Morocco is a country you could visit a dozen times and still see and experience something new each time. Here are some tips to make the most of your trip.
1. Don’t plan an overambitious itinerary
Morocco is a country slightly larger than California, and it can be tempting to try to see as much as possible during a short vacation. However, you need to consider that traveling in Morocco, especially during Ramadan or other times when you may be on one of many various Morocco holidays, it doesn’t always go as planned. If you want to travel from Ifrane to Meknes, the drive only takes an hour, but it still may end up taking half the day to get there if you end up waiting for taxis or taking a local bus that stops at a dozen points along the way. In order to avoid spending most of your holiday in transit, give yourself ample time in each destination and plan for travel delays.
2. Get local advice
Choose a hotel or guesthouse to base yourself at and ask the hosts for tips on what to see and do. Guidebooks and what you read online are great starting points, but asking locals where they would recommend for dinner or where you can get the best deal on carpets can lead you to new and different experiences. It’s best to trust people you’ve already met, such as a hotel concierge, rather than a person who approaches you in the street attempting to offer special rates at his “brother’s souvenir shop.”
3. Don’t waste time with touts
In some of the more touristy areas, like the port in Tangier or the Fez medina, foreigners are often bombarded. Before entering the fray, have a goal. If you need a taxi, choose a taxi driver and negotiate a rate. The faster you get through the crowd and are seen as “his” customer, the faster the others should back off. If you simply want to be left alone, avoid making eye contact and say “La, shukran” or “Non, merci” – “No thanks” in Arabic or French. Just keep walking and eventually the crowd should thin. If you can’t deal with the heckling, hire an official guide. His presence will fend off the others and let you explore in peace.
4. Learn about Moroccan culture and cuisine
Before visiting Morocco, take some time to learn about cultural aspects that interest you. Watch cooking videos and familiarize yourself with traditional Moroccan food. Listen to Moroccan music and watch music videos. Take a belly dancing class. While you’re traveling, put your newfound knowledge to work by trying new things and asking questions to learn more.
5. Stay in a traditional home
In the imperial cities, you can stay in beautiful riads that have been refurbished and transformed into guesthouses. Staying in the heart of the medina will allow you to hear the sounds of the city, observe how locals live and appreciate Moroccan architecture. In mountain villages, the only lodging option for travelers is often a gite d’etape, or a guest area in or nearby someone’s home. Staying at a gite you’re likely to eat home cooked food and spend your evening chatting with the family. Sleeping in a traditional Moroccan home will teach you more about the culture and way of life in Morocco.
Written by Heather Carreiro.
Photo by Jack Fussell.