The country will overwhelm you with its sights, sounds and bustling vibe so go prepared to get the most out of your time in Morocco
Colourful, full of culture, history and an ethnic mix of French, Arabic and North African, Morocco is a melting point of exotic influences.
Said to have been inhabited since the Paleolithic era between the years 190,000 BC and 90,000 BC, Morocco has been home to Romans, Visigoths, Vandals and Byzantines and was a protectorate of France and Spain, before gaining independence in 1956.
Located in the northernmost region of the African continent, Morocco’s proximity to Europe makes it an attractive year-round destination and one that’s easily tagged onto trips to nearby neighbours, Portugal and Spain. A country that’s as diverse as its landscape – from mountains, red sandy deserts and lush green hills – it’s a destination that will awe and confound at the same time.
Here, 16 common myths debunked
1. You have to speak Arabic
Knowing a few words in Arabic will help. However Morocco’s official languages are Arabic and Berber, and as former French and Spanish protectorates, communicating in French will prove equally useful. If you’re visiting Chefchaouen (former Spanish Morocco), the locals will understand Spanish.
A few words to know in Arabic:
Choukran (thank you);
m’n fadlek (excuse me)
2. Women must cover their hair
It’s a Muslim country but unless you’re entering a holy site, women are free to leave their hair exposed. Regardless, a modest dress code is preferred, so keep shoulders and knees covered.
3. You’re obliged to buy once you step into a store
While the shopkeepers at the medina can be enthusiastic salespeople, you’re not obliged to buy just because you’ve stepped in to have a look. However, a small tip is always appreciated upon leaving and try not to start the bargaining process unless you have a semi-serious intention to purchase.
4. Bargaining is rude
It’s not. Bargaining is part of the game and prices are deliberately set high for haggling to take place. Don’t feel bad about cutting the price down to 50% as it’s likely closer to its actual value. If you’re unsure how much to pay, ask your hotel/riad staff for a rough estimate or tips beforehand. If you’ve stepped into a store where prices are prominently displayed, take it as a hint that no bargaining will be entertained.
5. You can photograph everything
Taking snapshots of snake charmers and camels make for great memories but keep in mind that this is also someone’s livelihood. If you want a photographic keepsake, be courteous by asking and offer a small tip in return.
6. Visitors are welcomed to enter mosques
Unfortunately, unless you’re Muslim you will not be permitted to enter. That said, viewing the mosque from the outside is allowed and watching prayer-goers enter and exit during prayer time is always interesting. One exception though is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca where non-muslims are allowed to enter.
7. Taxis charge by the metre
Not all taxis have a metre (or will use one) so it’s best to have a rough idea of prices and/or agree on one before stepping into the taxi. Also, just because you’ve bargained a price doesn’t mean you should avoid tipping, rounding up the fare will suffice.