Tag Archives: Morocco

Traditions of Morocco (what to know before you leave)

It’s a good idea to choose Morocco as a destination for the holiday. Its features can be different in different areas. For example the cities, especially in the most  touristy ones, are less rigid regarding some cultural inner rules compared to the Berber villages. Notwithstanding some customs and traditions are still the same from the North to the South. Although Morocco, compared to other Arab nations, shows an evolution and a constantly increasing modernisation, the country remains still tied to some valuable traditions.

Maroc_Marrakech_Jemaa-el-Fna_Luc_Viatour

Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 Luc Viatour

Already arriving here, perhaps by ferry, we have to be aware of where we are landing. Indeed, it would be worthy thinking about it before leaving, to avoid here any trouble or difficulty.

In fact, while preparing the suitcase and clothes to wear, there are two good points to remind: the first concerns the climate of the region where we will get on holiday. Do not forget that in certain areas there is a strong temperature range between day and night, and therefore, although it is hard to think of having to wear jackets and sweaters in summer, however these can be very useful in some regions.

The second thing to consider is that necklines, skirts, shorts and bikinis are not stated in almost all Morocco, because they are not respectful of the culture of this country. As for men, although in cities is less categorical, however, it is not recommended to wear tank tops and shorts, especially if you go in the Berber villages of the hinterland. The best thing to do is to bring these kind of clothes in your suitcase and thus wear dresses or long skirts and trousers in linen or cotton so you let your skin breathe. If the holiday will take place all in the resorts, you may be less rigid, but always taking into account that there is local working staff, and that most likely you will also make excursions.

It is also recommended that a woman do not go out alone. Besides the comments she would receive would be enough to discourage her. If it is accompanied it would be good to avoid kissing or hugging in public, because even if you are married or engaged, it is not well received when you caress or kiss somebody in public places. The local couple generally do not hold hands or exchange any kind of attention. It is easier to meet two men holding hands, but in this case it is simply a friendship going on.

Moreover, in many cases and in many activities, men and women are in separate rooms. This can happen for meals and, above all, in the hammams where men and women can only enter at different times.

Anything that has to do with religion must be carefully assessed in order to avoid mistakes: the places of worship such as mosques can not be visited, with some exceptions in the most touristy cities. However in this case you should take all the infos before entering the building.

If you are in a Moroccan house or however also a public place, you have to respect the time of prayer. During the period of Ramadan it is certainly not appropriate to overeat or smoke if there are present Muslims neighbors, and you can’t offer them a drink.

Also talking about religion is not recommended, especially if you intend to criticize. It is absolutely forbidden to openly criticize the State or the King (which can be punished under criminal law, even by imprisonment).

If entering a private home you will notice that all footwear are at the entrance. You should then take the shoes off, or at least do it before you walk on the carpet.
In the event that there is an invitation for lunch, remember to use only the right hand to eat. If you then also tries to eat according to the custom, without cutlery, using only three fingers to bring food to the mouth: the thumb, index and middle, maybe with the help of a piece of bread. The left hand is used instead for ablutions and is considered unclean.

For this same reason you should only use the right hand to caress the children and also to give a gift.

The hospitality of the inhabitants is very large, and generally are all courteous; it is likely that the Moroccan favorite drink, the mint tea, is offered to tourists. In this case we do not absolutely refuse, otherwise it runs the real risk of offending them. This tea is made with sweetened green tea flavored with fresh mint, and sually you will drink it for breakfast, or before, during and after lunch, in the afternoon with pastries, until the evening. If you just do not get to drink it all, it is better to accept it anyway and drink only a sip.

Another thing to be careful of is that it is not considered polite to blow your nose at the table.

If you want to buy some items in the souk it is useful to know that the trader expects a long negotiation for the price. Then you should certainly accept the asking price at the beginning, in fact. It may also be that we sit down to drink tea (of course the mint!) To bargain more comfortably, you absolutely need not be shy in this case if you do not want to make a bad deal.

Souq

Photo CC-BY 2.0 Cloudzilla

The market is everywhere usually close to the hotel and you can speak French with locals. In fact, this language is taught at school and almost everyone speaks it, perhaps with accents and different sounds, but still understandable. The official language is Arabic but obviously in the inland areas and the Berber villages they  speak their own dialect.

One last tip that has nothing to do with the customs and traditions of Morocco but which can still be very useful for those who want to spend a quiet holiday without intestinal problems: it is better to avoid eating in small inexpensive restaurants!

However, it should absolutely not be afraid, with a little sensitivity and common sense you will certainly have a fantastic holiday in Morocco!

What to know about Tangier

Of all the cities of Morocco, Tangier is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful and well known city. The city, which in Arabic is called Tanja, is the main port of northern Morocco and is a fairly large city, as the population swells over half a million inhabitants.

It is one of the most important city of the historical roots of the nation. Tangier, during the course of the centuries, has undergone several rules, from the Phoenician until you get to the Spanish and the British and the whole thing had much influence on its development, as well as its architecture.

Tangeri-500x375
Photo Public domain

By degrees, the Romans managed to wrest the city, considered strategic due to its location on the sea, in Carthage. We are in 146 B.C. and the Romans were able to beat the Carthaginians and to take possession of the most important centres of northern Africa, which are important for the control of the Mediterranean. Tangier, then, in 38 BC became a Roman colony, called Tingi and, later, became the capital of the region called Mauritania Tingitana. However, in the eighth century A.D. things began to change, and the city became a Muslim site and, soon after, an emirate. During the fifteenth century, however, the Portuguese arrived. They remained on site until 1662, when the British arrived, who managed to extend their domination on the area. Since that time, the push for independence became stronger and stronger, until, in the seventeenth century, the Muslim separatist front started to become wider and wider, although it was not until 1684 that they started gaining independence from the invader. Since that time, Tangier began to be reborn and to have a period of great success from the point of view of trade. Naturally, however, history has taught us that not everything ended well: Tangier was subjected to international regime following a crisis of 1920. Who arrived here? France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium! These nations were tasked to control the region that, in 1940, it was conquered by the Spaniards.

The troubled and quite complex history  in the region has made sure that different peoples are mixed into the area and this has led to the emergence of different architectural styles that have merged into each other, to create a city to visit in length and breadth. Moreover, the city offers much to those who visit, since it is both a city from the architectural point of view and from the “natural” one, with beautiful beaches and bays. Let’s start from the latter, in order to give some advice to all those who dream of a holiday made of sea and sun.

The beaches of the Bay of Tangier are very beautiful and their main feature is the fact that they are always crowded with tourists and locals, who practice water sports. But the bay is also suitable for horse riding, for example, because it is one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. Many luxurious hotels are located here and this allows you to stay right next to the sea.

But Tangier also has a beautiful old town, also known as the medina of Tangier. It is located at the northwest part of the city and, to be precise, very close to the port. Here, among winding streets, ups and downs and everything else, there are several stalls selling everything from food to spices and typical fancy clothes and so on. It is a real market or, better yet, a big bazaar, where you can find everything and more. Although there are larger Medine, like that of Marrakech, for example, also that of Tangier is very typical and beautiful to explore, clean and full of life, even if only during daylight hours. Simply put, in the morning hours, this is the real centre of the city, where you meet people and where business is done. The highest part of the Medina is occupied by what is called Kasbah: here few shops, but many wonderful palaces that are located along the streets.

In this area, in fact, we are the most beautiful riad in the city, those of the rich and wealthy and it is a real delight. But continuing to the northern part of the Medina, you may notice a door incorporated into the perimeter walls: from here the view is beautiful, as you can see the Atlantic Ocean, the Strait of Spain and the port of Tangier. For sure it is a landscape to be photographed to keep it forever etched in the mind. In Medina, however, in addition to stores and shops and wonderful riad, there are also museums. Among these we point out the Musée de la Kasbah, which is located in a beautiful building was once the residence of the sultan, the Tangier American Legation Museum and the Musée de la Fondation Lorin which is housed in what was once a synagogue. It merges art and culture in a sublime way, and all this makes even more interesting the whole area.

Tanger-Medina-500x333

Photo CC-BY-SA by Magnus Manske

Going down to the bottom of the Medina, you can find  the Petit Socco, the core  centre of Tangier, the crossroads of the most famous cities. Here is the historic Café Central who once saw a huge bustle and still attracts tourists from around the world. Finally, the Grand Mosque is another unmissable beauty of Tangier, although it is not as huge as you might expect. From Medina, then we move to what is called the ville nouvelle, which is the new part of town. Here the cultural centres of Tangier, as the Cinema Rif. A fabulous waterfront rounds, although we strongly advise to bathe in the waters near the port, since here it could not be properly cleaned. Here you will find the large apartment buildings that face the sea: a strong building development is being observed to grow in recent years in the city. So in this way it has been built up close to the beach and it is here that there are also the most beautiful hotels in the city.

Everyone interested in spending a holiday in Tangier – also reachable by ferry (for further infos, click here) can be sure that it will really fascinated!

Nador: the least known city of Morocco

For whom he had never heard of, Nador is a city of Morocco is located in the Eastern and, to be precise, in the province of Nador and, to be precise on the lagoon of Bou Areg.

Just thanks to this favorable position, the city of Nador is connected by highway with the Spanish enclave of Melilla, which is just 10 km away.The city of Nador was notoriously considered a meeting point between Berbers, indigenous and other populations, from the Phoenician period up to Islam. It is, in any case, a very rich area, especially from the point of view of agriculture and, therefore, booming from an economic point of view.

Nador-500x375

Photo Public Domain

Moreover, in recent years the Moroccan tourism is increasingly becoming a reality and that is why the city as Nador can become hub of tourist waves from Italy and beyond. Arriving in Nador, do not expect to find monuments and everything else, because, as we said, it is a growing city that, for the moment, is focusing on the economy which is actually quite flourishing.
Above all, there is a thriving metallurgical industry that creates much of the wealth of the city. Many Moroccan expatriates decide to come right in Nador to spend a few days in the company of the loved ones; this is because the city is on the coast and has some beautiful structure that houses not just tourists. However, forget about museums and picturesque harbours. There are a few restaurants on the beach that attracts local tourists, too: those coming to Nador makes to the town especially for its position that allows you to move easily in the neighbouring Spanish enclave.

Highlights

For those who enjoy hiking, Nador is a good starting point: for those who, for example, like bird watching, just 30 km from Nador is the village of Kariet Arkmane which is very interesting because it has a large expanse freshwater and salt marshes. There you can find fish and birds of all species.

Also, moving only 10 km, is located Melilla, a city very rich and very interesting to visit. Melilla is an autonomous city which belongs to Spain and it is a free port. Its story is quite old, just like that of nearby Nador. Melilla was in fact a Phoenician colony, then it became a Roman colony, and later a part of the Caliphate of Cordoba. In 1497 the city was conquered by the Spaniards, and for over 30 years, the Moroccan government claimed back it loudly, along with Ceuta and other islands. The city has a fab old part, which enchants everyone who visits it. It is a very interesting historical centre, just like the one of Nador, since both were born in ancient times. As time went by, both towns became some real crossroads that have seen many rulers and many changes.

For those who love the outdoors activitities, there is a beautiful park, namely the Herandez, which is always open to visitors and is great to make a nice picnic. Las Cuevas del Conventico is also free to visit. For those arriving in Melilla, a jump to the Palacio de Asamblea is a must, as is a must also visit Plaza de Espana, which also includes the famous Nieto’s Casino Militar and Banco d’Espana. Melilla also has a very well attended yacht club, namely the Real Club Maritimo which offers its guests the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful breakfasts overlooking the sea. There are many cafes and pubs, serving tapas, but Los Salazones and Café Dolce Vita are not to be missed when in town.

As we see, even if it does not offer much, from the point of view of tourism you can still take advantage of as a great base for trips in the district. From Nador, for example, you can take a comfortable ferry to reach the Spanish coast. Specifically, Nador is well connected with Motril: a navigation of only 5 hours and 10 minutes you are in another country, and from there you can move to visit cities such as Granada, Malaga, Almeria. In short, the possibilities are many and diverse. Check all the matches on http://www.ok-ferry.com/en/marocco-ferries.aspx.

However, what you should not miss in Nador is the opportunity to eat in a restaurant that offers berbers’ specialties with contamination of the Spanish ones: meat, fish and grilled vegetables in all modern reinterpretation.

Nador-lungomare-500x375
Photo CC-BY-SA by Tonkie

Nador is very welcoming and very warm with those who comeand want to know the culture and traditions. In addition to being an excellent base for exploring the neighborhood, Nador leaves in the heart of those who visit a nice feeling because, having always been a melting pot of peoples and cultures, is very attentive to the needs and traditions of all. In a not too distant future you will hear a lot about this beautiful city and that is, to date, one of the most restless of Morocco. Nador has the potential to outperform other Moroccan destinations that to date are in the top list of the preferences of Italians and Europeans. Just as it did for the nearby Melilla, the inhabitants of Nador seize the ball to bring the their cities top of the list.

Discovering Morocco and its surroundings

800px-La_Palmeraie_de_Marrakech_701

Photo CC SA-BY by Viault

It is hard to find so close to Europe a range of attractions as varied: the sea, deserts, mountains, exotic gardens, hotels and a valid road network very efficiently like we find in Morocco.  The choice here is vast: you can visit the four famous imperial cities or enjoy the charm of the landscapes of the south, now dominated by the imposing kasbah and valleys, now undisputed in the immensity of the desert.

Morocco is characterized by an immense historical and cultural richness and a wide variety of landscapes, from the Atlantic coast from the ocean lashed the imperial city with an ancient history; the roughness of the Atlas Mountains to the expanse of sand dunes shaped by the wind. From the kasbah eroded by the passage of time to the princely palaces of the ancient medinas, explore this unexpected wealth is a continuous discovery and a deep personal enrichment.

You can also get to Morocco by ferry, departing from Italy, Spain and France. For more details and info can visit the pages of the site OK-Ferry.

The whole history of Morocco is written in the monuments of his four famous imperial cities, especially in Marrakech and then Rabat, Meknes and Fez, where mosques, palaces and gardens still show the power of the old Moroccan empire.
Marrakech is the most popular among the imperial cities, nestled in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, among palms and gardens adorned with multicoloured flowers.

Here you do not have to lose the souks and Jemaa El Fna, in particular, the true heart of the city: a stage of humanity heterogeneous and permeated by intense sounds and aromas will display at your sight.
Everywhere you go in Marrakech, you can meet adventures, powder and mint tea.

The five tourist attractions in Marrakech are:

Djemaa el-Fna, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. It is a lopsided square and picturesque where snake charmers, acrobats and street vendors selling potions showcase everyday.

Souk and Fondouks

Paris and Milan can not compete with Marrakech, where artisans create new designs every day using old instruments. In the souk northern modern masters reinvigorate ancient crafts.

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa

The heart of Marrakech is a celestial structure of the 14th century that was once the largest Islamic centre in North Africa. Carved wooden balconies and dorm rooms where up to 900 students follow the path to higher education.

Hammam

Erroneously described in tourist literature as a spa, a real traditional Moroccan hammam  offers a scrub all over the body which gives the skin to the condition of the newborn. Visitors prone to shyness or sensitive skin will appreciate the modern hammam in Marrakech, with private turkish bath and massage with soothing argan oil.

Jardin Majorelle

This garden is formally owned by Yves Saint Laurent. Rare flowers coming from the five continents thrives in the shade of cobalt blue art deco villa, built in 1931 by the painter Jacques Majorelle and preserved for posterity by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé.
9125451029_eafabdb2a9

Photo CC BY by Grand Parc

Events in Marrakech in 2014 (still in progress)

Ramadan
June 28-July 28
The famous fasting month of Ramadan ends with a feast for Eid el-Fitr. Shops and offices are closed, while celebrating with Moroccan pancakes.

People’s National Arts Festival
July
The National People’s Arts Festival is really fun to walk fast pace and all perfectly synchronized. Do not miss the opening parade when 500 of the best interpreters of Morocco turning the Djemaa el-Fna square in a musical.
Additional Information: marrakechfestival.com; Free admission

Marrakech Art Fair Modern
October
Marrakech is the home of the first art school in Morocco that have come out from where his most successful contemporary artists. International collectors converge to Marrakech Art Fair for Modern works of art while sipping the tea.

Marrakech International Film Festival
December
Musical with outdoor screenings in Djemaa el-Fna, and a selection of international cinema at the International Film Festival of Marrakech.
Additional Information: festivalmarrakech.info;

Here are some sample itineraries to Morocco, all departing and arriving from Marrakech.20121102171818Carpets_in_Marrakech

Photo CC SA-BY by Donar Reiskoffer

Tour of the imperial cities

This itinerary offers the opportunity to admire both the Moroccan art of getting in touch with its lively souks. In just one week, you can see the sights of Marrakech with its historical part that shows off Koutubia (outside of the mosque and gardens), the Saadian Tombs, Palais Badii, Palais de la Bahia and the Museum Since You Said. Guests can visit the famous souks and dell’animatissimo Djemaael Fna Square.
Beautiful and interesting trip is also the one to the Ourika valley.
After Marrakech just go to Casablanca, a city whose visit can not fail to fascinate: the square of the United Nations, today said Mohamed V Square, the Royal Palace, the Hassan Mosque and the residential area of ​​Anfa. You can then go on to Rabat and visit the capital city of Morocco and royal residence: the Kasbah and the gardens of Oudaya, the Hassan Tower and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V.

Another must-see is the city Meknes with the Agdal basin, the old stables, the Dar Jamai Museum, Bab el Mansour and the souks. Then you can leave at a time of Volubilis with a visit to the ancient Roman ruins.
In the city of Fez, you can visit the old medina El Bali, the Medersa Sahrij, the mosque of the university Karaouine, the souk with the tanning and dyeing of leather.

Tour Oases and Kasah

Another of the many possibilities to explore this land is the tour oasis and Kasah. A route that shares the magic of landscapes and places in the south of the country, between the picturesque kasbah and oasis of the desert, experiencing multiple and unforgettable emotions. A tour that can inizire the visit of the Bahai Palace, the Dar Si Said Museum and Saadian Tombs in Marrakech where you can visit the gardens of the Koutoubia, the souks and the famous Jemaa el Fna square.

And then the turn of Ouarzazate where you can be reached by crossing the Tizi n’ Tichka at 2260 meters above sea level, in the High Atlas chain. Do not miss a visit of the Kasbah of Taourit.
The tour continues with the visit of Tinerhir and Todra gorges, impressive cracks in the walls of red rock 300 meters high. To make it more adventurous why not take a trip off-road to Merzouga dunes to watch the sunrise from the dunes?
From Zagora you can continue along the Draa valley o arrive in Ouarzazate, from here you can go back to the starting point: Marrakech.