CULTURE RICH DESTINATIONS - MOROCCO

Heritage & Culture Travel Themes

Heritage and culture plays an important role in Africa. Each country have a unique culture that is rich and diverse and varies not only from one country to another, but within each country itself. The culture of each ethnic group centers on family and can be found in each group’s art, music and oral literature. From storytelling through oral literature to traditions, dialects, arts and music, indigenous culture persist. And we couldn't agree more when Victoria falls guide describe the unification of communities. "In African culture, the “self” is not separate from the world, it is united and intermingled with the natural and social environment. It is through relations with one’s community and surroundings that an individual becomes a person of volition, whose actions and decisions affect the entire group rather than just oneself. There is a Xhosa proverb that is common to all African cultures and languages, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” (“A person is a person through persons”)." Or as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We hope to take you on this journey to understand and appreciate African culture by highlighting cultural nuances, heritage and traditions of  each country that seem to have tremendous influence in the world.

MOROCCO - FORTIFIED CITIES OF MAGHREB

The term ‘Maghreb’ is derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘west’, and refers to the westernmost countries that fell to the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. 

Rabat, Modern Capital & Historic City

Rabat is the capital city of Morocco and its second largest city with an urban population of approximately 580,000 (2014) and a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million.

The city is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the river Bou Regreg. On the facing shore of the river lies Salé, the city's main commuter town. Rabat, Temara, and Salé form a conurbation of over 1.8 million people. Silt-related problems have diminished Rabat's role as a port; however, Rabat and Salé still maintain important textilefood processing and construction industries. 

 

In addition, tourism and the presence of all foreign embassies in Morocco serve to make Rabat one of the most important cities in the country.

Once a reputed corsair haven, Rabat served as one of the many ports in North Africa for the Barbary pirates, who were particularly active from the 16th through the 18th centuries.

Rabat is accessible by train through the ONCF system and by plane through the nearby Rabat–Salé Airport.

The Moroccan capital was ranked at second place by CNN in its "Top Travel Destinations of 2013." It is one of four Imperial cities of Morocco, and the medina of Rabat is listed as a World Heritage Site.

The world heritage site is in three parts, the main component covering an area of about 3.5 km2 between the ruins of a walled Roman/Arab city (the Chellah) and a medieval citadel (the Oudaia Kasbah) that stands on a promontory overlooking the estuary. 

The second element of the world heritage site is the complex that encompasses the Hassan Mosque and Mohammed V Mausoleum.

The third element of the world heritage site is the Habous de Diour Jamaa quarter which was designed by French architects and built from 1917-30 in neo-Moorish style.  It is based on the urban model of the traditional medina with entrance gateways, alleyways, covered passages and houses arranged around a central courtyard.

Medina of Tetouan

The Berber name means literally "the eyes" and figuratively "the water springs". Tétouan is one of the two major ports of Morocco on the Mediterranean Sea. It lies a few miles south of the Strait of Gibraltar, and about 60 km (40 mi) E.S.E. of Tangier

The site of the present-day Medina has been settled since the 8th century, and was developed as a major centre by the Merenids from 1307.  The Merenid city was later destroyed by the Spanish in 1399, and only re-established in 1484 by Muslims and Jews fleeing the Christian re-conquest of southern Spain.  The ramparts of the present-day Medina were added in the 17th century under Moulay Ismail. Thus, the oldest parts of the present-day Medina date from the 16th to 18th centuries and its architecture, culture and arts signify a distinctly Spanish influence.

Medina of Marrakech

Medinah is a major city of the Kingdom of Morocco. It is the fourth largest city in the country, after CasablancaFez and Tangier. It is the capital city of the mid-southwestern region of Marrakesh-Safi. Located to the north of the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains of central Morocco, about 250 km south of Casablanca.  

It was founded in the early years of the Almoravid dynasty, around 1062-70 with the first 7km circuit of walls built in 1126-27 to replace an earlier stockade of thorn bushes.  It enjoyed a ‘golden age’ later in the 12th century, under the Almohad dynasty (1145-1250) when the famous Koutoubia Minaret was built.   The fortunes of the city have waxed and waned over the centuries, but include several periods of notable architectural achievement, under the Saadian rulers (1510-1669) (when the Saadian tombs and the El Badi Palace were built) and the later Alawite dynasty (when the Menara and Agdal Gardens were re-designed and laid out as they remain today, 1822-59).

Historic City of Meknes

Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, located in northern central Morocco and the sixth largest city by population in the kingdom. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), son of the founder of the Alaouite dynastySultan Moulay Ismaïl turned Meknes into an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, where the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb are still evident today. it is associated primarily with Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), who transformed it into a spectacular capital with 45 km of exterior walls, 20 gates and over 50 palaces. His main contribution was the creation of a new imperial city enclosed by high walls pierced by monumental gates, with enormous stables, a military academy, vast granaries and an elaborate water storage cistern. It is the seat of Meknès Prefecture and an important economic pole in the region of Fès-Meknès.

Medina of Fez (Morocco)

Fez is a city in northern inland Morocco and the capital of the Fès-Meknès administrative region. It is the second largest city of Morocco after Casablanca, with a population of 1.1 million (2014). Located to the northeast of Atlas Mountains, Fez is situated at the crossroad of the important cities of all regions; 206 km (128 mi) from Tangier to the northwest, 246 km (153 mi) from Casablanca, 169 km (105 mi) from Rabat to the west, and 387 km (240 mi) from Marrakesh to the southwest which leads to the Trans-Saharan trade route. It is surrounded by the high grounds, and the old city is penetrated by the River of Fez flowing from the west to east.

 The development of Fez took off at the beginning of the 9th century when Idriss II established it as his capital and allowed refugees from two far-flung corners of western Islam (Andalucian Cordoba in Spain and Kairouan in Tunisia) to settle there.  They established two separate walled towns on either side of the Fez River, and provided the craftsmanship and entrepreneurial skills for Fez’s commercial development.  Later, the seat of government shifted to Marrakesh, only to return to Fez under the Merenids following their conquest of the city in 1248.  They built a massive new Royal City (Fes el Djedid, or ‘New Fez’), and many of the prominent monuments that survive to this day.

Please reload

TRANS-SAHARA TRADING ROUTES - Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou (Morocco)

The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, a natural gateway to the desert, 30 km north-west of the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate.  Ksar (plural Ksour) is the term used for a fortified tribal village, and Ait-Ben-Haddou is a prime example of one of these villages, dating from the 17th century and built entirely of local organic materials, with a rich red mud plaster.  It stands on a small hill on the left bank of the Ounila River, dominating the valley which once served as a principal trading route across the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh and beyond. 

The Ksar has a high defensive earthen wall with angle towers and baffle gate, surrounding a remarkable ensemble of dwellings, with narrow alleys climbing the hillside.  Some of the homes of the wealthy traders are grand multi-storey mud-built structures (known as kasbahs) with quite elaborate decorative motifs and angular corner towers resembling small castles.  On the top of the hill there is large fortified granary, or agadir.

EUROPEAN COLONIAL INFLUENCES - Portuguese City of Mazagan (Morocco)

The Portuguese City of Mazagan is located at El Jadida on the Moroccan coast, about 90 km south of Casablanca. Morocco–Portugal relations cover a period of several centuries to the present. Initial contacts started in the 8th century, when Muslim forces invaded most of the territory of the Iberian peninsula. After the ReconquistaPortugal would then expand into Africa, starting with the territory of Morocco, by occupying cities and establishing fortified outposts along the Moroccan coast.

A fort was established here in 1514, one of the first European settlements on the African continent.  As the sea route to India developed, a larger citadel was constructed at Mazagan from 1541-48, the main elements of which are still in existence today.  The fortified citadel stands on the shore, its imposing ramparts dominating this part of the modern town.  The old city wall has four or five land-gates and one sea-gate into the harbour, enclosing an area of approximately 300 m x 300 m. Inside the old city, the original layout and many of the old buildings have survived, including an old Portuguese cistern, a beautiful underground reservoir whose high vaulted ceiling is reflected in the water. The city was taken over by the Moroccans in 1769, and subsequent developments include a Grand Mosque whose minaret was once a five-sided watchtower or lighthouse.

EUROPEAN COLONIAL INFLUENCES - Medina of Essaouira (Morocco)

The Medina of Essaouira is located on the Moroccan coast, approximately 350 km south of Casablanca. Essaouira, formerly known as Mogador, is a city in the western Moroccan economic region of Marrakesh-Safi, on the Atlantic coast. The modern name means "the little rampart", a reference to the fortress walls that still enclose part of the city.

It was commissioned and built by the ruling sultan as a fortified seaport in the 18th century, according to the plans of a French military architect.   As such, it combines many of the elements of a typical North African medina with the wider streets and grid layout of the French.  The sea-facing ramparts of the Skala de la Ville and the Skala du Port, with their arrays of cannons and associated bastions are especially impressive.

Please reload

Moroccan Arts and Culture

The almost medieval-like hustle and bustle of Morocco is for most travelers a world away from their own cities and towns. The culture and people are usually so completely different from what they know that they often find themselves in situations to which they have no idea how to react. The following brief explanation of Moroccan art and culture is designed to help you get the most out of your stay in this amazing country.

Art

The art of this country is truly special. Many historical examples are on display at the local museums. More modern examples are on display at art galleries and in souks. Beware of cheap imitations though.

There are so many different ways that the people express themselves – in carpets, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, painting, carving, and calligraphy. They even hold an international art festival once a year to showcase all their talent. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this country, you should consider buying some of the local artwork. Not only will it provide you with a little memento of your trip, but it will help out the local people who are usually quite poor.

Culture

Souks are a way of life in Morocco and you usually wont have to go far to find one. You can often get good bargains here, but remember that most Moroccans will have a lot more experience than you will when it comes to haggling the price so you will seldom find yourself able to get better than that which is offered.

You may find, if you are friendly and courteous enough, that you will soon start to make friends with the locals. If this happens and you are invited to a meal, it is good to keep in mind some of the local customs. For example, you will usually take off your shoes when entering a house. You can follow your host’s example in this regard. Also it is a good idea to take a gift of some sort with. If you are in a home in the city you might take some pastries or some sugar with you. If you are in the county it would be better to buy a live chicken for the household which is likely to not be quite so well off. A home invitation is perhaps the most authentic way to sample Moroccan dishes. Most Moroccan food is eaten with the hands. If you are invited to join someone for a meal, you should always eat with the right hand as the left is supposed to be used for the toilet.

Any plans to visit mosques will usually meet with failure as these are considered to be very holy places that only Muslims are allowed access to. Though this is allowed in other parts of the world, the closest you will likely get to the inside of a mosque in Morocco is if you visit some ruins or disused mosques such as Tin Mal and Smara. Most other monuments are on view to the public for a price and you can also observe certain celebrations such as the Imichal wedding Fair.

Architecture

Morocco is often viewed as a destination that is surrounded by mystery, seduction and beauty. These opinions are reflected in the breathtaking architecture of Morocco. Although modern buildings have crept in and formed part of Moroccan architecture, it is the older buildings that ooze allure, secrecy and architectural marvels from years gone by. Moroccan architecture has a somewhat exotic charm and many tourists visit the country to look at a world that is steeped in tradition and culture. In fact, the architectural roots of Morocco can still be seen in the modern buildings that are constructed today.

Architecture in Morocco is a blend of Black African and Islamic design styles, with the Islamic styles dominating in this combination. This is not only viewed in the building itself, but the lavish gardens, extravagant decorations and elaborate use of deep and contrasting color. Turbulence in the history of Morocco is clearly seen in the strong desert fortifications and the well-protected palace walls. It is also the style with which Moroccans choose to decorate the interiors of buildings that gives these architectural wonders a unique and majestic atmosphere.

There are a few dominant characteristics in regard to the architecture of Morocco. Most buildings feature large, intimidating archways and beautiful domes that complete them. It is also common to find enchanting courtyards, sprawling gardens and the use of ornaments to decorate the exterior of the building. Moroccan architecture also makes use of Islamic calligraphy as decoration as opposed to pictures. And, as mentioned before, the use of color also plays a significant role in their designs. Geometric patterns are also commonly found in the architecture of Morocco.

Please reload

Moroccan Folklore - Mysterious and Historical Traditions

A fascinating bit of insight into the intricate and historical folklore of Morocco. Learn about their dances, music and more.

Moroccan Folklore is extremely diverse and equally fascinating. 

Cultural Influence on Daily Life

communal eating

Before the meal is served, a wash basin may be brought to the table: hold your hands over it while the water is poured and then dry them on the towel provided. When your host starts eating you may begin as well. It is custom to use your right hand to eat however if you are left handed it typically is not an issue or faux pas. 

Mosques

Unfortunately, if you are not Muslim, you are not allowed to enter most mosques in Morocco. The only exceptions to this rule are the ancient Tin Mal Mosque in the High Atlas, the Great Mosque at Smara in the Western Sahara, the courtyard of the imperial sanctuary-mosque of Moulay Ismail in Meknes, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.

Women & dress Code

Women are generally expected to dress more modestly, not engage in drinking or smoking in public, and avoid physical contact with men. Although this code of behavior is now more relaxed in big cities such as Rabat, Marrakesh and Fez, it is important to follow it in rural Morocco. Pay attention to the Moroccan women around you to gain helpful clues as to what is acceptable. Visiting women are not expected to dress as Moroccans do, but a little bit of respect can go a long way.

Moroccan Tea

 Moroccans, drinking tea is a way of life. Every culture has its own way of relaxing and showing hospitality. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality, and it is Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to any visitors that might stop by. 

Mint tea, made by steeping green tea with mint leaves, is very popular, and many Moroccans drink it several times throughout the day and evening.

 

Imilchil Marriage festival(September)​

The Imilchil Marriage Feast is a Berber marriage festival where up to forty couples tie the knot. It takes place in Imilchil in the Middle-High Atlas Mountains near Marrakech. The festival is a great way to experience Berber culture including music and dance.

Conveniently located in the Medina of Marrakech, Riad Hôtel Marraplace.  Great staff, clean, quite and a great escape from the busy streets. 

WHAT IS THE VISA REQUIREMENT TO TRAVEL TO MOROCCO?

Passports and Visas: You must have a valid passport with at least one blank page. Visas are not required for visits lasting less than 90 days. Passport must be valid for six months following date of entry.

 

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK THE WATER IN MOROCCO?

In general, the water may be safe to drink in Morocco. Basically, the water is chlorinated and locals drink it from the tap with no problems. However, some strains of E. coli which you may not have immunity for, could be present in small concentrations causing diarrhea. Bottled water is recommended for the first few weeks while your body develops immunity.

 

CAN I GET INTERNET ACCESS IN THE MOROCCO?

 Morocco is very well connected to the Internet and currently has three licensed telecommunications operators each managing their own national and international networks.

ARE CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED IN MOROCCO?

Credit and debit cards aren’t widely used outside of the cities and tourist resorts in Morocco. However, in high-end establishments you shouldn’t have a problem paying with your card, though American Express isn’t commonly accepted. Anywhere else, it’s advisable to carry cash in case you come across a retailer that cannot take card payments.

If you get stuck, use one of the ATM locators in the next section to find a nearby bank machine to withdraw some cash.

ARE THERE ANY ATMS IN MOROCCO AND I USE THEM?

ATMs are common in Moroccan cities and accept the major card providers. However, at busy periods, cash machines may be out of service until they are restocked, so don’t wait until you’re desperate for currency.

WHAT IS THE CURRENCY OF MOROCCO AND TIPS FOR FOREIGN EXCHANGE?

The official currency of Morocco is the Dirham (MAD). The Dirham is a closed currency, meaning that technically you can’t buy or sell it outside of Morocco. However, you’ll find it on sale in some exchange bureaus.

You’ll often find prices quoted in Euros instead of Dirhams, and may be able to use foreign currency to pay for goods and services when you’re there. 

Often, currency exchange services offer poorer rates at airports and hotels

You can change currency easily in the major cities and tourist areas of Morocco. The airports have several exchange desks - so it’s worth shopping around.

DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE BEFORE TRAVELING TO MOROCCO?

All passengers traveling with Trailblazer Travelz are highly recommended to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

IS TIPPING CUSTOMARY IN MOROCCO?

There is no "rule of thumb" per se regarding tipping in Morocco. Moroccansthemselves might only leave a few dirhams on a 150 dirhams dinner bill. At many of the upmarket restaurants in the tourist areas they will add 10% to the bill, therefore check your bill.

Please reload

EXPRIENCE BEAUTY AT A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!