A Week in . . . Morocco

By: Luke, Nick, and, Andrew

Demographics: Culturally and historically, Morocco is an extremely interesting place, but its demographics are intriguing as well. With Rabat as its capital, this country has many appealing stats and facts. According to the OSAC (the Bureau of Diplomatic Security) says that “…crime does not pose a significant threat to Americans visiting or working in Morocco.” A fact that should be greatly appreciated by visitors. The average income in Morocco is $3,020, (according to World Bank in 2013) which is much, much lower than the US income average which is currently at $53,470. Sadly, Morocco’s literacy rate is a disappointing 67% compared to the USA’s 99%. The literacy rate is most likely because Morocco is a poor country. Speaking of money, the currency in Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. One US dollar is equal to 9.8 Moroccan Dirhams (according to XE.com).

Location: Morocco, is located on the northwestern coast of Africa. Morocco is somewhat big at 172,414 mi² with roughly 33.01 million people living there (World Bank 2013). The Mediterranean Sea is above and its presence is felt. The beaches here are incredibly beautiful and a great many tourists are drawn there each year. It is bordered by Western Sahara and Algeria. The Atlantic Ocean will not be forgotten as it surrounds Morocco too. Spain is very near, which is interesting because Spain is located in Europe-a different continent. It is a very popular vacation place and many people enjoy traveling there and getting a taste of Morocco.

Religion: Islam is the official religion of Morocco. The vast majority of Muslims in Morocco are Sunni. The King of Morocco claims his legitimacy as a descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The mosque is at the center of all Muslim worship. You’ll find plenty of these beautiful and historic buildings all over Morocco (such as the Koutoubia Mosque that you will visit on the trip). It is a great way to view the Islamic religion. Mosques are considered very holy, and are the place of worship for the Islamic people (Muslims). Islam is the belief in God, but the main difference between this religion, Judaism, and Christianity is that Muslims believe their savior is the prophet Muhammad.

Culture: Morocco’s culture and architecture have been deeply affected by both European and Arabic adventurers, but the true people of Morocco come from a group of tribes called Berber. This name was adopted by the Roman empire when they conquered Morocco. Berber comes from Barbar which was short for barbarians, making this name seem complex. These people are very religious, Islam being their main belief It is important to note that these people speak the language Berber which is much different from the country’s official languages, French and Arabic. These Berber people are farmers, quite different from their stereotype of being nomads (people who constantly move to different places). On to the majority of the people… the “regular” people of Morocco are relatively warm and may invite you into their homes, which is considered an honor by Moroccans. Similar to other countries (ex. Iran) these people have very specific customs. One that is very relevant to you as a tourist is the fact that permission must be requested to a Moroccan if you would like to have a picture taken of even a scenic view.

Geography: Morocco spans from the flat Atlantic Ocean coast to the Atlas Mountains to the flat, hilly Sahara Desert. It is not the typical African country, with having different climates, from the hot, dry desert, to moderate temperature on the Atlantic Ocean, to the cool, rich soil and tree covered mountains and forests of the Atlas Mountain Range. There are valleys interspersed between Morocco’s mountainous areas, which make great scenery. Going back to the climate, the temperature of Morocco varies by the city. For example Morocco’s capital, Rabat is located on the coast and it has an average January low temperature of 46˚F (8˚C) and an average July high temperature of 82˚F (28˚C). Marrakesh, which is located farther inland, has an average July high temperature of 98˚F (37˚C) and a January average low of 43˚F (6˚C).

History: The Berber tribes were the first to inhabit the great country, Morocco. These tribes ruled each other separately until the 7th century when the Arab armies of Arabia conquered all of Morocco. The Arabs introduced Islam to Morocco. The Arabs and the Berber lived in harmony until the 1500’s when European countries, such as Spain, decided to take Morocco for themselves. It wasn’t until 1900 when Morocco was ruled by one country, France (some northern parts ruled by Spain). In 1956, Morocco became an independent country with a constitutional monarchy. A government in which there is a king or queen and elected representatives to vote for the country’s future. This includes a Prime Minister.

Quality of Life and Economy: Poverty affects many in Morocco making for a large lower class. In fact, nearly 30,000 children are homeless, a depressing statistic (according to Nations Encyclopedia.) “Where has Morocco’s wealth gone?And who is benefitting from it?!” King Mohammed VI said in his speech for the 15th anniversary of his ascension to the throne (Middle East Eye). Morocco has gotten poorer and poorer over the years, yet their king is classified as “one of the world’s richest monarchs.” Unemployment and poverty rates are rising and the upper class is getting richer. Morocco’s financial problems are large.

Note: Each of these places are free to go to besides the hotel. Jemaa el Fna only costs money if you wish to buy an item.

Sunday: Jemaa el Fna

Jemaa el Fna marketplace in Morocco is a must see in your journey through Morocco. Come at dusk (after the sunset) to witness an incredible carnival of sorts. Entertainers, storytellers, acrobats, and musicians, are commonplace there, along with side attractions such as fortune tellers and Henna tattoo artists. Buy authentic Moroccan merchandise during the day before the crowd comes at dusk. (Dusk is as important in Morocco as France and Spain). Food and drink is served all over, so if you’re hungry come to Jemaa el Fna. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.) Tip: Remember to tell taxicab driver to run the meter. (They may try to get more money.)
Monday: Koutoubia Mosque

Enjoy a day in Marrakesh with the Koutoubia Mosque. Designed in the 12th century, this mosque is one of architectural beauty. Its name comes from the word booksellers, which crowded the base of the mosque during the 12th century. A mosque is a place of Islamic worship. The Koutoubia Mosque was very influential in the building of future mosques. This is a very interesting place to visit and be assured of an informational trip. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)

Tuesday: Stade de Marrakech

Visit the Morocco National Team’s soccer stadium and watch a game or walk on the field and track! Try and watch a Moroccan National team game in the intense atmosphere of Moroccan fans. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)
Wednesday: Ifrane National Park

Visit the Ifrane National Park. This national park is mostly covered in forest, thus eliminating sun from reasons not to go. It has trees, mountains, and waterfalls you won’t be able to see anywhere else, with animals running free. Relax with monkeys or hike through the forest. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)

Thursday: Kasbah of the Udayas

Visit this ancient fort. This fort was used as a defense building for Arab tribes in the 12th century. These ruins are beautiful to look at and they are located on a beach, which means swimming is a much appreciated bonus. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)

Friday: Majorelle Gardens

Visit the 12 acre botanical research and artist venue. This creates a wonderful scene for artists everywhere. Plants that are only located in this part of the world are abundant, ponds hold wildlife, and a trail leads you along this interesting place of plants. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)

Saturday: Cape Juby

On the last day of your trip, take the day off and relax at one of the most popular beaches in Morocco. Good days are expected as Morocco is very hot most of the year- by the beaches at least. Take a walk, or a swim, or even just sit on this incredible beach. To get there from the hotel take a Petit taxi or a Grand taxi (the difference is in the size of the taxi.)

Hotel/Restaurant: Royal Mansour Marrakech

An elegant five star hotel, the Royal Mansour Marrakech will provide you with enough comfort to last a lifetime. Each room is fitted with a living room, a sitting room, a large bathroom, and a bedroom (this being a room with one king size bed). Although on the very expensive side, this hotel is definitely worth it at $900.00 a night. Now for the flight plan. I suggest boarding the Royal Air Morocco from JFK ($1,127 round trip). Once in the airport take a Petit taxi to the Royal Mansour Marrakech.

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