Morocco is an amazing country. We may be a bit bias due to the world-class waves you can find up and down its coasts, but Morocco is a country that is simply dripping with culture and enough things to see and do that you might even need a trip without your board to fit it all in full. Here we are going to take a look at everything there is to do out of the water, for when the waves are flat, or just when you’re surfed out!
Morocco truly is a melting pot, in all aspects of its identity. Developing over many centuries, modern-day Morocco is an enchanting mix of Berber, Arab, Mediterranean, African and Jewish influences and traditions, this mix is what gives the country its unique identity.
Morocco is a predominantly Muslim country, around 90% of the population following Islam. Many of this 90% follow the Sunni branch of Islam, however, there is a large number of those who follow various Sufi ideals. Morocco is considered one of the more liberal and progressive Islamic countries, the local people, many of which do not speak any English, are also regarded as some of the most hospitable and welcoming you will find. With that in mind it is important not to behave in any way that may cause accidental offence, here are a couple of key areas to be aware of:
Do not Disrespect Islam or the Monarchy:
Many Moroccans will be happy to discuss their religion and country, but try and keep your conversation to facts instead of voicing your (possibly controversial) opinions. It is also worth noting that the lèse–majesté, does actually make mocking or generally speaking badly of the King illegal.
Keep Beachwear to the Beach:
Morocco is still a fairly conservative country, particularly in standards of dress, bikinis and boardies are fine on the beach but make sure to cover up when you head off into town or out for dinner.
With so many influences, Moroccan food (and particularly street food) is highly regarded as some of the best in the world. Much like its architecture, cultures, and landscapes, Morocco’s gastronomic delights vary depending on the region or city you are in.
Fez (Fes el Bali)
The city of Fez can split travellers opinions, some will instantly fall in love with its traditional charm, while others may be overwhelmed by the nameless labyrinth of narrow alleys that a quarter of a million people call home.
Start your day in Fez with a warm bowl of Bissara, a rich and creamy soup made from split broad beans and served with freshly baked bread. Or sink your teeth into a Msimen, a Moroccan grilled pancake stuffed with tomato, olives and onion all covered in soft cream cheese. The perfect pre-surf breakfast to keep you full until your next post-surf snack.
The city of Fez is also renowned for its signature dish Pastilla. Often reserved for a special occasion, Pastilla is a mix made of pigeon and almonds, seasoned with a variety of spices including saffron and cinnamon, the sweet and savoury mix is then wrapped in layers flakey pastry and of course, washed down with a mint tea.
Tanjia is another Moroccan speciality found in Marrakech, traditionally prepared by men (or your local butcher) the meat (beef, lamb or chicken), a blend of spices and preserved lemon are all mixed in the Tanjia pot, covered and left to slow cook over the hot coals of the local hammams.
With so much of Morocco being based on the coast, it’s no surprise that you can also find some amazing and unique seafood dishes.
In the harbour city of Essaouira fresh sardines are as common as tinned and used in a variety of dishes. Freshly grilled on the BBQ, eaten al fresco and served with a tomato, onion and pepper salad, or even in a classic Moroccan tagine. And of course, you can’t talk about Moroccan cuisine without mentioning the couscous and tagines that Morocco is famous for.
Souks are as much a part of Morocco as the camels or the call to prayer. Every major town or city has at least one souk, and many have more than one over various parts of the city. A real must-do Moroccan experience and the perfect place to pick up your surf holiday souvenirs, selling everything from traditional clothes to shisha pipes, lamps and street food the sights, sounds and smells of the souks really are an enchanting experience for your senses.
Don’t Forget to Haggle!! While the prices may seem reasonable to most tourists from Europe, haggling is as much as part of the souks as the exotic colours and smells. Prices are generally inflated to start and while there are no real rules as to how to negotiate, just get stuck in and grab that bargain present for those you left off the surf trip.
With influences from all over the world it’s no surprise that it has its own rich history of art and music, however in recent years the movement has received a lot more eyes and ears and with festivals like Jidar Toiles des Rue festival, Marrakech Popular Arts Festival popping up.
Jidar Toiles des Rue festival
The Jidar Toiles des Rue festival (Canvas of the Streets festival) held its inaugural annual event in Rabat in 2016, the international festival featured artist from all over the world including Germany, Colombia, Mexico and Morocco. The urban arts festival created 12 new murals spread out over the city, including one stand-out design by Antonyo Marest, who work with 6 local Moroccan artists to turn the entire Rabat skatepark into its own rip-able mural.
For a real present-day Moroccan experience away from the surf take a walk around Rabad and explore the incredibly bright, unmistakably-Moroccan, and refreshingly forward-thinking murals and street art that is starting to take over the city.
For bonus points see if you can spot all 20 of French street artists ‘Invader’s mosaics scattered around the streets of Rabat.