Here are the top 10 things you should know before embarking on a pretty rad trip:
#1 – Inequality
The wealth distribution is pretty uneven. People are either rich or poor. The middle class is tiny. This isn’t too noticeable in the major tourist hubs, but it becomes much more apparent once you venture into the countryside. I was surprised to see a huge, walled villa with a golf course and every bougie accompaniment you can imagine 30 minutes away from a small village of shacks. The disparity was haunting.
#2 – Theft is not very common…
…but use common sense. Don’t be that person who leaves a Rolex just hanging about.
#3 – Moroccans are the warmest, nicest people you will have the good fortune of meeting
Hospitality is a major part of Moroccan culture. Locals are happy to share their knowledge and heritage.
Mint tea will be offered to you in spades, as it is a gesture of hospitality. Drink it happily. It is absolutely delicious. Rejecting the drink is quite rude, but many locals understand there may a cultural barrier and you simply aren’t thirsty.
#4 – Morocco is a Muslim country
The theme of “five” echoes throughout Morocco, as it is a significant number in Islam. There are five pillars of Islam, five prayers a day, and the fifth day of the week, Friday, is holy.
Clothing Implications 👙🙅
Leave your crop tops and booty shorts at home.
You’ll see a whole spectrum of fashion, everything from burqas to tight jeans in the new cities. But even the more liberal areas lean conservative by Western standards.
Being a conscious traveller means respecting the local culture and traditions. So stock up on loose, flowy pants and long dresses! Natural fabrics will keep you cool. White is your new best friend.
N.B. Revealing clothing will warrant unwanted attention. Some Moroccan men are appreciative of a nice shoulder and they aren’t afraid to let you know!
You Like to Smoke and Drink 🚬🍻
Cigarettes and alcohol can be found, but locals do not consume them to the same degree as Europeans. Devout Muslims adhere to Islamic law, which deem these vices haram.
Alcohol can easily enough be found in hotels, restaurants, clubs and other establishments, especially those catered to tourists. Beware of having your drink spiked, especially if you are a woman travelling alone.
#5 – WTF is a Medina???
The medina is the old city! Majorly old cities like Fez and Marrakesh have both a medina and a new city. The medina is more traditional and conservative. It’s where you’ll find the souks (the traditional markets). There are codes that govern the renovation and restoration of buildings in the medina; a license is required to make any modifications. New cities were therefore built to accommodate growing demand for space.
The new cities are more liberal and Westernized. That’s where you’ll more easily be able to find alcohol and cigarettes. The new cities are typically a short drive away from the medinas, easily accessible by taxi.
#6 – Taxis can be tricky
Don’t be alarmed if your taxi stops in the middle of your trip to pick up another person. Ride-sharing is a thing.
Dealing with taxi drivers can be frustrating but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. The key is haggling and spotting the tell-tale signs of a scam. I’ll do a post on common taxi scams later this week. Subscribe to get a notification! 😘
#7 – Is that the price?
No, it’s not. Bargain. It’s the way of life. Practice your negotiation skills with taxi drivers, vendors in the souks, and everyone in between. Unless the price is printed (read: entrance fees, restaurant menus, cell phone plans), assume the price is negotiable.
#8 – Cash is a thing
Mastercards and VISAs are accepted in the new cities and major business hubs. Some establishments in the old cities accept card, but expect cash to be the predominant method of payment in Morocco.
200MAD bills are your nightmare, unless you’re planning on making large purchases or eating in tourist trap restaurants. Break these monsters in restaurants and ticket offices for more palatable 100, 50, or 20MAD bills.
Loose change is your best friend. Having petty cash is super helpful when you’re on the road to the desert and need to pay a dirham for the bathroom!
#9 – Popular Languages 🇸🇦🇫🇷🇪🇸
Arabic and Berber are the official languages; note that there are many variations and dialects.
On top of the official languages, most people in major cities also speak French. The language is taught in schools and used professionally. Secondary to French, some urban Moroccans (particularly up north) can also speak Spanish.
You can get by using English if you’re planning on sticking with common tourist destinations. But English falls around the same rank, or even below Spanish, depending on where you are.
The tour guide companies are a different story. Because of the large influx of Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, and English-speaking tourists, the guides have very quickly adopted these languages. I was shooketh to hear a local tour guide speaking in flawless Japanese.
#10 – Everything is delicious. Just don’t drink the camel milk.
You won’t be able to leave the bathroom.