Morocco, Africa - Stein Travel



    • 16+ years

    • 12-15 years

    • 2-11 years

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Welcome to Morocco

Morocco is just a step away from Europe, across the narrow straits of Gibraltar, but it is a world away in terms of culture and experience, brimming over with contrasts, colour and mystery. This is partly due to its geographical position, sited at the crossroads where East meets West, Africa shakes hands with Europe, and the Mediterranean merges with the Atlantic.

Sitting at the top northwest corner of Africa and sharing two oceans, the country's main appeal for visitors has always been its Mediterranean climate, the quality of its crafts and its exotic nature. However, in more recent years travellers are discovering other hidden delights and adventures, particularly in the northern and central parts of Morocco in the Rif and High Atlas Mountains, where it is even possible to enjoy a skiing holiday. Then, down south, some are drawn to explore the sands of the Western Sahara, on camelback, horseback or by 4X4.

Whether you visit Morocco for the sunshine, or to trek through the mountains or the hot desert sands, it is a sure bet that you will also be enchanted by the timeless Medieval medinas of the cities, particularly in Fez and Marrakech, where the souks and squares plunge visitors into a fascinating foreign world. Snake charmers weave their magic; the stench of the tanners' yards pervades the air; and the call of the muezzins wafts from the ancient minarets. The abiding memory will be one of sweetened mint tea, brightly-coloured slippered feet and big smiles.

Although most of its suburban enclaves are ultra-modern, Morocco has more than its fair share of ancient monuments and magnificent buildings, reflecting a turbulent history shaped by its strategic location. Since the days of the Phoenicians, Morocco has attracted foreign interest from the Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and ancient Greeks until the coming of the Arabs in the 7th century, who brought Islam and the Alaouite Dynasty. European powers have had their day, too, trying to control this northernmost tip of Africa. France and Spain battled for control, until nationalism triumphed and the Kingdom of Morocco gained independence in 1956 (except for the two small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north, which are still controlled by Spain). This rich past, coupled with a timeless present, makes Morocco a magical mystery tour of surprises and enchantment for millions of visitors every year.


Attraction Overview

Steeped in history, spanning miles of Mediterranean and Atlantic coastline, and boasting exciting attractions, Morocco is a sightseer's paradise. The main appeal has of course always been its inviting climate; however, there is so much more to this diverse and historically rich country than meets the eye. Within the enchanting medieval medinas of Fez and Marrakech, where snake charmers blow their hypnotic melodies amidst the smell of the tanners' yards and the hustle and bustle of the open-air markets, is where the fascinating and exotic soul of Morocco can really be glimpsed.

Furthermore, adventurous travellers can head south to explore the hot desert sands of the Western Sahara on camelback, horseback or by 4X4; or for a completely unexpected holiday experience, head deep into the High Atlas Mountains for a skiing holiday with a difference. With Phoenician, Hellenic, Carthaginian and Roman civilisations all having passed through Morocco, it's also worth revelling in the immensity of the country's past by exploring its countless museums, palaces, mosques, tombs and ruins.

Many of the sights around the cities are best explored on foot, but for those planning on criss-crossing the country, trunk-line trains run through the heart of Morocco, connecting over one hundred stations spread out over 1,184 miles (1,907km) of track. Bus travel is also a popular mode of transport.

Business

Business in Morocco has been influenced by France and therefore tends to be conducted formally, with an emphasis on politeness. Dress is formal, and women in particular should dress conservatively. Most business is conducted in French, although some English is spoken. It is best to ascertain before hand what language the meeting will be in, and arrange an interpreter as needed. Visitors are expected to be punctual, though meetings may not start on time. Moroccans are friendly and enjoy socialising, trust and friendship are important bases for business dealings so be prepared to engage in small talk. A handshake is common when arriving and departing. Women may encounter some sexism in business, although this is starting to change. Most businesses are closed on Fridays, and some are also closed on Thursdays.

Climate

Morocco's climate is moderate and subtropical, cooled by breezes off the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In the interior the temperatures are more extreme: winters can be fairly cold and the summers very hot. Marrakech has an average winter temperature of 21ºC (70ºF) and summer temperature of 100°F (38°C). In the Atlas Mountains temperatures can drop below zero and mountain peaks are snow-capped throughout most of the year. The winter in the north of the country is wet and rainy; while in the south, at the edge of the Moroccan Sahara, it is dry and bitterly cold. Weather-wise, the best time to visit Morocco is between April and early June, or between September and November, when the weather is warm and dry (and there aren't too many tourists around, either).

Communications

The international access code for Morocco is +212. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)44 for Marrakech and (0)37 for Rabat. Hotels can add a hefty surcharge to their telephone bills; it is best to check before making long international calls. Two mobile GSM 900 networks cover the north of the country. Internet cafes are widely available in tourist areas.

Customs

Morocco is a Muslim country and it is preferable to keep the wearing of swimsuits, shorts and other revealing clothing to the beach or hotel poolside. Women travelling alone will receive less hassle if dressed conservatively. Smoking is practised widely, and it is customary to offer cigarettes in social situations. Religious customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Several foreigners were expelled in 2010 for alleged proselytising. The giving and receiving of things, and the eating of food, should only be done with the right hand, as the left is considered unclean. Homosexuality is a criminal offence, and sexual relations outside marriage are also punishable by law.

Duty Free

Travellers to Morocco over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 400g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine; and perfume up to 5g.

Electricity
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Two-pin round plugs are in use.
Health

No vaccinations are required to enter Morocco. It is advisable to drink bottled water and avoid street food and raw or uncooked meat. Avoid swimming, wading, or rafting in bodies of fresh water, the beaches around Casablanca are polluted and unsafe for swimming. Medical facilities are good in all major towns. Health insurance is essential.

Language
Arabic is the official language, but eight other languages are also spoken including Berber, French and Spanish. English is generally understood in the tourist areas, but French is the most widely spoken.
Money

The unit of currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD), which is divided into 100 centimes. ATMs are available in the larger towns, but can be unreliable; currency can be exchanged at banks or official bureaux de changes, which are also widespread in major towns. Dirhams cannot be obtained or exchanged outside Morocco and receipts must be retained as proof of legal currency exchange, as well as in order to re-exchange money when departing. Major credit cards are accepted in the larger shops, hotels and restaurants. Travellers cheques can be used in tourist areas, but are not prevalent; they are best taken in Euros or Pounds Stirling.

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Morocco must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. All visitors who wish to stay for a longer period than their visa exemption allows for, must report to the nearest police station within 21 days of their arrival in Morocco. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

Violent crime is not a major problem in Morocco, but there have been some incidents of theft at knifepoint in major cities and on beaches. Sensible precautions such as avoiding badly lit streets at night should be adhered to. Guides offering their services should display an official badge from the local tourist authorities. Most visits to Morocco are trouble-free; however, terrorist attacks have occurred in the past and there is a general threat of kidnappings in northern Africa, so visitors are advised to be vigilant. Be sure to check with your travel agent or tour advisor about the current political situation in Morocco before finalising your travel plans - the area is potentially volatile, and political demonstrations (although they are mostly peaceful) are not the kind of memory you want to take with you from Morocco.

Tipping

A tip of 10 to 15% is expected in the more expensive bars and restaurants, though some establishments include a service charge. Most services are performed with the aim of getting a few dirham, but aggressive hustling shouldn't be rewarded. Visitors should note that tips are the only income for some porters and guides.


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