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Images of Morocco - Maroc By Philip Suter

See also: First Visit impressions of Morocco

Left: The Medina - Casablanca

Right: Town hall - Casablanca

Left: Casablanca

Right: Medina & Souks at Casablanca

Left: Mosquee Hassan II - Casablanca

Right:Koutoubia Mosque Marrakesh

Above and Below: The Djemaa el Fna Marrakesh

Morocco is located on the northwestern corner of Africa. It is bordered with Algeria to the east and southeast, Mauritania to the south, to west by the Atlantic Ocean and north east by the Mediterranean. It is a fantastic country to visit with great contrasts of wealth and poverty. It is slightly smaller than France or Spain and it slightly larger than California,USA.

From a geographical point of view it is divided into four zones: - The Coastal area - Atlantic and Mediterranean - The plains with the great cities. The Rif and Atlas Mountains and the Sahara - desert and oasis


History: November 2005 saw the 50th anniversary of independence from French and Spanish rule. The country has a monarch at the head of state and an elected government. Prior to 1956 it was divided into French and Spanish zones. The Spanish running Tetouan, the Rif, Mediterranean and North Atlantic coast and parts of the Western Sahara and the French running the main cities - Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech and Rabat the capital. There is a very a much a French influence the cities and they even have the same yellow Post office letter boxes as in France and when entering the Motorway /autoroute network, you could briefly think you were in France looking at the signage.

The Spanish still have their two colonies Ceuta (opposite Gibraltar) and Melilla that run an hour ahead on Spanish time.

It is ostensibly a constitutional monarchy with a popularly elected parliament, but the king has considerable excecutive powers. The country is a moderate Arab state which maintains close relations with Europe and the USA and was granted major non-NATO ally status in 2004. The political situation is stable.

The Economy: For many years Morocco has suffered from a weak economy based on agriculture. Over the last five years (from 2001) the economy has begun to expand, growing by 6.8 per cent in 2004. Today the three largest revenue earners are tourism, export of phosphates and remittances from expatriate Moroccans.The expanding economy owes much to the policies of King Mohammed VI who succeeded his conservative father in 1999. He is keen to see the country develop as a modern Islamic nation and to encourage foreign investment, that creates employment. See Buying Property in Morocco Morocco has a Free Trade Agreement with the USA which took effect in January 2006. This allows for 98 per cent of trade in consumer and industrial products to be tariff free. A Free Trade Agreement with the EU will take effect in 2010.

Climate:The rugged mountain ranges and the Atlantic Ocean moderate the tropical heat of the country. The temperature is 16 degrees - 23 degrees C (62-73 F) on the west coast and 10 to 27 C (50 -81 F) in the interior. There are small variations of temperature along the Atlantic coast and the interior has extreme variations. The Atlas Mountains that divert the Atlantic winds have a pre-Saharan climate. The eastern slopes are relatively cool and well watered. The rainy season is from October to November and April to May. The maximum annual rain is in the north west.

MAIN CITIES Many of the larger towns and cities have the traditional old town "Medina" and a "Ville Nouvelle" where you will normally find hotels serving alcohol

Casablanca: Is the Principal city of Morocco. Although not the Capital (See Rabat below) with a population of over 5 million, it is close to the Aeroport Mohammed V. It is a large port city, larger than Marseilles in France - It was modeled in this port under French colonial rule. The city has the Mosquee Hassan II, built with a glass floor on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The minaret is the tallest in the world - 200 hundred meters high. The roof also opens and shuts.

The city has the interesting Old Medina dating from the late 19th century. Casablanca is well known for the famous 1940's film with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. As the second world war was on - it was actually filmed in Hollywood. The Hotel Hyatt Regency located on the Place des Nations has a bar decorated from this film. Nearer the port and the docks Mosquee Hassan II you can find "Rick's bar"

Rabat: The Capital city -Since independence in 1956 is a lot smaller than Casablanca. The lively area is the Medina with many good value places to eat and this borders onto the beach. Points of interest are the Hassan Mosque, Mohammed V Mausoleum, The Kasbah des Oudaisas and the Citadel of Chellah.

Tangier / Tanja / Tanger:Is an international city located on the Atlantic/Mediterranean border that up to independence in 1956 had a special status as an "International zone". There is an international airport at Ibn Batouta and the main attractions are Place de France, The Grand Socco, The Medina, The Kasbah and the Dar el Makhzen.

Fes: Is the oldest of the Imperial Capitals. It is also a complete medieval city in the Arab world. There is an airport 15 km away at Sais. Sights to see: Fes el Bali, Medina, Ville Nouvelle, Merenid tombs and The Bou Inania.

Meknes:It is a sprawling prosperous provincial city situated south west of Fes. What to see:- The Imperial City, Bab Mansour, The Rouah and The Medina and the Souks (markets like in many Moroccan towns)

Marrakesh / Marrakech: Was called "Morocco City" by early travelers. It is Morocco's second largest city after Casablanca. A visitor there will immediately see the difference in wealth and people living on a day to day existence. The Djemaa el Fna is described as the most wonderful city square in the world. It is an open air circus with snake charmers, acrobats, musicians and very inexpensive restaurants that are wheeled out from a storage yard at night.

Left: click on image for a great Riad to stay at in Marrakesh

The Medina forms the boundary area with adjoing souks. Other sites to see: Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace, Bahia Palace and the Saadian Tombs.

Agadir: Is on the southern Atlantic coast and was Morocco's first purpose built holiday resort after the original town was ruined by an earthquake in 1960.

Essaouira: Is a traditional fishing town west of Marrakech on the Atlantic coast. It is considered fashionable with foreign holiday home buyers.

Travel: The railway network that is run by ONCF is mostly in the north. A good service that is not expensive to travel on. There is a motorway /autoroute along the north west coast (south of Casablanca to Tangier and to Fes.

Taxis are a feature of the country. The "Grand" taxi operate on a wide selection of routes - normally a Mercedes that came from the 1970s / 1980's - don't expect to find seat belts!. These carry up to 6 passengers and it is often normal to share the taxi. Each town or city will have its "Petit Taxi" a much smaller (and nearly as old Peugeot 205 / Fiat Uno) and there will be a different colour for each town. - Red in Casablanca - blue in Rabat - yellowish brown in Marrakesh etc. These are very econominical for traveling around in. Finally there are the buses - they are slightly cheaper than the Grand Taxi.

Riads - houses built around a patio garden. They are like a guest house although many are being transformed into houses to rent out to tourists. The interest in this type of property took off in Marrakesh where many a fine example can be found, some now just offering food.

Currency: - Dirham (DH)=100 centimes

Electricity Voltage: 127/220 V (full conversion to 220 V underway) Round 2 pin European type plug (Like France, Spain, Portugal etc)

Telephone Country Code: +212

Time: Same as UK, Ireland, Portugal

Language Arabic, Berber and French. For the English speaking visitor you will find that a lot of people have learnt English and want to try it out. Most road and street signs are in Arabic and French.

Food and drink: Morocco is an Islamic nation so alcohol drinking is not a high priority. Although wine and beer are produced in the country, many cafes and restaurants would only serve light drinks (Coke, orange, mineral water, coffee etc) or the national. drink -mint tea. You will find bars serving alcohol in cities like Rabat and larger hotels will also offer alcohol. You will find a selection of French influenced food and traditional Moroccan - Tajine (A steam cooked meat stew and couscous.

Buying Property in Morocco: The 330 days of sunshine a year, the short distance from Europe and the fact that in 2006 you can buy a property that costs half the pricde of that on the nearby Costa del Sol in Spain.

A $25 billion national development strategy for Morocco called Vision 2010 has been devised by King Mohammed VI in conjunction with the United Arab Emirates was launched in 2001 to quadruple tourist numbers to 10 million and create 600,000 new jobs by 2010.Part of this planincludes developing the country's beaches and constructing a number of elite seaside resorts, doubling hotel capacity, building new airports and developing the infrastructure. Following easyJets move into Morocco in 2006,Ryanair anounced in June that it will introduce some 20 new routes to Morocco to bring one million passsengers a year to the country.

This will mean plenty of holiday home properties being developed and coming onto the market. All buildings come with a ten year structural guarantee. The property laws and regulations resemble those of France and Spain and it is advisable to hire a lawyer who speaks your language.

Main points to consider:

  • There is no inheritance tax between family members. Some agents advise buyers to write a Moroccan will.
  • There is no annual property tax for the frist five years of ownership. After that period tax is 13.5 per cent of the rental value of the property.
  • Rental occupancy can reach 85 per cent during the peak season.
  • Hire a fluent English speaking lawyer (or your language) and don't expect to pay more than around  250 for their services.
  • Legal fees for new properties are set at 6 per cent. Expect to pay 10 per cent legal fees if the property is in need of work.


All photos ©jml Property Services November 2005

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First Visit impressions of Morocco
By Philip Suter

Having never visited Morocco or even Africa, I was very excited at the prospect in mid November 2005.

As soon as I boarded the Royal Air Maroc plane at London Heathrow on a late Saturday afternoon I was in another world. Announcements and signage in English French and Arabic. Moroccan stile cuisine and hospitality.

On arrival at the Aeroport Mohammed V after showing you passport several times I was soon on the motorway to Casablanca that is the principal city of the country (but not the capital). It seemed rather like being in France – autoroute signage, A French chain owned DIY store, but not so once the taxi had entered Casablanca itself. Here there were people walking out in front of cars, cars just about avoiding other ones and I was\very pleased I was not actually doing the driving, particularly with the lack of seat belts (or even one that worked!).

There is a great French influence in the country – it was ruled by the French and Spanish till 1956 and a lot of architecture new and old is very much of the French influence and even the Post boxes are the same shape and yellow colour as in France.

November is probably not the best time of year to visit the country, particularly if you don’t want to get wet. The rainy season is from October to November and April to May. On my second day I took the train from Casablanca to Rabat the capital. There is a very efficient and inexpensive rail network that is mainly in the north of the country. Unfortunately just before arriving at the station in Rabat the heavens opened. They had done on the previous day as I explored Casablanca, but the visit to Rabat only lasted just over an hour, because this wasn’t rain, it was flash floods and the roads suddenly took on the appearance of rivers. So much for exploring Rabat.

The day before in Casablanca was much more successful. I had spent a while reading a popular traveler's guide book that helped me understand more about the culture and people. I was not too surprised with offers by people wanting to help, show and ask for money. Men holding hands as they walked along or kissing when they met (like a guard greeting one his passengers) was part of normal life, it happened because they were friends, not a sexual relationship as would be thought of in the west. I also knew that I had to be careful taking photos as many women are not happy about this.

The city has the Mosquee Hassan II a spectacular site, that is built with a glass floor on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The minaret is the tallest in the world — 200 hundred meters high. The roof also opens and shuts.

Unlike a lot of European countries where taxis are modern vehicles, in Morocco you will find the large “Grand” taxis that normally travel with as many people legally possible going from town to city and are usually a Mercedes of the 1980s era that will be a certain colour depending on the town or city they are based in. Each town will also have its own coloured “Petit Taxi”. Theses are normally Peugeots and Fiats (colour coded for each town or city) that most likely started life in the 1980’ and 1990s in Europe and were exported south to start a new lease of life as a passenger carrying vehicle for four.

Moving onto Marrakesh ( known as Marrakech locally) by train proved to be very interesting. Paying the additional amount for first class at least guaranteed a comfortable seat, although my limited experience in second class did not prove to have any discomfort. The landscape changes with more and more “dryer fields”, even cacti being cultivated in places and farmers using ploughs pulled by horses or donkeys. You can see Atlas Mountains in the distance as you come into Marrakesh. Many people decide to stay in the "Ville Nouvelle" where you will find the western style hotels and even villa complexes a few miles out where you are enclosed from the outside “real” world. I was staying in a small Riad in the centre off the Djemaa el Fna – the large city centre square in the Medina.

A Riad is a type of Guest House that is normally built round a patio garden. Normally some of the rooms are open plan to the elements and there is not so much rain there as nearer the coast. The experience of reaching the destination was varied. A petit taxi to the edge of the Djemaa el Fna and then because taxi are not allowed in after midday you have to hire a porter and cart.

The square is full of mobile restaurants, traders, snake charmers and appears to be very much alive most hours of the day. There are also several panoramic cafés where you can get a superb view day or night of the surrounding scene including the Koutoubia Mosque . If you want to sit there and have a beer or glass of wine think again. Morocco is an Islamic nation so alcohol drinking is not a high priority. Although wine and beer are produced in the country, many cafes and restaurants would only serve light drinks (Coke, orange, mineral water, coffee etc) or the national. drink -mint tea. You certainly would not have a problem in the hotels in the "Ville Nouvelle".

The food is generally excellent and very reasonable as well. The traditional Moroccan — Tajine (A steam cooked meat stew) and couscous were tried.

The country has great contrasts of wealth and poverty. There are numerous developments being built as holiday homes near to Marrakesh and the three hour drive back to Casablanca to take the plane back home took in the new prosperous areas and past little “shanty”town areas of small buildings with corrugated iron roofs held down with boulders and each having a satellite dish. The taxi driver made a couple of stops to buy cigarettes. By the side of the road someone would come out with either packets or split packets. On each occasion the driver bought 2 cigarettes.

Jobs are very important, the host at the Riad said that a waiter in a restaurant cannot afford to make mistakes. He knows that there is another million of unemployed people waiting to take the job. There are numerous police about. Normally going around in fours or more. They man roadblocks at the entrances and exits to most towns. This is probably high security or could be giving the employed force more to do.

If you are going there on holiday make sure that you spend your Dirhams before you get to the airport. You won’t be able to change themback in the departures area or spend them on drink or tobacco at the Duty Free – they only accept euros.

The country is large – about the of California USA, there is a lot to see, I would like to visit other cities like Tangier and Fes. Even though it rained in Casablanca and Rabat it was hot dry and sunny in Marrakesh and the last night of 17 degrees centigrade on the roof of the Riad was quite a contrast to 24 hours later back in the south of England that was undergoing one of the first cold spells of the winter.


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