All you need to know when traveling to Morocco

This is page will be updated regularly to cover all the aspects that might be of use to our dear travellers

General information

Officially the kingdom of Morocco, A constitutional monarchy, the country has a population of over 42 (2014 estimations) million and an area of 446.550 km² (172.410 sq mi), the political capital is Rabat, although the largest city is Casablanca, other major cities include Marrakech, Tangier, Tetouan, Salé, Fes, Agadir, Meknes, Oujda, Kenitra and Nador. A historical prominent regional power, Morocco has a history of independence not shared by its neighbors. Its distinct culture is a blend of Arab, Berber, Sub-Saharan African, and European influences.

Geography

The geography of Morocco spans from the Atlantic Ocean, to mountainous areas, to the Sahara desert.A large part of Morocco is mountainous. The Atlas Mountains are located mainly in the center and the south of the country. The Rif Mountains are located in the north of the country. Both ranges are mainly inhabited by the Berber people. The Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the northeast to the south west. Most of the southeast portion of the country is in the Sahara Desert and as such is generally sparsely populated and unproductive economically. 

Climate

The climate is Mediterranean in the North and in some mountains, which becomes more extreme towards the interior regions. Forests cover about 12% of the land while arable land accounts for 18%; 5% is irrigated. In the Atlas, there are several different climates: Mediterranean and Maritime Temperate (with some more humid and fresher variants), that allow different species of oaks, moss carpets, junipers, atlantic cedars and many other plants, to form extensive and very rich humid cloud forests. The climate changes when moving east of the Atlas mountains due to the barrier, or shelter effect of the mountain system, becoming very dry and extremely warm during the long summer, especially on the lowlands and on the valleys facing the Sahara. The Sahara Desert begins here, and it is perfectly visible, for example, on the Draa Valley, where it is possible to find oases, sand dunes and rocky desert landscapes.

Money

6 Items to eat and drink

Traditionnal tajine

Moroccan tajine From humble Berber homes and weekly markets to the Moroccan fine dining restaurants of Marrakech luxury hotels. The tajine stands as one of the pillars of Moroccan cousine, cooked with the vapor of the clay pot in different methods, whether with layers of chosen vegetables over the meat or chicken. or just onions, prunes, amends and meat (very delicious).

Argan Oil

argan oilYou may have never heard of Argan oil before visiting Morocco, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that the Argan Tree only grows in Morocco. Argan nuts are too bitter to eat, but are very rich in Vitamin E, phenols, carotene, and fatty acids that are said to help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Argan nuts are roasted and ground to make oil for eating and for use in beauty treatments. A simple and favorite Moroccan way to enjoy the oil is to dip fresh bread first into the oil, then into honey, to enjoy with Moroccan mint tea.

Couscous

couscousAnother pillar of the Moroccan cousine, Couscous with Seven Vegetables. Steamed and piled high with stewed meat and vegetables – very delicious! Omit the meat for a vegetarian couscous. The vegetables can also varied to the family preferences but it is recommended to include the full variety to achieve an authentically flavored sauce. Most Moroccans love to take butter milk with couscous which makes the meal more nutritive and complete.

Transportation

 

 

Riad vs Hotel vs Palmeraie

(We would love to thank Emily Luxton for her input and contribution to the travel community, and for allowing us to share her experience . this article is from her wonderful website where you can find more interesting stuff http://www.emilyluxton.co.uk, Thanx again Emily ;) ).

There are a few options when it comes to where to stay in Morocco, especially in cities with old Medinas such as Marrakech, Fes and Meknes. Let's Marrakech for an example, On the far left are riads, very centrally located and usually run like intimate guest houses. In the middle ground are the large modern hotels; within walking distance of the city Nouvelle ville centre and run the way hotels are all over the world. On the far right are resorts in the Palmeraie; usually a twenty minute car ride from the city centre and offering a more exclusive, high-end experience. Here is a little guide to break down all the information. Hopefully it will be of use to you when you plan a holiday in Marrakech.

Is it safe to travel to Morocco with this Ebola thing ??

"I'm travelling to Morocco, and while I am aware that the current Ebola outbreak is mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Mali, and would have to cross the Sahara to get to Morocco, is it wise for me to go to Morocco at this time? What are some basic precautions I can take in the case that the Ebola virus travels to Morocco? ""

Ebola is not contagious in the same way as, say, influenza outbreaks. It's a horrible contagious disease, but it requires an exchange of bodily fluids for transmission - particularly blood, sweat, sexual fluids, vomit, bile etc. Transmission usually occurs in close proximity - between family members, sexual partners or others sharing accommodation, through medical contact, or contact with improperly-treated deceased. Check your own government's travel advice: but for an example, the (very cautious) UK government are currently not even warning people against travel to Guinea let alone Morocco - here's their specific health advice on Ebola in Guinea: "The risk to most travellers is very low... Transmission of Ebola can only occur when there is direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, animal, or objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids". As for Morocco, not only is it the other side of the Sahara to the Ebola outbreak, the areas between (Northern Mali, Western Sahara, South West Algeria) are unstable barely populated areas with banditry and very little travel or trade. If ebola was to spread to Morocco, it would almost certainly be by plane travel, which is a) closely monitored and b) no more likely to arrive at Morocco than any other country that flies to Guinea.

Those Ebola horror stories from the past that people love to share, of terrifyingly fast-spreading outbreaks, usually involve poorly prepared hospitals and communities responding in ways that aid transmission, such as re-using needles, traditional burial practices such as embalming bodies, and treating the sick without taking appropriate precautions. There have been major efforts since then to ensure medical facilities are better trained.

You'll see from news reports that even in the countries most effected, the numbers of people affected are low.

But precaution is never bad, so here are some things to actually consider, for you overall health in general :

  • Take similar precautions as you would to avoid HIV infection (no unsafe sex or shared needle use, avoid other exchanges of bodily fluids)
  • If you're exceptionally worried or there were reports of medium-sized outbreaks while there, and you wanted to feel like you were being extra-cautious:
    • you might want to make more effort to maintain personal space and maybe avoid skin contact such as shaking hands,
    • you might want to wash your hands more than usual and consider using hand sanitizers afterphysical contact with people or things that have been in close contact to other people before touching food or your face,
    • ...but even these might be a bit excessive unless you were right in an outbreak, in which case there would probably be an evacuation plan.

I'll end with a quote in the USA Today article As Ebola spreads in Africa, how worried should I be? from a director of virology at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit:

"You probably couldn't get Ebola if you went to Conakry [capital of Guinea] now if you tried"

If it was me, I'd keep an eye on the news, and I'd take normal health precautions, but wouldn't let worries spoil the trip.