100 interesting facts you most probably didn’t know about Morocco
Are you intrigued by North Africa, a destination with desert, mountains, and other natural landscapes? Want to visit a country located in Africa but with Middle Eastern, African, and European influences? Interested in visiting a country with a high-quality literary pedigree and extensive filmography boasting many of Hollywood’s best movies shot on site here, like Casablanca, Gladiator, and The Bourne Ultimatum?
Then, allow me to introduce you to Morocco. It is a fascinating country with a lot of history, and there are many things you can learn about this nation that is the size of California. I will share 100 facts that you probably didn’t know about Morocco.
You won’t find these facts in Fodor’s guidebook or on the Lonely Planet blog. They won’t be on TV or even things you have heard about the country from the grapevine. They are interesting things that you will only learn by visiting the country in person. You will get an insider’s look at some of the country’s most vital facts and also social norms.
1. The weather in Morocco can be very different from one region to the other. This is because of the diversity of the landscape, which ranges from plains near the coastline to mountains and a desert
2. Because it is predominantly an Islamic country, beautiful calls for prayer can be heard 5 times in one day wherever you are.
3. The Hammam is the name for the traditional public bath.
4. There are two official languages spoken: Arabic and Amazigh. Most people in Morocco are at least bilingual; they speak Modern Standard Arabic and usually either one of the three Amazigh varieties and/or a Moroccan dialect. Today, French is still used for many official and government purposes.
5. Donkeys and horses can be frequently seen in the streets.
6. At the souk, the traditional Moroccan markets, you can purchase pretty much anything.
7. Every city in Morocco has its own color: Chefchaouen - blue, Rabat – white, and Marrakech – red.
8. Prices for cooking oil, wheat, and other essential items like cooking gas are sponsored by the Government.
9. Because of the temperate climate, central heating doesn’t exist.
10. Most of the holidays are religiously centered. The most important ones are Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Mawlid.
11. The price is never set. Bargaining and negotiating are accepted practices at local markets.
12. Beggars on the streets are very common.
13. Many people think Casablanca is the capital of Morocco as it is the most famous and largest city in the country. In fact, the capital of Morocco is Rabat. (kind of like most people believe Sydney is the capital of Australia because of its fame, but it is Canberra).
14. There is not a metro system to be found anywhere.
15. Smoking is not prohibited in public areas.
16. Argan trees, grown only in Morocco, are famous for the oil used in the food and cosmetics industries.
17. Morocco produces some of the best olive oil in the world. However, it is rarely exported. When visiting Morocco, it is recommended you try it.
18. Elderly people mostly live with their family and don’t reside in retirement home.
19. Despite being taboo in Islam, there are stores that sell alcohol in Morocco.
20. Islam plays a major role in Morocco’s political, social, and spiritual life. Muslims make up almost 99% of Morocco’s population.
21. The Moroccan King is the only monarch in a Muslim country who is also the national religious leader.
22. The flag of Morocco is patterned in a solid red background with a five-pointed star named the Seal of Sulayman.
23. Though Spanish and French civil laws are in place, the legal system in Morocco is primarily based on Islamic law.
24. Noor 1 is the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. Located near Ouarzazate, the project began in 2015. The complex comprises four mega solar panel plants linked together and generates 580 megawatts of electricity. It spans the same area as the whole city of Rabat. One of its unique abilities is that it can track the sun during the day as it moves.
25. The Atlas Mountains, one of Morocco’s most breathtaking landscapes, also collects and stores rainwater and snowmelt, giving sustenance to the valleys beneath them.
26. When a natural feature is declared sustainable and eco-friendly, it is appropriated a “Blue Flag” rating. By 2015, twenty-three beaches in Morocco had been given this award for their wastewater management, water quality, and environmental education.
27. Like many growing developing countries, Morocco has switched from a predominantly rural to a majority urban society. As of now, 58 percent of the population of Morocco live in cities and towns
28. There are three separate New Year celebrations that Moroccans have the opportunity to participate in. January first per the Gregorian calendar; Yennayer, the Amazigh New Year; or Fatih Muharram, the Islamic New Year.
29. Morocco’s capital is Rabat and is one of the most populated cities in the country with approximately 1.7 million people.
30. Spain sits to the north of Morocco across the Straits of Gibraltar. However, two Spanish territories are situated on the northern coast of Morocco: Ceuta and Melilla.
31. To fight the expansion of the Sahara Desert, the Moroccan government plants thousands of acres of trees, like the Argan tree, to keep the fertile topsoil in place.
32. Sadly, illiteracy is common in Morocco as only 50% of the population can read and write.
33. The Tarfaya Wind Farm, the largest wind power plant in Africa, was created due to growing awareness that hydroelectric generators and nuclear plants are not effective or eco-friendly enough.
34. It is possible to see across the Strait of Gibraltar into Spain when weather permits.
35. Moroccan dates are so popular worldwide that over 90,000 tons are exported every year.
36. A ski resort named Oukaimeden lies the middle of the high Atlas Mountains. It boasts the highest elevations for any ski resort on the whole continent of Africa at 8,500 to 10,500 feet above sea level.
37. The city of Agadir has multiple ports. There is a main trading port, two fishing ports, and a marina port for leisure boating.
38. In contrast to western symbolism, in Morocco, the heart is not the symbol of love, the liver is.
39. Having been viewed as a symbol of wealth since the Roman Empire, thuya wood has been used for the dashboard in Rolls Royce cars. This wood is only grown in the western base of the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
40. One of the major exports include citrus fruits, such as tangerines, clementines, and mandarins.
41. Morocco produces and exports more sardines than any other country in the world.
42. Djellaba is the name for the Moroccan traditional national attire.
43. In the heights of the Atlas Mountains, there are many Amazigh villages that are terraced on small ledges and preserved in their traditional form. The highest summit is Jebel Toubkal, peaking at 4,167 meters (2.6 miles) high.
44. Stretching from the northwest to the northeast of Morocco and bordering the Mediterranean ocean, the Rif Mountains, are also inhabited by the Amazigh people. Located here is the endangered Barbary macaques as this area receives more precipitation yearly than any other part of Morocco.
45. Morocco has the only high-speed train in Africa.
46. From the moment Morocco acquired independence, it arts culture, including painting, sculpture, theatre, music, and filmmaking, has expanded drastically. Music and art festivals are held throughout the summer months. Regular productions of French and Moroccan dramatic works are offered at the Moroccan National Theatre. One is the Fes World Sacred Music Festival is in Fez.
47. Before hailing a taxi, which are in abundance in Morocco, you should check that the meter is turned on.
48. Morocco produces and exports the most phosphates globally.
49. If you are a driver and planning to rent a car in Casablanca, be ready to face very bad traffic, not only because of the number of cars on the streets but also because of the people’s driving habits.
50. Babouch are traditional Moroccan slippers, which has a specific triangle shape and usually very colorful. Babouches were traditionally worn by the Bedouins until the traditional Moroccan dress piece turned into a luxurious fashion statement.
51. It is cheap to hire a cleaning lady. These ladies can help you with various household chores, like cooking, cleaning, and even babysitting.
A Little Bit of History
52. When the United States of America was founded, Morocco was the first nation to officially recognize it.
53. Although Morocco became an independent country in 1956, its first constitution wasn’t written until 1962.
54. The Moroccan monarchy is the fourth oldest monarchy in the world today.
55. Morocco officially joined the United Nations on November 12, 1956.
56. Morocco’s University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859 CE by a woman called Fatima Al-Fihriya. In the beginning, it was known for Islamic studies and theology, but later it added other subjects like music, medicine and astronomy. It is recognized as the oldest existing educational institution in the world.
57. Since 1960, Morocco has participated in the Olympics, both winter and summer. Their athletes have won medals in many disciplines such as boxing, marathons, track, field, and sprinting.
58. Even though there are not many earthquakes in Morocco, they have occurred. In 1960, an earthquake in Agadir took the lives of over 12,000 people. More than 500 souls were lost in Al Hoceima in 2004.
59. A special holiday called “Throne Day” is recognized on July 30th, which celebrates the day the current king ascended to the throne of Morocco.
60. In the Dadès Valley, the yearly rose harvest is celebrated with The Festival of the Roses in May. The actual date changes due the actual time of the harvest itself.
61. Older Berber women can have many tattoos on their face and neck. This is a traditional method used for tribal identification.
62. Berbers are not really named Berber. The term was coined by the Romans for those who didn’t speak their language. Later, the French changed the pronoun and adjective. The real name for the people and culture is Amazigh.
63. Starting at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, American merchant ships were frequently pirated by the Barbary Pirates. In December 1777, Sultan Mohammed the Third pronounced safe passage for the Americans and stated they were under his protection from the attacks and raids of the Barbary Pirates.
64. Tangier was inhabited by the Phoenicians from around 1600 BCE and it is known as Morocco’s oldest city.
65. People have lived in the area now known as Morocco from prehistoric times (since the Paleolithic era, in particular).
66. King Mohammad VI, who asserts himself to be a direct descendant of the prophet, holds wide ranging legislative as well as executive powers. However, today, Morocco is considered a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.
67. The first woman from any Arab or Islamic country to win an Olympic Gold Medal is a Moroccan. Nawal EL Moutawakel won the 400-meter hurdles. Today, she is a council member of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation).
68. The Tarfaya Wind Farm, the largest wind power plant in Africa, was created due to growing awareness that hydroelectric generators and nuclear plants are not effective or eco-friendly enough.
69. 80% of Moroccans are descendants from the Amazigh people, not Arabs.
70. If you considering visiting Morocco with your children, this is the ideal destination to visit. Moroccans love kids and give them lots of attention everywhere you go
71. With over 10 million visitors a year, tourism is a major industry in Morocco. Visitors are predominantly from Europe.
72. With its stunning beaches, mountains, ancient cities, and desert oases, it is no secret that Morocco is a magnet for tourists. The country has created Plan Azure, designating six coasts as exclusive tourist zones. A resort, each with its own theme ranging from eco-tourism to sports and culture will be built at each coast.
73. Over 10 million people visit Morocco each year, making tourism one of the country’s most important income generators. Moroccans consider the coast, their culture, and their unique history their most valued attraction.
75. Morocco is a fantastic surfing destination. The best surf beaches in Morocco are La Source, Taghazout, Essaouira Beach, Magic Bay, Imsouane, Panoramas and Sidi Kaouki Beach.
Facts About Food
76. Oranges in Morocco are extremely delicious and very inexpensive.
77. Bread is highly valued by Moroccans and come in a variety. For breakfast, one or more types of bread are always served.
78. Tajine is one of the most famous traditional dishes. It may be prepared with fish, chicken, meat, or only vegetables.
79. Friday is the Islamic holy day during which most Moroccans eat couscous for lunch.
80. The traditional tea is a mint tea while the traditional Moroccan coffee is ‘nus nus.’ Both are served in a glass.
81. If you are in Morocco and would like to try something typically Moroccan - try Amlu. It’s a traditional sweet kind of paste made of almonds, honey, and argan oil.
82. Green Tea with mint is the most well-loved beverage in Morocco and is found at every meal. The trend started when some merchant ships from England were stranded on the Moroccan coast. They were forced to unload their cargo of tea and the love of this drink in the country began.
83. Moroccans love spices and use them a lot. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper, and sesame seeds.
84. The next time you are in the souk, try snails. Moroccan snails are a street-stall staple and many people will tell you that the perfect place to try them is in Jemaa al-Fnaa, the center of Marrakech.
85. Relaxation is the norm and people are never in a hurry. In fact, there is a siesta in the afternoon.
86. People of this country are very courteous and formal.
87. Cultural norms about meeting times are not the same in Morocco. Being late is very common in comparison to the West.
88. The institution of family is incredibly important.
89. Moroccans don’t talk about love; they express it.
90. Moroccans are very superstitious and believe in magic and the evil eye. People believe that the evil eye may affect their health, work, family, and luck.
Music, Books and More...
91. With so many elements of the culture of Moroccan, music is an eclectic mix of European, Arabian, and Amazigh, as well as African sounds, rhythms, and instruments.
92. Morocco has become a popular film tourist destination. Many films have been shot there by Atlas studios in Ouarzazate. It is named Atlas because it sits at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains which sprawls out into the desert. It is one of the largest film studios in the world. Since many sets from previously filmed movies are still erected, the studio offers guided tours for tourists.
93. The famous comedian, Gad Elmaleh, was born in Morocco.
94. Paul Bowles, an author who spent most of his life in Tangier, wrote a book that was made into a movie called ‘The Sheltering Sky.’
95. During Moroccan weddings, the bride may wear up to 8 dresses over the course of one evening.
96. The bride’s family pays for the wedding. However, these days more and more people sharing the wedding cost.
97. Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the largest mosque in Africa and is the 3rd largest in the world.
98. The architecture in Morocco is a fascinating blend of various influences. As well as Islamic and Berber facets, one may notice some French, Spanish and Portuguese influences in certain Moroccan cities.
99. Architecturally, Moroccan cities include mosques with high reaching towers called minarets, market areas traditionally known as souks, old medieval sections referred to as medinas, and Kasbahs, which are ancient fortresses. Most often, these buildings are made of traditional adobe bricks, sand, straw, and /or manure.
Moroccan Social Conventions
100. The younger generation, as a sign of respect, kisses the hand or the head of the older generation.
As you have seen and learned, Morocco is a fantastic, beautiful, and spellbinding country to visit with features that only an insider can enjoy fully. I am always delighted to share the splendor of this country that never fails to mystify the first-time visitor. I hope you enjoyed reading my list of the 100 facts you probably didn’t know about Morocco.
Did I forget anything? Let me know if you have anything to add to this list and leave a comment in the section below. I look forward to reading your feedback and notes.
Thanks so much for checking out this article and have a wonderful day!