What you need to know about Morocco. Curiosities about the country of the setting sun

What you need to know about Morocco. Curiosities about the country of the setting sun

Morocco is an enchanting multicultural country where Arab, African and European influences have intertwined for centuries . It is a country of diversity, with a centuries-old and complex history, fascinating culture and art, as well as spectacular scenery of the mysterious Sahara, the snow-capped Atlas Mountains and the fabulous coastline of the Atlantic Ocean . During your vacation tourist expects numerous attractions: in Morocco, you can spend hours wandering through the bustling markets , ride a camel in the desert, sunbathing on wild beaches and enjoy the mouthwatering dishes of traditional cuisine. In this magical country dream of traveling easier than it seems. The Kingdom of Morocco has a population of 35 million people, the official languages are Arabic and Berber, but French and Spanish are also popular. Morocco is an extraordinary country, whose history and culture are worth learning a lot about when planning a vacation trip.

1. Location of Morocco

What you should know about Morocco. Curiosities about the country of the setting sun - Photo 2

1. Location of Morocco

The Arabic name of Morocco is “Al-Maghreb Al-Aqsa” which means “the far west” and reflects Morocco’s position as the westernmost country in the Arab world. It is the westernmost of the Maghreb countries, which also includes Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania and Western Sahara. It is the only African country located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean .

2. Morocco is almost Europe .

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2. Morocco is almost Europe

Morocco is located 13 km from Europe, the width of the Strait of Gibraltar.Such proximity to Europe means that its influence can be seen everywhere in Morocco. The influence of Europe on Morocco’s culture and life is combined with Arab and African elements. In fact Morocco has long wanted to join the European Union . Morocco’s request was rejected, because of the unresolved territorial conflict with Western Sahara . In 2021, Morocco is an associated country of the EU , which facilitates, for example, economic cooperation . Morocco is undoubtedly a suitable place to enjoy both African and European climate, which creates a peculiar and pleasant atmosphere.

3. Snow-covered slopes in the desert

What you need to know about Morocco. Curiosity about the Land of the Setting Sun - Photo 4

Skiers, Oukaimeden ski resort, Morocco, North Africa 3. Snow-covered slopes in the desert

Oukaimeden in parts of the Atlas Mountains is the highest ski resort in Africa . The Atlas is a mountain range stretching 2,000 km from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Kabiska . The mountains cross central Morocco, stretching through northern Algeria to northern Tunisia . Ocaymeden is the only ski resort in the entire Maghreb and one of three in all of Africa. Ocaymeden is located less than 80 km from Marrakech . The ski resort is located at an altitude of 2600 to 3200 meters and has six ski elevators . Near the resort there are several hotels and ski rental shops. It is the only place in Africa where you can ski on snow-covered slopes in the desert.

4. features of everyday life

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4. peculiarities of everyday life

In Morocco it is considered rude to use the left hand to prepare and eat food. It is also considered rude to refuse meat when it is offered at meals. The most popular and favorite meal of Moroccans is couscous. Couscous is usually steamed over boiling meat and vegetables, or poured over boiling broth and left to swell. The cooked couscous is served in one common dish, with meat, more often lamb, placed on the bottom . Various vegetables are placed on the sides . Couscous is also often served with sweet raisins . Do not touch the food with the left hand, as in Arab cultures it is considered “unclean”. For the same reason one should not shake the left hand when greeting. If one does not eat meat, it is worth mentioning it before eating, because refusing meat already served will be perceived by the host as rude. This, of course, applies if one has the honor of being invited to dinner at a Moroccan home rather than ordering food in restaurants. During Ramadan, it is better to avoid eating in public places or outdoors, as it is considered disrespectful to the holy month .

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5. White is the color of mourning

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5. White is the color of mourning.

Unlike Western cultures, where black is the color of mourning, in Morocco and most Arab countries women often wear black, because white is the color of mourning in Morocco. A Moroccan widow wears only white clothing for 40 days after her husband’s death. A woman dressed in white should show due respect while mourning her loved ones.

6. “Casablanca.”

What to know about Morocco. Curiosity about the Land of the Setting Sun - Photo 7

6. “Casablanca.”

“Casablanca” is a film that takes its name from the most beautiful Moroccan city. In 1942 the film won the Oscar Award for Best Picture and is still considered as one of the best works of cinema of all time. The plot of the film is a fascinating love story set against the backdrop of war and spy intrigue. The film is full of bittersweet emotions and memorable, sentimental songs. The events of the film take place in the coastal city of Casablanca, which was chosen as the location for the main character during World War II . Surprisingly, most of the locations were not recorded in Casablanca itself, but in a Hollywood studio . However, the film had an impact on the popularity of Casablanca, attracting crowds of tourists wanting to get a closer look at this mysterious and extraordinary city.

7. Moroccan Thuja

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7. Moroccan Thuja

The rare wood of the Moroccan Thuja has been coveted since the days of ancient Rome. Moroccan Thuja is an evergreen tree close to cedars. Thuja wood has a reddish color with brown spots and sometimes golden streaks. Unfortunately, Thuja grows very slowly and reaches a height of 15-20 meters. It is endemic to the northwestern Mediterranean including the western slopes of the Atlas Mountains. Products made from thuja wood usually come from the Essaouira region . The cultivation of this fragrant tree has a long sacred tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. The men who process the wood achieve true perfection, and their work is considered an exclusive product. So it comes as no surprise that Rolls Royce chose to use Thuja wood for the dashboard of their luxury cars.

Tourist Memo for Morocco

Useful information for tourists traveling to Morocco

Visa, Passport, and Entry Rules

Russian citizens do not need a visa to Morocco to stay in the country for tourism purposes for up to 90 days. Citizens of Belarus need to apply for a tourist visa at the Moroccan Embassy in Moscow. Citizens of Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia need to apply for a tourist visa at the Moroccan Embassy in Kiev. Nationals of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan should apply for tourist visa at the Moroccan Embassy in Astana. CIS citizens who have residence permits in Russia can apply for visa in the Embassy in Moscow.

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Border control is passed by showing your passport. Just in case it is worthwhile to have a copy of a hotel reservation or a tourist voucher. It is not required to pay any fees. The passport must be valid at the time of leaving the country. There are no restrictions on the validity of the passport at the time of departure. However, the rules may change and it is worth checking directly with the consulate of the country before the trip.

Vaccinations for entry into Morocco are not required.

How to reach Morocco from Russia

There are direct Royal Air Maroc flights from Moscow to Casablanca, about 6 hours long (3 flights a week). There are comfortable connections to Marrakech, Agadir, Fez, Ouarzazate, Tangier. There are also flights available with Air France, Alitalia, Iberia, TAP Portugal and Turkish Airlines with connections in Paris, Rome, Lisbon, Madrid or Istanbul.

Customs rules in Morocco

  • Up to 2 bottles of alcohol per person;
  • Up to 200g of tobacco;
  • 1 bottle of perfume of up to 150 ml, 1 bottle of toilet water of up to 250 ml;
  • currency in cash, not exceeding the equivalent of 100,000 Moroccan dirhams (about 9,000 euros). The equivalent of Moroccan dirhams 100,000 or more may only be brought in with a customs declaration
  • drones without a special permit;
  • Any cold and firearms and ammunition, gas cans, tasers, etc;
  • narcotics;
  • written, printed, audio and video materials that are harmful to morality and public order.
  • items of historical value, antiques, collectibles (permission from the Department of Culture is required)
  • decorative stones, fossils and semi-precious stones over 10.
  • Foreign currency in excess of 100,000 Moroccan dirhams (approx. €9,000).

Currency

The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan dirham. Approximate exchange rate: 1 EUR = 11 MAD, 1 USD = 10 MAD. You may come to the country with both dollars and euros. Cash payment in the country is only accepted in local currency. In tourist bazaars payment can be accepted in foreign currency at an unfavorable rate. It’s better to change euros or dollars for dirhams at the airport, but not in the luggage hall, but in the arrival/departure area where there are exchange offices of the main banks of the country. Not all hotels have currency exchange. Banks and exchange offices are closed on Sundays. Keep your currency exchange receipt so you can exchange your remaining dirhams back into dollars or euros. Card payments are accepted in large hotels, supermarkets, restaurants and high-end gift and craft stores. In other cases you will need cash.

ATMs In Morocco, you can only withdraw money from an ATM in the local currency – dirhams. The limit for a single withdrawal is no more than Dh2,000. To withdraw a larger amount, you will have to repeat the operation or use a different ATM. The fee for each cash withdrawal will be around Dh20 (approx. €2). Try to withdraw money from ATMs in bank branches so that you can ask their employees for help if you have problems. Warn your bank about your upcoming trip to Morocco, so that it will not block your card on suspicion of fraudulent transactions. Always bring enough cash with you in case you can’t withdraw your card.

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Mobile and Internet

Upon arrival at the airport in Casablanca or Marrakech, you can pick up free SIM cards from INWI, ORANGE, MAROC TELECOM at the counters in the baggage claim area. To make the card work, you must put 20-50 dirhams (2-5 Euros) on your account, which is enough for 2 weeks of talk time and/or Internet. Scratch cards for recharging can be bought at the airport at a newsstand. You can also buy SIM cards in town at newsstands, record stores or in shops with the operators’ logos. The cost of a SIM card is 2-3 Euros. Free WiFi is available at airports, hotels, cafes and restaurants. However, if you need good internet access during your trip, it is better to buy a local SIM card. Cell phone numbers in Morocco begin with 06… or 07…, landline numbers with 05…. If you call from a foreign number, you need to dial the country code +212, for example: +212 5244 30331.

Security

Morocco is generally a safe country with a stable political situation. The most common problem for tourists is pickpocketing. The usual precautions should be observed: watch out for things in the crowd, do not carry valuables and documents, beware of thieves on motorcycles, bags and cameras worn over the shoulder or around the neck, do not walk with a cell phone in hand, avoid dark deserted streets in the evening. You should leave all valuables at the hotel in a safe. In outdoor cafes, you should not leave valuables on the table, on the back of a chair, or on the floor.

Women may experience increased attention from local men. It is worth calmly ignoring their comments and attempts to start a conversation, do not look in their direction. Their actions are usually harmless, and physical contact is very rare. You should not react aggressively to annoying beggars and salespeople. It is best to simply ignore them or make a joke.

Be careful when using local cabs: cab drivers often try to deceive tourists. You should only pay for your ride according to the meter or at a pre-agreed price.

Dress code in Morocco

Tourists can dress in the style usual for Europeans, but women should avoid excessive open attire, especially during Ramadan. It is forbidden to sunbathe topless. It is not advisable to wear expensive accessories when walking in the city. While walking in the old part of the city (medina), where the lifestyle is more traditional and conservative, women are advised to wear clothes that cover the shoulders, chest and knees. Moroccan men always swim in knee-length shorts. Bare to their swimming trunks is considered indecent, although it is allowed for tourists.

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Hygiene, Health and Medicine

No vaccinations (inoculations) are required to visit Morocco, and the epidemiological situation in the country is generally safe. The most common problem among tourists is an upset stomach. It is recommended to take diarrhea remedies and avoid restaurants with low traffic, where there may be stale food. Always carry antiseptic gel and antibacterial wipes – roadside cafes and toilets may not have soap. Drink only bottled mineral water and eat fresh salads and fruit with caution. During the hot season, be sure to wear a hat and clothing that covers your body to avoid sunstroke and burns. In case of health problems, you can see a doctor at a private clinic. The level of private medicine in Morocco is quite consistent with Europe, a doctor will cost 20-30 euros. Be sure to arrange medical insurance before traveling!

Drinking Water

In Morocco it is not recommended to drink tap water. It is not a great danger, but you can get upset stomach at first sight. At street cafes and restaurants, a glass of tap water is often served with meals or coffee. If you have a sensitive stomach, avoid freshly squeezed juices and drinks with ice. Buy bottled mineral water. The most popular are Sidi Ali (still) and Oulmes (sparkling). If you want to order bottled water in a cafe, say “Bottle of Sidi Ali (or Oulmes),” otherwise the waiter may not understand and bring tap water.

Alcohol, smoking and hookahs in Morocco

Alcohol is sold freely in large supermarkets, specialty liquor stores, mid- and high-end restaurants, bars and clubs. The sale of alcohol may be restricted 2 weeks before and during Ramadan. It is forbidden to appear in public places in a state of intoxication. It is better to take a cab from the bar to the hotel. The cost of alcohol is quite high. In good restaurants and nightclubs an alcoholic beverage will cost from 5-9 Euros. Morocco is the largest among the Muslim countries producing wine, so you must try the local wine. Morocco also produces its own beer, one of the best brands of Moroccan beer – Casablanca.

In Morocco there is no ban on smoking in public places. Cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs can be quite smoky. Cigarettes are sold only in specialized shops (not supermarkets) and are more expensive than in Russia. About the prices in Morocco read here.

Hookah smoking (Shisha in Arabic) is not part of Moroccan culture, as, for example, in Egypt, Turkey or Lebanon. Hookah houses in Morocco are few and far between and often cater to a dubious contingent of visitors from the Gulf countries. It is better not to appear alone in such places. Hookahs are available for tourists in Marrakech and Agadir – ask your guide or hotel for reliable addresses.

Photography

In Morocco, it is forbidden to take pictures of government institutions and military installations. It is not advisable to take pictures of people without their permission, especially women. Moroccans believe it can lead to jinxes and fear that their photos will be distributed for commercial purposes. For this reason, they may sometimes agree to pose for money. Many sellers of souvenir stores and art galleries also have a negative attitude toward photos of their property and may behave aggressively. If water peddlers, monkey trainers, etc. offer you to take pictures in tourist spots, remember that they will certainly ask for a bakshish.

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Electricity and outlets

Traffic in Morocco

Traffic is right-handed. In large cities it is quite chaotic and few people pay attention to traffic lights and rules. Many drivers do not think it is necessary to show the turns, to keep to traffic lanes and to turn from the end lane. Crossing the road even on a green light, you should be very careful and look not at the traffic lights, but at the drivers. It is not customary in Morocco to let pedestrians pass. When crossing a busy road, you should put your hand up for drivers to stop. Parking rules are very conditional. Locals park wherever they want, but if you are unlucky, you may be fined. Check with the ubiquitous parking attendants to make sure you get it right.

Tipping

In Morocco it is customary to tip for all services. In restaurants it is 5-10% of the bill. In street cafes one leaves 2-5 dirhams per person. In hotels one gives tips to porters and waiters. Depending on the level of the hotel, luggage porter can be given from 10 to 50 dirhams. It is not customary to tip maids on the bed. If you want to thank the maid for her work, it is better to give her money in her hands. You may tip from 30 to 100 dirhams (depending on the level of the place) to a bath & spa masseuse. It is not obligatory to tip a cab driver but if you happen to be a good one just leave him change in a few dirhams. You can give 50 dirhams for the luggage carrier at the airport. It is advisable to stipulate the price in advance, so that they do not extort more money from you.

It is a good idea to tip drivers and tour guides if you like their work. We recommend tipping them each about 1000 dirhams for a week’s tour, but the final amount depends on your finances and your level of satisfaction with their work.

Souvenirs and Shopping

Argan oil, babushi slippers, Moroccan cosmetics, Berber jewelry, painted plates and vases from Fez, leather bags, belts and purses, brightly colored bedspreads, Moroccan rugs, interior items from designer boutiques, clothing and accessories in the boho style can be brought back from Morocco as a souvenir or gift. Shopping in Morocco is one of the best in the world, and the list goes on and on! Shipping large items (carpets, furniture) to your country can be ordered directly from the seller’s shop.

Read more about what you can take with you from your trip and how to bargain in the oriental bazaar in our articles “What to bring from Morocco: a guide to shopping” and “Shopping and bargaining rules in Morocco.

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