10 Things Every Traveller Should Know Before Going to Morocco
If you’re like me and have the travel bug, then Africa is definitely on your list. In June, I travelled on the Spain, Morocco and Portugal tour. I absolutely cannot speak higher of this tour, the Iberian peninsula with the addition of Morocco is such a beautiful place full of new experiences, amazing sights and amazing people. Along with the new experiences, comes continent hopping. When I decided to go to Morocco I was so keen on walking through the Medina’s, shopping in the souks, and eating all of the Moroccan food I could get my hands on. I am here to tell you of all of the amazing things, as well as the culture shock aspects every traveler should know before going to Morocco.
1. Culture shock, it’s a thing…
Welcome to Northern Africa! With Morocco being so close to Europe, I was not expecting much in change compared to Spain. But let me tell you, coming straight out of Spain, Morocco is “a slap to the face” (quoting my TM). With that being said, you are fully incorporated into Moroccan culture as soon as you step off the ferry in Tangier. The culture shock really hit me when we were walking through the Medina in Fes. Everything is so different in terms of the people, and the shops and the goods they sell. My advice here is to be prepared to take in all of the aspects of culture shock and embrace it, because travelling is about embracing another countries culture.
2. Religious practice
What most people seem to forget before they travel to Morocco, is that it is a country of the Islamic faith. Which means you get to see beautiful mosques, and moorish architecture. Along with the Islamic faith, it is important to respect the practices of the locals. Fes is an excellent example of this. The city of Fes is a more conservative city, ladies this means covering your shoulders and your knees. The perfect way to do this is to wear a short sleeve t-shirt, and either a maxi skirt or longer flowy or light pants. You don’t need to worry about covering your head. But Morocco does have many beautiful scarves for sale in the Medina, which I highly recommend picking up a few as they are a great addition to any closet.
3. Moroccan Currency, the Dirham
Many of you have probably done your research on what currency Morocco uses, and have probably come across that it is a “closed” currency. This means that you can only obtain the Moroccan Dirham in the country of Morocco. So how do you get your hands on some Dirham? Once you step off the ferry in the port of Tangier, there will be Vans lined up in the car park of the port, where you can go in and exchange your Euros into Dirhams, it is about 10 Dirhams for 1 euro. And they only exchange euros, so make sure you have extra euros to exchange. You can use the ATMs in Morocco, but they are known to be a little shady, so I would advise against it.
4. Food and Water
Something that I did know before traveling to Morocco is that you can’t drink the water. Bottled water will be your best friend! Bottled water not you thing? Contiki has an amazing filtered water bottle that is perfect for use while in Morocco! What I didn’t think of when we were told this, is that all of the food has either been washed or cooked in the water. My advice is to only eat something if it has been cooked, peeled, or is something with a rind, like watermelon. Best to avoid any form of salad and greens, as the greens and vegetables are washed in the water, which contaminates the food. Along with the water, avoid brushing your teeth with it, and close your mouth in the shower. To better prepare for the inevitable of travelers diarrhea, bring or buy Immodium prior to entering Morocco. It will be your best friend in dire times…
Took a stroll in the Medina and saw a teapot you liked? All prices are not set in stone in Morocco. Bartering is a part of the Moroccan culture. The proper way to barter with the merchants is to ask them how much an item costs, then to low ball them with a price, eventually both of you will come to meet in the middle. And if they are being stubborn with the price, put it back and walk away, most of the time the merchants will chase after you accepting your low ball price. I got 3 mosaic coasters for 130 dirhams, about 13 Euros, where the merchant was originally asking 250 for 3. If you aren’t comfortable with bartering, just grab your new Contiki bestie to barter for you!
It is crucially important, no matter where you are in the world, to be fully aware of your belongings and surroundings. Ladies, do not put your phone in your back pocket, it will be grabbed off of you. Best to throw it in your backpack or purse. The Medina’s are crowded with people, you can easily have something taken off of you and not notice. Make sure you hold on to your bag, or at least know where all of your belongings are.
7. Stray animals
The Medina’s and the streets of Morocco are full of stray cats and dogs. Best to stay away from them as you don’t know where they have been, and be watchful of where you step! Lots of kittens around!
The two official languages of Morocco are Arabic and French. As a Canadian, we learn French in school, but I am nowhere close to fluency. Being in Marrakech especially, where French is mostly spoken, compared to Fes where Arabic is the primary tongue, I got to test out my French skills in the restaurant’s, and the Medina. The locals appreciate when you try to speak their Language, but everyone you encounter will most likely speak English. Just in case, download a translator app where you can download the language and translate without the use of data or Wi-Fi, I prefer to use the Google Translate app, where you can translate in real time with your camera on your phone.
9. Camel riding!
Camel riding? Yes Camel riding! And Camel riding on the beach is even better! Check it off the bucket list cause Morocco is the place to ride a Camel on the beach! #camelselfie anyone?
10. Buddy system
I believe this is a given, but don’t go anywhere alone, have a designated buddy with you, whether that’s your roommate, your bus buddy that is always napping on the long bus days, or someone you’ve been travelling with for the past week and just officially met that morning! It is easy to get lost on your own in the Medina’s if you don’t know it, and let’s be honest, no first time traveller to Morocco does.