Things to know before traveling to Morocco
Traveling is a hard process when lacking knowledge. As a traveller, getting introduced to the different cultures of different countries might be acquired the hard way if you don't go there prepared, and as a result, you may face troubles that might lessen the joy of your trip. Morocco is a destination of a lot of tourists and travellers that like to go through the Sahara Desert experience. But before going there, here are some advice to help you have your experience fully.
To start with, when you fly in to Morocco, don't expect to get through customs quickly, as you will be given a tourist number on your passport that will help you register in the hotel, along with other things. Moreover, don't think you can check in the airport online, you probably have to check in at the airport, so be careful to keep that in mind.
There are lots of mosques in Morocco, so as a tourist, you can't just go into any mosque any time you like. Luckily, some mosques make special guided tours for tourists. For example, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. This huge mosque, makes tours in it for non-Muslim tourists, so you can get introduced to the largest mosque in Africa and to Muslims’ worshipping place from Muslims themselves. Another thing to keep in mind, as an Islamic country, Friday is the holy day in Morocco. Therefore, don't expect that this day is as busy as any other day of the week. Don't be surprised if most of the shops are closed or working for shorter hours during that day, but don't worry, you would still have a great experience.
When at the Souk and medina, make sure to bargain on the prices of the products you buy. It's all about that. It's not as people try to scam you, it's just how things work in Casablanca, Morocco. From the first price sellers give you, pay between 25-50% less. Don't forget to bargain with the taxi driver too before you get in. But still, don't think you can bargain and negotiate the price of everything and everywhere, as you can't negotiate prices at big stores or restaurants.
Credit cards are not preferred among small shops in morocco, even if they have a sign that says they accept it. As a result, you must have cash with you, specially small bills or coins as you are going to be tipping people all the time. Don't expect people to have change, whether small shops or taxis. You will hear 'Oh! no change, sorry can't help', sometimes it's true and sometimes not, but anyways, you would be paying more money because of that.
Another advice is not to drink from the tap water, instead, it's better for you to drink bottled water. So make sure to buy enough bottles of water to hold with you while wandering in the streets of Casablanca. Furthermore, don't forget to bring toilet paper with you when you are outside the hotel as most public toilets don't have toilet paper in them. So, it's better to be prepared rather not.
As a tourist, it might be a little hard to wander in the streets of Casablanca without a guide, and if you do, don't freak out when you get lost. Bring your map and GPS and try to find your way, you can ask shop owners and they will help you get your way. Another advice is not to pet the stray cats, there are tons of them here, and if you do, then get ready to be surrounded by them and having them following you in the streets of Morocco.
You must be careful when dealing with people. Don't trust that everyone who tries to help you is really trying to help you. They might be really sincere about it, but keep your eyes open when that happens, because after all, everyone is looking for his own benefit. Moreover, when in medina and want to buy some organ oil or saffron, be careful not to be cheated. The oils in the cheated organ oil get separated when frozen, while the real one doesn't, and cheated saffron water turns red, while the real one's water turns gold, as red is but the color they add to it to cheat you.
There are some cultural differences that you should consider when in Morocco. People here take off their shoes outside their homes and others homes. It's part of the culture here, so it would be better to respect it and do that. Moreover, don't just take pictures of people in the streets and shops, you should ask them if it's ok or not. As not all people like their pictures to be taken.
You must have heard of Tagine. Whenever Moroccan food is mentioned, all minds goes to tagine. This dish is well known in Morocco, but don't think that tagine is one dish. Actually, tagine is the pot they use to cook, but they put many different ingredients in it, from chicken to meat and vegetables. If you are vegetarian, you will find some great dishes of tagines to eat as main meals in Morocco, so don't worry about that, and be sure you will be satisfied.
Morocco is a huge country, so don't think that you can go around it in just one visit, it is better to focus on two cities or regions rather than the whole country, because if you don't do so, then you will spend most of your time in trains or cars. Moreover, a lot of tourists have a mistaken idea of Morocco. They think they will see the Sahara Desert the minute they step in Morocco, but that's not true. It might be far from where you are, and when some guides talk about giving you the Sahara tour, they might be talking about riding the camel or going to the mountains and not going to the Sahara Desert, so don't get disappointed if that happens.
Traveling to Morocco is a great experience for those who would like to spend a joyful time with new experiences without busting their budget, but going there prepared might be the difference between having a good vacation or a perfect one.
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