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Women

Morocco is one of the leading countries in the Arab world in regards to women’s rights and freedoms. While there are still very definite gender gaps in culture, Morocco has made many significant reforms. In 2003, King Muhammad VI passed an historical family law called Mudawana. In it, he makes men and women jointly responsible for their homes, without the legal obligation for a woman to obey her husband. It makes it illegal for men and women to be forced into a marriage that they don’t want, and it severely restricts polygamy. It raises the age at which women may marry, and it protects her from being easily divorced by repudiation (the ritual words of divorce by which a man in Islam can divorce his wife, simply by saying them). It also protects unmarried women by creating responsibility by fathers for children born pre-maritally.

There still remain very definite distinctions in gender role in daily life. Men still tend to be the breadwinners, while women primarily take care of the home. The street is the primary domain of men, where men hang out with their friends in coffee shops. The home is the primary domain of women, where women will invite their friends. While there is still need for further reform, Morocco has done well to celebrate the uniqueness of each gender while creating freedoms and protections to help prevent those differences from being abused.


What to Pack

A few suggestions of things you might want to bring when you visit Morocco:

Medication
If you are taking medication bring enough with you as well as the prescriptions. Most medications are readily available in pharmacies throughout Morocco along with other basic medical needs. However, the names that the drugs are marketed under may not be the same as in the United States. Therefore, it is also helpful that you bring the slip of paper detailing its chemical makeup that came with the product so that you can be sure of purchasing the same thing here should the need arise (for example, if your medication is lost or stolen). If you wear glasses bring along a spare set if possible.

Camera
Bring your camera and take a lot of photos to show friends when you return home. Film and batteries etc. are easily purchased in Morocco, but come with enough if possible. Use wisdom in taking pictures, do not take photos of someone who doesn’t want their photo taken. Most people don’t care. Some people will ask money to take their pictures. A few coins will satisfy.

One final point is not to take photos of any building or structure with a Moroccan flag (it has a red background with a green five pointed star in the center). These are government buildings and are regarded as sensitive.

Optional:
The linguistically adventurous can bring the excellent “Moroccan Arabic phrasebook” (publ. by Lonely Planet-ISBN 086442 0714


Passport and Visa

A valid passport that is good for at least six months following your date of entry is required to enter Morocco. But no advance visa is required for citizens entering from the United States, England, Canada, Australia, and countries from the EU. On arrival you are given a 3 month tourist visa. Citizens coming from a country not listed above should check with their embassy for the requirements for coming to Morocco. It is good to make one photocopy of the key identification pages and keep them in a separate location than your actual passport. This will make it easier to replace your passport at the embassy if you lose it.


Culture / Dress / Artisian

Culture
Morocco is one of the most unique and wonderful places you could ever visit. The colour and bustle of the medieval medinas and the amazing diversity offered throughout the country are an unforgettable experience. People are friendly, and the culture is so rich and deep that it will make you leave wanting to discover more.

Dress
The most traditional clothing in Morocco is a djellaba. Djellabas are loose fitting garments that you put over whatever you are wearing, and serve well to hide your figure. There are djellabas for both men and women, however, women more commonly wear them. Morocco ’s traditional clothing also includes kaftans, which are usually worn for weddings and celebrations. The difference between a djellaba and a kaftan is that kaftans do not have a hood, and they are often fancier. However, dress codes are really varied in Morocco . While some are expected to fully cover up with a djellaba and head covering, others walk around in t-shirts and tight jeans. Factors include marital status, age, family and location. Dress for men is a little easier; however, they are rarely seen wearing shorts.

Artistic Tradition
Morocco has created a rich artistic heritage. From arches, to fountains, to mosaics, you are constantly surrounded with beauty. Skilled handicrafts include plaster work, carved wood and zellij, brass work, pottery and ceramics, jewellery, carpets, leatherwear, and traditional clothing. So important is the artistic tradition in Morocco that it employs the second largest segment of the country’s labour force, and contributes to 8% of the GDP. Morocco has also developed magical storytelling and musical traditions. All of these add flavour to the intricately rich culture of Morocco.


Food

Moroccan salads

Food
The flavourful cooking of Morocco enjoys a tradition of cuisine rich in spices. Women in the royal cities of Morocco have made cooking an art and a centre of social and community life. Moroccans will be quick to point out that the food found in homes is much better than that available in restaurants. Hosting here also far outshines many parts of the world. A meal would often start with a vast array of delicious dipping salads, from eggplant to green pepper to tomato and onion based salads. This is accompanied by a mouth-watering tagine, a stew type dish characterized by meat, chicken or fish covered by any number of vegetables, sitting in a flavourful spicy sauce. This is eaten by dipping bread, and the visitor will find this an absolutely delightful culinary experience.

Khobz - traditional Moroccan bread

Then, just as you are feeling thoroughly stuffed, Moroccans like to display their hospitality and surprise you with another full meal, just as irresistible as the first. The meal ends with a selection of fresh fruit, to “pass it down”. With constant encouragements to keep eating, that are considered polite in this culture, the guest is guaranteed to leave without needing a meal for another week. In addition to tagine, some other traditional meals include couscous and basteeya. Couscous is steamed semolina grains, traditionally covered with seven vegetables (often onions, pumpkin, zucchini, turnips, chili peppers, carrots and tomatoes) and, once again, a yummy sauce. This is traditionally served on Fridays and usually eaten either with spoons or hands. Basteeya is a triple layer sweet and savoury pastry, with shredded chicken, eggs, lemony onion sauce, and sweetened almonds enclosed in tissue-thin pastry, and sprinkled with a layer of sugar and cinnamon. This type of main meal is often served at lunch (around 2 or 2:30pm ). A nice meal for dinner (anywhere from 8pm to midnight ) is the traditional soup harira. This tomato-based soup is filled with chickpeas and lentils, but it is the incredible blend of herbs and spices that make it so addictive. Harira is also the traditional soup to break the fast each day during the Muslim month of Ramadan. This is often accompanied by other Moroccan treats such as malawi , harsha, bissara, and dates to name a few. Moroccan mint tea is another sweet treat to enjoy as you sample all the great tastes offered in front of you.


Morocco Climate

Morocco is characterized by a Mediterranean climate that varies considerable according to the season and location. The extreme temperature ranges are moderated on the west and north coast by the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. However, the interior of Morocco is characterized by much more extreme variations. Including, freezing temperatures and snow in the winter, and unbearable heat in the summer. The mountain ranges form another weather moderator, leaving the west much cooler than the east in the summer months. The south and south-eastern desert regions can become especially hot during this time. The mean temperature for the west coast ranges from 16.4° to 23°C (62°F – 73°F), while the mean temperature for the interior ranges from 10° to 27°C (50° – 81°F).

The rainy season is from November to March; however, rainfall is relatively sparse. The northwest can get between 30 and 40 inches, but the interior and south of Morocco are very dry.

Early summer is often the most comfortable time to visit as temperatures are pleasantly warm, and there is little threat of rain. The Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines are most pleasant from June to September, though.


Fast Facts on Morocco

Morocco Travel Information – Fast Facts

Fast Facts Overview:

Official Name: Kingdom of Morocco
Capital: Rabat
Official language: Arabic
Major Religion: Islam
Government: Constitutional Monarchy
King: Muhammad VI
Population: 31.6 million
Currency: Dirham
International dialling code: +212

Visas:
Citizens of the US, Canada, UK, EU, Australia and New Zealand are granted 3 month visa stamps upon arrival. All visitors require a passport.

Dress Tips:
While there is no uniform dress code in Morocco , it is still important to remember that this is a religious nation, and to dress accordingly. Modest dress will save you from a lot of hassle. It is generally a good idea to avoid shorts, short skirts, sleeveless shirts, or very tight clothing.

Women Travellers:

Women need to be aware that they may be the target of many comments and even stares, especially when travelling alone. In these situations it is best to remain calm and completely ignore the comments. Otherwise, it is fairly safe to walk around crowded areas, but still best to avoid walking in deserted areas or walking alone at night.

Etiquette:
Moroccans are wonderfully friendly, and you will often be greeted with a kiss on both cheeks. The closer you are, the more kisses you’ll get. You may even get your hand held as you walk. Don’t worry- it’s normal.

If you make some new friends, you will likely get some invitations into homes. You will know the genuineness of the invitation by the third time it is offered. When you enter the home, make an attempt to greet every person in the house. For women this often takes the form of kissing other women on the cheeks; men usually shake hands. Take your shoes off before stepping onto a rug, and try to avoid staying alone in a room of the opposite sex as this can be interpreted incorrectly.

If you are served with food, you will be constantly encouraged to keep eating. It is usually a good idea to start slowing down a little while before you actually get full. You do not have to keep eating just because they say so, though. Food is usually served on a big plate in the middle of the table. When you are eating, it is helpful to imagine a pie and eat the slice in front of you. It is generally considered rude to reach into someone else’s section, unless it is for the purpose of passing food to someone else. It is also good to keep in mind that meat is more expensive and is considered the best part of the meal. The meat will often be at the centre of the plate, but while your hosts will likely keep offering you meat, it is good to pace yourself. It is also generally polite to avoid the meat until you see someone else eating it. Another helpful hint to keep in mind is to avoid the use of you left hand when eating or handling any kind of food.


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