Morocco

Morocco   Morocco

Why Morocco?                                                                   Click here to view video

For many travellers, Morocco might just be a short hop away by ferry or by one of the myriad budget airlines from Spain, but it’s a much further distance to travel culturally. The regular certainties of Europe are suddenly swept away by the arrival in full technicolour of Africa and Islam. It’s a complete sensory overload.
 
Tangier, that faded libertine on the coast, has traditionally been a first port of call, but the winds blow you quickly along the Atlantic coast to the cosmopolitan and movie-star famous Casablanca, and whitewashed fishing port gems of Asalih and Essaouira. Inland, the great imperial cities of Marrakesh and Fez attract visitors in droves as they have done for centuries. The winding streets of their ancient medinas have enough surprises around each corner to fill a dozen repeat trips. Away from the urban beat, you’ll find Roman ruins and dramatically craggy valleys to distract you.
 
If you really want to escape from everything, Morocco still has a couple of trump cards. The High Atlas mountains seem custom-made for hiking boots, with endless trails between Berber villages, and North Africa’s highest peak (Jebel Toubkal) to conquer. Or if you prefer someone else to do the walking, simply saddle up your camel and ride it straight into the Sahara, to watch the sun setting over an ocean of sand.

  • When should I travel?
Morocco is at its best in spring (mid-March to May), when the country is lush and green, followed by autumn (September to November), when the heat of summer has eased. At other times, don’t underestimate the extremes of summer heat and winter, particularly in the High Atlas, where snowcapped peaks persist from November to July. If you are travelling in winter, head for the south, although be prepared for bitterly cold nights. The north coast and the Rif Mountains are frequently wet and cloudy in winter and early spring.  Apart from the weather, the timing of Ramadan (the traditional Muslim month of fasting and purification) is another important consideration as some restaurants and cafés close during the day and general business hours are reduced.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Morocco’s era as a hippy paradise is long past. Plenty of fine kif (marijuana) is grown in the Rif Mountains, but drug busts are common and Morocco is not a good place to investigate prison conditions.  A few years ago the brigade touristique (tourist police) was set up in the principal tourist centres to clamp down on notorious faux guides (false guides) and hustlers. Anyone convicted of operating as an unofficial guide faces jailtime and/or a huge fine. This has reduced – but not eliminated – the problem. You’ll still find plenty touts hanging around the entrances to medinas and outside train stations, especially at Tangier port and near Bab Bou Jeloud in Fès. If you end up with one of these people remember their main interest is the commission gained from certain hotels or on articles sold to you in the souqs.

  • What money should I take?
Guichets automatiques (ATMs) are now a common sight across Morocco and many accept Visa, MasterCard, Electron, Cirrus, Maestro and InterBank systems. Major credit cards are widely accepted in the main tourist centres, although their use often attracts a surcharge of around 5% from Moroccan businesses.  American Express, Visa and Thomas Cook travellers cheques are widely accepted for exchange by banks.  Tipping and bargaining are integral parts of Moroccan life. Practically any service can warrant a tip, and a few dirham for a service willingly rendered can make life a lot easier. Tipping between 5% and 10% of a restaurant bill is appropriate. A supply of small coins is vital for the payment of taxis, tips and guides. It is a good idea to load up at a bank when you arrive so you are well prepared.

  • What language will they understand?
The are a number of languages in Morocco, but the two official languages are Modern Standard Arabic and the Amazigh (Berber) language. French remains Morocco's unofficial second language, and is taught universally and serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics. More and more Moroccons now understand English especially in the main tourist centres.

  • How about my health?
Adequate medical care for routine problems is available in the larger cities, expecially Rabat and Casablanca, but emergency and specialized treatment may be limited. Most doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance which is highly recommended. Serious medical problems will require air evacuation to a country with state-of-the-art medical facilities.

  • Public Holidays

2012
January 01 New Year's Day
January 11 Manifesto of Independence
February 05 Aïd al-Mawlid (Prophet's Birthday)
May 01 Labour Day
July 30 Feast of the Throne
August 14 Fête Oued Eddahab (Oued Eddahab Allegiance Day)
August 19 Aïd al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
August 20 Révolution du Roi et du Peuple (Anniversary of the King and the People's Revolution)
August 21 King Mohammed's Birthday
October 26 Aïd al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
November 06 Marche Verte (Anniversary of the Green March)
November 15 Fatih Muharram (Islamic New Year)
November 18 Fête de l'Indépendance (Independence Day)

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
January 11 Independence Manifesto Day
January 24 Milad un Nabi (Birth of the Prophet Muhammad)
May 01 Labour Day
July 30 Throne Day
August 08 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
August 14 Oued Ed-Dahab Day
August 20 Revolution Day
August 21 King Mohammed IV's Birthday
October 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
November 04 Fatih Muharram (Islamic New Year)
November 06 Green March Day
November 18 Independence Day

  • Do I need a visa?
Visas are required for South African passport holders.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart
There are no innoculations required for Morocco.