|Currency||Moroccan dirham (MAD)|
|Area||total: 446,550 sq km |
land: 446,300 sq km
water: 250 sq km
|Population||31,167,783 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||Arabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy|
|Religion||Muslim 99%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%|
Morocco (?????? al-Maghreb) is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Gibraltar.
- The Atlas Mountains - Visit the Atlas Mountains in summer for a day long hike or a week of trekking.
- Agadir - Agadir is all about the beach. The town is a nice example of modern Moroccan design, but not much in the way of history or culture. Take the local bus for a few cents and go 2 or 3 villages North. The beaches are much better there and there are no burglars at all.
- Asni - Starting point for treks into the Atlas Mountains
- Casablanca - This modern city by the sea is a common starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the second largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon.
- Chefchaouen - A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier.
- Essaouira - An ancient sea-side town newly (re)discovered by tourists, Essaouira is still worth a visit. Nearest Coast from Marrakech.
- Fez - Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
- Marrakech - Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souqs and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed.
- Meknes - A modern, laid back city that offers welcome break from the tourist crush of neighbouring Fez.
- Ouarzazate - Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn't destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
- Rabat - The capital of Morocco; highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
- Tangier - Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain.
- Tetouan - Capital of the North of Morocco, has very beautiful beaches and is the gateway to the Rif Mountains.
- Merzouge - From this settlement at the edge of the Sahara, ride a camel into the desert for a night among the dunes and under the stars.
- Taroudannt - Market town.
Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.
Electricity and measures
Morocco uses the metric system for weights and measures. Newer buildings use 220 V / 50 Hz power supplies, while older buildings use 110 V / 50 Hz. Some buildings have a mix of both, so if you're unsure, ask before plugging something in. The sockets are similar to those used in France and other parts of Europe.
All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport but visitors from the following countries do not need to obtain visas before arrival: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, C�te d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus (except Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Czech Republic, Republic of Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela
Tourists can stay for up to 90 days and visa extensions can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. (You may find it easier to duck into the Spanish-controlled Algeciras in southern Spain. At Algeciras there are ferry services to Ceuta and Tangier who carry cars. Further information is available at the By boat section.
It's possible also to enter Mauritania by car from Dakhla. Most countries citizens need a visa to get in Mauritania, and it's not possible to get it in Dakhla, so it's necessary to plan the trip bery well.
There are several ferry connections to Morocco, mainly from Spain. Algeciras is the main port and serves Tangier. You can also get to Tangier from the small port of Malaga and Perpignan. The Italian towns of Genoa and Naples also have direct connections to Tangier. The British crown colony of Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service.
From Algeciras to Tangier the ferry costs about 25 Euros each way.
Domestic flying is not a popluar mean of transporation, however the national flag carrier has an excellent network to most cities.
Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier,Rabat, Casablanca, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. The trains don't leave very often (compared to those in the UK for example), but there are usually several every day to or from the major towns.
The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dh (�15) second class, or 300dh (�20) first class.
The alternative is the far more cramped and stressful buses that move between cities also. These are often necessary to get to towns not served by a normal train. People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco and you will find yourself permanently talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advised you on some new place you should go.
Rental firms abound in the large cities and if renting from a small company its wise to check the vehicles condition, spare tyre, jack etc. Check too on where you can drive - some companies won't allow travel on unmade roads. Fuel is not so common in the countryside so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.
The main road network is in good condition. The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended. The expressway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was finished in 1987. It was extended from Rabat to K�nitra in 1995 and today reaches the northern town of Asilah and is scheduled to be completed in 2005 reaching Tangier (A1). Another expressway (A2) goes eastwards from Rabat to the historical city of F�s some 200 km down the road. It comprises part of the planned transmaghr�bine expressway that will continue all the way to Tripoli. South from Casablanca runs the A7. It is planned to reach Marrakech in 2007 but currently only goes as far as Settat 60 km south of Casablanca. Around Casablanca and down the coast is the A5 expressway. It is under construction to El Jadida and its port of Jorf Lasfar and is completed to Had Soualem 16 km west of Casablanca. Construction will start during 2005 for the A9 between Marrakech and Agadir which will be completed by 2009.
Roadsigns are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe but you give way to the right. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering it! Police checks on the main roads are many and the speed limit is enforced especially the 40kph in towns and on dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. Grande Taxis, busses and lorries usually think they own the road and its wise to let them continue to think this!
Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.
Nearly every city has a central bus-station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-condition and TV. Or you can take the local buses which cost only 25% - 50% and are much more fun. These ones aren't really comfortable, but you can get in contact to the local people and learn a lot about the country. The buses often take other routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to as a "normal" tourist.
Travel by taxi is common in Morocco where two sorts are used, the "petite" taxi used within the area of the town and the "grande" taxi for trips between towns. Prices are reasonable and its the law that taxis in town should have a meter - although they don't always work! Ask the fare before getting in. Its common for others to share a long distance taxi, the driver stopping and picking up passengers like a bus. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on the number of passengers, distance travelled and whether the you are returning. Grande Taxis are usually white Mercedes saloons and owners vie with each other to add extras such as sunshades. A well turned out vehicle and smart driver is usually a good sign of a well maintained vehicle. "Grande" taxis are often the cheapest way of travelling between towns and cities in Morocco.
- Chefchaouen, you will almost certainly be offered kif (dope). Some dealers will sell you the dope, then turn you in to the police for a cut of the baksheesh you pay to bribe your way out, while others will get you stoned before selling you lawn clippings in plasticine.
- Ticket inspectors on trains have reportedly attempted to extricate a few extra dirham from unsuspecting tourists by finding something 'wrong' with their tickets. Make sure your tickets are in order before you board, and if you find yourself being hassled, insist on taking the matter up with the station manager at your destination.
- Moroccan toilets, even those in hotels or restaurants, generally lack toilet paper. It is worth buying a roll (or bringing one with you). Toilet paper can be bought in many of the small shops in the medinas of almost all cities. (If your French or Arabic isn't very good, try to be subtle when miming what you want... )
All the usual common-sense travel safety applies:
- Avoid dark alleys
- Travel in a group whenever possible
- Keep money and passports in a safety wallet or in a hotel safety deposit box
- Keep backpacks and purses with you at all times. Make sure there is nothing important in outside or back pockets.
Women will experience almost constant harassment if alone, but this is usually just cat-calls and (disturbingly) hisses. Don't feel the need to be polite--no Moroccan woman would put up with behavior like that. Dark sunglasses make it easier to avoid eye contact. If someone won't leave you alone, look for families, a busy shop, or a local woman and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are so inclined, you could wear a hijab (headscarf), but this is not necessary. However, women should always dress conservatively (no low-cut tops, midriffs, or shorts) out of respect for the culture they are visiting. Locals will also assume that women venturing into ville nouvelle nightlcubs or bars alone are prostitutes in search of clientele.
Armed fighting in the disputed areas of the Western Sahara are less frequent now, but clashes between government forces and the Polisario Front still occur. Don't wander too far off the beaten path either, as this region is also heavily-mined.
- Inoculations No particular inoculations are needed for Morocco under normal circumstances, but check with the CDC's (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/) travel Web pages for any recent disease outbreaks. As with most travel, it makes good sense to have a recent tetanus immunization. If you plan to eat outside the circle of established restaurants, consider a Hepatitis A inoculation.
- Food and Drink Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetable that you can not peel. Avoid any food that is not prepared when you order it (i.e. buffets, etc). Usually fried and boiled foods are safe. It is advisable to drink bottled water, and be wary of ice or cordials that may be made with tap water. Some travellers have also had problems with unrefrigerated condiments (such as mayonnaise) used in fast food outlets.
- Shoes Keep sandals/tevas etc on the beach. Moroccan streets double as garbage disposal areas and you do not want to wade though fish heads and chicken parts with open-toe shoes.
- Malaria is present in the northern, coastal areas of the country but is not a major problem. Take the usual precautions against being bitten (light coloured clothing, insect repellent, etc) and if you are really worried see your doctor about anti-malarial medication before your departure.
- Clothing should be conservative; avoid skimpy clothing off the beach. Locals do not want to see your knees and armpits any more than you want to see someone in thong underwear walking around your neighborhood. Long sleeves and loose pants or a long skirt will be more comfortable in the heat anyway.
- Greetings among close friends and family (but never between men and women!) usually take the form of three pecks on the cheek. In other circumstances handshakes are the norm. Following the handshake by touching your heart with your right hand signifies respect and sincerity.
- Left hands are considered 'unclean' in Arabic cultures, as they may be used to handle bodily excretions. Avoid doing anything with your left hand, even if you are left-handed. Offering money with the left hand is especially insulting.
- Despite mixed feelings about the new king and his reign, Moroccans are required to show absolutely loyalty and devotion. Omnipresent photos adorn many shops and homes, and insulting the king is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment. Keep your anti-monarchy sentiments in check during your Moroccan travels.
Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used. The international dialling prefix (to dial out of the country) is 00, but international rates are comparatively expensive. If you have a lot of phone calls to make, it may be worth ducking into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla.
Useful Numbers Police: 19 Fire Service: 15 Highway Emergency Service: 177 Information: 160 International Information: 120 Telegrams and telephone: 140 Intercity: 100
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel (www.meditel.ma) or Maroc Telecom (www.iam.net.ma). Prepaid cards are available. More infos on available services, coverage and roaming partners are available at: (GSMWorld (http://www.gsmworld.com/roaming/gsminfo/cou_ma.shtml))
The Moroccan postal service is generally reliable and offers a post restante service in major cities for a small fee. You will need some identification (preferably your passport) to collect your mail.
Items shipped as freight are inspected at the post office before they are sent, so wait until this has been done before you seal the box.
Email & internet
Moroccans have really taken to the internet. Internet cafes are open late and are rife in cities and smaller towns that see significant tourist traffic. Rates are about 6 - 10 dirhams per hour and they are often located next to, above, or below the telekiosque offices. Speeds are acceptable to excellent in the north, but can be a little on the slow side in rural areas. Most internet cafes will allow you to print and burn CDs for a small charge.
- The Magic Morocco (http://www.magicmorocco.com/)
- Surf Spots in Morocco (http://wwww.rapturecamps.com/index.php?id=203)
- Morocco FAQ (http://www.triotours.com/faq/ma)