Unlike many others, on my first ever trip abroad, I decided to venture out to Morocco. The country provided me with exciting opportunities for culture exploration, photography as well as adventure. With beautiful architecture, stunning landscape, mouthwatering food as well as a composite culture, it was hard to say no to this small country nestled snugly on the west coast of Africa.
Surprisingly, I had a lot of people ask me about Morocco’s location. I think it was one of the most frequently asked questions of me. To all those people, who do not know where Morocco is:
Reasons to go to Morocco:
- Culture, history
- Stunning landscapes
- Friendly people
In this blog I will be discussing some aspects that you need to consider before you get to Morocco:
- Important packing tips
- Money advice
- Information about Moroccan languages, including some common words
I found these items to be quite useful whilst travelling through Morocco. Some are winter-specific (I went to Morocco in peak winter), whereas others are more general.
- Money belt or something similar to store cash and card
- Rain jacket or portable umbrella (it rains during winter in Morocco)
- Good quality sneakers or boots that can withstand the intensity of hiking you will be undertaking
- Winter coat (the Atlas mountains and Sahara desert can be extremely cold)
- Washing brush and detergent (if going rural. Cities have laundromats but rural areas do not. Also laundromats can be expensive- 10 to 30 MAD per item).
- Try this Aussie washbag invention: it cleans your clothes on the go, 2x better than handwashing! Read its review here: http://adventuresoflilnicki.com/scrubba-washbag-review/
- If you like Scrubba, you can order it from https://thescrubba.com/collections/all
- Portable clothesline if you must
- Spare camera battery (you will be taking lots of photos as Morocco is very picturesque)
- Toilet paper (restrooms in restaurants and some lower-mid range hotels won’t necessarily have them as they use water)
- iPod (Morocco was strangely lacking in music everywhere we went)
Morocco’s currency is called Moroccan dirham (MAD). 1 MAD = 100 centimes. Morocco only uses Euros, Pounds and American Dollars for exchange so if you are going from Australia, you will need to exchange AUD to any of the above-mentioned currencies and then convert the currencies into MAD upon arrival.
Otherwise, you can ask Travelex and the likes to order you MAD up to a certain amount. You can then carry this amount straight to Morocco, but ordering MAD takes some time as it is not a common currency. Besides, you will get more if you are converting from Euros to MAD rather than from AUD to MAD.
For my 15 day trip, I took out Euros worth 400 AUD and got it exchanged to MAD upon arrival at Casablanca’s Mohammed V airport. At the time of writing this blog, 1 AUD was roughly equivalent to 7 MAD.
ATMs are widely available in larger cities, so you can take money out as you go. If you are planning to go rural, then make sure you take out enough money in advance because obviously villages will not have ATMs. Credit cards (or credit-debit cards) are readily accepted in modern shopping avenues (such as a mall or a modern chain store, cafe or restaurant similar to the western world). Other places (small shops, roadside eateries) prefer cash. Another thing: tipping is a vital part of the Moroccan culture. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have enough cash on oneself.
The main languages spoken in Morocco are Berber, Arabic, and French. Moroccans are not fluent in English, so learning a few common words and numbers in Arabic and French should be on your ‘to-do’ list before you go. It will definitely come in handy, especially when you are stuck and want to ask for assistance (in hotels, in stores or on streets), or haggle in the souqs (old markets). It is interesting to note that the more ‘elite’ an establishment is, the greater are your chances of hearing French being spoken. Whereas in more ‘humble’ places, Arabic is given preference.
Arabic comes in a variety of dialects and it is no surprise that Morocco has its own. It is called ‘Darija’. I am listing some common words I picked up during my stay in Morocco:
- Hello = Assalaamu alaikum (peace be upon you, to be exact)
- Respond with ‘Walaikum assalaam’ (and upon you be peace)
- Goodbye = Massalama
- Good night = Layla sayeeda
- Yes = Naam
- No = La
- Thank you = Shukran
- Let’s go = Yallah (you will hear this a lot)
- Quick = Balagh (you might hear this in the medinah, or old city, where a local might be urging his mule to walk faster)
- How much = Shahal
- That’s it = Safi
- Bon appetit = Bassaha