Whether you are traveling to Marrakech, Casablanca or another Moroccan city, there are a few things you should do to make the most of your time in Morocco.
Morocco has a wealth of activities, sights and cities for the adventurous travel to explore from hiking in lush river canyons to exploring the ancient cities.
When I talk to people about their desire to visit Morocco, and they tell me of the places they’d like to go, they usually name the big cities; Marrakech, Fez, Casablanca, Tangier, etc.
There’s no denying that major Moroccan cities, particularly the medinas of these cities are certainly not to be missed when making the voyage to this country in Northwestern Africa. In fact, both the medinas in Marrakech and Fez are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Whatever cities you prefer to explore – and we have our personal thoughts and experiences on how they’re different and better for some people versus others – there are several things you can, and should, do in any of them.
1. Explore the Medina
Medinas are arguably the life pulse of Moroccan cities.
A medina is an ancient part of a city that was built to keep out invading armies. In the medinas around Morocco, you’ll find winding streets, narrow alleyways, market places and ancient historical buildings like mosques and universities.
While exploring the medinas, allow yourself get lost. Truly lost. Don’t rely on your phones (hint: they don’t work well if at all in Medinas). Talk to locals to find your way around. See what you can discover when you’re open to what the universe has to offer.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Walking through the medina, it is likely that most vendors will try to sell to you by offering you to enter their shop. They are consistent, and if you spend lots of time in the medinas you might feel like you can’t walk anywhere without getting “hassled”. If you’re familiar with traveling to “less developed” countries, you know this is the norm. For those of you who are perhaps new to traveling to more remote and adventurous places, do not get annoyed at vendor persistence. Remember, this is their way to make a living. So please, always remain kind and polite.
2. Get a Hammam
Indulging in a Moroccan hammam was one of my absolute favorite experiences in Morocco. Though not expensive, you will feel absolutely pampered from head to toe! A hammam is a traditional bath that's both a cleansing and cultural experience, and involves being washed with sabon beldi, a black olive oil soap, and scrubbed with rhassoul clay from the Atlas Mountains.
3. Admire the Islamic Architecture
The architecture in Morocco is stunning and diverse. Morocco was not always an Islamic country, the first state of Morocco was ruled by the Berbers and dates back to 110BCE, so many structures around the country will reflect the Berber heritage with mud, rectangular structures. However, the first Islamic influence came in the 8th century when Morocco was ruled by the Idrisid Dynasty.
A good place to admire Islamic architecture is at a university or mosque, such as the University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez which opened its’ doors in 859, making this the oldest university still in operation in the world.
4. Try Local Food
A good rule of thumb while traveling anywhere! Trying local food will both literally and figuratively give you a taste of the countries' culture, history, and traditions while simultaneously providing you with the freshest (locally sourced) foods when compared to imported foods.
When in Morocco make sure to try tajine or couscous which are staples all around Morocco. Additionally, notice your surroundings. What are you seeing everywhere? What’s being sold at the tiny stands on the side of the road, or in the streets of the medinas? Try that.
Note: Recommending street food comes with certain precautions, and this isn’t just for Morocco. No matter where I travel, I always bring a first aid kit for the, you know… just in case. And I mean everywhere I travel. My first food poisoning experience happened at a pretty posh restaurant in Paris, conversely I didn’t get food poisoning eating corn out an iffy looking stove that was actually a repurposed trash can – also in Paris that same trip. So you never know! I’m a believer that the possibility of something bad happening shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and trying something new! Just use you’re best judgement.
5. Have Mint Tea with the Locals
Mint tea is very intertwined with Moroccan culture. Upon arriving in the country, practically everywhere you will be offered mint tea. It is served at every restaurant or stand, and sometimes is the only beverage offered.
Mint tea is boiling water, fresh mint and lots of sugar. It’s delicious, and served hot because drinking hot beverages actually helps you feel cool. Sometimes they’ll ask how much sugar, other times you might have to ask for less sugar if you prefer it that way, but try it first as it!
Many times during my trip, vendors and local families invited me into their home for tea. And several times I agreed and went into their home for a chat over a cup of tea. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about their lives, family, culture, thoughts about the world, etc. Mostly my conversations were in broken English, or in a mix of English, French and Spanish.
Note: Always practice safety and your best judgment when entering the homes of strangers. But also know that mostly people are good, and not out to harm you. Again, be open to opportunities that the universe presents to you but always remember: listen to your intuition to see if it feels right.
6. Go to a Tannery
Morocco is known for their leather goods; purses, iconic poufs (you know the ones that were splashed over the covers of interior design magazines and websites over the last few years), belts, shoes, etc.
At a tannery, they will take you through a brief tour of the dying, stretching and shaping process. I hope they provide you with a “Moroccan gas mask” aka mint! It’s very necessary!
The best cities for leather are Fez and Marrakesh. However, other major cities like Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier will have tanneries and shops for purchasing the great quality pieces.
7. Buy Something Authentic
It’s my belief that souvenirs should not be bought from a "souvenir store'. It doesn’t have to say “Morocco” on it for it to remind you of your trip to Morocco. After all the word souvenir comes from the French word “souvenir” meaning “to remember”. So as long as the item is something you love, it will remind you of your trip.
Ideas for souvenirs for yourself, friends and family to buy in Morocco:
- Rhassoul clay
- Rose water
- Tea set
- Argan oil
8. Stay in a Riad
A wonderful part of staying in any Moroccan city, is the opportunity to stay at a Riad or Dar. A Riad or Dar is a traditional Moroccan house or palace, often several stories with each bedroom offering views of the central courtyard, and often includes multiple terraces to relax. These accommodations offer guests a tranquil getaway from the often chaotic nature of the medina.
9. Dress Modestly
Morocco is a Muslim country and therefore when traveling to their country, you should respect their customs. So cover up - at least your shoulders and most of your legs. You don’t have to completely cover head to toe, just avoid shorts above the knee and tank tops.
I know, I know, it can be a fine line, the balance between dressing modestly and being cool and comfortable, but I genuinely believe that when traveling we should respect other cultures and traditions.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Always travel with at least one multi-purpose scarf that can be used for warmth, a pillow, a picnic or beach blanket, to cover in religious buildings like churches, temples, mosques, etc. As a traveler in Morocco, you do not need to cover your head in public. Note that all religious establishments are different and to check with individual ones before you go, as some might require full dress.
10. Be Open Minded
This is probably the most important thing to remember when you’re in Morocco (or any country!) is that you’re most likely in a different country - this comes with the mesmerizing, and the strange or uncomfortable. At times, you’ll be out of your comfort zone, but that could be a beautiful opportunity to learn and grow as an individual.
Try to take a step back from what you believe is “right” or “normal” and be open to the experiences that lay ahead of you. You might see a camel head for sale at a vendor stall in a market, or a public toilet with no seat and only divots for your feet in the ground, or something else that might shock you. That’s okay, take notice but try to practice non-judgment.
Note: Most all hostels and restaurants have sit-down toilets. And camel is not a common dish I saw on any menu.
Morocco is an exhilarating country with so much to discover. Ready to see Morocco for yourself?