Safety in Morocco
Is a Tour of Morocco safe?
Morocco today remains one of a handful of continuously stable countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The monarchy ruling this Kingdom is strong and very popular. The relationships and strategic partnerships between Morocco and Europe and the USA help to foster the continuance of Morocco’s stability over the longer term.
Politically this is a stable country which is peacefully progressing towards modernising democratic reforms. The current King, Mohamed VI has a strong vision for Morocco’s future. Under his leadership, there seems to be a tendency towards more democratic and liberal values in Morocco
Moroccans practice a moderate, peaceful and tolerant form of Islam and any incidents of extremism are severely punished. Morocco has been praised internationally for their comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, which is a model for combating terrorism in the region and around the world. They are cited as not only identifying and neutralising existing terrorist threats through traditional law enforcement and security measures but are also engaged in preventative measures to discourage terrorist recruitment through political reform and policy measures. King Mohamed VI leads this effort by unambiguously condemning terrorism and those who espouse or conduct terrorism; he recently called terrorism something “alien to Islam and contrary to religion and law.”
Tourism is an important part of Morocco’s economy and there are effective registration and licencing systems in place for guides. Tourist police are present in every city and crime is low, commonly confined to petty theft on public transport.
For an in-depth blog answering all your safety in Morocco related questions click this link – https://somorocco.com/2016/06/is-morocco-safe/
The perfumed soul of our culture.
The fusion of influences from Africa, Arabia and Europe create the distinctive cuisine that Morocco is respected for. Spices and fruits feature extensively and the ingredients are fresh, natural, home-grown and delicately balanced. The spices are aromatic (cumin, cinnamon etc) rather than hot.
Mealtime is a very important part of home life and usually, begins with olives and bread. Followed by the classic tagine, a slow-cooked stew made in an earthenware dish known by the same name. This is placed in the centre of the table for everyone to share and is often accompanied by couscous, considered a gift from Allah, or a colourful Moroccan salad.
Flatbreads are served with every meal and replace cutlery as you literally scoop your food up in the bread.
The ubiquitous green tea with mint, referred to as Berber Whiskey, is a ceremony in its own right and you will be welcomed almost everywhere you go with this wonderful Moroccan custom.
One of the great aspects of a So Morocco Tour is the different cooking styles and local dishes you will try as we move around the country. Our drivers are experienced in keeping yousafe but when you are on your own in the larger cities you must be aware that street food, including those in the Jma el Fnaa, (Marrakech main square) do not have running water or refrigeration so hygiene falls well below Western standards. However, that is not to say that you shouldn’t try this exceptional experience and many, many tourists never experience any problems.
Contact us for an information pdf regarding cooking lessons in Morocco. These can take place in a number of riad hotels in Marrakech, a local village house, a traditional mountain guest house, a not for profit women’s centre (http://amalnonprofit.org/), an organic farm or even in the desert.
What should I wear in Morocco?
Morocco is a tourist friendly country and society is not overly conservative regarding clothing, however, the Moroccan custom, still very much alive, is to wear the traditional dress of Morocco. The djellaba, a long, loose, hooded gown is seen everywhere as are the slippers known as babouche. If you tour the country with us you will notice the dress varies from region to region but apart from in the major cities, it is always modest.
Muslims effectively keep covered, particularly the women, most young Moroccan women don’t wear a veil but they usually wear a headscarf (Hijab). How this impacts you is dependent on whether you are in a tourist area / hotel, or not. We suggest being respectful in your dress and behaviour in order to avoid offending others. Short and skimpy clothes should be reserved for the beach and it’s useful to carry a scarf which can be draped around you to avoid causing offence in the more rural areas. However, Morocco wholeheartedly values and welcomes tourists and allowances are made.
Women may like to carry a scarf with them to wrap around them in the more rural areas to avoid causing any offence. We advise that you dress more conservatively if you visit during Ramadan.
In the winter months, you will need some warm clothes for cooler nights especially in the mountains.
Touring Morocco you will notice different local costumes and dressing styles in different areas and you will be able to buy beautiful scarves and Moroccan fabrics too.
Out of respect, we suggest long shorts and t-shirts rather than short shorts and sleeveless tops (for both men and women) and wearing swimwear only at the beach or by your hotel swimming pool.
Climate in Morocco
Morocco – The cold country with the hot sun.
Morocco is perfect for year round travel thanks to its wide variety of temperatures. The climate ranges from the snow- capped mountains to the Sahara desert. Daily sunshine hours range from 6 in the winter in the North to 13 hours in the desert. The north coast has a Mediterranean style climate being generally hot and sunny in the summer months. The hot temperatures cool extensively in the breeze of the Atlantic coast and the climate grows drier and hotter as you move south.
Whilst the cities can get very hot in the height of summer months, (July & August) with temperatures reaching in excess of 40 degrees, the right accommodation, an afternoon nap and an air-conditioned car will make it manageable. We will discuss with you how to design a trip that incorporates the cooler coast and mountains which are easily accessible. The desert can be enjoyed all year although July and August will be too hot for many. In the winter in the dunes and the gorges, you will enjoy cloudless, blue skies although the nights will be cold, sometimes very cold. The mountains can experience heavy snowfall in December, January and early February whilst the cities can see pleasant temperatures of 25degrees by day and 5 degrees by night.
Spring and autumn are the most popular times to visit with temperatures usually sitting between 20 and 30 degrees though but we stress that a So Morocco Tour will usually mean travelling through a number of different micro-climates and we strongly advise you to come prepared for all eventualities.
What language do they speak in Morocco?
In Morocco, people greet each other by touching their heart and saying “Salam Aleikum” which means “peace be with you.”
The Moroccan form of Arabic is the main language spoken. In addition Tarifit, Tamazaight and Tashlhyt are the three Berber dialects used in different regions of the country. French is also widely spoken and less so Spanish. Many locals have no English although this is on the increase.
A few useful phrases in Arabic will be hugely welcomed and people will be very friendly and helpful as a result. Your So Morocco Tour driver will always be able to help translate and ensure that you can manage when there are no other English speakers present.
Goodbye – Bislama | Thank you – Shukran | You’re Welcome | Marhba bikoum | No – La | Yes – Naam
Moroccan Arabic is considered the most difficult form of Arabic to learn, but if you want to try the basics – follow this link http://friendsofmorocco.org/learnarabic.htm
Religion in Morocco
In Morocco the pre- Islamic Berber beliefs have blended with Islam to produce a unique belief system.
Morocco is a Sunni Muslim country with small pockets of Christians and Jews. Moroccans are extremely hospitable to non-Muslims, but, with a couple of exceptions, they don’t allow them access to Islamic religious monuments.
One of the wonderful experiences of your visit to Morocco will be to hear the call to prayer. The adhān recited by the muezzin in the mosque five times a day summons Muslims for prayer. Morocco Prayer times are listed here – https://www.islamicfinder.org/world/morocco/
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims spend each day during this month in a complete fast by abstaining from food, drink and other physical needs during daylight hours. It is a time to purify the soul and focus on the practice of self-sacrifice. This is a time to re-evaluate lives, to make peace and to strengthen ties with family and friends.
The fast is broken with a harira, a rich lentil soup, chebakiyas (cookies), eggs, dates, juice and milk. Then later comes the main meal, after which locals walk outside with their families, to socialise in the cooler air. The atmosphere is very festive and the souks stay open later. Tourists will not be unduly affected but should not eat or drink in open public spaces and you will need to be understanding if service is a little slower than usual.
Ramadan in 2017 will be 26th May to 24th June.
Shopping in Morocco
Haggling (debating and negotiating price) is almost unavoidable in Morocco. Many Europeans are uncomfortable with this and you can always ask your Driver Guide to take you somewhere with fixed prices. However – we would encourage you to have a go. Not only will you find some amazing bargains (dependant on your haggling skills) but you are also entering into the spirit of the way of life here. Haggling means that you take the time to engage and browse and often you will be served refreshments at the same time.
We would suggest the following – always try to remain good-natured about the process. Don’t begin negotiations unless you are sure you are interested in purchasing. Perhaps start at a third of the asking price and be happy to pay half the asking price. If you feel strong-willed and walk away from something you really want – don’t worry – it’s probably not over yet as the shopkeeper will quite likely come after you and offer another price. Try and keep in mind that it is not only about an exchange of cash, it is also a process that can be enjoyed as part of your cultural immersion.
If you are not sure what a fair price would be, ask your guide and he will give you some indication. Our drivers will also encourage you to avoid certain “tourist shops” and take you somewhere where the quality will be higher and the price will be lower. That said – Morocco is a shopper’s paradise. Whilst you might be baffled about why everyone wants to sell you a carpet when your whole house has laminate floors, the fact is Moroccan carpets are stunning in terms of craftsmanship, history and tradition. By all means, tell your Driver Guide if you don’t want to be “sold a carpet” but if you go through the experience at least once you will come away enriched with cultural information.
If the souk experience is too full-on for you, there is boutique shopping available in the new town in Marrakech, Gueliz.
Leather – we all wear it but do you have any idea how it is traditionally produced? It’s an amazing story told so well in Fes but also in Taroudant. The leather you buy in Morocco should feel like nothing you have ever felt before. Exceptionally soft and comfortable.
Foodstuffs – Olive Oil, Argan Oil, Saffron, as well as nuts and spices. So Morocco can help you find the highest quality, responsibly produced, value for money products. Cutting out the middle-man and going directly to the small scale producers and responsible cooperatives, ensuring you are supporting the local people.
Arts, crafts, wooden items, jewellery, ceramics, fabric, lamps, silver, copperware, . . . the list goes on and on.
The Moroccan Dirham (MAD or DH)
Like Cuba, Vietnam and Tunisia, Morocco has a closed currency. This means that it is heavily restricted and you may find it difficult to buy local currency outside of Morocco although currently, it is available at major London Airports (at very poor exchange rates). You are not allowed to take more than 1000 Dirhams into or out of the country.
However, this will not present you with a problem as there are many ATM machines at the airports and in the towns. Foreign currency may be exchanged at the Bureau de Change at the airport on arrival (very fair exchange rates), at a bank or possibly at your hotel. Some hotels and shops will accept major credit cards but Morocco has a largely cash based economy.
Please note Travellers Cheques are not used in Morocco. For visitors from outside the Eurozone, there is little point converting your home currency into Euros (€) only to exchange these into Dirhams.
Don’t forget to inform your bank that you are going to Morocco to prevent a security stop being placed on your account when you try to use your card on holiday.
For information on tipping please go to our FAQ page
The Hammam experience
A hammam is a traditional Moroccan public bathhouse (similar to a Turkish bath) and the word translates as “that which spreads the heat.”
Moroccan hammams can be traced back to 600AD. With their roots in Greek and Roman baths, the Prophet Mohammed promoted their use as he believed that they were both healing and rejuvenating. Today, as a purification process and opportunity for reflection and tranquillity, they are a very important part of Islamic life in Morocco. Infact, hammams are often connected to mosques.
Your body is washed with a mitt made of goat’s pelt and black soap, which is a paste made from olive and eucalyptus oils. Then, after a cold rinse, Ghassoul is applied. Ghassoul is volcanic clay from the Atlas Mountains. This process aids drainage of the lymphatic system, exfoliates and opens skin pores, aids respiration and eases muscular pain. Hammams are social affairs and are also incredibly relaxing and de-stressing and it is almost impossible not to fall asleep straight after one.
Men and women use the public hammams at different times of the day and there are many where tourists are welcomed. Alternatively many hotels and riads offer a more luxurious version and there are also several riads that have their own hammams in the suites.