I do love my country for all its faults and virtues! Lots of my blog readers sent me emails asking if Morocco is a perfect place for tourism? I don't think there is such a place called "perfect country". If you decide to travel abroad, the choice of the place will depend on your expectations, planning and goals. Are you an adventure traveller? or comfort-five-stars tourist? or are you looking for long sabbatical travel? The most common questions I've received by e-mails or via private chat in Google or Facebook are:
1-One of my blog readers from Middle-East sent me an email (quoting him): "I always thought Morocco is an Arab country until I last visited small villages in the South and Atlas mountains and no one could understand my Arabic and nor could I understand their language, which I understood afterwards it was "Imazighen". My question now to you, can we call Morocco an Arab country?
2-Is it safe to travel to Morocco?
3-Are Americans or non-Muslims a major target there?
4-Is it really safe to bring my "woman" with me for shopping or walking in the streets?
5-Should my "woman" wear a scarf or Hijab or skirt or Burka, or whatever? etc...
To answer the first question: NO, Majority of Moroccans are not Arabs though most of Moroccans are Muslims. It is estimated that more than 80% of Moroccans are ethnically Imazighens (by Imazighens we mean either Swassa (South), Ryaffa (North) and Zayanes (Atlas-Center of the country), Sahrawis - See more details below under Moroccan Population in this article). However, before answering the other questions, I admit I was really surprised, to say the least, because this reminds me of the hysteria following September 11, 2001. If you live in Deptford or Catford or Lewisham (England) or New York City or Los Angeles (USA), where the danger, I suppose, of being shot by a gun is much more higher than in any city in Morocco, so I'm sure you can travel to my country without a problem. However; we all know that there is always a little risk that something by chance or bad luck could happen to us ANYWHERE in the world. I think the most important thing to bear in mind when you decide to travel somewhere, is to show some respect to the culture, religion and traditions of the place you intend to visit. I myself, have never felt obliged to cover my face or wear a scarf or Hijab or gloves or Burka, when I decide to go outside in Morocco, and of course as in any country in the world, you should dress appropriately before you put your feet outside. And as a visitor, always, be sensitive about whom you photograph, it is considered polite to ask permission of people before you take their picture. Use your common sense, how would you feel if someone in your own country take a picture of you or your children without your permission?
Most importantly, if you don't speak one of the local languages/dialects or if you are not sure about all the different places you want to visit, stick to your travel agent and ask him/her for advice to arrange special tours for you. If you want to visit the South, make sure your travel agent speaks fluently Soussiya-Imazighen, if you intend to go to Atlas, your agent should be fluent in Zayanes-Imazighen, whereas; the North, it's of course Rifiya-Imazighen which is more spoken. As for the main towns as Casablanca, Rabat, Fes etc..., it is more Darija-French Dialect which is predominant. So if you are French speaker, you'll have no problem to be understood; however, you still need an agent who speaks well Darija and classic Arabic since most driving signs and formal news are written or broadcasted in calssic Arabic. With the "Arabisation System" implemented in the 80s in public primary/secondary schools all over the country, majority of Moroccans don't speak fluently French as it was the case in the 60s, 70s and 80s. You will notice that people who are born between 50s and 80s, their French is more perfect and fluent in comparison with those born after the 80s. However, Moroccans who can afford to pay private schools, their children speak fluently several languages: French, English, classic Arabic, Imazighen and Darija.
2.Where is Morocco?
3-Official Name of the country : Kingdom of Morocco = المملكة المغربية
4-Capital City : Rabat = الرباط
5-Total Land Area : 710,850 sq km
6-Currency : Moroccan Dirham (DH). Currency Converter-Click here to check currency-
1 SAR (Saudi Riyal) = 2.3537 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
1 GBP (British Pound Sterling) = 13.8197 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
1 USD (US Dollar) = 8.8336 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
1 CAD (Canadian Dollar) = 7.7347 MAD (Moroccan Dirham)
7-Religions: Sunni Islam = الاسلام السّني
8-Independence : After 44 years of occupation, Morocco regained independence in 1956 from France, and then in 1975, Moroccan Sahara regained independence from Spain. However, there are still two main towns under Spanish colonisation: Sebta and Mlilya in the North.
c-Zayanes or Zayaniya in the Central Middle Atlas (Khenifra ).
9.2.-Moroccan Language or Darija: This is the colloquial dialect, and most widely spoken by Moroccans in general in everyday conversations, songs, movies, on informal occasions, etc.... Some people prefer to call this dialect "Moroccan-Arabic", which is confusing, because Darija is far from being Arabic, in fact our Darija is not understandable to Arab speakers, and this is simply due to the fact that it has had its large share of borrowing words and expressions from different communities represented by three different dialects of Imazighens (North, South and Atlas), Jews, Andaloussi, Sahrawis, Arabs, Spanish and French, thereby making Darija so difficult and even impossible to understand by Arabs. Mauritania and Algeria are probably the only countries where our Darija can be understood. If Arab countries have their own regional dialect though each country has developed its own idiosyncrasies, but generally speaking, Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Quatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, etc..... can easily understand each other, because first they are all Arabs, thus their dialects are close to classical Arabic, which make their dialects share the same linguistic characteristics, though there are slight differences in the accents, expressions and words.
In spite of the different dialects in Morocco, you will be able to understand and make yourself understood if you speak standard Darija, except in some villages where Imazighen is the only language used to communicate. Due to differences in accents, words and pronunciation, Moroccan speakers can easily spot someone from another town, region or village, so the way people talk is based on what part of the Kingdom they live in. There are marked dialectal differences according to the parts of the Kingdom, people do live. These social and regional differences in accents, pronunciation and expressions can be summarized as follows:
9.3-Classical Arabic: It is the official as well as the religious language. The Classical Arabic is taught in Mosque, Primary and Secondary Schools, Universities. It is Morocco's official government language, used in media news, political shows, parliamentary services and government institutions.
9.5- French: Most Moroccans, living in big cities as Casablanca and Rabat, speak French fluently (but only those have been in private schools). Since the 80s and due to the "Arabisation System", public schools have focused on classic Arabic than any foreign language. French is also the language that is taught from very early age on private primary schools and even at the nursery centers. French, both spoken and written, is also the language of businesses, administrations, international companies, banks and certain commerce /education institutions. The higher your level of French is when you begin your job search, the higher your chances are of finding work quickly in big cities, and this is the reason why some parents decide to send their children to private schools though they are not affordable to everyone. In Morocco, when the ad states a "Pefect Bilingual" applicant" has the "priority" or "preferred", this means the two languages : "Classical-Arabic and French Speakers", it's important to mention here that Darija and Imazighen are not included as languages when it comes to job search, which is sad because both Imazighen and Darija are the first languages of Moroccans yet they are not used at professional level, putting more pressure on Moroccans to learn foreign languages such as classic Arabic, French and English to find a suitable job. Some employers would wait until the interview to ask their candidates if they speak Imazighen language, especially when it comes to hire sales representative for big companies or tourists agents for certain regions.
9.6-Spanish: It is largely a spoken language for many people, living in the North and Western Sahara.