Just three hours from the UK but offering an experience that far exceeds its proximity to Europe, Morocco is a country of the exotic, from its rolling desert dunes and lush oases to its bustling markets fragrant with towering piles of spices and steaming tajines.
Morocco is one of our favourite countries: its welcoming people, short flight time and vastly different culture to our own makes it an adventure that can be undertaken in a long weekend or a grand voyage around its coasts, canyons and cities. We love a statistic at Explore, so here we’ve broken down Morocco into some top facts to inspire your next trip.
Morocco is just 8 miles from Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow body of water which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.
Fes’ labyrinthine medina is made up of around 10,000 alley ways that are too narrow for cars, where small artisan shops sell everything from food to furniture from the side of the road. Mules or small chariots are used to transport wares around the medina; keep an ear out for the cry of “Balek!”, which roughly translates as “Get out of the way!”.
The traditional Moroccan tajine dates back to the 9th
century, and is named after the terracotta pot it is cooked in. Like curry in India, the recipe varies depending on the region. The basic recipe is a slow-cooked savoury stew, often served with stoned fruits, boiled eggs or almonds.
The Atlas Mountains are the highest peaks in North Africa, extending some 2,500km across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The highest peak is located in Morocco at a height of 4,167 metres and is called Mount Toubkal; it’s a popular trekking route in both summer and winter and can be easily climbed in a long weekend
. The foothills of the Atlas Mountains are inhabited by Berber villages.
33 million people
Around 33,986,655 million people call Morocco home (July 2017), a major increase when compared to just eight million people after the country’s independence from France in 1956, following a violent battle.
Our longest trip around Morocco lasts for 20 days, taking visitors on a grand tour
of the country’s magnificent mountains, chaotic markets and labyrinthine medinas. Spend three weeks exploring the ‘red city’ of Marrakech, the undulating dunes of the Sahara Desert; the craggy peaks of the Atlas mountains and the Imperial cities of Fes and Rabat. Time on the beach in Essaouira provides time to relax.
446,550 sq km
Morocco is deceptively large, stretching over 446,550 sq km. When incorporating the desert dunes of Western Sahara too its area stretches to some 722,550 sq km; slightly smaller than France, and a little larger than California.
This is the time at which Djemaa el-Fnaa begins its spell-binding transformation from market square to dinner theatre. During the day, the open space is taken up by snake charmers, medicine men and portable stalls, but as dusk falls the fun begins. As locals start their evening promenade, the square fills with storytellers, soothsayers, musicians and entertainers, as well as food stalls. Some 50 portable kitchens – each labelled with a number, not a name – set up each night, dealing out tin trays of spicy merguez sausage, tureens of harira soup, flaky fried fish or towering plates of cous cous, tagine and pastilla.
Moroccan dates are some of the most delicious varieties available, and that’s why some 9,000 tonnes of them are exported all over the world each year. Other top exports include tangerines, clementines, mandarins and olives. Such is the importance of the date palm, oases are traditionally measured by the number of palms and it was once illegal to sell a date tree.
Literacy in Morocco is higher than most African countries, thanks in part to its free and compulsory education; around 88% of males aged 15-24 can read, in comparison to 74% of females. The country is also home to world’s oldest university, al-Qarawiyin, founded in Fes in AD 859.
One of the world’s most beloved films, Casablanca
– named after the Moroccan city – won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in 1942.