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Although you will find a few people who speak English among the most educated people, in urban areas most of them are touts and faux guides. Some shop owners and hotel managers in urban centers also speak English. People are used to dealing with the communication barrier that comes with having various Berber dialects - pantomiming, smiling and using even the most broken French will get you a long way. At just a few hours from the main European cities, Morocco has everything to overwhelm you with the amazing colours, smells and sounds of Islamic Africa. Imagine bustling souqs and spice markets, stunning mosques, white-washed sea side towns and medieval city centres.
With panoramic views varying from snow-covered peaks in the High Atlas to the endless sand dunes of the Sahara, no-one ever has to be bored in this beautiful country. Movie-famous Casablanca might be the most famous of Moroccan cities and is home to the huge Hassan II mosque , the second largest mosque in the world with only the Grand Mosque of Mecca surpassing it. Many travellers quickly leave this vibrant and modernist metropolis on a search for a more traditional Moroccan experience, but admiring the impressive colonial architecture, Hispano-Moorish and art-deco outlook of the city centre is actually time well spent.
Marrakesh , known as the "Red City" and probably the most prominent former imperial capital, will leave you with memories to cherish for life. Spend your days wandering through the lively souqs, admiring the old gates and defense walls , see the Saadian Tombs, the remnants of the El Badi Palace and visit the Koutoubia Mosque with its 12th century minaret. However, when evening falls make sure to head back to Jamaa el-Fnaa , the largest square in Africa, as it fills up with steam-producing food stalls.
Indulge in the bustling activity there, listen to Arabic story tellers, watch magicians and Chleuh dancers. Fez , once Morocco's capital, is another gorgeous imperial city.
Get lost in its lovely labyrinth of narrow Medieval streets, enjoy its huge medina, see the beautiful city gates, the ancient University of Al-Karaouine and the Bou Inania Madrasa. Also, make sure to visit a traditional leather tanning factory. The city of Meknes is often called the "Versailles of Morocco" for its beauty. Its lovely Spanish-Moorish style centre is surrounded by tall city walls with impressive gates and you'll be able to see the 17th century blend of European and Islamic cultures even today.
For a more laid-back experience of medina life, catch a sea breeze at the coastal towns of Asilah or lovely Essaouira. The blue-washed town of Chefchaouen is an old time travellers' favourite and a great starting point to explore the Rif Mountains. Other impressive mountain scenery can be in found in the Atlas Mountains. On your way to the desert, make sure not to miss the stunning Todra gorge near Tinghir. Climb North Africa's highest mountain Mt. Toubkal Jebel Toubkal from Imlil , passing lovely adobe villages and exploring the gorgeous Ourika and Amizmiz valleys on the way.
Or just trek the High Atlas mountains. The stunning panoramic views from the top will make it worth every bit of your effort to get there. Other praised hiking routes lead through the beautiful Ameln Valley in the Anti-Atlas and the forests of the Middle Atlas. Marrakech can make a good base for tours all over Morocco, from exploring the High Atlas , over riding the camel or quad, to days Sahara treks.
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A sheer endless amount of tour providers are waiting for the willing-to-pay tourist. Hop on a camel back for a trip through the golden Sahara sand dunes at Erg Chebbi , near Merzouga. Spend the night in a desert tent, under the incredibly starred sky. Somewhat less easy to reach but therefor also less crowded are the dunes of Erg Chigaga near M'hamid. The first is the tourist hammam , where you can go and be pampered and scrubbed by an experienced staff member.
As these are promoted only to tourists, they are the more expensive option with pricing usually around dirham for a hammam. They are not proper hammams, but they are nonetheless enjoyable, especially for the timid. Your hotel can recommend a good one. The second option is to visit a "popular" Hammam. Popular hammams are the places where the locals go.
Ask the staff at your hotel where they would go. At the popular hammams, you do it all yourself. To make the most of a popular hammam, you need to take a scrubbing mitten available cheap in the souks , a towel, and some extra underwear otherwise, you will be going home without any, as it will be sopping wet. Popular hammams are often only identified by tiles around a door and entrance way.
If you do not speak French or Arabic, it could be a daunting, or at least a very memorable, experience.
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Nudity in a popular hammam is strictly forbidden for men, so be prepared to wear your underwear or a bathing suit. For women, you'll see some wearing underwear and some going naked. Whilst in a popular hammam, you may be offered help and a massage from another person. It is essential to remember that this massage is nothing but a massage , with no other intentions. Sexual contact or presumption of sexual contact does not occur in these places.
If you accept a massage, be prepared to return the favour. Normal entrance prices for a popular hammam are dirham, a scrub will cost around 30 dirham, and a massage another 30 dirham. Exchange rates fluctuate.
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Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE. Wikivoyage articles will use dirham to denote the currency.
It's divided into santime or centimes c. There are 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, 1, 2, 5 and 10 dirham coins, although coins smaller than 20c are rarely seen these days. Banknotes are available in denominations of 20, 50, and dirham. While the dirham is the only currency officially accepted in Morocco, some hotels may accept your euros and US dollars unofficially.
Try to have as many small notes as possible, even accommodations tend to never have any change ready. But also in general, keep larger bills hidden separately, just in case. Prices in Morocco are quite stable, i. Important notice: Dirham may generally not be exported or imported. A tolerance of 2, dirham applies to tourists; more information can be found at the Moroccan customs website. Money exchange : It's illegal to take more than 2, dirham of local currency out of the country, so you can't buy dirham outside of Morocco.
By law, exchange rates should be the same at all banks and official exchanges. Make a note of the exact rates before you go to make sure you're getting a fair deal. Don't expect to see many banks in the souqs or medinas , although in larger cities there are often an ATM near the main gates, and even one or two inside the large souqs if you manage to find your way.
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You may also encounter "helpful" people who will exchange US dollars or euros for dirham. Unofficial exchange on the streets outside souqs or medinas doesn't seem to exist. Besides banks and dedicated exchange offices, major post offices provide exchange, and work until late hours. There are several exchange offices in Casablanca airport.
Make sure you keep any receipts, as this will make things far easier when exchanging any left-over dirham back to your own currency before leaving - official "Bureau de Change" won't change money without a receipt, even if you originally withdrew the money from an ATM. ATMs can be found near tourist hotels and in the modern ville nouvelle shopping districts.
Also be aware that they are not refilled during weekends in smaller towns, so get enough cash for the weekend on Friday or Saturday morning. Avoid them! With the latter withdrawals are for free apart from the fee your bank charges. Note, sometimes they do not display any fees at the machine, but you won't get a receipt and just at home you will notice that they charged anyhow.
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Talk to you bank and try to reject these fees to make this practice harder in the future. Apart from classic tourist souvenirs like postcards and trinkets, here are some things from this region that are hard to find elsewhere, or even unique:. Remember that bargaining in the souks is expected.
Prices are set on a daily, even hourly, basis, depending on how much has been sold on a given day or period of hours , while also reflecting the vendor's personal estimation of the potential client. The souks are often a good reflection of the basic economic principles of supply and demand, particularly with regard to the demand side. If there are many tourists around prices go higher and bargaining even small amounts off the asking price becomes quite difficult.
In addition, the seller will generally inspect the client, whose dress and possessions particularly if the potential client sports an expensive Swiss watch, camera, etc. However, the potential client's attitude is also taken into consideration. Taking all this and other factors into account such as the time of day, day of the week, season , initial prices may be up to 50 times or more in excess of normal prices, especially for more expensive items, such as carpets. Carpets , however, are a very specialized item and it is necessary to have at least a cursory understanding of production techniques and qualities.
If possible, an ability to distinguish between hand-made and machine-made carpets, hand-dyes, and the like is helpful to avoid being utterly duped. Bargaining is an enjoyable experience for most vendors and they prefer clients that don't appear hurried and are willing to take the time to negotiate.
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