Updated: Jan 17
Whether traveling Morocco by land- as I have done so far, or by sea- as I hope to do in the future you're truly in for a treat. The geography changes dramatically as you travel from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal towns. Further inland, explore some of it's best known imperial cities such as Marrakech & Fez. On the outskirts of Marrakesh, find the foothills of the gorgeous, snow capped, Atlas Mountains, and beyond that; the windswept Sahara Dessert.
In this blog I'll touch on some of the basics about travel in Morocco. For area specific information be sure to check out some of the city and town specific blogs I've written:
Ait Ben Haddou
Traveling within the Country
Traveling from one region to another is fairly simple. Morocco is a marriage of modern amenities and traditional modes of transportation. It is not unusual to see camels and donkeys sharing the road with cars and trucks, even in the largest cities. To me, this is part of Morocco's appeal. The big cities boast international airports and renting a car is pretty straight forward.
Navigating the narrow cobbled streets however, with donkey drawn carts, mopeds, trucks, cars, taxis and pedestrians can be an overwhelming part of the experience. It feels a bit like holding your breath and diving into the unknown.
Food & Beverage
Moroccan food is truly a treat for the senses. A beautiful medley of traditional Berber tajines, Arab and Middle Eastern influences, and a little added flare from the king of all things culinary; the French influence.
Morocco grows a large variety of fruits and vegetables including olives, citrus fruits, nuts and grapes- all common in Moroccan dishes. Couscous and wheat are also abundant, and make up the base ingredient in many dishes. Spices are used heavily in all Moroccan foods, although the meals themselves are rarely spicy.
Mint tea is a staple throughout the country. Alcohol is less common, largely due to religious restrictions, but wine is readily available, and Morocco does produce some of it's own wine. Some restaurants that cater more towards Europeans, and other western countries will also serve alcohol.
Safety & Tourism
The Moroccan king, Mohammed VI recognizes the importance of tourism to Morocco's economy and strongly advocates for increasing tourism and keeping Morocco safe for travelers. Long popular with the French, Morocco has become a mecca for many western tourists. Although there have been a few isolated incidents over the years, the monarch has taken an extremely tough stance on terrorism.
Moroccans are largely Sunni Muslims and are tolerant of other religions. Extremism is very unusual. Centuries old churches and synagogues exist in most major cities, and religious and/or ethnic violence is virtually unknown. The government has placed strict controls on religious preaching, and local Imams are under close state control.
Crime in Morocco is rarely violent and is generally limited to minor pickpocketing and petty scams. Of course, staying alert and aware will serve you well, as it would in any large city anywhere in the world. There are police units in all large Moroccan cities dedicated to the safety and well being of tourists.
Women in Morocco
Women in Morocco have more rights (such as the right to own and inherit property), than many of their Islamic neighbors. Moroccan women also have the right to be involved in politics, and make up, upwards of 15-20% of the parliament. As a result of this, women's rights, their health and their social wellbeing is the best available in the region. Of course, there is still quite a bit of room for improvement, but they are in the forefront of the charge to increase women's voices in the Islamic world, and I for one applaud their efforts and their commitment to positive change.
If you're looking to support women in Morocco, there are many Moroccan women cooperatives throughout the country including the Argan Oil & The Moroccan Berber Women's Cooperatives. We toured the cooperative in person in 2012 and it was a fantastic experience.
As for women traveling to Morocco, particularly as a western woman; I would simply suggest dressing conservatively, trying to blend in, and respecting the local traditions. I always recommend traveling in a group, regardless of where in the world you go.
As a general rule in regards to dress, keep your shoulders covered and don't wear shorts or short skirts. Head scarves are not necessary. I never felt threatened in any way.
Dreaming of Morocco but not able to make it there yet? My sister runs this fabulous little shop of authentic Moroccan goods that she's bought straight from the artisans. Check it out at La Masion Bohemien
Contributors: Noelle Benlolo & Albert Benlolo