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North Africa : Morocco
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==Talk==
 
==Talk==
* [[Wikipedia: Moroccan arabic|Moroccan Arabic]] is a dialect of Maghreb Arabic,its fairly different from the Arabic traditionally spoken in the Middle East, '''Moroccan Arabic''' is also influenced by Spanish and French.
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* [[Wikipedia: Moroccan arabic|Moroccan Arabic]] is a dialect of Maghreb Arabic. The language is fairly different from the Arabic traditionally spoken in the Middle East and is also influenced by Spanish and French.
 
*Despite having freed itself from colonial rule, '''French''' is still widely understood in Morocco, and it is the most useful non-Arabic language to know.
 
*Despite having freed itself from colonial rule, '''French''' is still widely understood in Morocco, and it is the most useful non-Arabic language to know.
 
*Although '''English''' is often spoken in tourist centres, it is often by touts and ''faux guides'' intent on making your life hell.
 
*Although '''English''' is often spoken in tourist centres, it is often by touts and ''faux guides'' intent on making your life hell.

Revision as of 03:29, 27 April 2005

Flag
Mo-flag.png
Quick Facts
CapitalRabat
Governmentconstitutional monarchy
CurrencyMoroccan dirham (MAD)
Areatotal: 446,550 sq km
land: 446,300 sq km
water: 250 sq km
Population31,167,783 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageArabic (official), Berber dialects, French often the language of business, government, and diplomacy
ReligionMuslim 99%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%

Morocco (المغرب) is a North African country that has a coastline on both the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. It has borders with Western Sahara to the south, Algeria to the east and the Spanish North African territories of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast in the north. It is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Gibraltar.

Contents

Regions

  • The Atlas Mountains - Visit the Atlas Mountains in summer for a day long hike or a week of trekking.

Cities

  • Agadir - Agadir is all about the beach. The town is a nice example of modern Moroccan design, but not much in the way of history or culture. Take the local bus for a few cents and go 2 or 3 villages North. The beaches are much better there and there are no burglars at all.
  • Asni - Starting point for treks into the Atlas Mountains
  • Casablanca - This modern city by the sea is a common starting point for visitors flying into the country. If you have the time, both the historical medina and the contemporary mosque (the second largest in the world) are well worth an afternoon.
  • Chefchaouen - A mountain town just inland from Tangier full of white-washed winding alleys, blue doors, and olive trees, Chefchaouen is clean as a postcard and a welcome escape from Tangier.
  • Essaouira - An ancient sea-side town newly (re)discovered by tourists, Essaouira is still worth a visit. Nearest Coast from Marrakech.
  • Fez - Fez is the former capital of Morocco and one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world.
  • Marrakech - Marrakech is a perfect combination of old and new Morocco. Plan to spend at least a few days wandering the huge maze of souqs and ruins in the medina. The great plaza of Djeema El Fna at dusk is not to be missed.
  • Meknes - A modern, laid back city that offers welcome break from the tourist crush of neighbouring Fez.
  • Ouarzazate - Considered the Capital of the South, Ouarzazate is a great example of preservation and tourism that hasn't destroyed the feel of a fantastic and ancient city.
  • Rabat - The capital of Morocco; highlights include a 12th-century tower and minaret.
  • Tangier - Tangier is the starting point for most visitors arriving by ferry from Spain.
Map of Morocco

Understand

Morocco's long struggle for independence from France ended in 1956. The internationalized city of Tangier was turned over to the new country that same year. Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.

Electricity and measures

Morocco uses the metric system for weights and measures. Newer buildings use 220 V / 50 Hz power supplies, while older buildings use 110 V / 50 Hz. Some buildings have a mix of both, so if you're unsure, ask before plugging something in. The sockets are similar to those used in France and other parts of Europe.

Get in

All visitors to Morocco require a valid passport but visitors from Canada, Australia, the UK and the US (among others) do not need to obtain visas before arrival. Tourists can stay for up to 90 days and visa extensions can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. (You may find it easier to duck into the Spanish-controlled Ceuta or Melilla and then re-enter Morocco for a new stamp). Anti-cholera vaccination certificates may be required of visitors coming from areas where this disease is prevalent and pets need a health certificate less than ten days old, and an anti-rabies certificate less than six months old.

By plane

http://www.RoyalAirMaroc.com/

By car

The only open border posts on land are the ones at the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The frontier with Algeria has been closed for ten years. For the closest maritime connection you head for Algeciras in southern Spain. At Algeciras there are ferry services to Ceuta and Tangier who carry cars. Further information is available at the By boat section.

By boat

Summary

There are several ferry connections to Morocco, mainly from Spain. Algeciras is the main port and serves Ceuta and Tangier. You can also get to Tangier from the small port of Tarifa, on the southernmost tip of mainland Spain. Other Spanish ports that have connections to Morocco are Malaga and Almeria who connect to Melilla and its Moroccan neighbor town of Nador.

Ferries from France also go to Tangier, from the port of Sète near Montpellier and Port Vendres near Perpignan. The Italian towns of Genoa and Naples also have direct connections to Tangier. The British crown colony of Gibraltar connects to Tangier through a high-speed boat service.

Details

From Algeciras to Tangier the ferry costs about 25 Euros each way.

Get around

By plane

By train

http://www.oncf.ma/

Availability

The major cities, Marrakech, Meknes, Fez, Tangier, etc are all linked by reliable (if not very fast) rail links. The trains don't leave very often (compared to those in the UK for example), but there are usually several every day to or from the major towns.

Cost

The trains are very cheap (compared to Europe). For example, a single from Tangier to Marrakech costs about 200 dh (£15) second class, or 300dh (£20) first class.

Summary

The alternative is the far more cramped and stressful buses that move between cities also. These are often necessary to get to towns not served by a normal train. People are incredibly sociable and friendly on the trains in Morocco and you will find yourself permanently talking to strangers about your journey. Each new person will advised you on some new place you should go.

By car

Rental firms abound in the large cities and if renting from a small company its wise to check the vehicles condition, spare tyre, jack etc. Check too on where you can drive - some companies won't allow travel on unmade roads. Fuel is not so common in the countryside so plan ahead and get a good map. Roads are varied and mixed with many cyclists, pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles.

The main road network is in good condition. The main cities are connected by toll expressways still being extended. The expressway between Casablanca and Rabat (A3) was finished in 1987. It was extended from Rabat to Kénitra in 1995 and today reaches the northern town of Asilah and is scheduled to be completed in 2005 reaching Tangier (A1). Another expressway (A2) goes eastwards from Rabat to the historical city of Fès some 200 km down the road. It comprises part of the planned transmaghrébine expressway that will continue all the way to Tripoli. South from Casablanca runs the A7. It is planned to reach Marrakech in 2007 but currently only goes as far as Settat 60 km south of Casablanca. Around Casablanca and down the coast is the A5 expressway. It is under construction to El Jadida and its port of Jorf Lasfar and is completed to Had Soualem 16 km west of Casablanca. Construction will start during 2005 for the A9 between Marrakech and Agadir which will be completed by 2009.

Roadsigns are in Arabic and French and the traffic law is as in much of Europe but you give way to the right. This means that traffic on a roundabout gives way to that entering it! Police checks on the main roads are many and the speed limit is enforced especially the 40kph in towns and on dangerous intersections where fines are imposed on the spot. Grande Taxis, busses and lorries usually think they own the road and its wise to let them continue to think this!

Driving safely in Morocco takes practice and patience but can take you to some really beautiful places.

By bus

Nearly every city has a central bus-station where you can buy tickets to travel from region to region. You can either choose the buses for tourists with air-condition and TV. Or you can take the local buses which cost only 25% - 50% and are much more fun. These ones aren't really comfortable, but you can get in contact to the local people and learn a lot about the country. The buses often take other routes than the big ones, so you can see villages you would never get to as a "normal" tourist.

By taxi

Travel by taxi is common in Morocco where two sorts are used, the "petite" taxi used within the area of the town and the "grande" taxi for trips between towns. Prices are reasonable and its the law that taxis in town should have a meter - although they don't always work! Ask the fare before getting in. Its common for others to share a long distance taxi, the driver stopping and picking up passengers like a bus. Negotiate on price if you want a journey to yourself and this will be based on the number of passengers, distance travelled and whether the you are returning. Grande Taxis are usually Mercedes saloons and owners vie with each other to add extras such as sunshades. A well turned out vehicle and smart driver is usually a good sign of a well maintained vehicle.

Talk

  • is a dialect of Maghreb Arabic. The language is fairly different from the Arabic traditionally spoken in the Middle East and is also influenced by Spanish and French.
  • Despite having freed itself from colonial rule, French is still widely understood in Morocco, and it is the most useful non-Arabic language to know.
  • Although English is often spoken in tourist centres, it is often by touts and faux guides intent on making your life hell.
  • Berber is also spoken by Morocco's Berber population in the north, centre and south of the country.

Buy

The local currency is the Moroccan dirham (Dh), which is divided into 100 centimes (c). There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, Dh 1, Dh 2, Dh 5, Dh 10 coins, although coins smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Notes are available in denominations of Dh 10, Dh 20, Dh 50, Dh 100, and Dh 200.

ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern, ville nouvelle shopping districts. Make sure that the ATM accepts foreign cards (look for the Maestro, Cirrus or Plus logos) before you put your card in. Don't expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas, but plenty of "helpful" people will exchange dollars or euros for dirhams. Traveller's checks are also a good idea. Try to have as much small change as possible and keep larger bills hidden separately.

The Dirham is only used internally in Morocco and shouldn't be taken out of the country but you can often use one or two Euro coins and notes. The current unofficial rate of exchange is 10Dh = 1 Euro (summer 2004).

Eat

Moroccan cuisine is often reputed to be some of the best in the world, with countless dishes and variations proudly bearing the country's colonial and Arabic influences. Unfortunately as a tourist through Morocco, especially if you're on a budget, you'll be limited to the handful of dishes that seem to have a monopoly on cafe and restaurant menus throughout the country.

Traditional cuisine

Tagine, a spicy stew of meat and vegetables that has been simmered for many hours in a conical clay pot (from which the dish derives its name) is probably the best known Moroccan meal. Restaurants offer dozens of variations (from Dh 25 in budget restaurant) including chicken tagine with lemon and olives and prawn tagine in a spicy tomato sauce.

  • Couscous made from semolina grains and steamed in a colander-like dish known as a couscoussière is the staple food for most Moroccans. It can be served as an accompaniment to a stew or tagine, or mixed with meat and vegetables and presented as a main course.
  • A popular Berber contribution to Moroccan cuisine is kaliya, a combination of lamb, tomatoes, bell peppers and onion and served with couscous or bread.
  • Moroccans often elect to begin their meals with warming bowl of harira (French: soupe moroccaine), a delicious soup made from lentils, lamb stock, tomatoes and vegetables.
  • Soup is also a traditional breakfast in Morocco. Besara, a thick glop made from split peas and a generous wallop of olive oil can be found bubbling away near markets and in medinas in the mornings. A Dh 3 - Dh 5 serve of harira or besara will usually include some bread to mop the soup up and will fill you up for breakfast or lunch.

Many cafes (see Drink) and restaurants also offer good value petit déjeuner breakfast deals, which basically include a tea or coffee, orange juice (jus d'Orange) and a croissant or bread with marmalade from Dh 10.

Snacks and fast food

Snackers and budget watchers are well catered for in Morocco. Rotisserie chicken shops abound, where you can get a quarter chicken served with fries and salad for around Dh 20. Sandwiches (from Dh 10) served from rotisserie chicken shops or hole-in-the-wall establishments are also popular. These fresh crusty baguettes are stuffed with any number of fillings including tuna, chicken, brochettes and a variety of salads. This is all usually topped off with the obligatory wad of French fries stuffed into the sandwich and lashings of mayonnaise squeezed on top.

You may also see hawkers and vendors selling a variety of nuts, as well as steamed broad beans and BBQ'd corn cobs.

Drink

As a deeply Muslim country, Morocco is mostly dry. Although bars serving beer and alcohol can be found in the ville nouvelle regions of most cities, the drinks are overpriced and the establishments usually male-dominated and seedy. You're better off doing as the locals do and enjoying glass after glass of mint tea (French: thé de menthe), known to the locals as Moroccan Whiskey. This tea (around Dh 5 per serve) is made from Chinese green tea, bunches of fresh mint and an obscene amount of sugar and it is consumed in copious quantities in cafes and restaurants at all times of the day.

Caffiene addicts won't have any troubles in Morocco, although what the coffee (Dh 5 per serve) lacks in quality, it makes up for in sheer ease of access. Use French to request a particular style of coffee (café au lait, café casse, etc).

Long before juice stands became popular in the West the Moroccans were dispensing a dazzling array of freshly squeezed juices from stands and stalls throughout their country. With a glass of orange juice starting from Dh 2.50, you can't go wrong.

Sleep

Morocco has hotels to suit all budgets. High end chain hotels (Sheraton, Hyatt, etc) can be found in the ville nouvelle regions of all major tourist centres, while in smaller cities classy guesthouses--essentially palatial Moroccan townhouses (riads) converted into boutique hotels--will satisfy your desires.

On the other end of the budget scale, HI-affiliated youth hostels can be found in the major cities (dorm beds from around Dh 40) while the cheapest budget hotels (singles from around Dh 45) are usually located in the medina. These hotels can be very basic and often lack hot water and showers, while others will charge you between Dh 5 and Dh 7 for a hot water shower. Never fear, because a public hammam is bound to be close by.

Newer, cleaner and slightly more expensive budget (singles from around Dh 55) and mid-range hotels that are sprinkled throughout the ville nouvelles.

Many hotels, especially those in the medina have delightful roof terraces, where you can sleep if the weather's too hot. If you don't need a room, you can often rent mattresses on the roof from Dh 25.

For those looking to camp, almost every town and city has a campground, although these can often be some way out of the centre. Many of these grounds have water, electricity and cafes. In rural areas and villages, locals are usually more than happy to let you camp on their property; just make sure you ask first.

Learn

Most foreigners looking to study in Morocco are seeking either Arabic or French language courses. All major cities have language centres, and some will even arrange homestays with an Arabic family during your course.

  • The Institute for Language Communication Studies, 29 Oukaimeden St, Agdal in Rabat (Tel: (37) 67 59 68; Fax: (37) 67 59 65; Email: ilcs.adm@ilcs.ac.ma; Web: www.ilcs.ac.ma) is one such centre with accelerated and intensive courses starting from Dh 3,000.
  • Another Arabic language school offering a variety of coursework in both Moroccan Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic is the The Arabic Language Institute in Fez""", B.P. 2136, Fez 30000, Morocco Tel: (212/55) 62 48 50 Fax: (212/55) 93 16 08 email: alifez@menara.ma

Work

Cope

The Moroccans have come up with dozens of ways to part you of your money. Keep your wits about you, but don't let your wariness stop you from accepting any offers of generous Moroccan hospitality.

  • Faux guides and touts congregate around tourist areas and will offer to show you around the medinas, help you find accommodation, take you to a warehouse handcraft clearance, or even source some drugs. Make it clear that you're not interested in their services, and if they get too persistent, head to a taxi or salon de the. If you decide to engage a faux guide (they are cheaper than official guides and will keep other guides at bay) agree on a price before you set off, and make it clear you don't want to spend the day shopping.
  • Drugs are another favourite of scam artists. In cities around the Rif Mountains, especially Tetouan and Chefchaouen, you will almost certainly be offered kif (dope). Some dealers will sell you the dope, then turn you in to the police for a cut of the baksheesh you pay to bribe your way out, while others will get you stoned before selling you lawn clippings in plasticine.
  • Ticket inspectors on trains have reportedly attempted to extricate a few extra dirham from unsuspecting tourists by finding something 'wrong' with their tickets. Make sure your tickets are in order before you board, and if you find yourself being hassled, insist on taking the matter up with the station manager at your destination.
  • Moroccan toilets, even those in hotels or restaurants, generally lack toilet paper. It is worth buying a roll (or bringing one with you). Toilet paper can be bought in many of the small shops in the medinas of almost all cities. (If your French or Arabic isn't very good, try to be subtle when miming what you want... >_<)

Stay Safe

All the usual common-sense travel safety applies:

  • Avoid dark alleys
  • Travel in a group whenever possible
  • Keep money and passports in a safety wallet or in a hotel safety deposit box
  • Keep backpacks and purses with you at all times. Make sure there is nothing important in outside or back pockets.

Women will experience almost constant harassment if alone, but this is usually just cat-calls and (disturbingly) hisses. Don't feel the need to be polite-- no Moroccan woman would put up with behavior like that. Dark sunglasses make it easier to avoid eye contact. If someone won't leave you alone, look for families, a busy shop, or a local woman and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are so inclined, wearing conservative clothing and a hijab (headscarf) will often deter would-be harassers.

Armed fighting in the disputed areas of the Western Sahara are less frequent now, but clashes between government forces and the Polisario Front still occur. Don't wander too far off the beaten path either, as this region is also heavily-mined.

Stay Healthy

  • Inoculations No particular inoculations are needed for Morocco, but you may want to make sure your tetanus and hepatitis inoculations are up to date.
  • Food and Drink Avoid uncooked fruits and vegetable that you can not peel. Avoid any food that is not prepared when you order it (i.e. buffets, etc). Usually fried and boiled foods are safe. It is advisable to drink bottled water, and be wary of ice or cordials that may be made with tap water.
  • Shoes Keep sandals/tevas etc on the beach. Moroccan streets double as garbage disposal areas and you do not want to wade though fish heads and chicken parts with open-toe shoes.
  • Malaria is present in the northern, coastal areas of the country but is not a major problem. Take the usual precautions against being bitten (light coloured clothing, insect repellent, etc) and if you are really worried see your doctor about anti-malarial medication before your departure.

Respect

  • Clothing should be conservative; avoid skimpy clothing off the beach. Locals do not want to see your knees and armpits any more than you want to see someone in thong underwear walking around your neighborhood. Long sleeves and loose pants or a long skirt will be more comfortable in the heat anyway.
  • Greetings among close friends and family (but never between men and women!) usually take the form of three pecks on the cheek. In other circumstances handshakes are the norm. Following the handshake by touching your heart with your right hand signifies respect and sincerity.
  • Left hands are considered 'unclean' in Arabic cultures, as they may be used to handle bodily excretions. Avoid doing anything with your left hand, even if you are left-handed. Offering money with the left hand is especially insulting.
  • Despite mixed feelings about the new king and his reign, Moroccans are required to show absolutely loyalty and devotion. Omnipresent photos adorn many shops and homes, and insulting the king is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment. Keep your anti-monarchy sentiments in check during your Moroccan travels.

Contact

Telephone

Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used. The international dialling prefix (to dial out of the country) is 00, but international rates are comparatively expensive. If you have a lot of phone calls to make, it may be worth ducking into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta or Melilla.

Useful Numbers Police: 19 Fire Service: 15 Highway Emergency Service: 177 Information: 160 International Information: 120 Telegrams and telephone: 140 Intercity: 100

The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel (www.meditel.ma) or Maroc Telecom (www.iam.net.ma). Prepaid cards are available.

Post

The Moroccan postal service is generally reliable and offers a post restante service in major cities for a small fee. You will need some identification (preferably your passport) to collect your mail.

Items shipped as freight are inspected at the post office before they are sent, so wait until this has been done before you seal the box.

Email & internet

Moroccans have really taken to the internet. Internet cafes, usually filled with young Moroccan men looking for their perfect match online, are open late and are rife in cities and smaller towns that see significant tourist traffic. Rates are about 6 - 10 dirhams per hour and they are often located next to, above, or below the telekiosque offices. Speeds are acceptable to excellent in the north, but can be a little on the slow side in rural areas. Most internet cafes will allow you to print and burn CDs for small charge.

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