Welcome to Morocco, a land rich in culture, shaped by the vagaries of history. Fancy a change of scenery? At any time in the year, you’ll be astounded by the wide range of experiences Morocco has to offer, from sumptuous palaces and vast gardens to the spice-scented bustle of the souks. In just a few hours, you can travel from the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas to the sands of the desert. You’ll watch in fascination as the dextrous fingers of master craftsmen fashion masterpieces of embroidery, tapestry, pottery and jewellery; each one unique in its own way and, of course, don’t forget the fabled hospitality of the locals: the coin of the realm!
With Royal Air Maroc you can book and purchase on line your air ticket and hotel reservation as easily as a click. Moreover, all year long, Royal Air Maroc posts Web exclusive special offers. They are uninterrupted flights promotions to Morocco with very attractive fares. In this section you will also find a mini guide including practical information to assist you in enjoying a pleasant stay in our country: outings, beaches, golfing, excursions, etc.
Then do not wait any more and come to discover the thousand and one charms of Morocco!
Morocco in Brief
Name in Arabic: Al-Maghrib
- Official name: The Kingdom of Morocco
- Surface area: 710 850 km2
- Population: 32 million inhabitants, 45% of whom are aged twenty or less.
- Density: 72 inhabitants per km2
- Official Language: Classical Arabic
- Languages Spoken in the country: Dialectical Arabic, Berber, French, Spanish and English.
- Religion: Sunni Islam is the main State Religion
- Local Time: GMT. When it is noon in Paris in summer, it is 10 a.m. in Morocco. In winter, when it is noon in Paris, it is 11 a.m. in Morocco.
Passport and Visa: passports must be valid. For a stay under three months, no visa is required for French, Belgian, Swiss and Canadian nationals. Children under the age of 16 must have their photos on their parents’ passports.
Customs: the applicable duty-free in Morocco is the same for all countries not belonging to the European Union. Visitors can import 1 litre of 22° alcoholic beverages, two litres of wine and a carton of 200 cigarettes.
Currency: the national currency is the Dirham DH, (1 Euro=10 DH). The cost of living in Morocco remains considerably cheaper than in France. The importation or the exportation of the Moroccan Dirham, however, is strictly prohibited.
Credit cards: in Morocco, some 13,000 shopkeepers accept Visa Card. There are some 1200 branches and some 160 ATMs which belong to the Visa network but also accepts other cards, such as Mastercard, Diners Club International and American Express.
Banks: These are open from 8:30 to 11:30 and from 14:30 to 16:00 in winter. In summer, they are open from 9:00 to 15:00 and during the month of Ramadan, from 9:30 to 14:00.
The Post Office: The opening hours are: from 8:30 to 12:30 and from 14:30 to 18:30. During the month of Ramadan, they are open from 9:00 to 15:00.
Monuments and Museums: Most of these are closed on Tuesdays. Opening hours vary according to season but are usually: 9:00 to 12:00 and 15:00 to 17:00.
Shops: Most shops open from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 14:30 to 19:00. Many are closed on Sundays.
Supermarkets: to be found in all large cities. Opening hours are 8:00 to 22:00.
Pharmacies: to be found in all the cities and villages of Morocco. Opening hours are the same as other businesses. Night pharmacies take over as from 21:00 and remain open until the following morning. Pharmacies display a list of those open on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Useful Telephone Numbers
- Fire brigade: 15
- Police: 19
- Directory enquiries: 160
- Speaking clock: 172
- Gendarmerie Royale (for road assistance): 177
- ONMPT (National Tourist Board): 05 22 27 11 77
- Tourist Information Office: 05 22 22 15 24
- Radio taxis: 05 22 89 24 89
- S.O.S Médecins Maroc (Emergency Medical Assistance): 05 22 82 82 82
- 1 January: New Year’s Day
- 11 January: Manifesto of Independence Day
- 1 May : Labour Day
- 30 July : Coronation Day
- 20 August: Anniversary of the Revolution
- 21 August: National Youth Day
- 6 November : Anniversary of the Green March
- 18 November: Independence Day
Morocco has more or less satisfactory network of roads, it is one of the best in Africa, and is constantly being developed. The conditions of transport of both people and goods can be considered as fairly good. The country has international airports in the imperial and touristic cities; the same goes for maritime transport, some large ports are sufficient to handle the flow of traffic. The railway lines satisfy the needs of travellers whose standard of living does not enable them to use other means of transport.
To sum up, whatever the means of transport you use, most of the towns and villages in the kingdom are covered.
There are 550 hotels classified between 1 and 5 stars with 100,000 beds and nearly 1,000 hotels without any stars with 25,000 beds throughout the Kingdom. For an equivalent amount of comfort the price is much lower than in Europe or for a bit more stay in a guesthouse or a Riad, renowned for their originality and luxurious décor.
Thanks to our partnership with OctopusTravel, you can make hotel reservations on line. To do so, go to Hotel Reservations section and choose among hotels of all categories in Morocco and throughout the world.
Many restaurants, classified under their specialities, have a full and varied menu, with cuisine of good quality price ratio, costing from 20 to 40 Euro but all the big towns have relatively expensive gastronomic restaurants. Meals are served between 11:30 a.m and 3 p.m and from 7 p.m to 10 p.m, with exceptions where you can eat at any time.
Handicrafts constitute an essential element of Morocco’s national heritage. They are the expression of a range of folk arts preserved over the years, employing local materials, and designed for use in daily life.
Moroccan handicrafts are without doubt the most varied and colourful in the Maghreb, making use of all the readily accessible materials: clay, wool, wood, leather, metals and so on. The diversity of materials and of forms and colours, and the high standards of craftsmanship leave you spoilt for choice.
Carpets and EmbroideryAs decoration, as essential furnishing or simply as a creature comfort, the carpet, with its endless variety of design, is indispensable element in Moroccan decor. While city carpets have only been produced since the 18th century, the origins of rural and Berber carpets go back to the dawn of time.
As well as Rabat carpets, you have those produced in the Rif, the Middle Atlas and the High Atlas, which are the most sought-after and appreciated.
In our country, custom requires that girls of good family learn how to embroider from a tender age. In the cities of Rabat, Fez, Meknes and Sale, a variety of embroidery works is to be found on a wide range of mainly silk or voile items of clothing such as Gandouras, Djellabas and decorative belts.
Pottery and Ceramics
Evolving over three thousand years ago, ceramics a primarily utilitarian craft developed into a sophisticated art form when Fassi potters, trained by master craftsmen who came to Morocco from Spain in the 9th century, refined their techniques and acquired a highly-developed sense of ornamentation.
Apart from plates of all sizes and colours with multiple dimensions and highly varied colours, the Souks, have a whole range of goods on offer, such as coffee services, soup tureens and vases, all products of matchless craftsmanship.
In Morocco, land of thrills, there is a complete programme of ceremonies and celebrations, throughout the year. Moreover, there are four types of celebrations: moveable feasts of a religious nature, based on the moon, national ones marking historical events, traditional Moussems, a mixture of the sacred and the profane and finally festivals, mainly on an international scale, opening up to the western world and certainly not to be missed out on.
Festival of Popular Arts or Folklore Festival (Marrakech – June)
Every year in June, Marrakech vibrates to the rhythms of its Folklore Festival, which takes place in the sumptuous setting of the El-Badi Palace. Its immense courtyard is laid with carpets for the occasion and decorated in a myriad of traditional styles, ready to welcome musicians, singers and dancers, from the world of Moroccan popular arts and traditions, not to forget the thousands of spectators who flock from all over the world to enjoy the spectacular entertainment. The Festival unites a whole range of performances , combining the ritual dances of the Atlas, Saharan dances such as the Dekkah and the Guedra, and Gnaoua dancing, a mystical tradition stemming from Black Africa animistic rites.
Gnaoua Music Festival (Essaouira – June)
The event brings together the finest troops of Gnaoua musicians along with a multitude of American and European Jazz ensembles. It was first held in 1960, and proved enormously successful being rapidly recognised as a festival of true world class.
Sacred Music Festival (Fez – May/June)
Since 1994, Fez the country’s Spiritual Capital, has been the scene of an annual convergence of different cultures which although existing side by side have little real knowledge of one another. With globalisation as its theme, the event has acquired international renown.
Oudayas Jazz Festival (Rabat – October)
Mirroring the goals of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership outlined during the 1995 Barcelona Conference, the event first took place the following year, and was soon recognised as the perfect occasion for encounter, exchange and expression., Its primary purpose is the development of what is now known as European Jazz while at the same time opening up the scene to Moroccan jazz musicians, whose syncopated music is firmly entrenched in the age-old traditions of the Maghreb.
The Ahidous of the Middle Atlas, which the dancers of Oulmes and Khenifra perform in all its original purity, is a real feast for the eyes. The women are for the most part very young and pretty, their dress, influenced by city attire, bright in colour. Men and women form a wide circle and sway to the rhythm of the Bendir, performing simple steps, advancing and retreating; gestures remain minimal, modest and dignified. During the dance, poets recite their verses.
The Ghiâtas, nicknamed the warriors, dance musket in hand, to the sound of drum and musette, not singing but uttering muted rhythmical cries instead. Imitating horsemen, they play around with their weapons, putting them on their heads, shouldering them, pointing them at the ground and, at the final order aiming and firing at an imaginary foe.
The Gnaoua are descendants of slaves from Black Africa, theirs the music of brotherhood. They are to be found throughout Morocco - master musicians, Qraqesh players, fortunetellers, mediums and adepts. They practise a ritual of possession called derdeba which sometimes culminates in states of trance, . The ritual is only performed at night, and includes invocation of the spirits of saints and of other supernatural beings. Their chosen instruments are Guembri, a kind of lute producing a low, deep tone, the Qraqesh (a rattle-like instrument) and very large drums.
The Dekkah Marrakchia
This rhythmic entertainment is not performed by professionals, but rather by the craftsmen and shopkeepers of the city of Marrakech. They form an odd sort of orchestra essentially consisting of various sizes of earthenware tambourines. As the beating of the tambourines accelerates, so does the chanting of the players, creating an extraordinary unity of sound, the atmosphere becoming increasingly electric as the music rises seamlessly towards a crescendo.
Stance and the gesture in this renowned dance, from the beautiful Goulimine region in the south of Morocco, relate to a very old system of symbolism. This dance is clearly a memory of some mystical, erotic ritual, dating back to the dawn of time. To the beat of the Guedra, which means "cooking pot" in Arabic and is a kind of earthenware drum covered with animal skin, the dance is characterised by the outstretched and be-ringed hands of the dancer, as she sways back and forth, eyes closed as if in ecstasy.
The dance is one of the richest and most spectacular in Moroccan folklore.
This is the famed dance of the valleys in the Ouarzazate region of the High Atlas. The women, wearing long multi-coloured dresses, stand stock-still in a circle. In the midst of the circle, the men in their long Djellabas, and often squatting around a bonfire, hold Bendirs (a kind of tambourin covered with stretched animal skin). A high-pitched threnody breaks the silence of the night, more of a sustained ululation than a chant, to which the beating of the drums responds in unison. Then the men begin to chant, louder and louder, the sound rising towards the skies; the women, standing shoulder to shoulder, reply in kind and the rhythm rises and falls, sometimes continuing up to the break of day.
Moulay Idriss Moussem (Fez – September)
One of the largest in the country, this Moussem is the city’s homage to its Patron Saint. A fund-raising campaign organized by trade guilds and leading businessmen covers the cost of festivities and of the offerings to be made. Every year, the city’s weavers offer a gold-trimmed silk cover for the Saint’s Mausoleum by way of tribute. Shopkeepers, tanners, coppersmiths, ironsmiths, shoemakers and other craftsmen offer sacrificial bulls and huge, decorative candles to illuminate the shrine. When the great day arrives, all the offerings are paraded through the streets, festivities continuing until night.
Moulay Idriss Zerhoun Moussem (Meknes)
This is the most important religious festival held in this small holy city perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Oued Khoumane valley and the plain of Volubilis. The city houses the Mausoleum of the Founder of the first Arab Dynasty to have reigned in Morocco, the Idrissids. Every year, at the end of the summer, the city’s guilds and associations come, one after the other, to pay homage to their Saint, bringing numerous offerings and sacrifices along with them And accompanied by music and chanting supplied by processions of such folklore troops, such as the Aissaouas, Hmadshas, and Hal Touat.
Ramadan is the sacred month during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The party atmosphere to be found after dark makes it stand out from the rest of the year. Families and friends meet to break the fast with Harira a rich Moroccan soup and other traditional delicacies like the honey coated sweetmeat, Chebakia. The most important night of the month falls on 26 of Ramadan Laylat Al-Qadr, the Night of Destiny, when the faithful, dressed in their best, congregate at mosques to pray to Almighty God.
The day marks the end of the month of fasting and is symbolic of grace and pardon. It is a family day with meals enjoyed in an atmosphere of festivity, when good wishes are exchanged and transgressions forgiven.
Aid El Kebir
Also called "The Feast of Sacrifice," this commemorates the act of sacrifice performed by Abraham, as related in the Koran. On God’s command, the Prophet was about to offer up his son Ishmael as a burnt sacrifice, when an angel interposed, offering Abraham a sheep to take the boy’s place. In Morocco, the feast starts with a common prayer being recited in the Msallah outside the town walls. In Rabat, the country’s capital, the King sacrifices the first sheep, a signal for the people to follow his example and start the festivities.
This is the first day of the Islamic year and commemorates the start of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions’ (Sahaba) months-long camelback journey from the Holy City of Mecca to Medina. The Hijra (migration) was undertaken by the Prophet for fear of being killed by the inhabitants of Mecca, the Koraichi, a people cursed by God.
This is the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, a major event in the history of Islam. Women and children dye their hands and feet with Henna and a special semolina and honey dish La Assida is eaten. On the morning of the Feast, His Majesty the King travels to the Msalah outside the city, where all the tribes of the Kingdom come to pledge allegiance to him. Back at the Palace, the Sovereign receives the good wishes of, among others, members of the Royal Family and of the Government, of civil and military officials, and of members of the diplomatic corps stationed in Rabat.
Manifesto of Independence
Celebrated on 11 January, the date on which His Majesty, King Mohammed V presented the Manifesto of Independence, demanding recognition of the independence of Morocco, its territorial integrity and its national sovereignty.
Known as "Eid Al-`Arch" in Arabic and commemorating the accession of Alaouite sovereigns to the throne, this is now celebrated on 30 July, the date His Majesty King Mohammed VI was crowned. During the reign of, His Majesty, King Mohammed V, it was celebrated on 18 November; and in the reign of the late King, His Majesty Hassan II, on 3 March. It is a day when the Royal Palace hosts sumptuous receptions and, when the Kingdom’s cities, towns and villages become brightly lit up scenes of festivity. It is also customary upon this day for His Majesty the King to address the Nation.
Allegiance to Oued Ed-Dahab celebrated on 14 August.
Anniversary of the Revolution
Celebrated on 20, August on this day in 1953, His Majesty King Mohammed V and the Royal Family were exiled to Madagascar, triggering the "Revolution of the King and of the People."
National Youth Day
Celebrated on 21 August, this commemorates the birthday of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI. During the reign of His Majesty, King Hassan II, the event was celebrated on 9 July.
Green March Day
Anniversary of the Green March celebrated on 16 November. In 1975, at the request of the late King, His Majesty Hassan II, around 350,000 volunteers from all over the Kingdom marched south with the aim of re-integrating the former Western Sahara. The King’s initiative ensured recovery of Morocco’s Saharan provinces – well worth celebrating and a source of pride for all Moroccans, past and present.
Independence day, celebrated on 18 November, and commemorating the three days - 16, 17, and 18 November 1956 of His Majesty, King Mohammed V’s return from exile in Corsica and Madagascar. The day is traditionally marked by a Royal Speech, and by a parade of the Royal Armed Forces, watched by enthusiastic crowds chanting: "God, country and King."