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Taking Tea With A Nomad In The Sahara

Interesting Facts about Morocco

Enjoy these 30 interesting facts about Morocco along with observations we made while traveling through the country over a couple of weeks. Even though Morocco is just slightly larger than California, it sure has a lot to offer. The landscapes are incredibly diverse. Culturally it’s eye opening and despite what you might have heard, it’s very safe. The only time John and I got hassled was in the souks of Marrakesh, my least favourite stop on the two week trip. 

Hope you learn a few new things with these fun and interesting facts about Morocco.

A walk back in time in Morocco
A walk back in time in Morocco

Interesting facts about Morocco – many learned from my two week visit

Rabat is the capital of Morocco and home to King Mohammed VI.

Morocco became a country on April 7, 1956 when France officially relinquished Morocco as a protectorate.

The population of Morocco is close to 34 million. According to our guide about 64% of the people are Berbers, the rest Arabs. Our guide referred to Morocco as Arab light in comparison to the Middle East.

Morocco is 99% Muslim. Outside of the big cities you’ll find the women dress traditionally.

Women fully covered and on their way to a wedding carrying sacks of sugar as a gif
Women fully covered and on their way to a wedding carrying sacks of sugar as a gift

There are four Berber languages with Tamazight one of the official languages; three of the languages are very similar and one is as different as English is from French. Arabic is the other official language and French is widely spoken.

One of the interesting facts about Morocco is its geography

Morocco is slightly larger than California. It is bordered by Algeria and Western Sahara though in Morocco it’s referred to as Moroccan Sahara. Mauritania is south of Morocco but does not border the country. There are two Spanish enclaves within Morocco – Cueta and Melilla sharing an 18.5 km border.

Mount Jebel Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains is the highest point in Morocco at 4,165 m. You can climb the peak even in winter. It’s also possible to ski in Morocco. One of the world’s best treks – the High Atlas trek takes you through this range.

You can easily drive across the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh
You can easily drive across the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh
We missed a major dump of snow in the Atlas Mountains by a week
We missed a major dump of snow in the Atlas Mountains by a week

Morocco boasts 1,835 km of coastline, both along the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Many of those kilometres are deserted and wonderful for surfing.

Windsurfing and surfing are popular in the windy city of Essaouira
Windsurfing and surfing are popular in the windy city of Essaouira

Interesting facts about Morocco – the ceremony around tea

Serving and drinking tea is a form of hospitality in Morocco. It’s usually mint tea in the cities from Marrakesh north whereas southern Morocco serves a variety of teas including vervain.

What’s really interesting is the pouring and serving of tea. Tea is poured from a height into a glass, and that glass is immediately emptied back into the teapot. The process is repeated four to five times until a foam appears in the glass.

Although most of Moroccans don’t live in the desert, the habit of getting a good foam remains. If sand blows into your tea  it will be caught in the foam and from there it can be flicked off and you can enjoy a sand free cup of tea.

 Glasses for tea are always short
Glasses for tea are always short
Taking tea with a nomad in the Sahara
Taking tea with a nomad in the Sahara

The oldest hominoid in the world was found in Morocco near Safi.

The rocks of Morocco tell the story beginning over 2.5 billion years ago through to the opening of the Atlantic and the crashing of Africa north into Europe. Morocco at one point was adjacent to Nova Scotia.

Morocco is second in the world for potash production though it is home to 70% of the world’s reserves. You’ll see the production facilities if you drive through Safi.

In the Drâa Valley there are 200 km of date palms. Dates are harvested in October and are one of the main foodstuffs of the nomads. Even the sheep are fed dates. The average date palm tree produces between 100 and 200 pounds of dates in a year.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
The only dates we saw in abundance was in Marrakesh as they are out of season
Walking through the date palms
Walking through the date palms
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
What the dates look like growing on trees

Argan trees can be seen in many parts of Morocco. The oil from the nuts is used for both cosmetic purposes and as oil in the diet.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Argan trees are as prickly as they come
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
The nuts from an Argan tree from which oil is extracted
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Goats clamber up argan trees 8 – 10 m high to eat the leaves and fruit

The around Meknes is a grape growing area for wine production. Keep your expectations in check, especially for the whites.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
One of the white wines I tried in Morocco

Alcohol is served in some but not all hotels and restaurants. It was rare to be able to buy wine by the glass.

Nomads are still very much a presence in Morocco but their movements have been constrained by colonial borders.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Me with a nomad woman living on the edge of the Sahara Desert

Temperatures can reach up to 60°C in summer in both the Sahara desert and in some towns like Commune Oum el Guerdane.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Part of the Commune Oum el Guerdane is deserted – from lack of water. Who’d want to live in 60C?

There are many mountain ranges in the country including the Rif in northern Morocco, the High Atlas, the Anti-Atlas Mountains, the Middle Atlas, the Tell Atlas and Jbel Saghro – an eastern addition to the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Scenery crossing the Anti-Atlas Mountains

A tagine is both a popular cooking vessel found in all sizes all over the country and a savoury stew made up of vegetables, meat, fruits like apricots and prunes as well as spices.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Notice the assorted sizes of tagines

Fruits and vegetables are very reasonably priced – when there’s been enough rain. This year has been a good year. On our trip we probably averaged five mandarins a day.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Buying 3 kg of mandarins at a time

For the most part roads are excellent in Morocco. The further south you travel from Marrakesh the fewer people you’ll find. Once you’re south of the Anti-Atlas Mountains you’ll have the roads to yourself.

Cell service and coverage is excellent.

A Bedouin breakfast most days is fava bean soup with olive oil and bread.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
One of the interesting facts about Morocco is that fava bean soup is the choice of breakfast for  nomads

In Morocco you will only find dromedary camels. They live for about 30 years. A good camel costs between 1200 and 1500 Euros. Someone with 150 camels is considered wealthy.

Alcohol is served in some hotels and restaurants. It was rare to be able to buy wine by the glass.
One of the many camels we saw as we reached the Sahara Desert; this area received rain so the wildflowers were outstanding and both camels and nomads were very happy

Nomads pay attention to what direction the camels lay down before setting up their tents because a camel can sense the direction of wind 50 km away.

A male’s turban is 9 m long and about a metre wide – so it’s quite heavy – one of the more unusual and interesting facts about Morocco.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Our guide showing us how you wrap a turban
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
John trying out the turban – and finding the weight a bit much

Arranged marriages still occur – much to the horror of our guide as his mother recently started the process and doesn’t know about his girlfriend in Marrakesh. Many of his contemporaries are getting caught between the traditional and modern worlds. He says most of them are miserable.

There is evidence everywhere of a harsher time of life when defense from raids and attacks was of paramount importance. You can visit strategically placed granaries, medinas and Kasbahs around the country. You’ll also see a lot of short doors – forcing people to slow down and making it harder to attack people inside their home.

Cell service and coverage is excellent.
My husband is not a fan of short doors but in the old homes you’ll find them for strategic reasons
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
A 800 year old ancient granary also called an agadir perched above Amtoudi
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Ancient beehives in the granary

UNESCO Sites in Morocco

The country is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Ksar of Ait Ben-Haddou, the Medina of Essaouira, the Poruguese city of El Jadida, the Medina of Tétouan, the Medina of Marrakesh, the Medina of Fez, the historic city of Meknes, the archaeological site of Volubilis and the modern capital and historic city combined in Rabat.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
The downside to most UNESCO sites – crowds though we beat most of them at Ait Ben-Haddou
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
Looking towards the Medina in Essaouira
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco
The incredible cistern at El Jadida

Further reading on Morocco

Click on the image below to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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