6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Morocco
Morocco is an Islamic country, so laws and etiquette are very different from the West. Alcohol, while not illegal, is hard to come by outside touristy areas and can only be consumed inconspicuously. Showing too much skin is definitely not a good idea, and under no circumstances should a non-Muslim ever enter a mosque. Half the country shuts down on Fridays (Muslim sabbath), while restaurants only open late at night during the holy month of Ramadan when observant Muslims fast from sunup to sundown.
1. Marrakesh is Overrated, Head to Fez Instead
Many travel websites have named the Marrakesh the world's best destination. But Marrakesh has become a victim of its own success and is suffering from over-tourism. A record two million people visited in 2017 – outnumbering locals by nearly two to one.
Fez’s 1,200-year-old medina is said to be the best-preserved old city of the Arab world. Cars can't fit through the tall narrow archways of the medina's fortified walls, Morocco colourful tours , so locals use handcarts and donkeys to carry stuff around instead.
You might get lost while exploring Fez medina's 9,500 cobblestone alleyways and dimly lit pedestrian tunnels. But getting lost is part of the experience; a road to discover a hole-in-the-wall pastry shop crammed with sweets and pastries.
2. Moroccans Don't Like to be Photographed
There are ways around this – photograph people from the back, from the side, from balconies and rooftops. Sit patiently in a plaza and snap a photo when the opportunity presents itself to capture a candid shot.
Looking over Chefchaouen before sunset. Photo credit: Ian Neubauer
Locals are used to being asked for photographs by travelers, and sometimes there is an expectation that they will receive a tip. Tipping a subject for a photo will help get their permission, however once you pay the subject is no longer candid; they are modelling and the photo will rarely feel authentic.
3. The Magic-carpet Scam
Visitors to Morocco fall for this trick daily. It starts with a curious look inside a carpet store, where you are 'befriended' by a local who offers to help you find the only honest carpet dealer in town, but they’re actually a member of his family.
Just say ”la shukran” (no thank you) and walk away. morocco travel , If you're serious about buying a rug in Morocco, do your research first, find a reputable dealer and be prepared to bargain hard because prices are inflated right off the bat.
4. Don't Bother With Planes, Get the Train Instead
Train travel along the coast and in Morocco's northeast is safe, punctual, cheap, comfortable and a great way to see the county.
A train journey from Marrakesh to Fez takes 10 hours and costs US $30 for a first-class ticket or US $20 for second class. You don't have to book a ticket online; you can just buy one at a station and hop aboard the next service.
Grand taxis are a novel way to get around. These are big old Mercedes Benz saloons from the eighties – they have four passenger seats in the back and two passenger seats in the front, and generally only leave after all six seats are taken.
5. The Food is Bloody Amazing
Servings are huge and most meals are quite cheap. The national dish is the tagine – a hearty North African stew that typically cost around $3 to $6.
The best meal I had was a toasted baguette filled with chicken and olives, drizzled in garlic, tomato and chili sauce from a shabby-looking food van outside the medina in Tangier.
6. Get Used to the Smell of Hash
There's no mistaking the intense smell of burning hashish, a marijuana byproduct that looks like black rubber. Hashish has been produced on a small scale in Morocco for centuries, and a lot of Moroccans toke in public.
The Economist ranks Morocco as the world's largest supplier of the drug. If you're offended by marijuana or cannot tolerate second-hand smoke, you may want to scratch Chefchaouen off your to-do list – this city is surrounded by the Rif Mountains, the epicenter of hash production in Morocco.
Dealers on the street will invariably try to sell you some, but buyer beware. Despite what some locals may tell you, hashish is still illegal in Morocco.
Who needs it anyway? Morocco is already one of the most colorful and psychedelic destinations on Earth.