There are so many reasons you should go to Morocco for your holiday this year, such as the huge range of scenery to explore; the gorgeous Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, the breath-taking coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the many cities and towns amongst them. There is also a versatile range of activities to partake in during your holiday like camel riding, hiking and hot air balloon rides. The blend of cultures, Arab, Berber and Islamic, makes for a warm and welcoming environment that you can’t find in Europe, or even much of the rest of Africa.
If you are persuaded by a holiday in the sun, check out our extensive range of luxury villas in Morocco, here are 12 useful and interesting facts about the country you may want to read about before jetting off on your fantastic holiday.
1) Any vegetarians and lefties should be aware of some Moroccan etiquette before stepping down off the plane. It is considered rude to refuse meat should it be offered – the solution is to state beforehand you don’t eat meat, and it also thought that eating finger food with your left hand is rude too!
2) The English word ‘genie’ that we all associate with Disney’s Aladdin is directly derived from the Arabic word ‘djinn’. A ‘Djinn’ is a spiritual being that is believed to play a part in human affairs, should it be called upon. These djinns are usually associated with water and believed to visit places like baths, saunas, drains and even water in pots and pans!
3) The vast markets of Marrakesh, known as souks, are world famous. The biggest and most popular is called Jemaa el Fna, which translates loosely to ‘congregation of the dead.’ You can get food, drink there and see all sorts of entertainment including snake charmers.
4) Morocco is believed to have been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era in prehistoric times, about 90,000 years ago. There is much historical evidence to support this around the country, which has shown the area was occupied by Romans, Visigoths, Vandals and Byzantines. Until 1956, Morocco was a protectorate of France and Spain before gaining independence.
5) Regarding cuisine, Morocco has a diverse range of traditional dishes thanks to influences from Europe, the Mediterranean and its Berber routes. One of the most well-known dishes is couscous and a local favourite it tagine, named after the earthenware pot it is cooked in. You can even buy sheep’s head to eat in the souks, though there is never any pork on the menu due to the many Muslims who live in the country and the most common meat you will come across is chicken.
6) Tea is a hugely popular beverage in Morocco, though it is not like our English breakfast tea. Atai is a special green tea enjoyed by Moroccans, combining green tea, mint and sugar to create an indulgent taste for anyone brave enough to try it. Brewing and serving tea is more of an art than just a custom in Morocco, due to the cultural significance it holds, and it is the polite to drink it if offered to you (just a sip will suffice!).
7) The majority of cities in Morocco are along the coast, such as Agadir in the south and Tangier in the north. The capital city is Rabat, but the largest is Casablanca, in the central-western part of the country and bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is also considered one of the most important cities in the whole of Africa. You may have heard about it from the 1942 romantic drama of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart, though the film was shot solely in a studio in the USA.
8) The country of Morocco is slightly larger than the state of California. The highest point of the country is Jbel Toubkal, the summit ridge of Mount Toubkal which is an astonishing 13,665 feet. The lowest point is Sebkha Tah in the Western Sahara which is -180 feet below sea level.
9) According to Moroccan tradition, the liver is more a symbol of love than the heart, as in Berber culture it is believed that a healthy liver aids digestion and promotes well-being. A bride saying, “You have captured my liver” means she has found her love! Seems a bit odd to us!
10) Very few citizen of Morocco have their own private baths, despite the Muslim’s ritual purification of the body that must be completed before performing prayers. Therefore, many Moroccans bath at the hammam, a public bath which is segregated for men and women and home to the local Zaouia, a saint’s shrine. These baths play an important role for socialising, especially among women.
11) The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the seventh largest in the world, completed in 1993 after five years of intensive labour that involved 30,000 builders and craftsmen. The mosque’s minaret is the world’s largest at 210 metres high. The grand building as space for over 80,000 worshippers and is a spectacle for visitors.
12) Marrakesh is known as the Red City due to the red walls and buildings throughout the city which were constructed with sandstone in the 12th century. The red walls can add to the heat of the city, and it is a good idea to always wear sun cream, even in winter, when visiting Marrakesh.
So, there you have 12 interesting facts about Morocco that are useful to know before you depart for your holiday. For a country that is so rich in culture and history, our advice is to throw yourself into the Moroccan lifestyle, experiencing new things and making unforgettable memories during your time away. Don’t be afraid to try new things whilst you’re here; you never know, a mint green tea with sugar might just replace the classic builders’ tea you’ve been enjoying for so long!