Reasons to Visit
The Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco. During the Arab conquest they retreated into their mountain strongholds and took refuge in the inhospitable deserts of the south. This is where their culture persists, based around fortified dwellings; a strong sense of community and an ability to cope with almost any hardship.
The Sahara washes into Morocco at its western extremities, and the Erg Chebbi sand sea is the best place to see this. Passing first through dramatic ridges of blackened rock, the going becomes sandier and sandier, until you're eventually confronted with towering dunes and the best sunsets in Morocco.
A kasbah is a fortified village, made from traditional pisé, or mud brick. Their distinctive towers, with ornate windows, are a dominant feature of the Moroccan landscape, none more so than along the Dades and Draa Valleys in the south: some have been converted into hotels, so you can even spend the night in your very own kasbah.
At the heart of any old Moroccan city will be the medina, the vital core encircled by walls punctuated by ornamental gates. It's in the medina that you'll nearly always find the souqs, and there will probably be a number of old palaces too: some of these are now hotels, some are museums, while others are abandoned and decaying gracefully.
The High Atlas are home to Jebel Toubkal, at over 4,100m the highest mountain in north Africa and a challenging climb. But the Atlas mountains also offer gentler hikes, perfect just to appreciate the scenery, the cool, clean air, and to enjoy Berber hospitality in remote villages.
The souqs of Marrakesh are the most famous in the country, but almost every town has its souq. Those of Fez seem endless and labyrinthine, whilst those in Taroudant are much more compact and sell the simple goods that the local, rural population need. It's unlikely you'll escape from Morocco without doing a bit of shopping at some point!
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North Africa & the Middle East
Our Morocco specialists are experienced and passionate about the country - between them they have spent many weeks a year researching new experiences and ensuring everything is of the highest standard. They know Morocco inside out.
AlexMorocco Specialist01993 838 412
ClairMorocco Specialist01993 838 409
FionaMorocco Specialist01993 838 418
MeganMorocco Specialist01993 838 427
BrigitteMorocco Specialist01993 838 402
Marrakesh is a traditional favourite, with the ancient city of Fez and the walled coastal town of Essaouira becoming increasingly popular.
Trips normally vary from a six night, two centred trip through to two week comprehensive touring itineraries.
Travel can be by private vehicle less expensively on trains, which are punctual and relatively clean.
Private guides can accompany you throughout your itinerary, and we also occasionally use local guides for certain monuments and regions.
For those looking for something a bit more active or adventurous, we can arrange treks in the Atlas Mountains (including ascents of Jebel Toubkal) or the chance to camp on the fringes of the Sahara Desert.
Being a Muslim country, certain key dates and festivals such as the month of Ramadan and the festival of Eid can make a difference to your travel plans. By checking each year's Islamic calendar we can make sure your trip is planned around such dates.
Arabic, the official language of Morocco. Moroccan Arabic is the most different to the other dialects, so much so that everyday Moroccan Arabic is virtually incomprehensible in the Arab world. French is very widely spoken, and with the exception of remote rural areas and Berber enclaves in the mountains, you will be able to communicate with basic French. Berber is the language of the indigenous tribes of Morocco and comes in a variety of dialects.
Local currency is the Moroccan Dirham, divided into 100 centimes. The dirham is a closed currency and you can only obtain it once in Morocco, and it should not be taken out of the country. Credit cards can be used in hotels, major restaurants and shops, but not in many other places. There are ATMs now in most of the major towns that will accept Cirrus cards and credit cards for cash advances, and money and travellers cheques can be changed at the main bank branches; please note that you may be asked to show a copy of the issuing banks debit note along with your passport when changing travellers cheques.
Tipping is widespread and will be expected for every service rendered, no matter how small (and in some instances imaginary!). Anyone who has offered a genuine service should be tipped to some degree. Tipping is discretionary: it is an accepted part of culture and you should tip the smaller services no matter how perfunctory they seem. With the drivers and guides please do not feel obliged to tip to this level if you felt the service was substandard.
Morocco has fantastic cuisine and the food will doubtless be a real highlight of your trip. There are two dishes for which Morocco is especially well-known, tajine and couscous. Tajine is a stew cooked in an conical earthenware pot, and often involves some contrast of sweet and sour: so whilst being essentially meat-based (normally lamb), you will find raisins, dates or almonds in there as well. Couscous, steamed semolina grains, is a real staple of Moroccan food. Served on a huge communal plate it is topped with a variety of things - chicken, lamb and steamed vegetables are the most common. Meat, other than in the forms above, is normally roast chicken or lamb, which is often served as brochettes - barbequed skewers.
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country. It is very important to respect Muslim social customs. This involves dressing in a way that will not offend: men should never be in public without a shirt of some sort on, and both sexes should remove shoes before entering a mosque or religious site. Generally speaking the shoulders are best covered, cleavage is best toned down and short shorts and skirts as well as anything too figure hugging should be avoided. Women should also cover their heads in mosques and religious sites. Public displays of affection should be avoided.
Do not photograph anything to do with the military or government buildings - also avoid photographing bridges and canals, or anything that could be construed as having strategic significance. Ask people if they mind before photographing them.
During Ramadan, do not eat, drink or smoke in public.
'The Lord of the Atlas' by Gavin Maxwell - a fascinating account of the Glaoui tribe, who ruled much of the south of the country for the French. It will be particular interest to those who are visiting Ait Benhaddou and Telouet as this was the Glaoui heartland.
The most well known and popular music is Morocco is the Gnawa music, which is a blend of Berber and Arabic influences, characterised by hypnotic drum beats.
'Hideous Kinky' starring Kate Winslet, based on a 1992 novel by Esther Freud. The film is based on an Englishwoman who travels to Morocco with her two young daughters, where they deal with and adjust to the culture and people of the area. Told from the perspective of the youngest daughter, the story provides insight into the Moroccan atmosphere.
There are two dishes that Morocco is especially well known for, tajine and pastilla. Tajine is a stew cooked in a conical eartenware pot, and often involves some contrast of sweet and sour. Pastilla is probably one of the more unusual dishes you will try in Morocco and is based in minced pigeon meat, mixed with almonds and placed in layers of flaky pastry. The whole creation is then dusted with icing sugar abd cinnamon - once again providing an interesting contrast of sweet and savoury.
Mint tea is signature drink of Morocco and it is also know locally as Berber whiskey. It is offered in large quantities as a sign of hospitality and is normally very heavily sugared.
Labas? (How are you?). Moroccan Arabic is unlike Arabic anywhere else, and this is a phrase that you're unlikely to encounter anywhere else in the Arab world.
Vibrant cities, stunning mountains, dramatic Sahara desert, shopping, souks and carpets.
Carpets, rugs, pottery, latterns, leather goods and spices.
Start planning your tailor-made holiday to Morocco by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in MoroccoWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationCountry Guides
Other countries in North Africa & the Middle East:EgyptIranJordanLebanonLibyaOmanSyriaTunisia
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