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Morocco is a fascinating country. From the culture, to the landscape, to the religion it is so different from other places I have visited. My initial impression of Morocco fell somewhere between culture shock and intrigue. Part of me wanted to immediately leave the country the first day I got there. That’s a normal reaction to culture shock. Still another part of me wanted to stay in Morocco longer so I could understand more about the country and the way of life. If you are planning a trip or just want to know more important information about Morocco, here are the 35 most interesting facts about Morocco (including 5 fun Morocco facts for kids!) and some general information on the country.
General facts about Morocco
- Population: 36.9 million (comparable to the population of California)
- Size: 274,461 square miles (about the size of the state of Texas)
- Capital: Rabat (7th largest city in Morocco)
- Continent: Africa
- Government: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
- Monarch: Mohammed VI
- Prime Minister (as of 2020): Saad-Eddine El Othmani
- Currency: Moroccan dirham
- Language: Arabic
- Religion: Islam
The most interesting facts about Morocco
We discovered many of these interesting facts about Morocco while visiting the North African country. Some of the other information, I learned when researching Morocco for our trip. While different areas of the country may vary greatly, these facts about Morocco are typical of the entire nation.
There is a Blue City in Morocco
One of the most beautiful cities in Morocco, and also one of the most popular among tourists, is the blue city of Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen is known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco because the entire medina and a large portion of the mountain village is painted pale blue. In fact, simply wandering around and taking pictures of the medina is one of the most popular things to do in Chefchaouen.
There is also a Red City in Morocco
Just as Chefchaouen is known as the “blue city”, the city of Marrakesh is called the “red city”. But unlike Chefchaouen, the walls in Marrakesh aren’t purposely painted red. Instead, the reddish hue comes from the clay and red sandstone used to construct many of the old buildings in Marrakesh. Although the walls of the city are actually more of a pink or salmon color, Marrakesh has garnered the nickname “the red city”. It is actually one of the most popular cities for tourists to visit in Morocco, and luckily, visiting Marrakesh on a budget is completely doable.
Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as a country
When the United States declared its independence, Morocco was the first country to recognize the newly formed country as an independent nation. Morocco opened its ports and began trading with the United States in 1777, less than one year after the USA declared independence.
Tourism is a huge industry in Morocco
More than 10 million people visit Morocco each year. Tourism in Morocco is a booming business, employing roughly 20 percent of the population. Most visitors to Morocco come from neighboring Europe, although the country is quickly growing in popularity among people from the United States, Canada, and other countries around the world.
99% of Moroccans are Muslim
Islam is the primary religion in Morocco. While 99% of the country is Muslim, Morocco remains one of the more progressive Muslim countries in the world. Generally speaking, Morocco tends to be more accepting of outsiders and more tolerant of beliefs and lifestyles that do not conform with the Muslim faith. Still, Islam plays a huge role in Moroccan life. It has heavy influence on the country’s laws and the general code of conduct.
It’s important to respect the religion of any country you visit. For a woman, this might mean dressing more modestly. Although foreign women do not have to cover their heads in Morocco, I do recommend wearing loose-fitted clothing, covering your shoulders, and wearing skirts, dresses, or shorts that go below the knee.
There are several languages spoken in Morocco
The official language of Morocco is Arabic, and that is what most Moroccans speak. French is also somewhat common with about a third of the population knowing or speaking French. This is because at one point Morocco was a French colony. In touristy areas, you will find some people who speak English. In fact, roughly 20 percent of the population knows at least some English.
Morocco has 7 wine regions but it is hard to find alcohol
When people think of countries famous for their wine production, Morocco probably doesn’t come to mind. After all, consuming alcohol is against the religion of Islam, so why would a Muslim country produce wine? But the country actually has a rich history in wine making that dates back to the Phoenician era. Morocco produces 40 million bottles of wine each year. Although the country produces both wine and beer, alcohol is not widely available, except at a select few licensed hotels and restaurants that primarily cater to tourists.
Mint tea is the national drink of Morocco
Tea is a staple in Morocco, and serving it is practically an art form. Tea in Morocco is typically green tea prepared with fresh mint and sugar. To me, Moroccan tea tastes like spearmint chewing gum, as the mint flavor is very distinct and pronounced. It is the national drink of Morocco, and ordering it isn’t just about the taste, it’s about the experience. Moroccans pour tea from at least a foot above the glass so the fragrance can immediately be detected in the air.
Hash is everywhere
Although cannabis, its byproducts, and other drugs are illegal in Morocco, that doesn’t mean you won’t find hash everywhere. Hash is a concentrated form of cannabis. It is much more potent than marijuana, and seems to be the drug of choice in Morocco. Don’t worry, if visiting Morocco with kids, you probably won’t be approached by a dealer, unless you venture out of your hotel at night without kids. But solo travelers and travelers without kids in tow will likely be approached at least once by someone offering to sell them hash.
Keep in mind, just because it’s readily available doesn’t mean it is legal. Buying or consuming drugs in Morocco is very much illegal and can result in a very harsh punishment. Although it should go without saying, don’t break the laws of a country you are visiting and also… don’t do drugs.
Morocco is only 9 miles from Europe
Morocco may be on the continent of Africa, but it is closer to Europe than my house is to my favorite restaurant! The countries of Morocco and Spain are separated by the Strait of Gibraltar, which at its narrowest point, is only 9 miles wide. You can easily take a ferry between the two countries, although the ferries take WAY longer than you would expect.
A lot of movies have been filmed in Morocco
Outside of Hollywood, Morocco is one of the most popular places to film major motion pictures. In fact, there is a good chance if you have seen a movie, or even a portion of a movie set in a desert, it was filmed in Morocco. The low cost to film there, coupled with an established relationship with many American studios, and a more open attitude makes Morocco “Africa’s Little Hollywood”.
Morocco is home to the largest hot desert in the world
Technically, Morocco is ONE OF the homes to the largest hot desert in the world. The Sahara Desert spans more than 3.3 million square miles and stretches across 11 north African countries, including Morocco. Sahara Desert guided tours are popular among tourists to Morocco and should be included on any Morocco itinerary if you have the time.
Snake charmers are a real thing in Morocco
Until I visited Morocco, I thought snake charmers were just fictional characters found in movies. I now know these venomous reptile handlers are not only a real thing in Morocco, you’ll find them in India, Egypt, and other parts of the world, as well. Often, you’ll find snake charmers in popular tourist gathering places, like the main square in Marrakesh or Tangier, working for tips. While I personally know nothing about the practice itself, I don’t find anything charming about snakes or about capturing a wild creature and using it to make a profit.
There is a ski resort in Morocco
Most people associate Morocco with the Sahara Desert, beaches, and an arid climate. But Morocco actually has a ski resort, as well. Although small, Oukaïmeden has seven lifts and more than six miles of skiing terrain. While that may pale in comparison to ski resorts in the Alps or the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada, it is still one of the most interesting facts about Morocco.
Argan oil comes from a tree native to Morocco
A popular oil found in luxury cosmetics and hair care products, argan oil, is an export of Morocco. The oil comes from argan nuts, which grow in the arid climate of Morocco. Moroccans have used this oil for years for everything from food to traditional medicine. But its uses in beauty products in more recent history have made for a booming business in Morocco.
Morocco has several main exports
Although it is extremely popular and practically synonymous with Morocco, argan oil isn’t the country’s primary export. Morocco exports a variety of agricultural products, like dates and olives.
They are also one of the world’s biggest exporters of sardines.
Morocco borders both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea
Morocco boasts more than just deserts and a ski resort. It is also a country with numerous beaches. The north African country borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There are some beautiful beaches in Morocco. Although we walked along the shore of the beach, we did not get in the water. Most women at the beach were not in the type of swimwear commonly worn in western cultures. So, out of respect for the culture and Morocco’s standards of modesty, we did not feel comfortable wearing our swimsuits.
There are roughly 20 million Berber people living in Morocco
Berbers are an ethnic group native to North Africa. They primarily live in Morocco now, although Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and a few other countries have pockets of Berber people. This indigenous group has its own language, and lives a simplistic lifestyle. Berbers are often characterized as nomads, and some tribes still inhabit and live nomadically in the Sahara Desert. Although most Berbers are farms or mountain dwellers who live in one place in close-knit villages.
The Moroccan dirham is the currency of the country. Although exchange rates always vary, one dirham is worth about 10 US cents or 10 dirhams equal roughly $1 USD. Given the exchange rate, Morocco is considered an inexpensive country to visit.
You will need to get cash from an ATM when you arrive
We found taxis and many businesses and vendors did not accept credit cards in Morocco. While some vendors did accept Euros, you will likely need to visit an ATM when you arrive in Morocco to get some dirham for your trip.
Morocco is a land of colorful dyes
You can’t walk through a medina or souk in Morocco without seeing bags of colorful dyes lining the streets. I’m not quite sure why someone would buy these dyes unless you make your own textiles or clothing, but the bags of dyes add to the colorfulness of this country.
Moroccan leather isn’t just a souvenir, it’s a attraction
Morocco is proud of its leather products, and with good reason. Moroccan leather is considered some of the most valuable in the world. And the process of making it has become somewhat of a spectacle in cities like Fez. Each day, tourists flock to the leather tanneries to witness the pungent process which involves soaking, stripping, and drying the animal hides before submerging them in the colorful dyes mentioned above.
Morocco has the largest active medina in the world
Morocco is known for its lively, active medinas. A medina is a historic quarter of a city. Found throughout North Africa, medinas are typically surrounded by walls and have narrow, maze-like streets. Morocco is home to the largest active medina in the world. The medina in Fez gives you an authentic Moroccan experience. Said to be the cultural capital of Morocco, Fez, is the oldest city in Africa, and should be included on any Morocco itinerary. For a hands-on history lesson, book a guided walking tour of the Fez medina.
The best preserved medina in the world is also in Morocco
While Fez may be the oldest active medina in the world, the city of Tetouan also has a medina worth visiting. The city boasts the best preserved medina in the world. With its white-washed walls, it’s easy to see the Spanish influence on the town. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the medina of Tetouan, is a popular day trip from Tangier.
The flag of Morocco has religious symbolism
The Moroccan flag is one of the easiest flags to recognize. It is a simple red flag with a green pentagram in the center. The pentagram represents the seal of Solomon, and the five branches represent the pillars of Islam. The red background symbolizes bravery and strength, while green is the color of Islam and is supposed to symbolize peace and hope.
Homosexuality is illegal in Morocco
We mentioned earlier that Islamic beliefs play a big role in Morocco’s laws. Perhaps the starkest example of that is its laws against homosexuality. Being an LGBTQ person is against the law in Morocco. While I’m sure Morocco may be more lenient when it comes to foreign travelers, I would not encourage my LGBTQ friends to visit Morocco until the law changes.
Cats are everywhere
Stray cats are everywhere in Morocco. It was especially noticeable in Chefchaouen, but there is an overpopulation of cats in Marrakesh and many other Moroccan cities, as well. The cats are not necessarily pets, but the locals do seem to take care of them. They leave water and food scraps outside for the strays, and because of this, the cats are not scared of people. This was a bit alarming for me considering none of these cats are vaccinated and rabies is very much a valid issue in Morocco. Many Muslims in Morocco consider domestic cats to be “clean” animals and prefer them over dogs.
The left hand is considered unclean
While cats may be considered clean, one’s left hand is not. In fact, using your left hand to eat, particularly any food eaten with your hand instead of a utensil, is considered rude and unclean. In Moroccan culture, the left hand is reserved for bathroom hygiene and chores, and eating should be done with the right hand only. This can be a challenge for those, like myself, who are naturally left-handed.
Moroccans eat couscous on Fridays
Couscous is considered the national dish of Morocco, but many Moroccans only eat this dish on Friday, which is the Islamic holy day. You can find couscous served any day of the week at many restaurants in Morocco. This traditional Moroccan dish is one of the foods that I think everyone must try when they visit Morocco.
Public displays of affection are considered inappropriate
Holding hands, hugging, and kissing in public are considered taboo in Morocco. Although not necessarily illegal in Morocco, public displays of affection between spouses or partners are frowned upon and considered inappropriate. As advised earlier, respect the culture of any country you visit. Save your affectionate displays for your hotel room.
Interesting facts about Morocco for kids
While kids may find some of these interesting facts about Morocco fun, some of the information mentioned above is definitely more intriguing for adults. For this reason we wanted to include a few more interesting Morocco facts for kids, specifically.
Education and literacy is lagging
The quality of education is improving in Morocco, especially among girls. But it still has a long way to go. In rural areas, less than half of all girls graduate high school. Instead of attending school, teenage girls are often tasked with helping with housework and caring for younger kids. About ¾ of adults in Morocco know how to read and write. Despite the education system not being all that great, Morocco still has one of the oldest universities in the world.
Sports in Morocco
Soccer is the most popular sport in Morocco, also known as football in European and Latin America countries.
Food is often eaten with your hand
Even more reason to wash up before dinner, meals in Morocco are commonly eaten with your hand instead of a fork or spoon. Just remember, use only the right hand to eat!
The barbary lion is the national animal
Just like the United States has the bald eagle, Morocco has the barbary lion as its national animal. The lion is now extinct in the wild, but once roamed the area near the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
I love you with all my liver?
In Morocco, the heart is not considered the symbol of love. Traditionally, in Morocco, the liver is the organ from which desire and love come. If that isn’t one of the most interesting facts about Morocco, I don’t know what is!
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