Ever considered spending some time in Morocco? If yes, then this guide is for you! It contains must-see attractions of the country and advice about accommodation and how to stay safe. Many people visit Morocco for a few weeks because they want to tour the major cities and countryside in one go. So, let’s not waste any time and jump straight in.
Hotels in Morocco are well situated and affordable, so there is no need to hunt for alternative forms of accommodation. The only thing worth noting in your search is whether the hotel has in-room heating. This only applies if you are traveling in the winter months.
Morocco can become quite cold in the night and the bedding will most likely not be to the same premium quality you are used to at home. So, finding a hotel with built-in heating will be a necessity.
Always, pre-book your hotels prior to visiting the city. Many conferences and events take place throughout the country. which you may not know about. During these times hotels often become full. Best to be prepared, so plan your accommodation ahead of departure, as you don’t want to be wondering the streets looking for availability.
The public transport within the major cities is quite good as are the trains that link the cities, across the nation. The only aspect that you need to consider is time. Public transport routes can sometimes be long making the journey time extensive. If you are limited by time, it may be quicker to hire a car, as opposed to a long bus ride.
Be wary of shared cabs, in you are a solo travel unless you don’t mind being one of 4 people, usually, all local men, squashed onto the back seat. Best to wait for the bus.
Perhaps, the first city that comes to mind when mentioning Morocco is Marrakech. While it is a busy city, it is only the 5th largest city in the country. To have a detailed trip to Marrakech, that includes the major sites, you will need a minimum of 3 days. The top 3 sites to experience are:
1. Djemaa el-Fna, meaning ‘assembly of the dead,’ is still the entertainment hub of the city. But no longer, do visits come to see executions through hanging. Instead, you can watch magnificent acrobatic routines, snake charmers, astrology readings and tap dancing Gnaoua troupes. It is a great place to have dinner after dark, as food trucks set up communal BBQ’s. Play it safe with a kebab, but if you are feeling adventurous indulge in a sheep heart skewer.
2. Visit Ali ben Youssef Medersa and spend some time in the tranquil courtyard. The Hispanic- Moresque architecture is simply breath-taking.
3. Schedule a relaxing and skin cleansing session at a public bathhouse known as hammams. Once inside a steam room, a staff member will cover you in a black liquid that is made from olives, called Savon Noir. They will then scrub your skin to remove all the dead skin cells before finally covering you in a moisturizing mud mask. It is an incredible experience, which is a great way to finish your trip to Marrakech.
The Atlas Mountains are another must see if you visit Morocco, especially if you are an outdoor lover. You can visit the greatest mountains in North Africa on a day trip from Marrakech or you can visit for a longer time and explore the area on foot.
As well as hiking you can discover the mountainous area on a mountain bike, horse riding and via a 4x4 tour. The best time to visit is between March and November, as some parts of the Atlas Mountains receive snow in winter.
Great places to search for the tour that suits your needs is Get your Guide and Viator. The variety is large. I would suggest finding one that takes you to Toubkal National Park.
The largest city in Morocco is Casablanca with a population of more than 3 million. If you thought Marrakech was busy, think again. There are probably too many attractions and places to visit in one trip unless you are there for a month. A great way to navigate the city is by riding the Casablanca Tramway which has more than 40 stops around the city. Whilst on the tram here are 3 top places to jump off at:
1. The second largest mosque in the World, Hassan II. This large earthquake surviving building is beautiful. Both men and women can step inside. However, ladies must be dressed respectfully. This means wearing a headscarf and modest clothing. Therefore, trousers and long-sleeved tops must be worn. If you are wearing short skirts, shorts or vest tops you will not be permitted to enter. Men and woman pray in separate rooms, so be careful not to wander into a prayer room of the opposite sex.
2. For a strong culture and vibrant atmosphere spend some time in the Quartier Habous. Here you can really absorb the Moroccan culture, pick up a few authentic souvenirs and fill your belly with delicious local food. It is close to the King’s Palace, which has fragranced orange groves, add it to your itinerary.
3. For natural beauty with peace and quiet take a taxi from downtown Casablanca to Ain Diab. It is famous for hosting a Formula 1 championship in 1958 and having a commune. Walk along the promenade and admire the beach and water. It’s a great way to have a break from the city’s hustle and bustle.
If possible, book your trip to coincide with the 5-day cultural music event called L’Boulevard Festival of Casablanca. It usually takes place in September and is a great way to experience the favorite music of the locals. Before you leave the city book a table at the restaurant with the best views, Casablanca Twin Center in the Maarif district. It is on the 27th floor and the city views are spectacular.
The Sahara Desert
There are a few affordable tours that take you to the World-famous Sahara Desert. Watching the sunset whilst being on top of a sand dune is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t miss it.
If your itinerary allows, choose a 3-day tour so that you can experience the ambiance and surroundings of the desert in every moment of the day and night. A shorter trip will make the experience surreal. You need a few days to let the magic sink in.
Rabat, Morocco’s Capital
For a unique city experience, spend some time in Rabat. The city is clearly divided between a modern French inspired town with beautiful tall trees and an authentic historic side heavily influenced by 12th century Arabic culture. It’s a great place to experiment with food as there are many excellent restaurants. Plan for at least 3 days in Rabat in order to visit:
1. Chellah, located outside of the city center. You can expect ruins and tombs of the Merenid dynasty. It is a peaceful experience that is full of history.
2. Hassan Tower is an architectural landmark that is incomplete at 140 feet tall, even though construction began in 1184AD. It is made from a striking red stone minaret, which worth a selfie or two. Walk the grounds and admire the many columns that surround the tower. They provide a clear idea of the intended size of the mosque. The dream of the sultan at the time was to make Hassan Tower part of the largest mosque in the World. Unfortunately, he died less than 5 years after the project began.
3. Kasbah of the Udayas was built in the 26th century and is another architectural masterpiece that deserves a piece of your time. It is often referred to as one of the most unique sites in Morocco due to its history and clean lines. Also, the views around it are spectacular as it sits alongside the BouRegreg river.
Staying Safe in Morocco
Now that we have discussed all the great aspects of this wonderful country now to the more serious aspect of staying safe.
Morocco has street performers that are snake charmers. Never let them put a snake on you. They may take this opportunity.
As a female traveler, you need to be particularly vigilant, independent and emotionally strong to walk the streets of Morocco. While the staff in hotels, restaurants, and shops are as welcoming and friendly as anywhere else, the men on the streets are another story.
The cities of Morocco are loud and busy with many street sellers and performers. They will try to sell you things and may shout sexually inappropriate remarks at you. But don’t worry. You’re not in danger, it just annoying and can put a dampener on your experience. Simply don’t engage or get eye contact with them. If you engage with them it will be harder to escape their attention. Some have been known to follow ladies. Once you walk past them, they will most likely move their attention to the next person. However, it may be worth hiring a guide to show you the sites, as women traveling alone are normally targeted. Alternatively, travel with a male companion or visit Morocco with a tour group.
The official and first language spoken in Morocco is Arabic. However, there are 2 other main languages, plus English, which is purely for tourism purposes. Due to colonies settling in Morocco in the past, French and Spanish are also spoken throughout the country. In fact, Casablanca means white house in Spanish.
While it may be difficult to navigate the streets with the non-English signage. English is spoken in high tourist places and establishments, like museums and hotels.
Whenever traveling to new countries, it is a fantastic idea to pick up and learn a few useful phrases that will help you to get by. While, learning Arabic may be somewhat troublesome, French or Spanish is more achievable. Useful phrases, include, where is the bathroom? In French, say “oùsont les toilettes” or in Spanish say “Dóndeestá el baño.”
If you find you struggle with the language barrier while there, a helpful tip is to take a pen and paper. That way you can try to draw what it is you need.
Do’s and Don’ts for visiting Morocco
Do visit with an open mind, but expect to receive inappropriate street talking from men if you are a woman.
Don’t take it personally if you get harassed by people on the street. They do it to most people.
Do schedule a long trip to Morocco in order to see as much as possible. This beautiful country has many great sites to visit.
Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Book ahead and plan your trip well. It is a magical but overwhelming place.
Do be confident. Walk around with intention, so as to not look like an easy target for criminals.
Don’t be shy at the dinner table. Try something new and dig into the local cuisine.
Do find a hotel with heating. As previously discussed, it is important to stay warm through the night in order to sleep, so check the amenities of your hotel before booking.
Don’t lose your common sense. Stay in well-lit and busy streets, with your valuables in a safe place.
Do experience the local transport.
Don’t be silly and not have travel insurance. You never know what might happen. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t afford travel insurance. You can’t afford to travel.
Do impress the native residents with your practiced French and Spanish phrases.
Don’t buy the first tours you find. Research is key to finding the right tour for you. Price, length of trip, and the language of the guide are important. But also, check what is included and excluded to make sure there are no financial surprises along the way.
Finally, Morocco is a special country with plenty of exciting cities, beautiful landscapes and historical attractions waiting for you. Don’t let any cultural differences get you down. Stay focused on what you want to experience and have a great time.