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30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

I’m just back from a couple of weeks traveling through Morocco. For a country just slightly larger than California it 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 trip. Enjoy this combination of 30 interesting facts we learned and observations we made while in Morocco.

  • 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.
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

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.
  • 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 kilometre border.
  • Mount Jebel Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains is the highest point in Morocco at 4,165 metres. 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.
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

You can easily drive across the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

We missed a major dump of snow in the Atlas Mountains by a week

  • Morocco boasts 1,835 kilometres of coastline, both along the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Many of those kilometres are deserted and wonderful for surfing.
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

Windsurfing and surfing are popular in the windy city of Essaouira

  • 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.
30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

Glasses for tea are always short

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

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 kilometres 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

30 Interesting Facts and Observations about Morocco

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 kgs 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

Without our guide we never would have sampled fava bean soup – the breakfast of 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 kilometres away.
  • A male’s turban is nine metres long and about a metre wide.
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

  • 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

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30 Interesting Facts and Observations about MoroccoLeigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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