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Safety in MoroccoTap to expand

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 – http://somorocco.com/2016/06/is-morocco-safe/

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

FoodTap to expand

Moroccan Food – 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.

Meal time 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.

Flat breads 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.

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/ ) or even in the desert.

DressTap to expand

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. Most young Moroccan women don’t wear a veil but they usually wear a headscarf (Hijab).

Muslims effectively keep covered, particularly the women. 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.

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.

ClimateTap to expand

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.

While the cities can get very hot in the height of summer, the right accommodation, an afternoon nap and an air conditioned car will make it manageable.  Day trips to the cooler coast and mountains are easily accessible. The desert can be enjoyed all year although July and August may be too hot for some. In the winter in the dunes and the gorges, you will enjoy cloudless, blue skies although the nights will be cold, sometimes very cold.

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.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/2542007

LanguageTap to expand

In Morocco, people greet each other by touching their heart and saying “Salam Aleikum” which means “peace be with you.”

السلام عليكم

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

ReligionTap to expand

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.

ShoppingTap to expand

Haggling and Bartering

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 shop keeper will quite likely come after you and offer another price.

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.

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 . . .  the list goes on and on.

CurrencyTap to expand

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. Most hotels and shops will accept major credit cards. Even in the markets, when buying larger items, cards may be accepted.

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.

http://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com/

 

Will I be harassed in Morocco?Tap to expand

Harassment in Morocco

Sexual harassment is not the problem here that it is in other North African countries and is less of a problem than in Spain and Italy. Modest dress and respectful behaviour will, in general, protect you but there is no doubt that; in general, harassment of tourists is more persistent than it is in northern Europe. If you feel uncomfortable be polite but firm and try to avoid eye contact.

Tourists might find themselves being generally harassed in Marrakech especially when trying to shop as it is almost impossible to just look without being approached by the shop-keeper however, this is not usually the case once outside of Marrakech.

If you feel uncomfortable with the level of attention and harassment we recommend avoiding it completely by asking your So Morocco driver to accompany you.

When is Ramadan & will it affect me?Tap to expand

In 2018 Ramadan runs from 15th May to 14th June.

Our tours run all year round including during the Ramadan month. There will an impact on your trip, albeit a limited one. During the day expect to see fewer tourists – not a bad thing!  In fact, the evenings might be extra lively as Moroccans like to walk outside after breaking their fast each evening.

Shops will not be open for the same hours as usual, and in the heat of the afternoon, having had nothing to eat or drink all day you can expect locals to be a little more laid back as they conserve energy. Generally, on a So Morocco Tour, none of this will have a huge effect as the drivers will be aware of where to go to find places which are open and most cafe’s and restaurants will operate as usual.

When your driver takes you somewhere to eat or drink he will discreetly disappear and meet you back at the vehicle when you’re ready to continue the journey. We reduce the working hours for your driver himself in order to make sure that he has finished driving for the day at the time that he is able to break his fast.

We ask only that you are respectful towards anyone fasting by not offering them food or smoking in front of them except in a designated restaurant area and you may need to be a little bit patient if service becomes sluggish towards the end of a very hot day. But other than this small sign of respect, it really is business as usual.

There are two Eid Holidays, Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha which is known as the big Eid and falls on 1st September in 2017. During Eid some attractions, shops and restaurants will close and cities may be very quiet just as they would be here on Christmas Day.

 

Do I need a visa?Tap to expand

Do I need a VISA for Morocco?

Ensure your passport has blank visa pages. These will be stamped on arrival and departure from Morocco.

Ensure you have a return ticket.

Visa requirements are country dependent (please check this information with your embassy or by using  www.visahq.co.uk) but, for EU subjects, you only need to complete the landing card to obtain a Tourist Visa which will entitle you to stay in Morocco for up to three months. On your flight you should be given a landing card to complete for Passport Control – you will need your accommodation name and address.  If the airline does not supply this you can also pick up a form in the Passport Control Hall.

Will I need vaccinations?Tap to expand

Do I need vaccinations for Morocco?

Please discuss immunisation with your doctor in advance of your trip. However mandatory vaccines in Morocco are not required.

It is advised to ensure that your standard vaccines are up to date in particular for polio, typhoid and hepatitis A.

Your So Morocco driver will always be happy to take you to a pharmacy but we suggest carrying travel sickness and diarrhoea medication with you. The tap water is safe but again, to avoid stomach upsets, we recommend drinking bottled water.

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Travel-immunisation/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Will I need travel insurance?Tap to expand

Travel Insurance for Your Morocco Tour

YES – it is a condition of your booking that you have adequate travel insurance. See our Terms & Conditions for further details.

Will I need electrical adaptors?Tap to expand

What plug do I need in Morocco?

Morocco operates on 220v 50Hz, the same as the rest of Europe, but different from North America. The sockets are usually the same as those in Europe but different from Britain or the US. So if you are coming from the UK or USA you will need a converter / adaptor.  There are two different types of electrical sockets commonly found in Morocco. Older sockets are two pin, similar to, the CEE 7/16 europlug. The newer type will have a grounded version of the two-pin socket in which an earth pin sticks out from the socket, CEE 7/5.  Unless your adapter has a hole to accept the earth pin you WILL NOT be able to physically insert the adapter into the socket.

Will my mobile phone work?Tap to expand

There is very good network phone coverage in Morocco. Contact your phone company before-hand to ensure your phone is set up to use abroad and remember to turn off roaming or you risk paying a fortune in data charges.

 

Is there internet available?Tap to expand

Is there WIFI in Morocco?

There are internet cafes in most parts of Morocco and most cafes and hotels also have Wifi. Morocco has a 3G network but it’s not the speed that you are used to and you may find that downloading images or streaming videos doesn’t work. In addition, don’t expect to be able to upload your camera photos while in Morocco.If you are using a Moroccan computer you will find that the keyboards are often set up in the French style which is not the QWERTY layout.

 

When is a good time to visit Morocco?Tap to expand

The climate in Morocco is varied and there is pleasant weather available somewhere throughout the year. The Atlantic coast has a year round mid 20’s sunny climate and the mountains provide relief from the extreme heat in the summer months which you will find in the southern desert towns.

If you are doing one of our desert tours, the desert is probably best visited in spring and autumn but will still provide very pleasant sunshine in the middle of winter although it will get cold at night.

Even in July and August with plenty of water, air conditioned cars and an afternoon snooze, the temperatures are usually manageable and the heat is usually dry with humidity only occurring in some coastal areas.

How much should I tip?Tap to expand

Tipping in Morocco

Morocco has a tipping culture which can be uncomfortable for nationalities who are not used to this. We don’t believe you should ever be made to feel that you are obliged to tip but for good service, as a rule, we suggest that you tip as follows (in Dirhams);

Chamber Maid = 20 per day

Luggage Handler = 10 per big bag

Restaurants = 10%

Taxi = round up the bill

Medina luggage hand cart porter – 20 to 50 depending on the distance

Your So Morocco Driver – If you are pleased with the service of your driver the suggested tip is between 5 and 10% of the total tour price, however, he will be more than happy with a tip of any size. The best way to handle this is to put it in an envelope and either hand it to him as you say goodbye or inform him that you have left it on the seat of the car.

What if I can't find the answer I am looking for?Tap to expand

Please check the About Morocco section above for more information on some subjects or just give us a call and we will be happy to advise. If we don’t already know, we will find out for you and add the information to our website for everyone’s benefit.

So Morocco Ltd support Jarjeer Mules Donkey Orphanage, Morocco and pledge to donate £10 from every booking taken in 2017 directly to this foundation. (The Machin Foundation)