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CNN’s 10 things to know before visiting Morocco

Source : | 19 May 2013 |  Headlines | 3021 views


By Larbi Atbaoui

Morocco World News

Taroudant, May 19, 2013

CNN published a comprehensive article on May 8 titled “10 things to know before visiting Morocco.”

The article shed light on the most important things to do and the colorful places a tourist must see during his or her visit to the kingdom of Morocco, the North African country that “mixes Middle Eastern magic, Berber tradition and European flair.”

The first thing that attracted CNN are the cafés of Tangier. The cafes of Tangier drew the attention of CNN not because of their geographic location—just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the coast of Spain—but because of their history, where they served as a platform where people from different countries and cultures used to socialize.

The café in Tangier have maintained their charming look and exotic setting since the time Tangier was an International Zone from 1923 to 1956. The American channel mentioned two must-see cafés in this cosmopolitan city. Cafe Hafa, which opened in 1921, is known for its panoramic spot, and more specifically, for its special mint tea, a Tangier special brew. The second café was Café Baba, an old café in the medina, where hippies from all over the world used to meet.

Probably the only mosque in Morocco that is open to tourists, the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the largest mosque in the country and the 7th largest in the world, with the world’s tallest minaret at an impressive 210 meters (689 ft).

“Tradition and technology sit side by side, with colorful zellij (mosaic tiles), intricate stucco and carved cedar complementing the retractable roof and heated flooring,” Laura Bruntf CNN wrote.

The American news channel recognized the excellent linguistic competencies of Moroccans, writing that “multilingual Moroccans will put you to shame” in reference to the various local and foreign languages spoken by the majority of Moroccans. Even though the official languages of Morocco are standard Arabic and Tamazight (berber), Moroccan darija (an Arabic dialect) and different dialects of Tamazaight (Tashelhit, Tassousiyt, Tamazight and Tarifit) are the dialects spoken in the streets.

Although Marrakech is considered the haven and hot destination of most tourists, there are many other remarkable places to see all over the entire kingdom: from the coastal and imperial cities along the Atlantic Ocean to the historic cities and villages in the south with their golden dunes, kasbahs, and green oasis in the middle of the desert, accessible via camel treks. Take your time to explore the magic of cities and villages of the kingdom, but as CNN advises, “Don’t get stuck in Marrakech” because “it is justifiably popular, but there’s so much more.”

CNN added that, “Trains are cheap, comfortable and reliable” to make your trip easier and comfortable. Practically, trains don’t cover the whole country, but transportation is never a problem for travelers. You can travel wherever and whenever you want in Morocco. Comfortable and reliable means of transport are available, and you can check the travel schedule and book your ticket from the comfort of your home on the websites of travel companies like ONCF or CTM.

Once in Morocco, couscous is the meal you don’t want to miss. During your stay in the kingdom, you will have the chance to taste a variety of mouthwatering dishes. However, couscous and different sorts of tagines are the most typical and succulent Moroccan specialties.

Couscous is prepared every Friday and served after the “Jumuah Prayer”, an obligatory afternoon prayer for men to perform together in the mosque.

Other spectacular places to visit or book for your stay in Morocco are the riyads. “They’re decked out with elaborate zellij, stucco and painted cedar and are easily the most atmospheric places to stay,” reports Laura Brunt.

When traveling in a new country, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on some local words. One of the words that tourists hear when they visit Morocco’s imperial cities, especially Fez is “balak, which means “watch out.” Actually, “balak!” is a purely Moroccan word that means “move aside”. You will hear this expression more often in “souks” (local markets). It used by charioteers or porters loaded with heavy boxes in order to ask people to pave the way. “Rule No. 1 is to step aside when you hear “Balak!” It means there’s a heavily laden handcart or mule bearing down on you,” CNN’s reporter said.

After a long busy day, one may need a warm bath or a vaporized shower. The hotel you stay in, regardless of how cheap it is will provide a place to take a shower. However, no shower can replace the comfort of a public bath, locally called the hammam. According to CNN, “There are plenty of posh hotel hammams, but nothing beats a visit to a no-frills public bathhouse.”

It’s advisable to take your bath equipment or you can safely try some local products, such as “saboun lbeldi” black olive oil soap, “ghassoul” (clay used as hair conditioner), and a “kiis” (exfoliating glove) to clean up yourself. It is not uncommon to ask someone sitting next to you to scrub your back, or even better, you can ask for the service of a “kessal” a skillful person whose job is to bath people, and “you will be steamed, scrubbed and pummeled until you’re squeaky clean.”

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