Morocco is one of the most colourful countries in the Mediterranean, with modern and medieval towns, high mountains and vast desert and beaches, labyrinthine bazaars and peaceful corners. It is also one of the most popular Muslim holidays destination, given its Islamic heritage, married with Franco-Spanish culture.
Strikingly colours, fragrant spice markets and urban orchestra sounds: Morocco may seem somewhat excessive initially. But it is extremely charming and unusually exotic. Located 13 km from the coast of Spain, in North West Africa Morocco offers a mix of fabulous Middle East, Berber tradition and European influences.
Tourism in the country has more than doubled since 2002 to around 10 million visitors in 2011, as King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual number of visitors to 18 million by 2020. The policy is supported by the development of infrastructure making travelling across the country, even easier. As part of this tourism policy, a lot of halal and Muslim friendly businesses are very much encouraged by the state, making halal holidays in Morocco a must-do for International Muslim travellers. A number of halal hotels (a.k.a. Islamic hotels), are emerging like mushrooms, making cities like Marrakesh a true Muslim holiday gem. Planning your Islamic holidays in Morocco can take time, but there plenty options to ensure you make the right halal booking.
Moreover, the continuous social, political and economic reforms make Morocco one of the most peaceful countries in the region.
From Marrakesh, with its labyrinthine bazaars, palaces and beautiful gardens, up to the modern metropolis Casablanca with amazing mosques and atmospheric Fez, the oldest and most beautiful Medina, Morocco will enchant you.
The cafes of Tangier
The cafes are socialization centres for Moroccan men at least, who go there to sip sweet mint tea and chat.
The northern port of Tangier, has a bohemian literary and illegal … history as an ‘International Zone’ in the years 1923-1956. During these years and decades that followed, the city “saw” writers, rock stars and eccentric artists to flock to more than 800 cafes.
Two places you must visit is the Cafe Hafa (Ave Hadi Mohammed Tazi), who “sees” the Straits of Gibraltar, a favorite haunt of famous homogeneous author of Tangier, Paul Bowles and special Cafe Baba (1 rue Sidi-Hosni) , the most cool hangout in Kasbah.
Most mosques do not accept non-Muslims
Almost 99% of the population are Muslims. Unless you’ve been to Turkey, listening for the first time the melodic call of the muezzin to prayer is a chilling moment.
Although very few mosques in Morocco are “open” to non-Muslims, exception is the towering mosque Hassan II in cosmopolitan Casablanca (Blvd Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdallah). Located on a headland in the Atlantic Ocean, it was completed in 1993 and can accommodate up to 105,000 worshipers inside and outside.
Tradition and technology go hand in hand with colourful zellij (mosaic tiles), ornate plasterwork and carved wooden details, complete the retractable roof, and heated floors. If you do not visit Casablanca, the Ali ben Youssef Madrassa 16th century in Marrakesh has been transformed into a museum (Pl Ben Youssef) and worth a visit.
The Riads will delight you
The traditional Moroccan house (Riad), is built around a central courtyard with windows facing inwards to protect privacy. This is an ideal type of accommodation for Muslim tourists that value privacy a lot when it comes to booking accommodation. It is embellished with intricate zellij and painted wooden details and is certainly one of the most atmospheric places to stay. The roofs of the Riad is the best place to admire the sunset.
The narrow streets in the markets (souk) in Morocco are full of petty, animals and bikers. So, even though it is exciting, you won’t have the chance to relax much when you’re there …
Rule No. 1: Turn aside when you hear «balak!». This means that following a heavily loaded cart or mule directed toward you. You will inevitably get lost in the small alleys, as the maps do not normally include any narrow passages in the Medina (old labyrinthine city). Do not get scared though, simply enjoy it! A local guide can help you avoid some places and prefer other, but you know you’ll get the commission on everything you buy.