|Moroccan Tourist Board
205 Regent Street London W1R 7DE
Tel: 0171 437 00 73 Fax: 0171 734 8172
WATA - TOURISME MAROCAIN, CASABLANCA
Physical geographyGeographically located at the northwestern tip of Africa, Morocco displays the following three important characteristics: it is an Atlantic, Mediterranean and North African country. The great axes of the relief are so conspicuous that different areas easily stand out.
Morocco is linked to Europe from which it is barely separated by the Gibraltar Strait, through the Rif a Southern mountain range of Alpine system. This crescent-shaped mountain range is composed of several massifs whose altitude does not exceed 2,452 metres.
The Grand Atlas, which overlooks Marrakech from its 4,165 meters of Djebel Toubkal, is a ridge with summits frequently reaching over 3,500 metres. The Middle Atlas is a slightly lower, but more wooded range. It is called the water tower of Morocco because of the heavy rainfall it receives. The AntiAtlas reaches over 2,612 metres at Djebel Akin and its southwestern location shoulders the Grand Atlas.
Between these mountain ranges huge plains and plateaux outstretch. The Atlantic Morocco stretches between the Rif and the Grand Atlas. It is a region of large cereal production, vineyards, citrus, market garden produce on the coast and rice fields in the Gharb plains.
South of the great ridge of the Atlas which retains oceanic rains, a Morocco of palm groves and oases reaches the desert. Lands fit for use occupy only half of the country. They are equally divided into farming lands, pasture and one third includes woods, forests and Alfa-lands.
The ground is rich in minerals with large phosphate reserves, lead, manganese, iron and cobalt.
The Mediterranean coast: it stretches along 486km, facing shores. Abruptly it is cut by beautiful bays. The Atlantic coast: this stretches along 2,500km where huge sand beaches spread between the cliffs.
The Sahara: a vast desert area where luminary sites and golden sand dunes form breathtaking landscapes.
ClimateAlthough it is famous for its warm weather, Morocco offers a temperate climate most of the year. On the coast, the sea breeze prevents great summer heat. In winter the average temperature never goes below ten degrees (Celsius) and there is hardly ever any frost. Inland, the climate is continental, hotter in the summer and colder in the winter - the range being wider between diurnal and nocturnal temperatures. Rainfall is irregular and diminishes progressively from the north to the south and from the west to the east. Tangier: 833mm - Rabat: 445mm and Agadir: 225mm. Snow falls in winter in altitudes over 1,600 metres and lasts six to nine months in heights over 2,000 metres.
Economic geographyMorocco is one of the world's main exporters of phosphates and minerals and its derivatives have accounted for 25 to 30 per cent of exports in recent years. However, the mineral sector accounts for just three per cent of total GDP.
Manufacturing, which currently accounts for around 17 per cent of GDP, is a particular target for development, especially in the food processing and textile industries. The textile industry was one of the main factors in the expected industrial growth of the 1980s and some 85 per cent of production is exported. Around 90 per cent of this amount goes to the EU, which has been applying flexible import quotas.
Tourism was embarked on as a priority sector in the 1981/95 five-year plan and by 1990 receipts had quadrupled to $1.3 billion, equivalent to one third of the country's goods exports. After a temporary decline as a result of the Gulf crisis in 1990, tourism revenues returned to an average $1.3 billion in 1992/93. The number of foreign visitors reached three million in 1993.
A brief historyIslam: The first Arab expedition led by Oqba Ben Nafi in 680 was very fast. The second one, more final, was the work of Moussa Ben Nosair (703-711).
The Idrissides - 788-974: First Muslim dynasty. Its sovereign was Idriss I, a political refugee from Arabia. He settled in Morocco and founded Fez.
The Almoravids - 1055-1147: The first Berber dynasty. Its sovereign was Youssef Ben Tachfine who founded the city of Marrakech and then took hold of the northern part of Morocco. He entered Spain and imposed his authority on the principalities of the Muslim princes who were allied to the Spanish people.
The Almohades: 'The Unifying Dynasty'- 1147-1268: The Almohades were Berbers. Ibn Toumert played the role of reformer of the morals and preached the war against the Almoravides. His successor, Abdel Moumen, founded the greatest Moslem empire that ever existed in western Africa. Yacoub El Mansour, Abdel Moumen's successor, proclaimed himself Sultan of Sevilla. We owe important architectural works to him such as the Koutoubia in Marrakech, Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Sevilla.
The Merinids - 1269-1465: They established the borders of Morocco. They conquered several Spanish cities, proclaimed themselves protectors of letters and the arts and beautified all the main cities of the kingdom.
The saadis -1549-1654: In the 15th and 16th centuries the Islamic doctrine deeply affected the populace. This religious sentiment was in contrast with the Christians who had settled along the coasts of Morocco. The Sultan Ahmed El Mansour organised an expedition to Sudan and brought back great wealth from Timbuktu: gold and slaves. His capital, Marrakech, was endowed with important constructions and Morocco knew unprecedented prosperity.
The Alaoui Dynasty: Presently reigning. The Alaouis succeeded the Saadis towards the middle of the 17th century. The first Alaouite, Moulay Rachid, captured the north of Morocco and made Fez his capital. His successor, Moulay Ismail, a contemporary of Louis XVI, managed after a long reign to pacify and subdue Morocco. He extended his authority to the Berbers and successfully fought the Turks in Algeria. He managed to occupy Tangier which the English had just left and to take back Mehdia and Larache from Spain. He made Meknes his capital. Several Alaoui sovereigns succeeded Moulay Ismail. 1792-1822: Moulay Soulaiman reinforced the dynasty.
1822-1859: Moulay Abderrahman conquers Tlemcen and helps Algerians flight the French
1873-1894: Moulay Hassan reorganises the artillery and thanks to the Mekhzen troops defends the areas which could provide an easy way inside his country.
1906: The sultan Abdelaziz signs the Algesiras Act which states economic equality of foreign countries in Morocco.
1912: Moulay Hafid signs the protectorate treaty with France, then with Spain.
1956: Mohamed V gives Morocco its independence
1961: The royal prince is enthroned under the name of Hassan II
1975: Morocco regains control of the Sahara which was under Spanish control.
DemographyThe population is estimated at 28 million including Moroccan residents abroad, of which 50 per cent are under 20 years old and 70 per cent under 30.
ReligionMoroccan Moslems belong to the malekite creed, one of the four orthodox creeds of Islam. The religion is based upon the Koran the book dictated by Allah (God) to the prophet Mohamed and the Hadith (the prophet's teaching). The word 'Islam' means submission to Allah.
Moslems are monotheistic. The very fact is according to them what radically distinguishes Islam from all other religions. You become a member of the community of Moslem believers once you utter the profession of testimony of the fact that "there is no god other than Allah, and Mohamed is his prophet". The four obligations imposed on the congregation in addition to the profession of faith are: prayer, fasting, alms giving and pilgrimage.
Languages spoken by nationalsArabic is the official language. The three Berber dialects are spoken in the mountainous regions and in the Souss. French is widespread, whereas Spanish is used only in the northern areas of Morocco. English is spoken in touristic locations.
TimeGMT plus one hour in summer months and GMT in the winter months.
CurrencyThe Moroccan currency is the Dirham (DH) divided into 100 centimes. There are 10, 50, 100 and 200Dh notes and one, five, 10Dh coins, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centime coins.
Official and religious holidays1 January: New Year's day - 11 January: Manifesto of Independence - 3 March: Feast of the Throne - 1 May: Labour day - 23 May: National Feast - 9 July: H.M Hassan II's birthday - 14 August: Allegiance of Oued Ed-Dahab - 6 November: Green March anniversary - 18 November: Independence day - February: Ad Al Fitr - April: Aid Al Adha - 9 May: Muslim new year - 19 July: Prophet Mohamed's birthday.
The Islamic year (Hijra) is based on 12 lunar months. Each year is ten to 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar.
What one should not fall to seeThe Imperial Cities: Leaving from Casablanca, Rabat or Marrakech, discover the four cities which successively became the Moroccan capital: Fes, Marrakech, Rabat, Meknes.
The Fortifed Towns: Leaving from Casablanca, Rabat or Tangier, the Atlantic coastline is a succession of fortified towns, in most cases the work of the Portuguese, each one of them marking a memorable stage in your journey: Asilah, Larache, Azzemour, El Jadida, Safi and Essaouira.
Agadir and the Souss: Those who love holidays by the sea will find a sublime beach of fine sand 10kms long at Agadir, with first rate hotels and all the sports facilities and night-time entertainment that go to make up a perfect holiday. Plus there is the opportunity to take exceptional excursions into the hinterland: Taroudant, Tafraoute, Tiznit, Tata and Guelmim.
Tangier, The Mediterranean coasts and the Rif mountains: Standing between two continents and two seas, Tangier is the gateway to Morocco - for a discovery of the entire Mediterranean coast: Cabo Negro, al Hoceima and on the mysterious Rif mountains.
The Kasbah Trail: Leave from Ouazazate or Errachidia to discover the Moroccan deep south: Burning sands and snowy peaks, plunging canyons and refreshing oases along the Draa, Dades and Ziz Wadis, and everywhere the sumptuous Kasbahs, fairytale cities built of earth.
The Atlas Mountains: There are mountains everywhere in Morocco. Sumptuous landscapes, incredible waterfalls for the latitudes, impressive gorges and summits over 4,000m high, inviting you to get to know them in a thousand different ways: hiking, on skis, on the back of a mule, a horse or a camel, on cross-country bikes or in a four-wheel drive, in rafts or canoes, or by soaring above them on a hand-glider or parachute glider.
Main holiday sportsThe warm waters of the Mediterranean, the magnificent Atlantic breakers, sleepy lakes, captivating wadis and raging torrents - Morocco offers a wide range of water sports: surfing, windsurfng, rafting, yachting, canoeing, rowing and fishing. On dry land there is much to do: golf, tennis, riding, hiking, camel or mule trekking, archery, hunting, skiing or hand gliding.
Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touringMay-September for beach holidays. November-April, Morocco is a year round destination, ideal for escaping the Northern winter.
How to dressWith over 300 days of sunshine every year, light, casual clothing is ideal and you'll find beachwear is the same as anywhere in the world A brief look at the temperature chart will give you a clear idea of what's needed for your wardrobe, although you'd be wise to include something a little warmer for the cool of the winter evenings or if you're travelling in the mountains.
Main holiday sportsA wonderful climate and diverse opportunities make Morocco a paradise for sport enthusiasts who can practise the following: trekking, golfing, surfing, horseriding, camel trekking, hunting, etc.
What to eat and drinkMoroccan cuisine is a delight. Perhaps the best recommendation is that the internationally renowned food writers regularly visit Morocco to sample the marvellous fare. Dishes to look for on Moroccan menus are: Harrira - Bastilla - Couscous - Tajine - Mshoui - roast chicken - Cornes de Gazelle, etc... Many restaurants and hotels reflect a more international taste with the French influence of the fore, as well as Spanish, Italian and even Chinese being available in the main centres.
What to buySouks proliferate, and in larger towns form a labyrinthine quarter of the city, filling the narrow streets with competing vendors. Traditional crafts are worth seeking out; hand-made Moroccan carpets renowned the world over, wooden marquetry fashioned from aromatic cedar wood, and silver, which is best bought in the south, leather goods where the highest quality articles cost a fraction of their European counterparts.
Frontier formalitiesNationals from the following countries do not require a visa to enter Morocco:
Andorra - Argentina - Australia - Austria - Bahrain - Belgium - Brazil - Canada - Chile - Congo - Denmark - Experts of the United Nations (except Israelis) - Finland - France - Germany - Great Britain - Greece - Holland - Iceland - Ireland - Italy - Ivory Coast - Japan - Libya - Liechtenstein - Luxembourg - Mali - Malta - Mexico - Monaco - New Zealand - Niger - Norway - Oman - Peru - Philippines - Puerto Rico - Portugal - Qatar - Romania - Saudi Arabia - Senegal - South Korea - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - Tunisia - Turkey - United Arab Emirates - Venezuela.
List of countries requiring a visa with a clearance from MoroccoAlgeria - Angola - Benin - Burundi - Ethiopia - Ex Yugoslavia - Guinea Bissau - Iraq - Iran - Jordan - Lebanon - Madagascar - Malawi - Mozambique - North Korea - Palestine - Rwanda - Sudan - Syria - South Yemen - Togo - Zimbabwe - Holders of a travel document.