Morocco is just one of those countries that you have to see – it’s a true mish-mash of everything that is great about Africa and Europe. Located in the northwest corner of Africa, Morocco has long formed part of the trade routes between North Africa and its European neighbours located just across the Straits of Gibraltar. As you plan your next adventure to Morocco, we thought it would be fun to pass on some interesting (and sometimes wacky) facts about Morocco to give you the low-down on this incredible country.
History & Culture
Morocco has been controlled by several different groups over the centuries, from the Spanish to the French and of course the most lasting influence is that of the Islamic culture. Today Morocco is a multi-ethnic country where you’ll find Berber tribes still living in the remote regions and a melting pot of cultures in the larger cities and coastal towns. The official languages are Arabic and French although Spanish is also widely spoken and English is understood in most cities and places of business.
As Morocco is a country that has been influenced by several world cultures, the type of cuisine that you’ll find here is again quite an interesting mixture of textures and flavours. It has been heavily influenced by both Arabic and Berber traditions and will commonly feature various spices and herbs like saffron, turmeric, cumin, coriander and mint. The main dish that we all associate with Morocco of course is a couscous dish, usually served with beef, lamb or chicken. Some of our favourite dishes to try while on holiday in Morocco include Pastilla and Tajine which we’d recommend trying while you’re out there on holiday.
Morocco’s best known beverage is Mint Tea, usually accompanied by heaps and heaps of sugar! When it comes to alcohol, Morocco is reasonably lenient over the sale and consumption of alcohol. You’ll find many hotels, cafes and restaurants that will sell alcohol though so if you’re like me and you enjoy a glass of wine or two with your dinner then you’ll be absolutely fine.
Morocco once was home to elephants and lions. Although these majestic animals no longer inhabit the country, the Barbary Lion is still known as the country’s national animal. These lions are unfortunately extinct in the wild, but are thought to be the largest and heaviest of lions. Unlike most species of lion, these lions tended to live either in pairs or otherwise a solitary life. These days you’re more likely to find that camels, monkeys, snakes, goats, and various antelope are the animals most prevalent in the country. In fact, there is one particularly wacky fact to know about goats in Morocco – they climb trees! Their personal choice of tree is generally the Argan tree, which they climb in search of food to eat.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (and other celebrities)
Essaouira is a laid back coastal town which has a major focus on its fishing industry as well as tourism. It has a hippy reputation and Jimi Hendrix has to be the town’s best known icon. Many myths have arisen over the icon’s visit to the town and you’ll find his image and musical influence all over town. Other famous visitors to Essaouira’s shores include the director and actor Orson Welles as well as Cat Stevens and the Rolling Stones. If you’re particularly interested in music and musical culture then don’t miss out on this gem of a town.
When travelling through Morocco you’re more than likely to drive through the city of Ouarzazate. You’ll notice a lot of references to film here including the popular cinema museum. Ouarzazate is Morocco’s film capital with its film studios and surrounding area which is often used as sets in movies. Movies that have been shot or made here include Lawrence of Arabia, Babel, Hanna, What a Girl Wants as well as the James Bond film, The Living Daylights. Other foreign movies that have been filmed in Morocco include the Mummy, Gladiator, The Bourne Ultimatum and Orson Welles’ Othello.
If you’ve got time to explore further than Marrakesh, the desert and the seaside, why not visit Tafraoute and the Ameln valley. The countryside is incredible and there’s plenty of walking to be done. Close to Tafraoute you’ll find brightly painted rocks in the middle of nowhere! This controversial piece of art was the work of the Belgian artist Jean Verame in 1984.
There is a town in Morocco best known as the Blue City called Chefchaouen. Most, if not all, houses and buildings in this town are painted a shade of blue. One of the most attractive features about Moroccan towns for me are the doors, wandering through the Medinas and ’I’m constantly stopping to take an artsy snap of a door or a window frame. The brightly coloured fishing boats in Essaouira also feature heavily in my holiday snaps every time I return from Morocco.
Skiing in Morocco
When you think of Morocco you will most likely think of souks, desert, camels, Bedouin tents and mint tea. The last thing that comes to mind is a ski resort! Oukaimeden is Africa’s highest ski resort as its chairlift rises to 3,258m. The resort has a number of different runs to choose from depending on how adventurous you’re feeling. I think the quirkiest feature of this ski resort is that you get to ride a donkey between the lifts instead of the typical European shuttle buses!