Morocco, situated in the Northern Hemisphere of northwest Africa, is a quintessential country in the region known for its abundant natural attractions, historical monuments, and distinctive cultural traditions. Boasting some of the finest beaches and renowned markets, Morocco stands out as a unique destination. The people of Morocco, characterized by their openness, friendliness, and independence, create a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Welcome to Morocco, a country eagerly anticipating your presence!
Morocco on the Map
Situated on the northwesternmost corner of Africa, the Kingdom of Morocco is distinctly positioned, separated from Europe by the narrow Strait of Gibraltar. Its shores are lapped by the waters of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, contributing to a coastline that spans 1835 kilometers.
On land, Morocco shares borders with Algeria and Western Sahara, with the latter largely under Moroccan control. Additionally, the kingdom has land boundaries with Spanish enclaves in Africa, including Ceuta and Melilla.
Morocco’s topography is intricate, featuring a coastal strip of lowlands, notably expansive in the south and northwest. The central region is dominated by the Atlas Mountains, a range extending from the Atlantic coast to Algeria. The highest peak in the Atlas is Mount Toubkal, towering at 4165 meters. Renowned for numerous caves, these mountains attract tourists seeking exploration.
Towards the southern border with Western Sahara lies Sebha Tah, an exceptional geographical point that dips 55 meters below sea level.
Rivers are scarce in the country, with notable ones being the Cebu, the Draa, and the Lukos. While large lakes are absent, the mountainous terrain boasts charming small bodies of water.
Morocco’s Mediterranean coast is adorned with subtropical evergreen forests and shrubs, while the southeast is characterized by the vast sands of the Sahara. The nature of the mountainous areas varies significantly with altitude above sea level.
The country hosts a diverse animal kingdom, exhibiting a closer affinity to European fauna than African. Among the inhabitants are antelopes-gazelles, goats, wild pigs, small rodents, rabbits, and even panthers.
Tourist Safety in Morocco
Morocco, ranked 71st in the global index of peacefulness alongside Kazakhstan and Oman, is generally considered a safe destination. Despite the index, which considers factors such as tranquility, attitudes towards tourists, and more, the reality in the country portrays a stable political environment with no recent history of unrest or revolutions.
While Morocco is generally safe, tourists should be vigilant against pickpockets, a common issue in the country. Petty theft and occasional extortion by cab drivers or service providers can occur, emphasizing the importance of staying alert.
Nighttime poses an increased risk for lone tourists, as the streets may become less safe. The likelihood of theft rises significantly during these hours.
For female travelers, adhering to the local dress code and avoiding overly revealing clothing when navigating city streets can help prevent instances of sexual harassment.
Road traffic in Morocco is deemed safe, with a notable police presence on highways and strict fines for traffic violations. However, the quality of some roads leaves room for improvement.
The sanitary and epidemiological situation in Morocco is generally calm, although there is a minor risk of diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, or typhoid fever in specific areas. No special immunizations are required for travel to the country. As in many places in Africa, maintaining vigilance regarding food and water quality and following hygiene rules is essential.
Morocco’s natural elements, including the hot sun, poisonous snakes and insects, and occasional shark sightings near the coast, may pose challenges for European tourists. However, exercising basic caution allows visitors to enjoy their time in Morocco safely and with pleasure.
The people of Morocco are known for their vibrant and joyful spirit, embracing a life filled with celebrations. The kingdom hosts 14 public holidays, a delightful mix of secular and religious festivities marked by oriental grandeur.
Secular celebrations include significant dates such as Revolution Day on August 20, Independence Day on November 18, and the observance of European New Year, Labor Day, and Youth Day.
Given Morocco’s predominantly Muslim population, religious holidays hold immense significance and are widely respected. Festivals like the Islamic New Year, the Prophet’s birthday, and Eid al-Adha are celebrated with fervor.
Adding a unique touch to the festivities, Morocco commemorates a third New Year according to the Berber calendar, known as Yennaier.
Beyond traditional holidays, Morocco boasts a vibrant festival scene that captivates tourists. The Gnaoua music festival is particularly popular, drawing crowds with its enchanting street musician processions.
In Morocco, holidays are not just dates on the calendar; they are occasions marked by cultural richness, unity, and a profound sense of joy, creating an unforgettable experience for both locals and visitors alike.
Fun and Adventure in Morocco
With a thriving tourism industry attracting over 8 million visitors annually, Morocco has become a premier destination offering a diverse range of experiences. From pristine beaches to snow-capped mountains, historical wonders, and unique cultural traditions, the country has something to offer every traveler.
Here are 10 of the most enticing activities that make Morocco a must-visit destination:
- Beach Vacations: From tranquil Mediterranean shores, ideal for family getaways, to the dynamic Atlantic coast, perfect for water sports enthusiasts, Morocco’s beaches cater to a variety of preferences.
- Surfing: Surfing is a major draw for adventure seekers, with the Atlantic coast, particularly the resort of Agadir, offering year-round high waves for enthusiasts to catch.
- Diving: Tangier on the Mediterranean Sea is a hotspot for scuba diving enthusiasts, providing the opportunity to explore vibrant marine life, cuttlefish, and dark coral reefs.
- Yachting: Yacht rides are popular, and coastal towns offer yacht rentals for cruising along the coast or engaging in fishing excursions.
- Trekking to Toubkal: With numerous trekking routes, Morocco invites nature lovers to explore its landscapes. Climbing Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the Moroccan Atlas, is a particularly sought-after adventure.
- Trekking to Paradise Valley: The picturesque Paradise Valley, just north of Agadir, offers a stunning hiking experience with waterfalls and ponds for refreshing swims.
- Camel Tours: Explore the vastness of the Sahara with a camel caravan journey, an exhilarating experience that often includes overnight stays in the desert.
- Alpine Skiing: Morocco stands out as one of the few African countries with a ski resort. The Ukaymeden resort, located in the Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, boasts modern facilities and various slopes for skiing.
- Oriental Bazaars: Delve into the exotic atmosphere of oriental markets found in almost every city. Marrakech’s sprawling market is a favorite, offering a vast array of goods, from food to souvenirs.
- Historical Sights: No visit to Morocco is complete without exploring its architectural marvels. From the ancient kasbah Ait-ben-Haddou to the blue city of Chefchaouen, the Menara Gardens, and more, the kingdom’s historical landmarks provide a captivating glimpse into its rich heritage.
Important Information about Morocco for Visitors
If you’re planning a visit to Morocco, here are some key details to keep in mind:
Official languages are Arabic and Berber. Almost 40% of the population speaks Berber.
French is widely used and is often considered the de facto language for communication, especially for foreign tourists. In the northern regions, Spanish is also prevalent.
Morocco is home to over 37 million people.
Ethnically, approximately 60% are Arabs, and 40% are Berbers. A small European community, including Spaniards, French, and Portuguese, resides in the country.
- More interesting facts about Moroccans, their character and local color can be found in this article.
The national currency is the Moroccan dirham, divided into 100 centimes.
Banknotes: 20, 50, 100, and 200 dirhams. Coins: 10, 20 centimes, and 1/2, 1, 2, 5, 10 dirhams.
It’s advisable for tourists to carry dollars or euros. While foreign currency is not commonly accepted, some tourist markets may accept payments in dollars at unfavorable rates.
Exchange dollars or euros at airports or banks, as using street ATMs poses a higher risk of pickpocketing.
Approximate exchange rate: 1 dollar to 10.5 dirhams.
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, with Islam as the state religion. The king holds the title of «Lord of the Faithful» and respects Islamic traditions.
Nearly 99% of the population follows Islam.
A small percentage practices Christianity (about 1%) and Judaism (about 0.2%).
Morocco features diverse climates across its regions. In the north, a Mediterranean subtropical climate prevails, characterized by mild winters and warm summers. This area, known for its comfortable conditions, is comparable to the climate of southern Spain. Summer temperatures range from +24 to +28 degrees Celsius, while winters see averages of +12 to +15 degrees Celsius.
On the Atlantic coast, a subtropical monsoon climate with a significant temperature difference is observed. Summer temperatures can reach up to +35 degrees Celsius, and monsoons often bring rain.
In the central parts of the country, an arid tropical climate dominates, characterized by minimal rainfall and substantial temperature variations. Desert areas can experience temperatures soaring to +37 degrees Celsius in summer and dropping to +5 degrees in winter.
The optimal times to visit Morocco are during the off-season periods of March-April and October-November. During these times, the weather tends to be dry and not excessively hot, providing a favorable climate for tourists.
Sea Water Temperature
The sea water temperature along the Moroccan coast experiences significant annual fluctuations, influencing its suitability for swimming. In winter, the water can become chilly, making it less conducive to swimming or diving.
Here is a breakdown of the average sea water temperatures:
- Winter (December-January): Ranges from +15 degrees in the Mediterranean to +20 degrees in the south.
- Spring (March-May): Averages between +16 to +19 degrees Celsius.
- Summer (June-July): Ranges from +20 to +25 degrees Celsius, with the Mediterranean Sea warming up the most.
- Autumn (September-November): From +23 in early autumn to +18 degrees in the later autumn.
It’s worth noting that the Mediterranean Sea tends to have the highest water temperatures during the summer months.
Morocco, long regarded as one of the safest vacation destinations in terms of natural disasters, faced a significant setback in September 2023. On September 8, the country experienced its most devastating earthquake in history, resulting in the tragic loss of almost 3 thousand lives.
Despite this unfortunate event, the overall situation concerning natural disasters in Morocco remains at an acceptable level. Earthquakes occur approximately once every 5-6 years, typically without causing extensive casualties. Notably, in 1960, Agadir experienced a catastrophic earthquake that claimed the lives of 15 thousand people. However, it’s important to consider that at that time, the city was predominantly constructed with clay, contributing to the severity of the impact.
Morocco is not prone to volcanic activity, and cyclones tend to avoid its coastline. Severe floods are also infrequent. The primary natural threat to the country’s economy is drought, a challenge that intensifies with the progression of global warming. Fortunately, the impact of droughts on the tourist experience in the kingdom is limited.
One consequential outcome of droughts is the occurrence of forest fires. A substantial portion of Morocco is covered by forests, and in 2022, the country witnessed significant fires that led to the destruction of 1,500 hectares of forested land. While these incidents pose challenges, Morocco’s resilience and proactive measures contribute to maintaining its status as a relatively safe destination for travelers.
- About the most devastating disasters in the history of Morocco can be read in this article.
Morocco operates as a monarchy, where exclusive power is centralized in the hands of the king and his council of ministers. The king holds considerable authority, including the ability to veto laws, appoint judges, and amend the constitution. In times of war, the king commands the armed forces.
The legislative power is represented by a bicameral parliament, comprising the House of Representatives and the House of Counselors.
Administratively, the country is divided into 12 regions, with two of them located on the territory of Western Sahara.
The capital of Morocco is Rabat.
Major Cities and Resorts
Casablanca: The largest city in Morocco with a population exceeding 4 million, Casablanca is a major port and economic center. The Hassan II Mosque, the country’s largest, is a prominent attraction.
Rabat: As the capital of the kingdom, Rabat was founded in 1146 and is home to around 600 thousand people. Known for its unique medieval architecture, notable sites include the royal palace and the mausoleum of Mohammed V.
Marrakech: Located in the central part of the country, Marrakech has a population of almost 1 million. Historically, it served as a major trading center, and its markets are renowned. Djemaa al Fna Square is a central attraction.
Fez: One of the oldest cities, founded in 789, Fez has a current population of 1.1 million. A city of scholars and students, it is home to the world’s oldest active educational institution, Al-Qaraouine University, established in 859.
Agadir: Situated in the south with a population of 750 thousand, Agadir combines modern and ancient districts, serving as a significant tourist center with open-air museums.
Symbols of Morocco
Lion: Serving as the national animal, the lion is prominently featured on the country’s coat of arms. Historically, Morocco was home to Berberian lions, though regrettably, this species is now considered extinct.
Rose: Designated as the national flower, the rose flourishes abundantly on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains. The region witnesses the collection of up to 5 thousand tons of roses, a remarkable quantity that surpasses mere numerical counts.
Jellaba: This traditional Berber robe, distinguished by its wide sleeves, holds the esteemed title of the national dress in the kingdom of Morocco.
Oud: A stringed plucked instrument, the oud holds a pivotal role as an essential participant in all folk festivals and celebrations throughout the country.
How to Get to Morocco
European tourists have two primary options for reaching Morocco: by air or by sea. Meanwhile, travelers from Asia, America, or Australia will predominantly rely on air transportation. Morocco boasts eight international airports, facilitating convenient access for visitors.
Among the most frequented gateways is Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, accommodating nearly 8 million passengers annually. This airport serves as a hub for airlines connecting various continents, making it a pivotal entry point for tourists from around the globe.
Marrakech-Menara International Airport, another major air travel hub, caters to almost 7 million passengers each year. This airport offers regular flights from key cities such as Paris, Madrid, Tel Aviv, London, and Frankfurt, providing diverse options for international travelers.
For those who prefer sea travel, there are ferry routes from Spain to Morocco. Regular connections from Barcelona and other Spanish cities to Melilla, Tangier, and Nador offer an alternative mode of transportation. The sea journey from Barcelona takes approximately 30 hours, while the route from Almeria is a shorter 7-hour voyage.
Cost of Vacation in Morocco
The expenses for a vacation in Morocco can vary based on your travel style, whether you opt for independent exploration or choose guided tours through a travel company.
Flight Costs: Given Morocco’s proximity to Europe, flights from the EU are reasonably priced. For instance, a round-trip ticket from Paris to Casablanca averages around 120 euros.
Tour Packages: Budget-friendly tours, including flights, start from 1000 to 2000 dollars for a 7-day itinerary, making Morocco an appealing destination for cost-conscious travelers.
- Food: Dining costs are generally lower than in Europe. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant ranges from 15 to 50 dollars for two, excluding alcohol. Fast food options are around 5-6 dollars, while a cup of cappuccino is approximately 1 dollar.
- Accommodation: A double room in a three-star hotel averages around 50 dollars, while hostels offer rooms for as low as 23 dollars. More luxurious hotels can go up to 180 dollars per night.
- Attractions: Many beaches, historical sites, and mosques are free to visit, but museums typically have entrance fees. Excursion prices vary, e.g., a review tour of Marrakech or Fez might cost 260-280 dollars, while a visit to a Berber village in Agadir is around 60 dollars for two.
- Souvenirs: Costs for souvenirs are diverse. Popular items include cosmetics, such as argan oil (6 dollars for 100 ml), local slippers (babushi) from 6 dollars, scarves, leather goods, copper utensils, and gold. Prices for spices, olives (4 dollars per kilogram), local sweets, and Berber tea also vary.
- Transportation: Public transport like buses and minibuses are economical, with tickets ranging from 40 to 80 cents. Taxi fares start at 0.5 dollars, with an additional 1 dollar per kilometer.
Taking unforeseen expenses into account, a 7-day vacation for two in Morocco, including flight, can range from 1500 to 2500 dollars. However, it’s essential to note that the total cost may vary based on individual preferences and choices, with the maximum expenditure potentially exceeding these estimates.
Share Your Morocco Experience!
If you’ve had the pleasure of exploring Morocco, we invite you to generously share your insights in the comments section. Reflect on what captivated you the most, the enduring moments etched in your memory, and any recommendations you’d extend to fellow travelers. Your valuable contributions will be warmly welcomed, and we genuinely appreciate your willingness to offer recommendations to enhance the travel experiences of others!