Introduction to Morocco
Did you know that many movies were filmed in Morocco and one of them was “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe? Have you ever been to the shrine of Sidi Yahya (located in Oujda city of Morocco)? Some people say that John the Baptist’s tomb is here, too!
Also, did you know that the English word “genie” comes from the Arabic word djinn? It is a spiritual being and people believe that he frequents places associated with water?
Country local name: Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington DC, during Standard Time)
Independence : 2 March 1956 (from France)
National holiday: Throne Day (accession of King MOHAMMED VI to the throne), 30 July (1999)
Population: 32,987,206 (July 2014 est.)
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, other 1%
Languages: Arabic (official), Berber languages (Tamazight (official), Tachelhit, Tarifit), French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)
Religions: Muslim 99% (official; virtually all Sunni, <0.1% Shia), other 1% (includes Christian, Jewish, and Baha'i), Jewish about 6,000 (2010 est.)
Terrain: northern coast and interior are mountainous with large areas of bordering plateaus, intermontane valleys, and rich coastal plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sebkha Tah -55 m
highest point: Jebel Toubkal 4,165 m
Natural resources: phosphates, iron ore, manganese, lead, zinc, salt, fish
Agricultural products: barley, wheat, citrus fruits, grapes, vegetables, olives; livestock; wine
Industry: automotive parts, phosphate mining and processing, aerospace, food processing, leather goods, textiles, construction, energy, tourism
Export: clothing and textiles, automobiles, electric components, inorganic chemicals, transistors, crude minerals, fertilizers (including phosphates), petroleum products, citrus fruits, vegetables, fish
Shopping hours: The grocery shops are open from 8 am to 1 pm, 4 pm to 10 pm all other shops are open from 8 am to 10 pm.
Climate: Mediterranean, becoming more extreme in the central areas
Natural hazards: northern mountains geologically unstable and subject to earthquakes; periodic droughts
Morocco has a tropical climate although the weather depends on the season and region. The temperature ranges from the highest of 35°C (95°F) to the lowest around 5°C (41°F) in the Sahara.
The best overall time for tourists is spring, which runs from March to the end of May. Spectacular, green landscape and fresh air makes Morocco the perfect place for hiking in the mountains. Autumn (September to October) is also mild and lovely so these months attract tourists, too.
The summer months are from June to August. During this period days are extremely hot in the Sahara Desert while the weather on the northern coast is comfortably warm .
Winter in Morocco lasts from November to February and that’s when the country’s majority of rain happen - mainly in the coastal areas. Snowfalls only occur in Ifrane and Azrou and occasionally in Midelte and Er-rich.
Morocco is an all-year-round destination thanks to rather pleasant temperatures during every season: people can enjoy warm weather even during the winter (the average temperature of 21°C (70°F)).
Moroccan cuisine is a mixture of Arabic, Persian, Mediterranean, Jewish, West African and Berber influences. The variety of dishes is countless: from the elaborate diffa, which simply is aa multicourse feast to your quick brochettes (kebab) that can be purchased virtually at every food stand.
Around 20% of the Morocco’s land is cultivated by small-scale farmers who deliver their products to markets and souks across the country. Products include a wide range of vegetables, fruits, nuts, cotton, oilseed and grains. Typically, seasonal products do not contain chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
Meat, such as lamb or chicken, is the main ingredient in the majority of Moroccan meals and is widely used for soup stock. Therefore, it is worth knowing that vegetarian meals may be difficult to find.
Let’s find out more about specialities!
Couscous is made from semolina grains, steamed and served with stew of vegetables, meat, spices, and optionally fruit and nuts. Tajine (or Tagine) is a stew made of several types of vegetables and meat. Restaurants offer many variations of Tajine like chicken with lemon and olives or prawns in a spicy tomato sauce etc. Mechoui is lamb or beef stuffed and roasted on a spit. Pastilla combines sweet and salty flavours: a succulent pigeon or chicken pie with layers of almond filling, dusted with sugar or cinnamon. Pastilla is popular in Fez. Harira is a delicious soup made from vegetables, lentils, tomatoes, chick peas and chicken or lamb. Bisara is a pea soup with olive oil: a meatless dish.
What about drinks?
Mint tea is the national drink. Usually it is sweetened with lots of sugar. You can find it everywhere.
Tap water is usually chlorinated so buying bottled water is recommended.
Moroccans are passionate about coffee, especially of French or Turkish style.
Other popular drinks include freshly squeezed orange juice, almond milk and milk shakes from bananas, apples and other fruit.
The most common beer brands are Flag, Stork, Casablanca, Heineken (the most popular imported beer) and wines such as Guerrouane, Valpierre, Cabernet du President, Ksar, Gris de Guerrouane rosé and the dry white Spécial Coquillages.
SOME LINGUISTIC CURIOSITIES
· ‘Kingdom of Morocco’ is the official name of Morocco.
· Arabic ‘Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah’ in English means The Western Kingdom.
· Moroccans jokingly call their tap water ‘Sidi Robinet’, which means Sir, Lord or Tap.
· Marrakech is often called the Red City because of its sunniness so make sure to bring headgear.
· “Casablanca” is one of the best films of all times and the title is simply the name of the largest Moroccan city.
SAYINGS AND SLANG PHRASES
Salam – Hi!
Bslama – Bye.
Shukran – Thank you.
Salam Labas? – How are you?
Achno – What?
Sbah l’kheir – Good morning.
Iyah – Yes.
La – No.
Afak – Please.
La shukran ala wajib. – You’re welcome.
Ma’arft. – I don’t know. I’m not sure.
Smahaliya – Excuse me (to a woman)
Smahli – Excuse me (to a man)
Mashi moshkil – It’s ok. It’s not a problem.
Fin ghadi? – Where? (to a man)
Fin ghadya –Where? (to a woman)
Ana ghadi ledar. – I’m going home.
Daba. – Now.
Kifash? – How?
Alach? – Why?
Mabrouk – Congratulations.
Bgheet neshreb – I want to drink.
Bgheet nakol – I want to eat.
Ya salam! – Amazing!
Shof! – Look!
Chofi fya – Look at me! (to a woman) (slang)
Chof fya – Look at me! (to a man) (slang)
Shooma! – Shame on you!
· Moroccans are generally very polite, friendly, tolerant and hospitable.
· Family values are most important and respected.
· A handshake or kiss on the cheek are a common gesture to greet members of the same gender. Between opposite sexes the man should allow the woman to extend her hand or offer her cheek first. Remember to greet people using your right hand and say good-bye to each person individually at the end of a meeting.
· Punctuality is not strictly respected. Life goes according to "Moroccan time", people don't rush anywhere. Trains may be delayed, busses have no routes nor timetable. Good to ask local cab drivers or bus drivers about schedules.
· It is a patriarchal society so women are expected to raise children, cook and clean. However, in bigger cities they have more freedom, but in public females are usually accompanied by men. You will rarely see a woman alone in the streets.
· Women are not allowed to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes in bars lest they be taken for a prostitute.
· Avoid displays of affection in public: it is considered inappropriate. What’s more, homosexuality is still a taboo.
· Women shouldn’t be surprised if men will try to catch their attention in the street: it’s simply their way of showing their inherent interest in and adoration for women.
· You will often notice Moroccans gesturing with their right hand, touching their four fingers to their thumb: this is a common way of asking: ‘how are you?’ It may also mean “a little” or “slowly”.
· Avoid conversation about politics, sex, religion or drugs.
· Take off your shoes before entering someone’s house and follow your host’s lead.
· Moroccans are quite modest. If something surprises you - avoid expressing your shock with a loud “WOW”
· If you are invited to a Moroccan's home - gifts are welcome. However, don't bring alcohol.
· Dress smartly and avoid skimpy clothes.
We’d like to start with the introduction of the two best known Moroccan the breathtaking Marrakech and Fez.
Marrakech is a unique destination, a trendy tourist hub, which is located in the north of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. This busy and noisy city is full of history and its charm and beauty stays in the memories of most travelers for a lifetime. You can’t miss Djemaa El-Fna Square, where people lounge throughout the day to watch snake charmers, magicians, random acrobats, musicians and other street performers. Don’t forget to visit the Saadian Tombs, Riad, Marjorelle Gardens and all the colorful souqs (bazaars).
The other amazing city is Fez (Fes). Its unique charm lies in the smooth combination of medieval architecture and modern parts of the city. It’s definitely worth spending some time in the ancient medina city of Fes el Bali (Old City) where muddy back alleys and numerous winding streets make it hard not to get lost – so be ready for a bit of an adventure! As our motto has it - “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. Other must-see attractions are: Mellah (the Jewish quarter), the Merenid tombs and the Royal Palace.
Meknes is a lot smaller, quieter and more modest than Marrakesh and Fez, but no less breathtaking. The name of the city is closely linked to Sultan Moulay Ismail, the architect of the city, who gave this city its unique style full of winding narrow medina streets, high walls with monumental gates. You can’t miss the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis, Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Bab al-Mansour (which is the main gate), the holy city of Moulay Idriss or Dar Jamai (museum of Moroccan Art).
Casablanca (or Casa) is the largest city of Morocco and is visited by tourists most often. We It is the cultural economic and industrial heart of Morocco. A true metropolis with modern European touch in architecture. While in Casablanca you need to visit Corniche (beachfront district), the King Hassan II Mosque, Place Mohamed V, the graceful Cathedral du Sacre Coeur and the bustling central market.
Rabat is the capital of Morocco with over one million inhabitants. It’s a peaceful place located at the country’s west coast of the Atlantic Ocean, rich in history and culture. The name literally means “Fortified Place”. Lanes of neat white-and-blue houses with colorful flowerpots pronounce the charm of this city. Visit the picturesque Kasbah of the Udayas, the unfinished yet still unique Hassan Tower and the glittering Mausoleum of King Mohamed V.
Agadir is a modern coastal city situated in the southern part of the country. The city spreads over a large area along the famous Cournish – the spectacular main avenue. There are a lot of lively restaurants, cafes and bars around the city. Everybody will easily get seduced by Agadir’s charm, especially at night. The city is also famous for its busy harbor and well-maintained beaches. The best known places which are frequently visited are Kesbah (fortress), Souss-Massa National Park, Museum of International Folk Art, Souk El had and Essaouira.
Ifrane is one of the most beautiful places in the country located in the center of the Atlas Mountains about 60 km away from Fez. Unfortunately it has a very humid climate and the air is oppressive in the summer but in winter most of the city gets covered in snow. There is a multitude of restaurants in Ifrane varying in quality and price. Perce Neige, La Rose, La Paix, Beethoven are worth recommending here.. It’s a good place for excursions, skiing, hunting or fishing. You can also go crazy shopping in the central market (le Marché).
Tangier (Tanger) is located in northern Morocco and it is yet another fascinating place to visit. It is a port town of three faces: the new medina, the old medina and kasbah. Visitors can enjoy here unsullied beaches, beautiful views and interesting history The city has for centuries been an inspiration for artists among whom were Paul Bowles, Eugène Delacroix, William Burroughs and Tennessee Williams.
Other places which are worth visiting in Morocco are: Azrou, Ait Benhaddou, Chedchaouen, Merzouga, Volubilis, Asilah.