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Country profile

Morocco

Morocco is situated on the north west of Africa. The Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the south west to the north east. Most of the south east portion of the country is in the Sahara Desert and as such is generally sparsely populated and unproductive economically. Jbel Toubkal is the country’s highest point at 4165 meters above sea level.

With its location along the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco has a typical Mediterranean climate. The terrain of Morocco varies between coastal plains, mountains, including the Rif range, forests, and the Sahara Desert, which has sand dunes and rocky areas.

The capital of Morocco is Rabat, a port city, but its largest and most famous city is Casablanca. In addition to these, other major cities in Morocco are Marrakech and Fes.

Weather:

Don’t know what to pack? The weather in Morocco changes all year around – sometimes with extreme highs and lows on the same day. The weather also in Morocco varies wildly according to the season and area of travel. In the lowlands, the cooler months from October to April are popular among visitors. This time of year is pleasantly warm to hot (around 30°C) during the day and cool to cold (around 15°C) at night. Winter in the higher regions often brings snow and can therefore get seriously cold, particularly at night. Tourists flock to the coastline from June to September for fun in the sun, with warm mostly rain-free days. Further inland it can get hot and rain is rare, which makes the best times to travel March to June and September to December.

Geography and environment:

Located in North Africa, Morocco has the best of many worlds within its boundaries. From the sun-drenched beaches of the coast to sands of the mighty Sahara and the snowy peaks of the High Atlas and Rif Mountains, Morocco has great variety in its landscapes and terrain. This combination of desert, woodlands, forest, mountain steppe and grasslands ensures a wide diversity of flora and fauna lives within the country.

 Language

The national languages of Morocco is Arabic and Tamazight (Berbere)   but French is taught universally throughout the country and is the primary language of commerce and business. A rudimentary knowledge of French will certainly assist your communication with most Moroccans. English is not widely spoken though it is becoming more popular particularly with young people.  We do recommend that you take a pocket phrase and learn some basics such as common greetings.

Culture and customs:

Morocco’s culture has developed over centuries of influence from far and wide. Contemporary Morocco is a fascinating mix of Berber, Mediterranean, Andalucian and African traditions, which are present in the cuisine, clothing, music, language, customs and lifestyle. As an Islamic country, most Moroccans are Muslim; however, there are small populations of people who practice Judaism and Christianity. Classic examples of Islamic architecture can be observed all throughout the country and tenets of the Islamic religion are carried out in the customs and lives of the people. The ‘Call to Prayer’ can be heard five times a day, women are expected to dress modestly and alcohol isn’t drunk by most of the population.

Most of Moroccan society can be considered traditional, with respect for elders, connection to family and giving alms to the poor hallmarks of everyday life for many Moroccans. Hospitality is another important element of society, with warmly welcoming people into your home a time-honored tradition and social responsibility that dates back centuries

Popular outdoor festivals abound with performances held at the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival and the Amazigh Theater Festival in Casablanca. Seekers of outdoor adventure may wish to explore the wonderful national parks and reserves of Morocco

Eating and drinking:

Atlas trekking Morocco believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you’re Sampling Street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Believe the hype – Moroccan food is legendary.

Things to try in Morocco

1. Tajine

These slow-cooked stews are synonymous with Moroccan cooking. Chicken, olive and citrus is a well-known favourite, but there are endless variations using different meats, vegetables and seasonings.

2. Couscous

Forget instant Couscous and try the real deal in Morocco. Often served with vegetables and meat, regional varieties sometimes also include everything from sweet raisins to spicy harissa or smoky almonds.

3. Fresh Fruit

Morocco has an amazing array of fruit available in the markets, shops and juice bars. Choose from bananas, mangoes, oranges, avocados or peaches – eat fresh or get them whipped up in a juice.

4. Mint Tea

While travelling through Morocco you’ll probably drink more sweet mint tea than ever before. Offered as a gesture of hospitality when visiting someone’s home or shop, it’s considered impolite to refuse, so accept graciously.

Ramadan:

As a Muslim country, Morocco observes Ramadan. If you are planning to go on holiday in Morocco during Ramadan, it is important to consider that many restaurants and shops will either be closed or operating on reduced hours during this time.
For us during Ramadan, our local guides and drivers choose to work and so we continue to run trips in this period. However, it does need to be recognised that the energy levels of our local staff may be a bit lower and that some restaurants may be closed during the day

History

Early History

The land now known as Morocco has been inhabited for centuries, with Moroccan civilisation being known for its richness in history and culture. Centuries of foreign trade, invasion and dynastic rule have given Morocco the many different cultural influences that are evident in today’s society. From the Phoenicians who entered Morocco via the Mediterranean in the 6th century BC, to the Roman influence of 40 AD and the formation of Islamic Morocco in the years after, Morocco has evolved with the rise and fall of dynasties, formation and dissolution of empires and birth of new governments, movements and ways of living.

Reaching its height under the Berber Dynasties of the 11th and 12th centuries (the Almoravids, Almohads, Marinids and Wattasids), Morocco subsequently fell to Arab tribes in 1559. The current royal family are descendants of the Alaouite Dynasty who have largely ruled since the 1600s, despite enduring a few crises in the 18th and 19th centuries, mainly in relation to European influence in the area and surrounding countries.

Recent History

With the signing of the Treaty of Fez, Morocco was declared a protectorate of France in 1912 with Spain being allocated control of parts of Morocco, mainly in the north and south. European control was generally opposed by Moroccans citizens, with the people of Rif attempting to establish a separatist republic in 1921. Decades of opposition continued, with rioting and protests leading to increased political tension. In 1955, the road to Moroccan independence was paved by Mohammed V who negotiated reforms and restoration of independence. By 1956, France had relinquished its protectorate of Morocco and in 1957, Mohammed V became king. In 1961, Hassan II assumed the title of King of Morocco and continued to rule until his death in 1999. His son, Mohammed VI, took over the mantle of king in 1999, and continues to rule today.

Shopping

Morocco has one of the oldest retail cultures in the world. From bargaining in age-old souqs to swiping your credit card at a modern gallery, it’s all possible in Morocco. But to experience brilliant bargains, exciting finds and a dose of history, you can’t go past the souqs.

It’s a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.

Things to buy in Morocco

1. Silver Jewellery

Jewellery-fiends will love Morocco’s affinity with silver jewellery. Chunky rings, elaborate necklaces and patterned earrings can all be found for great prices, especially if you’re willing to haggle.

2. Tea Sets

Save room in your backpack for an iconic silver tea pot and some delicate tea glasses. Morocco’s silversmiths have this ancient art running through their veins, with centuries of craftsmanship being passed from generation to generation.

3. Leather

The quality (and price) of leather in Morocco is pretty phenomenal. Handcrafted hand bags, wallets, belts and purses can be found in almost every souq around the country.

Festivals and Events in Morocco:

Ramadan and Eid

The ninth and holiest of months in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is observed by most in Morocco and is thought to be a time of spiritual rejuvenation. For this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset – refraining from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Eid marks the end of fasting with 3 days of feasting and celebration.

Gnaoua World Music Festival

Seaside Essaouira hosts this world-famous festival that celebrates the mysterious music of the Gnaouas, brought to Morocco centuries ago via the African slave trade. Jazz, rock, blues and pop music add a contemporary flavour, although the drums of the Gnaouas are the true soul of the festival.

Casablanca Festival

Touted as a ‘celebration of all things Moroccan’, this annual festival includes local and international music performances, dance, art installations, theatre, workshops and street parades. This fusion of history and modernity, innovation and tradition is a shining example of what it means to be a citizen of cosmopolitan Casablanca.

Top 10 Must-See Places of Morocco

1. Marrakech

Things just happen in Marrakech. One moment you’re sitting down to a camel burger, the next you’re chatting to a snake charmer. The labyrinthine markets are the perfect place to lose yourself but find a Moroccan memento or three.

2. Sahara

The endless dunes of the Sahara will call to your inner explorer. Jump on a camel and start riding out over the sandy waves. At sunset the desert glows rich and red and at night the stars turn the sky crystal.

3. Essaouira

The name ‘Essaouira’ means image, appropriate since its charm is undeniable. Within the stone ramparts you’ll find art galleries, wood workshops and whitewashed houses with bright blue shutters. Portuguese, British and Jewish influences all mingle in this artist’s town.

4. Fes

Fes is the cultural heart of Morocco and home to some of its most iconic sights. Feel every sense come alive in the medina. Shops, dye pits and mosques all vie for space and you’re as likely to see a donkey as a car.

5. High Atlas Mountains

The mountains are best explored at the ground level by foot or bicycle. Travel through Berber villages, up along crop terraces, down through lush valleys and past orchards, goats and Moroccan rural life. The seriously fit can tackle Mount Toubkal for incredible views.

6. Todra Gorge

This is a rock climber’s heaven, or the ideal place for beginners to get a taste. It’s a tight squeeze in some places but a sparkling river, the odd palmeraie. Berber villages and high cliff walls make it worth breathing in for.

7. Moulay Idriss

The small Medina of ancient Moulay Idriss was once forbidden to non-Muslims. Now it is a pleasure to explore as the faithful gather to pay homage to the founding father of Islam in Morocco at the 8th-century mausoleum.

8. Ait Benhaddou

Perfectly preserved, this is one of Morocco’s most picturesque kasbahs. Centuries ago it was a stop for caravans as they Carrie salt across the Sahara. Today, it is inhabited only by a handful of families and the odd film crew.

9. Casablanca

The very name conjures up images of war-time romance. But the real romance of Casablanca must be its French influences and the beautiful Hassan II mosque, the largest in Morocco.

10. Volubilis

Do some time travel and visit the ancient hilltop city of Volubilis, one of the Roman Empire’s most remote bases. The ruins here are beautifully preserved and it’s easy to believe you’ve stepped into the 2nd or 3rd century.

  • the national holidays in Morocco?

A handy list of Morocco holidays is given below:

January 1  New Year’s Day
January 11   Proclamation Of Independence. On this day, Moroccan King Mohammed V declared the               erstwhile state of Morocco be liberated from the French rule.
May 1  International Labour Day
July 30 Celebration Of The Throne. This is the day when the Moroccans celebrate the accession of King Mohammed VI on the throne.
August 20 Revolution of the King and the People
August 21 Birthday of King Mohammed VI.
November   6 Green March. On this day in 1975, there was a mass demonstration in Morocco with the aid of the government against the Spanish withholding of the now Western Sahara region.
November 18  Independence Day

Above are the national holidays in Morocco that follow the Gregorian calendar. Morocco is a predominantly Islamic country with a plethora of Islamic festivals, all following the lunar calendar. The discrepancy between the Islamic lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar means that the precise Gregorian date for these festivals cannot be predict.

Below is a list of the Morocco public holidays according to the lunar calendar:

The 1st Day of Muharram Muslim New Year
Rabi’ al-awwal 12 Birthday of Prophet Muhammad
Shawwal 1 Eid ul-Fitr
Dhu al-Hijjah 10 Eid ul-Adha

At a glance country

Official Name

 

   Kingdom of Morocco
Capital city

 

  Rabat   (population 1.5 million)
Head of State

 

  King Mohammed VI
Population

 

  Approximately  34 million    ( 2014 )
Language

 

  Arabic  and   Tamazight  ( Berber )
Religion

 

  Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%, Other 0.7%
Currency   MAD
Time zone   (GMT) Casablanca
Electricity   Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
Dialing code   +212

Atlas Trekking Morocco