Morocco

As you know by now, Milly and I are blessed to live in a little place called Gibraltar.  We have a whole blog on Gibraltar which you can read here.  This blog however is about neighbouring Morocco.

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Top things to do in Morocco

In Gibraltar when we say “We are going to Morocco” we generally tend to mean Tangier.  Morocco however encompasses a much larger area than Tangier with no end of places to visit and explore.  Here are some highly recommended things to do in Morocco.

  • Explore Marrakech: Visit the bustling medina, the historic Bahia Palace, and the vibrant Jardin Majorelle.  Haggle for souvenirs in the vibrant souks (markets) – don’t worry this is normal practice in Morocco.
  • Wander in Fes: Explore the ancient medina, home to the oldest university in the world. 
  • Sahara Desert Adventure: Take a camel trek into the Sahara Desert and spend a night in a desert camp. This is an unbelievable experience allowing you to witness stunning sunsets and starry skies.  Morocco Desert Sahara has 482 excellent reviews out of 483 reviews on Trip Advisor. 
  • Chefchaouen: Known as the “Blue City,” this mountain town is famous for its blue-painted buildings and stunning scenery. Check out 
  • Visit Casablanca: Explore Morocco’s largest city, visit the Hassan II Mosque, and experience the blend of modern and traditional culture. For more information Casablanca’s top attractions click here
  • Atlas Mountains: Go hiking, trekking, or skiing in the High Atlas Mountains, and visit picturesque Berber villages.  
  • Essaouira: Enjoy the coastal charm of this historic town known for its beaches, medina, and vibrant arts scene.  Click here for a list of top attractions in Essaouira. 
  • Sample Moroccan Cuisine: Savour tagines, couscous, and other delicious Moroccan dishes in local markets and restaurants.
  • Explore ancient Roman ruins at Volubilis, the historic city of Meknes, and the Ouarzazate kasbahs.
  • Hammams: Relax in traditional Moroccan hammams (public baths) for a soothing spa experience.
  • Beach Time: Relax on the beautiful beaches of Agadir and Tamuda Bay.

Traveling to Morocco

From Gibraltar or the Cadiz Area

Unfortunately at present ferries between Gibraltar and Morocco are very infrequent. But if you are travelling to Morocco from Gibraltar or the Cadiz area of Spain, ferries from Tarifa operate daily. The crossing between Europe and Africa takes as little as 35 minutes.   Tarifa by the way is a beautiful surfing town and highly worth a visit.

Traveling from mainland Spain

If traveling from further afield in mainland Spain there are numerous direct flights operating from major Spanish cities like Malaga, Madrid and Barcelona to Morocco’s key destinations such as Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat. Airlines like Iberia, Royal Air Maroc, and Vueling offer convenient connections.

Traveling from Mainland Europe

Several European cities, including Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam, serve as major hubs for flights to Morocco. Airlines like Air France, Lufthansa, and KLM provide regular connections to cities like Casablanca, Marrakech, and Agadir.

Traveling from the UK

Direct flights to various Moroccan destinations are available from major UK airports like London Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester.  British Airways, easyJet, and Royal Air Maroc are among the carriers offering these routes.

Traveling from the US

Major carriers like Delta, American Airlines, and United offer connecting flights with layovers in European cities. Unfortunately there are no direct flights presently available.

Things To Know Before You Travel

Morocco offers a vibrant blend of traditions, customs, and gastronomic delights for the curious traveler. As you embark on your journey, it’s essential to be mindful of certain aspects to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Do I Need A Visa To Travel To Morocco?

Travelers from around 70 countries, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and  New Zealand can travel to Morocco as tourists without a visa provided the stay is under 90 days.  Additionally, citizens from certain countries who have a diplomatic, official, or service passport can travel to Morocco without a visa for up to 90 days.  Check out this guide for further information.

Weather

Winter – December to February

Tangier experiences its coolest temperatures during winter, with daytime highs averaging around 15 to 18°C (59 to 64°F). Winter rains contribute to the lush greenery, adding a touch of freshness to the landscape. Winter is the perfect time to visit for those wanting to avoid crowds.

Spring – March to May

Spring temperatures range from 18 to 22°C (64 to 72°F) perfect for leisurely strolls along the picturesque coastlines. It is also a perfect time to visit for nature and outdoor enthusiasts.

Summer – June to August

In Summer temperatures climb to an average high of 28 to 32°C (82 to 89°F) perfect for enjoying Morocco’s beaches. While the evenings remain balmy, the city’s vibrant energy comes alive in summer. Numerous cultural events and festivals create a lively atmosphere for locals and visitors alike.

Autumn – September to November

Autumn temperatures are still warm but are comfortable, averaging from 22 to 26°C (72 to 79°F).

Culinary Delights

Morocco boasts a delectable array of dishes that are a delightful blend of indigenous Berber, Arab, and Mediterranean influence.  This blend of culinary traditions results in a unique and mouthwatering gastronomic experience. 

Tagine

No visit to Morocco would be complete without sampling tagine.  Named after the earthenware pot in which it’s cooked, a tagine is a slow-cooked stew. This stew can be made with a variety of ingredients, such as lamb, chicken, or vegetables. The tagine is seasoned with a harmonious blend of spices like cumin, coriander, and cinnamon and the slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld, creating a tender and aromatic dish.

Couscous

Couscous is a staple in Moroccan households. Typically served with a variety of vegetables, chickpeas, and a choice of meat seasoned with a medley of spices and often topped with a flavorful broth. 

Bastilla

Bastilla, (also known as Pastilla), is a unique Moroccan pastry that beautifully combines sweet and savory elements. Traditionally made with layers of thin pastry dough filled with a mixture of pigeon or chicken, almonds, and a blend of aromatic spices, Bastilla is then dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. The result is a delicious blend of textures and flavoors that delights the senses.

Harira

Harira, a hearty soup made with a base of tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and a variety of herbs and spices, Harira is not only delicious but also provides sustenance during the fasting period in Ramadan.

Mint Tea (Te Nana)

No meal in Morocco would be complete without sipping on a cup of traditional Moroccan mint tea. Known as “Te Nana,” this sweet and refreshing tea is a symbol of hospitality in Moroccan culture. Prepared with green tea leaves, fresh mint, and an abundance of sugar, it’s customary to enjoy multiple servings while engaging in warm conversation.

Zaalouk

Zaalouk is a flavourful aubergine (eggplant) and tomato salad that showcases the use of spices like cumin and paprika. Often served as a side dish or appetizer, Zaalouk is a refreshing and tangy complement to heartier main courses.

Culinary Etiquette

As a predominantly Muslim country, pork is generally avoided due to religious beliefs. Always check the local customs before making specific dietary requests to ensure cultural sensitivity.

Cultural Sensitivity

When exploring the local markets, or ‘souks,’ bargaining is a customary practice. However, it’s crucial to approach it with respect and a friendly demeanor. Aggressive haggling may be frowned upon, so strike a balance that reflects appreciation for the art of negotiation without undermining the seller.

Dress Code, Especially for Women

Morocco embraces a conservative dress code, especially in more traditional and rural areas. For women, modest clothing is recommended, covering shoulders and knees. In urban centres like Tangier, Marrakech and Casablanca, a more relaxed dress code is acceptable, but it’s advisable to be respectful of local customs.

Currency

The official currency is the Moroccan Dirham (MAD) although the Euro is also widely accepted in Tangier. It’s advisable to carry some cash, especially when venturing into more remote areas where card payments might not be widely accepted. ATMs are commonly available in urban centres but be mindful of additional bank charges you may incur.

Language

Arabic and Amazigh (Berber) are the official languages, but French is widely spoken, particularly in business and tourist areas. Learning a few basic Arabic phrases can go a long way in fostering positive interactions with locals.

Navigating Religious Practices

Morocco is predominantly Muslim, and Fridays are a holy day. It’s respectful to be mindful of prayer times and avoid disruptions, especially around mosques. During Ramadan, the month of fasting, eating and drinking in public during daylight hours should be done discreetly.

Transportation

Petit taxis are small light blue taxis with a yellow horizontal line.  These taxis are metered and can take a maximum of three passengers.  Petit taxis operate solely within the city limits.  If you want to hail a petit taxi in Tangier, hold out your arm and raise two or three fingers to indicate the number of people riding together. If a seat in the car is already taken and there are 2 of you, the driver will let you in if your destination is on their way.

Grand taxis on the other hand have fixed routes and rates are usually used to travel greater distances within the city of Tangier or to other cities.  That said, the standard of the car might not be what you are used to in Europe – it might not have air-conditioning or even air conditioning so a long taxi ride might not be your best option for traveling

A grand taxi can accommodate up to six passengers and don’t be surprised to have to wait for all six seats to be occupied before starting your journey.  Of course if you do not wish to wait you can pay for all six seats!  In a grand taxi, each of the six people boarding the vehicle pays a predetermined fare per person. 

Taxi Tips

When traveling in Tangier be sure to keep some change on you.  You may struggle to be given change for bigger bank notes and it is rare for Moroccan taxis to accept payments by card.

With small taxis it is common for the taximeter to keep track of different trips.  Be sure to ask the driver to reset the meter as soon as you board, and if they state that that the meter is broken be sure to agree the total fee before setting off.

Newer taxis might be able to fit a folded wheelchair in the trunk, however most regular licensed taxis in Tangier will not be adequately equipped to accommodate persons with reduced mobility.  If you or someone in your party requires a ramp or a lift for access you will have to seek the services of a specialized company.

Train Links

The train network in Morocco is well-connected and efficient and Tangier is a key transportation hub, providing easy access to major cities across the country. Trains are comfortable and offer picturesque views of the Moroccan landscape.

For detailed schedules, routes, and other travel information, check the official website of ONCF (Office National des Chemins de Fer), Morocco’s national railway company. Additionally, local travel agencies and tourist information centres can provide valuable insights.

Train ticket prices vary based on the class of travel and the distance covered. Generally, second class is budget-friendly, while first class offers more amenities. ONCF also provides concessions for certain categories, such as students, seniors, and children. Prices can be checked on the ONCF website or purchased at train stations.

Suggested 4-day Tangier Itinerary With Day Trip To Chefchaouen

With such a wondrous and diverse country sitting literally on our doorstep, it’s no surprise that Morocco is such a popular destination.  This past October my family and I spent three days exploring Tangier and one day in the beautiful Chefchaouen.  

Day 1: Arrival and Exploring Tangier

Our day started with an early morning start for our drive from Gibraltar to Tarifa to catch the 10am ferry across to Tangier.  Upon arrival we met up with Dani’s good friend Abdul.  Abdul lives in Gibraltar but is originally from Tangier.  He knew we were going over for a few days and he took up the opportunity to visit his parents and be our personal tour guide for a few days. It makes such a difference when learning about a new place to have a guide and we were most grateful for Abdul’s hospitality, knowledge and mostly for his company.

Kasbah and Medina

On your first day we recommend that you visit the Kasbah of Tangier, an old fortress with panoramic views of the city. From there, take a stroll along the historic medina to explore the narrow streets and markets and have lunch at a local restaurant serving traditional Moroccan cuisine. We ate at a lovely restaurant which has a balcony overlooking Medina.  The boys had wonderful soft and juicy pinchitos and I had the most divine lamb tagine.

Tangier Beach

In the late afternoon, head to Tangier Beach for a relaxing evening by the sea.  The promenade by the beach really comes alive in the evenings with hundreds of families out walking. You can also ride horses and camels on the beach before enjoying dinner at one of the many restaurants along the beachfront. We had dinner at a Syrian restaurant called Mazen Chef located just minutes from our hotel.  We had some delicious beef shwarmas but for those of you with picky eaters they also have chicken tenders and chips.  No prizes for guessing what our two ate!  

After the meal one of the waiters brought round some typical Middle Eastern pastries which were absolutely heavenly.  I’m not sure if these were complimentary but, given that the bill for all four of us came to £27.00 (including tip) we were not about to complain!

Day 2: Cultural Tangier

Start your day by enjoying breakfast at your hotel or on of the many cafeterias in the city centre. We stayed at the Royal Golden Tulip Hotel and I still day dream about our fresh bread and honey with “te nana” (Moroccan mint tea)  breakfasts!

Day two is all about culture. We recommend visiting the American Legation Museum followed by the Dar el Makhzen (The Royal Palace).  The museum is the former U.S. consulate, which is now a museum dedicated to Moroccan-American relations and art.

After enjoying lunch at a local cafe, visit the Grand Socco and Petit Socco squares.  The Socco is a labyrinth of shops selling all sorts of traditional Moroccan goods. Apart from the usual leather goods shops, I love the shops selling typical Moroccan wedding and party dresses. The designs are simply stunning.

These squares were always lively but especially so in the evenings where you will find children and adults performing acrobatics and singers. Enjoy the atmosphere and maybe try some street food in the area or head to a nearby restaurant for dinner. On our second night we dined at a place called Anajma.  Once again the food was delightful and super affordable.

Day 3: Day Tour to Chefchaouen

When planning our trip we debated a day trip to Rabat or Casablanca but in the end settled on the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen. We hired a private driver and we were in Chefchaouen by midday. 

Along the way from Tanviers to Chefchaouen we saw traditional pottery being sold on the side of the street.  There were also children selling vegetables and cheese.  Our driver explained that children only go to school for half of the day having to spend the other half working to help their families. These children were young – probably around the same age as my two and it made be sad to think of them having to work on the streets.  It was a truly eye-opening experience for us all and especially for our children as we all take so much for granted not appreciating how blessed we are to lead the kind of lives that we do.

Exploring the Medina

Upon arriving at Chefchaouen we spent the morning walking about the narrow, labyrinth streets of Chefchaouen’s medina. Adorned in various shades of blue, this ancient part of the city is a photographer’s paradise. Every turn reveals a new perspective, and the vibrant blue walls provide a stunning backdrop for your exploration. At the heart of the medina lies Outa el Hammam Square, a bustling hub surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops. Grab a seat at one of the cafes, enjoy a cup of mint tea, and soak in the lively atmosphere. The square is also home to the Grand Mosque and the Kasbah, both worth exploring.  

The city’s culinary scene is a treat for the taste buds.  From traditional tagines to freshly baked bread and pastries as well as local specialties like goat cheese and honey

Kasbah

From the medina, head to the Kasbah, a 15th-century fortress located on a hill overlooking Chefchaouen. The entrance fee is nominal, and the views from the top are breathtaking. Wander through the gardens, explore the museum, and learn about the city’s history.

Ras El Ma

If you have sufficient time, visit Ras El Ma, a peaceful area where a river flows through the mountains. Enjoy the sound of flowing water, and take a moment to relax by the waterfalls. It’s a perfect spot for a tranquil interlude amidst the vibrant blue surroundings.

Spanish Mosque

For panoramic views of Chefchaouen and the surrounding landscapes, hike to the Spanish Mosque. The short trek is rewarded with a spectacular vista that captures the essence of the blue city against the backdrop of the Rif Mountains.

Local Markets

Immerse yourself in Chefchaouen’s local culture by exploring the markets. From handmade crafts and textiles to spices and souvenirs, the markets offer a glimpse into the daily life of the city’s residents. As with Tangiers, bargaining is a customary practice, so be prepared to engage in friendly negotiations.

In the early afternoon or evening return to Tangier for dinner.  On our third evening we found a Turkish restaurant called Beymen which was again about a ten minute walk from our hotel.  The food here was slightly more expensive than the other restaurants we visited during our stay but in our opinion it was totally worth it for the combination of amazing food, ambience and food show!

Day 4: Beach or Hammam and Shopping

On your last day, plan for a chilled day .  If the weather permits, spend the morning at Tangier’s city beach. Alternatively, head to a local hammam for a traditional spa experience or visit a local art gallery.

In the afternoon, visit the Cave of Hercules, a natural grotto with openings shaped like the map of Africa, and learn about its legends.  Next visit the lighthouse at Cape Spartel, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, and enjoy the panoramic views.

Finally in the evening shop for souvenirs before a final farewell dinner in the city.

A Cultural and Historical Melting Pot

Tangier’s unique position as a gateway between Africa and Europe gives it a distinct cultural and historical character, making it a fascinating destination to explore.  Adjust the itinerary to your family’s preferences and pace, and make sure to check opening hours and ticket information for the attractions in advance. Enjoy your trip!

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