Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Visiting Morocco; Do's & Dont's and Where to go

Thinking about visiting Morocco but unsure about visiting an Arabic country? I get asked all the time what is Morocco like and do I advise it? Well it's an experience. And a cultured one at that! If your looking to go for a few drinks every night on the strip like in the Costa del Sol and have a chinese/pizza for your dinner- then unfortunately Morocco isn't for you (though you can find a mean pizza in Casa!). It's an African-Arabic country with many muslims present and the people of Morocco certainly lead a different life to one we might have in Europe. However, if your up for something different and keen to learn about different cultures, then go for it and book right away...the people of Morocco are super hospitable (I know I am half Moroccan, so slight bias, but I really do mean it!), it's a cheap vacation, plus you visiting Africa in a 3.5 hour plane journey!

Don't- expect to be drunk every night. Firstly, alcohol is VERY expensive in Morocco. Secondly, it's a Muslim country- be respectful of the rules and customs and don't treat your evening out like a session in Coppers!(Tip- Ryanair do sell Duty free <1 litre of spirits are €12! So stock up for those who can't part way with their booze for more then a week!) 

Don't- come if you want a party holiday. Go to Ibiza or Salou!

Don't- dress like your on the pull! While Morocco isn't as strict as some of the middle east countries, they do expect women to dress sensibly. I will still wear levi shorts, but maybe with a kimono! The way I see it, if you dress like your looking for'll get it!

Don't- book any old Sahara trip- some will result in you being stuck in a poorly ac'd jeep for 48 hours- nightmare! Do your research!

Don't- dive into the fruits and veggies all at once- otherwise you will spend your hols on the loo!

Don't- be put off by other people's experience. Some of my friends have loved holidaying in Morocco, some of my friends have hated it! It's a (cheap!) weekend away (ryanair fly thurs + sun), so try it out for yourself!

Do- avoid Holiday/religious events- don't go during Ramadan or Eid (even if it's cheap!- a lot of places are closed, structures of the day are altered and it will be very very busy!)

Do- make an effort with the language. Moroccan's love if you can say a few words like 'hello' (pronounced- sala-mala-cum), 'thank-you' (pronounced- shuur-cran) and please (pronounced- affeck. Morocco's second language is also French- so if you done all right in your Junior and can count to ten still, you'll be grand! Plus, broken english is spoken everywhere!

Do- barter. Especially in the markets. If you look like a tourist- your items value will be hiked up immediately. And big smiles if it's going no where.

Do- try all the food. There is nothing in the Moroccan cuisine that I don't like except maybe the snail soup (gross right?!). Don't go over looking for food you can eat at home- that's so a little!

Do- avoid giving money to EVERY beggar on the street- some have nailed the 'walking with a limp' to a fine tee!

Do- EMBRACE a CULTURAL EXPERIENCE. Arabic countries are so stigmatised in the press and with the recent terror attacks in Tunisia- tourism is dwindling. Personally, I think the only way to fight the evil is with a united front!Now where's my passport...

Where to visit:

Where to go- Marrakesh for the novice. It's perfect place for tourists that have never ventured outside Europe or America, Ryanair fly from Dublin for under €200 and it's very very safe. Tourism is a big part of the Marrakech community so they rely heavily on a safe environment for visitors. 
- Stay in a traditional Riad (old style houses where the centre of the house is a courtyard- the French have bought many of the Riads in Morocco and converted them into super chic boutique hotels or large homes- check out this cute riad here at Airbnb) or in my case, I like to live it up on holidays so La Mamounia (the art deco meets moroccan interior is so dreamy...) and Sofitel  (feast on the yummiest breakfast ever!) would be my favourite Hotels. 
- Visit the Majorelle Gardens (avoid lunch time!) designed by YSL himself, the souks and medina for trinkets, spices and rugs (if you have the luggage space!), and Jemaa el fna (recommended at night time!) where it's one big party full of henna artists, snake charmers and general hustlers. If you can take a day trip up to the Atlas mountains- especially Eureka- it's beautiful- bring appropriate footwear to make it to the waterfall! Food is cheap but flavourful- eat traditonal cous-cous, have brochettes or Kofta or enjoy a simple of Morocco's most loved soup- Harrira! Avoid Summer months- as temp has known to hit the high 40's- April/May is beautiful time to visit and not so busy!

Where to go- Essaouria for the more traveled. It's a fishing town, with fantastic weather all year round and a super laid back feel. You'll need to travel by bus to get to here and that's why I wouldn't recommend it to the novice traveller. If your not used to the hustle and bustle of lets say transport in Asia, you'll find this difficult. However, once you do get there- stay in The Heure-Bleue for luxury or Dar Afram for the back packer! Get into the water and go surfing, experience a hammamm (traditional moroccan steam rooms) or check out the funky architecture/artwork scattered all around the town. Knowledge is key when travelling around Morocco, things like travel tickets etc need to be often bought in advance. Lonely Planet have a great guide one what to do and some hidden gems too that I know i'll regret giving away...

Other places to visit- Tangier, Fez and Rabat...

My loves in Morocco- Mint tea, Figs, Argan oil and...the Sun!

Happy Travels! x

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