Morocco--the gateway between Europe and Africa is fast becoming many travelers next dream destination. Being only one of three nations bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the country boasts a rich culture and entices many travelers with its unique cityscapes, ranging from the old city of Marrakesh to the cosmopolitan beaches of Casablanca.
Before you start packing your bags, booking your camel rides and exchanging your money to Moroccan dirhams, take note of these 5 important tips from travelers who have gone and seen this beautiful, yet mysterious country.
1. The early bird gets the sale
Souks are local markets that stay busy throughout the day. Besides being one of the centers of a city's small business economy, souks are a shopping haven for tourists to get their fill of souvenirs and local furniture, jewelry and street food.
The most popular souks are in Marrakech and Fez, particularly the place near the iconic Blue Gate. Other cities boasting high energy yet less busy souks are those found in the cities of Meknes and Rabat.
According to Wanderlust, the best time to visit the souks is before 10am. At this time, stall owners are just beginning to set-up and are looking to bag their first sale of the day. In addition, many tourists will still be sleeping, recovering from their experience of the wild Moroccan nightlife from the night before.
2. Sharpen your haggling skills
In other countries, the act of haggling, even in marketplaces, is frowned upon. In Morroco however, haggling is exactly what makes the souk experience so different and unforgettable. Price points often start at a high mark, and haggling down to 50 percent or more is an acceptable offer.
Some travelers though, have reported that due to this haggling phenomenon catching on among tourists, many souks in hotspots such as in Marrakech and Fez have upped their prices even more to confuse travelers with what the acceptable price for an item would be. According to James Rice, Travel Editor of Rough Guides, if one really wanted to purchase an item without the hustle and bustle of the souk experience, a fixed-price shop would be preferred.
3. Don't get too friendly
Another commercial tip for the souk is to beware of very persistent vendors. Although it is good to make friends with the vendors, travelers have experienced very pushy vendors when walking away from haggling over an item, some even ended up tricked by con artists offering fake services as tour guides.
Also be wary of street performers and people with animals like snakes and monkeys who offer you to take a picture with. It seems like a good idea for your next Facebook profile picture, but expect a high fee afterwards. Also take note, especially for animal performers, that these animals may not have any official papers and may be victims of animal cruelty.
4. Take note of important cultural traditions
Every culture has its own strange nuances, but one of the strangest in Morocco is the negative connotation of showing off one's foot or shoe. This action sends a negative message to the viewer and will even be considered insulting.
In terms of clothing, particularly for ladies, dressing conservatively is the best way to go, especially if you intend to visit mosques. World Nomads suggests bringing a shawl, scarf or hat to cover your neck and hair.
5. Getting lost might be the best part of your vacation
Morocco, in particular Fez and Marrakech are evolved from some of the oldest cities in the world. Naturally, a lot of their streets and walkways are still cobble-stoned and hard to trace on a map.
Besides all the tips on safety, don't forget that your travel here is to give you an escape from the normalcy of every day life. Be adventurous and embrace the excitement of discovering Morocco's cities with your own two feet!