Visiting Morocco? Here’s what you Need to Know
Situated just a stone’s throw away from Spanish shores, Morocco is a magical destination for tourists looking for adventure, hustle and bustle of street markets, rainbows of color, entrancing and diverse built environments, breath-taking landscapes, an abundance of culture, and the perfect place for a blissful beach holiday.
In this article we look at six different informative aspects of Morocco that you should know about the country before you make your visit:
Most Mosques are Off-limits to non-Muslims
In Morocco, nearly 99% of the population is Muslim, and while wondering around you will most certainly hear the muezzin’s melodic call to prayer – which is a memorable moment for anyone hearing it for the very first time. There are very few mosques in Morocco who are open to non-Muslims. But, there are some – Hassan II Mosque located in Casablanca being one of them – that are the exception. Hassan II Mosque is located on a promontory over the Atlantic Ocean and can hold an amazing 105 000 worshipers both inside and outside. Inside you will find walls decorated with mosaic tiles, intricate stucco and carved cedar wood, complimented with high-tech additions such as heated flooring and a retractable roof.
Expect Multilingual Moroccans
While visiting Morocco, you will realize how many different languages are spoken around you. Moroccans tend to switch languages half way through a sentence, which reflects the various cultures – including Berber, French, Spanish and Arab – that have ‘crisscrossed’ throughout Morocco. Arabic is the official language of Morocco, but on the streets you will hear the Moroccan dialect, Darija, being spoken widely, too. As a tourist though, you’re more likely to be spoken to in French first, and will be able to get by speaking English in the main tourist hubs – Marrakesh, Fes and Casablanca, amongst others.
Cafes are the Place to Socialize
Cafes are considered the ‘key place to socialize’, according to an article on CNN, as cafes are where people (mostly men) ‘gather to drink sweet mint tea and watch people as they go about their affairs’. The two ‘must-visit’ spots according to the article, written by Lara Brunt, are Café Hafa which overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar and Café Baba which ‘is the coolest spot in the Kasbah’.
The Most Reliable Public Transport
If you want to travel from city-to-city, the most reliable, comfortable and cost effective way to do so is by train, as they run consistently from both major and (some) minor cities. There are different classes, and it pays to upgrade to first class – which comes with a reserved seat and air conditioning, as well as a chance to buy some snacks. If you want to travel nearby, it’s best to get a bus or grand taxi.
Bathhouses are not for those who are Shy
Visiting a public bathhouse is an experience one will never, and I mean never, forget. There are plenty of posh hotel hammams that one could visit for a less public experience if you are shy or self-conscious, as your body will be on display. When visiting a public bathhouse, guests are advised to buy themselves black olive oil soap, ghassoul (which is a clay used as hair conditioner), and exfoliating glove called a ‘kiis’ and a mat to sit on, as well as needing to take their own towel for afterwards, comb and flip-flops. Women undress down to their underwear, and men down to their underpants (and have separate times to visit, or separate hammams altogether), and you will be steamed, scrubbed and pummelled to the inch of your life – your skin will most likely be quite raw, but you will be rid of all those dead skin cells – and then you will be able to have a wash, put your clothes on and go back to your hotel. It will most probably be the cleanest you have ever been.
Couscous is only served, traditionally, on Fridays when families gather together after prayers. And, although available back home in a handy box or packet that takes a while five minutes to prepare, the proper couscous actually takes a lot longer. The course semolina is not only hand-rolled into miniscule granules, but it is steamed and fluffed three times before it is served with vegetables and/or meat or fish. In fact, the staple carbohydrate – that is served with every meal except couscous, is actually bread, which is baked in communal wood-fired ovens, which are found in each and every neighborhood. Communal wood-fired ovens are one of five amenities that you will find in every neighborhood, and they are good to know what they are when you are visiting. They include: wood-fired oven, bathhouse, a water/drinking fountain, mosque and a preschool.
All of the above points give you insight into Morocco, some of the places you should see and things you should do, and a look a look at some of the local practices ahead of your visit, and is need to know information in order to be prepared avoiding any surprises when you get there.
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