But while the chaotic beauty of these cities is worth experiencing, much of real Moroccan life exists outside them. The best cultural tastes can be found in Morocco’s rural world, as you’re crossing the Atlas Mountains and meeting Berbers along the way, spending time in deserts, or everywhere in between. Here, you’ll find an image of daily life as it really is – free from the tourism hordes!
- Have a real Berber experience in the Atlas Mountains
- Take photos of the blue doors at Chefchaouen
- Soak up the madness of the markets in Marrakesh
- Camp out in the Sahara Desert
- Relax in Casablanca or enjoy the beaches at Essaouira
- Drink tea with the locals
While it’s easy to navigate the major cities and their streets and markets, things slow down considerably once you move beyond all that. Moroccan people tend to be very laid-back, and the whole concept of “rush” just doesn’t exist. As a local might put it: if you arrange a meeting with someone, it won’t be 14:30 next Tuesday…it’ll be 14:30 next Wednesday. Don’t take that as a bad thing! Relax, and slow down.
The currency is the Dirham, and it usually holds pretty steady year-round. ATMs are readily available, but their fees can be high.
Getting around the country is pretty easy. There is a strong network of trains, buses, airplanes, and taxis. Travel between cities by trains is an easy option, while buses will more easily get you into the countryside. Hiring a local guide is always the best option for complete immersion into Moroccan culture. It’s also the easiest and safest way to meet Berbers.
The best time to visit Morocco is spring, between mid-March to May, when the country is green and beautiful. Autumn is also a great time, from September to November, when the stifling summer heat has eased up. Winter can get extremely cold, especially in the High Atlas, although moving further south will offer warm temperatures (however, nights can be freezing).
Things to Know Before You Go
The process of tea drinking in Morocco is a little complicated, but it’s a precious ritual of Moroccan culture – especially in the Berber region. You or your host must “pull” the tea back and forth between the pot and the glass until the level of sweetness is perfect, and the tea has been properly aerated. Stretch your arm high and watch the greenish liquid pour into your small glass, and then enjoy your drink slowly and with great pleasure. Remember: no rushing!
When friends recognize each other in the street, one simply does not just wave. Hands are gripped, hugs are given, and so is a kiss (or three). As a traveller, be respectful, polite, and have a smile on your face – and you will instantly be a friend.
Morocco, while very liberal and safe, is predominately a Muslim country. Therefore it’s necessary to dress modestly and respect religious sites of significance.
Moroccans speak a gorgeous mixture of Arabic, Berber, English, and French. English is widely understood, but having even minimal French or Arabic if you’re travelling the countryside will go a long way.
Do not eat or shake hands with your left hand. To Muslims, this hand is “unclean” and is considered an insult.
If you come during Ramadan (a month of Muslim fasting and purification), you may find many restaurants and cafes closed down. Check ahead of time to see how this will affect your schedule.
Ready to plan your visit to Morocco? Check out these popular guides and trips.