Visiting Morocco During Ramadan

Visiting Morocco During Ramadan

Ramadan is the month-long Islamic holiday celebrated each year. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar pattern so every year Ramadan moves 10 days forward on the Gregorian calendar each year. This year, Ramadan falls largely through the month of March and will end in the middle of April. This is usually a high season for travelers visiting Morocco.

While some people balk at visiting during Ramadan, anticipating problems or inconveniences, there’s no reason to put aside your plans. In fact, for the culturally curious, Ramadan might just be the best time of year to visit! However, before you begin your trip, it is important to know a few things about Ramadan. Here are a few things that will likely affect your visit, hopefully for the better! (more…)

What Is a Riad?

What Is a Riad?

You’ve booked your ticket to Morocco, now you need to decide where to stay. After all, you’ll need a place to sleep, shower and relax between riding camels on the beach, shopping for handmade rugs and eating couscous on your holiday to Morocco. While there are a variety of chain hotels and luxury resorts available throughout the country, every visitor should strongly consider spending at least a few nights in a Moroccan Riad.

(more…)

Sustainable Tourism in Morocco

Sustainable Tourism in Morocco

As a leading player in the “green” travel industry, since our inception in 2007, the team at Journey Beyond Travel has been encouraging and promoting sustainable tourism in Morocco. At the outset of the 20th century, the continuous growth of tourism in Morocco began to take its toll on the country’s environment as well as the indigenous people. But unlike other nations, where tourism growth significantly damaged the environment, society and culture, Morocco, on the whole, quickly sought to take action to prevent too much harm from happening. (more…)

Typical Traditions in Morocco

Typical Traditions in Morocco

When traveling abroad, if you take the time to seek out and learn about local traditions, you’ll glimpse a window into what shapes a place and its culture. Sometimes these local traditions take the form of particular foods prepared in specific ways. Other times they might be a certain form of dress, community festivals, day-to-day routines, and music. All of which may seem exotic to visitors. But to locals, these typical traditions might seem to be rather hum-drum affairs or something they take great pride in. Here are a few things you should know about some of the more typical traditions in Morocco you can expect to find on your journey. (more…)

Halal Travel for Visitors to Morocco

Halal Travel for Visitors to Morocco

Halal tourism is a relatively new term and style of travel. It refers to meeting the needs and desires of Muslim tourists by providing services and amenities that Muslim travelers desire. There is no standard definition of defines an experience as falling into the category of halal travel, but several components stand out. In the most recent poll by Crescentranking, one of the first companies to provide rankings of Muslim-friendly destinations, they listed Morocco as the sixth most “halal friendly” travel destination. (more…)

What to Give as Gifts in Morocco

pashmina scarfWhenever a family member returns to Morocco from abroad, it’s a good bet that half of their luggage is made up of gifts. While Moroccans have access to almost all of the same conveniences as those in the United States, Canada or Europe, the quality is often inferior. Moroccans are well known for their hospitality and generosity and would never act rude or upset if they were not presented with a gift. However, traveling with small items to be given as gifts can show your host(s) a little gratitude for their efforts. And, with the trips to Morocco we at Journey Beyond Travel put together, you’ll have plenty of opportunities for local connections (and meals in homes) where gifts will be welcome.

What items can be taken to Morocco?

While some gifts can be picked up in Morocco, there are some items that always go over well that you can bring from home. When considering gifts to bring, try to not resort on bringing sweets. This is two-fold. Moroccan taste buds don’t tend to like American sweets that much. We have amazing chocolate in Morocco (mostly from Europe) and Hershey’s isn’t popular here. Additionally, we would rather travelers bring other items that would benefit the women of the household of the kids if at all possible. So, when thinking of gifts, think about bringing something nice for the women and something educational or useful for the kids. (more…)

How to Choose the Perfect Accommodations in Morocco

hotel morocco travelEven the global nomad needs a roof over his or her head. Finding a place to rest after a long day of adventure is not always an easy task though. Luckily for those on a holiday to Morocco, the selection is almost endless—from virtually free hostels to swanky, bourgeois five-star hotels—and accommodations in Morocco are never in short supply.

To find the perfect lodging in Morocco, you need to consider what is most important to you in overnight accommodations. Think about the price and location that work best for you, but also consider what you’d like to get out of the experience. In Morocco, many accommodation choices are a doorway to unique cultural experiences, and these experiences may be worth the extra cost. (more…)

Asilah Arts Festival

morocco tilesLike most towns in Morocco, Asilah has a walled medina. But in Asilah, the walls are painted with colorful, elaborate murals. For the last thirty two years, the Asilah Arts Festival has rehabilitated and promoted the city of Asilah by fostering artists from around the world.

Asilah is a resort town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, only fifty kilometers from Tangier. For the first two weeks in August, the town explodes with culture while it hosts the Arts Festival. Artists use the festival as a way to exhibit their work for the public and exchange ideas with other creative individuals. Every year a group of painters collaborate and design a wall mural at the Medina. Visitors are invited to watch the work as it progresses.

Beyond paintings, the Asilah Arts Festival works to encourage cultural dialogue, exchange ideas and promote peace. Guests and speakers include politicians, journalists and writers who exchange ideas and inspire one another to create a global cultural landscape. (more…)

The Fint Oasis, Morocco

morocco donkeyIf the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate is the “Door of the Desert,” then the Fint Oasis, located 10 kilometers south, might well be the desert’s garden.

It is nearly impossible to imagine, departing from Ouarzazate and traversing the dry, desolate terrain of the Anti-Atlas Mountains, that any place so green, lush and full of life can be on the horizon. But suddenly you spot it: a massive, verdant palm grove, teeming with plant, animal and village life.

Composed of four traditional villages which blend Sub-Saharan, Moroccan and Berber culture, the Fint Oasis is a laid-back place where donkeys and other beasts of burden still roam the streets and women still wash clothes in the river. Though largely unknown outside of Morocco, the Fint Oasis has served as the setting for a number of Hollywood films, including Babel, Prince of Persia and Kingdom of Heaven. (more…)

Book Review: Marrakesh By Design by Maryam Montague

marrakesh by design book coverMorocco’s souks are known for their bold colors and traditional handicrafts, but how can visitors to Morocco turn these treasures into something special? Maryam Montague of the well-known Morocco blog, MyMarrakesh.com, recently published Marrakesh By Design, which provides do-it-yourself solutions for people who would like to incorporate their souk purchases and a distinct Moroccan atmosphere into their own homes.

Marrakesh By Design completely covers design elements from floor coverings to ceilings and light fixtures, touching on all aspects in between, but it doesn’t do this in a void. It would be easy simply to fill the pages of this book with information on how to design using Moroccan concepts as a vehicle, but Montague incorporates elements of Moroccan culture, language and history within the pages of the book. She provides a comprehensive background on why certain design components are prevalent in the country and what cultural influences have played a part in creating the modern Moroccan home. (more…)

The Art of Moroccan Tea

Morocco mint teaA visit to Morocco is not complete unless you’ve enjoyed a glass—make that several glasses—of the country’s iconic mint tea. Fortunately, the opportunities to enjoy this refreshing drink are numerous.

Mint tea is part of Morocco’s lifeblood; and, in fact, is popular throughout North Africa. If you are fortunate enough to be invited into someone’s home while you’re there, you can look forward to being offered this drink of hospitality. If it’s offered to you, be sure to accept—not only does it possess a pleasantly sweet taste, but it is impolite to refuse it.

Traditionally, the tea is prepared by the male head of the family; however, it is culturally acceptable for women to serve it as well. Typically, your host will come out of the kitchen carrying a tray adorned with a long-spouted, silver teapot and several small glasses. Observe carefully as your host pours the tea from at least a foot above the small drinking glass to create a thin layer of foam on the surface. (more…)

A Tasting Tour of Morocco’s Drinks

mint teaDehydration is a major concern for Westerners visiting Morocco’s weather – a dry and hot climate. Luckily, the country has a variety of beverages to quench a traveler’s thirst and acclimate them to the Arabic and African culture of Morocco. Whether you want something sweet, cold, fresh, alcoholic (though that won’t help with dehydration!) or unique, Morocco has enough drinks to keep even the thirstiest camel happy.

Mint Tea

Drinking mint tea is a national pastime in Morocco. It’s served at meal times and throughout the day in an ornate silver teapot with a matching set of short tea glasses. Mint tea is the drink of hospitality, and is offered to guests in private homes, hotels, riads and shops. Refusing mint tea is considered rude. Mint tea is made from gunpowder green tea, boiled with fresh mint and flavored with lots of sugar. Highly addicting and strangely cooling, even in the heat. (more…)

Tapping Toes at the World Gnaoua Festival

Guitar player World Gnaoua FestivalWhen some visitors travel to Morocco, cultural experiences are an enticing attraction. This is why so many venture to the port city Essaouira to participate in the World Gnaoua Festival. Also known as the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, the event brings together global music traditions as well as those of the Gnaouas, a blend of African tribal music and Islamic rituals. The music itself incorporates drums and other instruments to bring the performers to a trance-like state.

Essaouira is one of those picturesque seaside places dotted with houses painted in bright white and blue. It is a popular resort location situated just below the Atlas Mountains and attracts travelers who want to indulge in its relaxing environs and take advantage of its excellent beaches. The town is a former Portuguese settlement dating back to the 18th century. While waiting for the music events to begin, you can absorb some of the local history by touring old fortresses or browse the myriad shops that house Essaouira’s many artisans and craftsmen.
(more…)

Wedding Traditions in Morocco

Morocco wedding brideLet it never be said that Moroccans don’t know how to party; one of the best ways to experience this truth first-hand is to attend a wedding. Moroccan weddings are 24-hour affairs, but some can take place over the course of two or even three days. Just as in the west, every wedding is different, and families strive to put a unique or personal spin on the day. All the same, there are a few common themes and events that occur over the course of a wedding, and knowing what to expect if you attend one is important.

First, know that there is a very great difference between ‘country’ weddings and ‘city’ weddings. Urban couples are generally a bit wealthier, and their day may include a number of dress changes for the bride; an endless supply of tagine, cakes, and cookies; and even some professional live music. Rural couples generally stick to more traditional ceremonies, though the urban influence is starting to creep in to even the most remote wedding festivities. (more…)

Morocco’s Festival of Roses

Pink rosesIn ancient Rome, legend held that the rose first sprung from the blood of Adonis. Crowns of roses were used in weddings, garlands were hung at banquets and petals were strewn beneath the feet of victors. And while we may not be in ancient times, there is still a place that revels in the luxurious beauty of this flower: the Morrocan Festival of Roses.

Held annually in El Kelaâ M’Gouna, approximately 50 miles northeast of Ouarzazate, in the Dadés Valley, Morocco’s Festival of Roses celebrates the season’s rose harvest. Known as the Valley of Roses, the air is scented with the fragrant Centifolia rose, also called the Persian or cabbage rose, and the streets are lined in flowering hedgerows. The Moroccan rose industry is centered here, processing the lush pink blooms into rose oils for perfumes, beauty products, and cooking ingredients. It takes nearly 7,000 pounds of petals to make just 35 ounces of oil, and you can tour the country’s largest rose distillery to see how rosewater and rose attar (essential oil) are made.
(more…)

Visiting a Home in Morocco

Morocco home in Dades ValleyYou’ve probably heard stories about the incredible depths of Moroccan hospitality; let me tell you now, they’re all true. Many outsiders may think the lengths Moroccans will go to welcome you inside their homes and communities can seem like a farce, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s nearly impossible to spend any length of time in the country and avoid an invitation to tea. Shopkeepers will beckon you to share an afternoon break, your new shopping or hammam friend may invite you for lunch to meet the family or your Moroccan tour guide may even extend an invitation for dinner to help share his home and culture with you. In Morocco, neighbors regularly drop in unannounced and see their homes as open to the larger community.

Morocco is a country that keeps the public and the private very much distinct, and visiting a home is a wonderful opportunity to experience a different side of life. However, just as you would never kick off your shoes and put your feet up on a new acquaintance’s coffee table, there are certain things that are just not done when visiting a Moroccan home. So, how do you get the most out of your visit while making sure not to offend? (more…)

Marrakech Popular Arts Festival

Fireblower Marrakesh MoroccoThe lively and energetic streets of Marrakech, Morocco, become even livelier during the annual Marrakech Popular Arts Festival. This multi-day festival features artists, dancers, singers, theatre troupes, fortune tellers and snake charmers from all over Morocco as well as Europe, Asia and beyond. Held annually in July, the Arts Festival is one of the most celebrated and popular events in Morocco.

Festival performances take place in venues scattered throughout Marrakech. Most of the major events take place around the grounds of El Badi Palace. The grounds of El Badi provide a historic backdrop for the festival and visitors will be offered a glimpse of its former grandeur. Red walls and an expansive courtyard are all that remains from the once great palace that took over 25 years to construct. Sadly Moulay Ismaï destroyed the palace in the late 1600s to decorate his own palace in Meknes and most of what is left of El Badi is in ruins. (more…)