture 5).
Meet local people
Favorite thing: When I visit a country, I alwyas like it to meet the local people, everywhere, where it's possible.
It's easy if you speak the same language, but I also try to learn some expressions in the local language. Drawing on a paper and talking with hands also will help.
In Morocco it's useful if you speak some French.
In the Anti Atlas at a small market I met three Berber women, but they didn't speak French. So we asked someone to help with the translation.
The women invited me into their house, but it was rather far from the market. The driver of our landrover couldn't wait that long.
The king on tour
Favorite thing: When we traveled in the area of Zagora in 2001, we were in the same area where the new king was on his tour.
It was the first time the king of Morocco visited the rural areas and it looked like the people were very excited.
We didn't see the 38 year old King Mohammed Ben el- Hassan himself, only his portrait like this one at the roundabout in Zagora.
Mohammed is the successor of his father King Hassan after his death in 1999.
On tour with the king
Favorite thing: The day we returned from Ait Ben Haddou to Agadir the king was very near.
We followed the same route at the same day, but we were ahead. We had permission to continue our route, before the king should arrive.
Allt the villages and small towns on our way were decorated with red and green flags and portraits of the king.
Along the whole road, hundreds of KMs, stood soldiers at both sides of the road at every 100 M as statues, turned with their face to the landscape for protection reasons by looking at the eventually coming ennemy.
The evening before we saw many miltary trucks loaded with soldiers, also very old ones, looking 60 or older. So Morocco seemed to be totally mobilized.
Dressed up for the king
Favorite thing: It was very special to be at the king's route before the king himself should pass by.
In all the villages and towns and at all cross roads in the rural area were thousands of people, mostly women, beautifully dressed for their king.
They waited allready for hours, anxious to see the cars of the king and the king himself of course.
When they saw our three landrovers, they start to sing and dance. So we were feeling like we were the king.
It was a pity that we were not allowed to drive slowly ot to stop to have a closer look at all those beautiful women.
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