MOROCCO

Morocco

Morocco is a good introduction to Africa for those just starting to explore the continents riches. Travellers will no doubt be familiar with the names of the countries exotic cities such as Marrakech, Tangier and Casablanca. The whole country is an intoxicating introduction to the Islamic world with abundant open markets selling everything from jewellery and woodwork to rugs and of course the country's world famous leather. There are also numerous sun kissed beaches, the ancient medieval building in Fès and even the snow-capped Atlas mountains to keep travellers busy.

Travel Warning

Due to a series of terrorist attacks targeting soft targets including hotels known to be frequented by foreigners, the FCO recommends that travellers in this region maintain a high level of vigilance in public places and avoid public gathering, particularly political gatherings. The disputed Western Sahara is still prone to armed clashes between Moroccan authorities and the Polisano Front; the roads in this region are also mined. For this reason it is recommended that travellers avoid the Western Sahara altogether.

  • Currency: Moroccan Dirham (DH) = 100 Centimes
  • Time Zone: GMT
  • Language: Arabic
  • Telephone Services: Country code +212, International Access Code 00
  • Emergency Numbers: 12 Police, 15 Fire and Ambulance

Climate

The climate throughout the country is hot and dry but does have some regional variations. The coastal area most closely resembles a Mediterranean climate with inland areas being hotter and drier. Rain falls almost exclusively in November to March and is most prevalent in the coastal areas. Throughout the country the winters are hot but with cool nights.

morocco-weather

Things to see and do

Tangier is the nations capital and is a popular port of arrival for tourists taking a ferry crossing from Spain or perhaps Gibraltar. The city is the country's most cosmopolitan town and this shows in the tri-lingual street signs throughout the city. The most famous region is undoubtedly the Kasbah which contains the Dar el-Makhzen. This 17th century structure was once a palace but has now been converted into fascinating museum. The Grand Socco is an excellent market which is not to be missed by those seeking good souvenirs. Other sites of interest include the Mendoubia Gardens, the Moulay Isamil Mosque and the American Legation Museum.

Fès is the oldest of Morocco's four imperial cities and is easily reachable by train from Marrakech or Tangier. This historic city contains some of Morocco's oldest surviving buildings. The old city is centred around the Al-Qarawiyin and Al-Andulus mosques and is dominated by the towering theological college of Medersa Bou Inania. Fès has in the past been a centre of culture and learning, a fact which is demonstrated by its Karaouine University which was founded even before Oxford. Those who want possibly the finest haggling experience in the world should head to the UNESCO recognised market in Fès El Bali which is reputedly one of the largest markets in the world. Other sites of interest include the Dar Bath Museum, numerous mosques and the Royal Palace.

The Pink City of Marrakech was once the capital of an enormous African Empire. The city was founded in 1062 and gains its nickname from the colour of earth used in its construction. The epicentre of this lively and colourful city is the ironically named Djemaa el-Fna or Place of the Dead. The Djemaa is in fact a square which after dark hosts throngs of street entertainers including story tellers, acrobats, fortune-tellers and dancers. The most notable building is the enormous 12th century Koutoubia mosque which dwarfs the surrounding buildings. The Ben Youssef Medersa is a UNESCO heritage site partly for its unique theological significance but mostly for its spectacular mosaics and marble work. Other sites of interest include the Saadian tombs, the Dar Sisaid Museum and the Koubba Ba'adiyn mosque.

Travel

The Office National des Chemins de Fer operate the Moroccan rail network. The standard of service is quite reasonable and fares tend to be quite cheap. Major routes have the addition of a first class carriage and sleeping and restaurant cars are provided on most major services. A supplement is required for an air conditioned carriage but due to the low prices this isn't a problem at all. In addition Inter-Rail passes are valid on all services in Morocco. See our "Europe by train" section for more information on this rail pass. For booking and fare enquiries contact Rail Europe.

There is a wide range of inter city coach and bus services linking all of the main towns. These are run by a wide variety of private companies but one of the most reputable is CTM. Fares are normally ludicrously cheap although tipping the guard and the driver is somewhat expected.

Accommodation

Morocco has a very healthy tourist trade so there are plenty of hotels in and around all of the major cities and tourist hotspots. Hotels are regulated by the Fédération Nationale de l'Industrie Hôtelière and standards range from basic budget accommodation to international class hotels in places like Tangier.

There are youth hostels in the major cities including Casablanca, Fès and Rabat but hostelling provision outside major populated areas is quite minimal. For more information contact the Fédération Royale Marocaine des Auberges de Jeunes (see usefull addresses section).

Health

There are good well equipped hospitals in all of the main cities and the Government Hospitals will often provide free or cheap emergency care. Be aware however that you may be expected to pay for treatment and therefore you should have fully comprehensive medical insurance including cover for repatriation costs.

It is recommended to be vaccinated against polio and typhoid before travelling to Morocco. These vaccinations can be provided by your local GP and generally cost around £40. There is a minimal risk of malaria during the spring and summer, mainly in rural areas, although only the benign vivax form has been reported it is recommended that you seek up to date medical advice from your GP on whether you need any malaria treatments.

The tap water in main cities is safe to drink but it is recommended that tourists stick to bottled water for the first week or so of their stay. Outside main settlements water should not be considered safe and should be sterilised before use. Milk is un-pasteurised and this should be avoided along with dairy products. Meat should be well cooked and served hot and fruit and vegetables should be peeled and cooked respectively.

Useful Links

The Fédération Nationale de l'Industrie Hôtelière regulates hotels in Morocco

Office National des Chemins de Fer operate the Moroccan rail network

Rail Europe provides online booking for Inter-Rail passes