Morocco

Morocco – General Information

With an extension of 446,550 km2 Morocco has aprox. 30 million inhabitants. The country’s largest city is Casablanca, with just under 6.5 million inhabitants. The capital is Rabat which, like Casablanca, is also located on the Atlantic coast. Marrakech, in the interior, is without doubt one of the most important cities. Located at the foot of the Atlas mountains, it is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities; it has the largest traditional market in the country and one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world.

 

Customs and Traditions

This is certainly a country of local customs and traditions, mainly of Arab culture but also with African and Mediterranean influences. A deep-rooted custom there is the consumption of tea at all times and it is quite common to share this drink with everybody. Hospitality is expressed in this way to guests and also strangers, who are always welcome in Morocco – and sometimes even invited to dine. It is very important that visitors protect the local culture and also show respect for it’s people’s pride. In markets and shops it is normal to haggle. Prices are not usually marked on items for sale, as haggling is expected by default – this is seen as a common social event that the seller expects. If the price for an item is accepted by a buyer immediately, the seller may get upset and will start haggling his own prices. Ideally, in these cases, the visitor should propose a much lower price until, finally, a compromise is reached to the benefit of both sides. Alcohol consumption is not well seen and it is in bad taste to consume it in public or to walk down the street under it’s influences. Respect is essential to make our visit enjoyable. Before photographing people it is very important always to ask their permission and,  obviously, to respect their privacy and to act with moderation. It is also of great importance to respect the religious and cultural sites, without touching or removing religious objects and never entering mosques; which is not allowed to non-Muslims. Do not give money to children for nothing, this encourages begging and it is not good for the country and its people.

 

Ornithology

Morocco’s great diversity of habitats is reflected in it’s more than 450 listed species of birds. Mountains, coast, forests, valleys, deserts and plains provide Morocco with an ornithological wealth that makes visiting this exotic North African country quite irresistible to the ornithologist.

From Larache to The Khnifiss Lagoon in the south, through Merja Zerga and Souss Massa, the Atlantic coast is endowed with endless coastal wetlands which are authentic havens for migratory and wintering birds; specially waders, gulls, flamingos, storks and herons. From summer to mid-October, Essaouira becomes a true spectacle where a colony of more than 600 breeding pairs of Eleonora’s Falcon can be observed in the islands near the coast. This coastal area is rich in cliffs, being also perfect for the Lanner, Peregrine and Barbary Falcons. Other jewels of the Moroccan coast are the Marsh Owl, Northern Bald Ibis and Black-Crowned Tchagra.

As for the mountains, the ranges of the Rif, the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas endow Morocco with another rich habitat where raptors, such as Bonelli’s and Golden Eagles, are relatively easy to observe. Not so easy, but still possible, will be observing a resident of the Atlas peaks; the Lammergeier. Other species are: Common and Alpine Choughs, Horned and Temminck’s Lark and also Crimson-winged Finch.

In the forests, Levaillant’s Woodpecker is bound to show up and as we move through these habitats we’ll find, in more than one occasion, Moussier’s Redstart, truly a symbolic bird of the country. A thorough exploration of the scrub areas will be necessary to reveal the very elusive Tristram’s Warbler.

Towards the south, leaving behind Atlas and Anti-Atlas, we reach the desert, the great Sahara. Here the landscape is more varied than what might be expected by visitors who don’t know this part of the world. From the Tagdilt track in the Boulmane area to Merzouga and Mhamid, other gems we can expect to find are Desert Sparrow, Desert Warbler, Scrub Warbler, Fulvous Babbler, Hoopoe Lark, Bar-tailed Lark, Desert Lark, Maghreb Wheatear, White-crowned Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, both Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse, Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Brown-necked Raven, Long-legged Buzzard and other desert species.

Finally, if good fortune smiles our way and Merzouga Lagoon has acceptable water levels during our visit, we will be able to see Marbled Duck and Ruddy Shelduck numbering in the hundreds, as well as amazing numbers of waders that benefit here from a gift in the form of an oasis, in the middle of nowhere…

 

Language

The predominant language in the country is Arabic, but French is also fairly widespread as a second option; so a basic knowledge of French is always welcome. Depending on the area we will also find people with knowledge of English, Spanish and even German – specially the Berbers in the south and in the Atlas.

 

Currency

The currency of Morocco is the Dirham (DH). One euro equals approximately 11 DH, but this rate is subject to variation depending on when one visits the country. There are several ways to obtain the local currency: it can be ordered in a bank in the country of origin before travelling to Morocco or one can exchange upon arrival in Morocco; at the airport, port or at any bank that offers currency exchange. This last option is the most advantageous from an economical point of view, because the commissions will be lower than if you exchange in another country, although it has the disadvantage of being quite time consuming. The use of cash-points is another possibility that is also widely used and quite beneficial. Here one also gets a good exchange rate although, depending on the type of card, one will have to pay a commission to the bank. It is important to bear in mind that in the majority of establishments in Morocco credit cards are not accepted for payments, so we recommend credit cards only for use at cash-points.

 

Other relevant information

- Passport

For stays of less than 3 months a visa is not necessary, but it is essential to have a valid passport to enter the country.

- Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is very important. The visitor must have complete coverage for health-care and repatriation in case of serious medical emergencies….

- Customs

Before entering the country, the visitor must complete a declaration with personal data such as name, address, passport and profession. Generally you cannot import or export Moroccan currency but other currencies can be introduced into the country. There are no restrictions for cameras, binoculars and telescopes. One carton of cigarettes, one bottle of liquor and a bottle of wine per adult is allowed into the country.

- Health

No specific vaccinations are required to enter the country, although there are some recommendations. These include cholera, tetanus, polio and typhoid. Although unusual, sometimes minor problems of gastroenteritis can occur, usually due to the change of diet. It is advisable to be prepared with some form of medication that will counteract the effects of this type of problem. Normally, in the cities, there are always good hospitals and clinics but in rural towns the medical services are not so complete. As already stated above, before travelling to this country it is important to make sure you have a good health insurance that includes repatriation in case of serious illness or accident.

- Clothing

Visitors should not overdo the amount of clothing they travel with. Depending on the areas to visit, requirements will vary so, in general; we’ll use light clothing, good walking boots or sports-shoes, a hat, sunglasses and a jacket for the evenings. A warmer jacket or coat can be interesting if you are visiting the mountains, and a bathing suit should not be left at home if your trip includes the coast. The temperature in the Atlas area in spring and autumn is very soft; bellow 30ºC (86ºF) during daylight and a minimum of 9ºC (48ºF) at night.

- Equipment

Depending on personal interests this can vary widely but in any case a camera, binoculars and a bird guide are a minimum essential. For this country we recommended the Collins Bird Guide (Svensson, Mullarney, Zetterström and Grant) as it includes all the birds of the region.

 

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