1. Morocco’s Fascinating Culture and History
The History of Islam in Morocco
Islam was first brought to Morocco by Arab traders in the 7th and 8th centuries. In 788 Idris ibn Abdallah, or Moulay Idris I, as he is known in Morocco, who was the great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammed, decided to settle in Morocco. He founded the Moroccan Umayyad state, but his work was cut short when he was assassinated. It was left to his son, Idris II, born after the death of his father to unify Morocco and firmly establish its allegiance to Islam.
Top 3 Mosques to Visit in Morocco
Koutoubia or Kutubiyya Mosque, Marrakesh
Completed in 1199, this mosque is one of Morocco’s great historic buildings. It takes its name from the booksellers which originally surrounded it. Its minaret is one of the most impressive in the Islamic world, built to an unusual square design from enormous blocks of local red sandstone, reaching a height of 77 metres.
Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca
Built-in 1993 to commemorate the 60th birthday of King Hassan II, this spectacular mosque showcases the best of modern architecture and Moroccan craftsmanship. Its interior displays colorful ceramic tiles, known as zellij, hand-carved stone and wood and elaborate marble floors. Its minaret is an astonishing 210 meters tall and the mosque is in a breathtakingly beautiful location, jutting out over the waves of the Atlantic sea. It is one of the largest mosques in the world – there is space for 25,000 people to worship here.
Kairouine Mosque (Al Quaraouiyine), Fes
Founded in 859 by Fatima El Fihria, a female Tunisian refuge, this mosque is one of the largest in Africa, where over 20,000 people can worship at one time. Its green pyramid-shaped roof and minaret are at the heart of the University, which is one of the oldest in the world. It was built in a plain and simple style which has been embellished over the ages, with Andalusian touches, elegant arches and grand pavilions.
Breath-taking Scenery in Morocco
Morocco boasts a diverse landscape, from snow-capped mountains to the sands of the western Sahara desert. It benefits from a the Mediterranean and an Atlantic coastline, with some of its finest sandy beaches in the resort of Agadir on the Atlantic coast. It has two dramatic mountain ranges: the Atlas mountains in the center of the country, providing a stunning backdrop to the Imperial city of Marrakesh, and the Rif mountains which run along Morocco’s northern edge.
Enchanting Medinas in Morocco
The names of Morocco’s magnificent cities even sound enticing as they roll off the tongue – Casablanca, Rabat, Fes, Marrakesh, Tangier. They each have their own fascinating history, and at the center of each is the historic medina or ‘old town’. This is usually the cultural heart of the city, surrounded by city walls, inside which can be found a maze of narrow streets, where its most interesting and most ancient buildings and monuments can be found. You will usually find historic mosques, a street market or souk, and lots of the traditional riads – mansions built around a central courtyard – many of which have now been turned into intimate, family-run hotels. Food served in Moroccan cities will always be halal, and if you are looking for an alcohol-free restaurant then the medina is a good place to start, as this is often the most conservative and traditional part of the city.
Great Climate All Year Round
Morocco is a fantastic choice for a halal-friendly holiday, all year round. Summers are hot and dry – perfect for beach-lovers – with the hot, sunny weather lasting right through September and October. The climate in winter remains mild, making it a popular choice throughout the year. Spring is a beautiful time to visit when the mountains are green, and flowers in bloom.
5. Traditional Moroccan food
Make sure you try the following halal food during your stay in Morocco:
- Couscous This fine wheat pasta, with the consistency of rice, is found throughout Morocco, served with fish meat and delicious tagines.
- Tagines These traditional Moroccan stews take their name from the clay pots in which they are cooked. They are made with chicken, lamb or fish and flavored with herbs and spices, enhanced with such delicacies as green olives, preserved lemons, apricots and raisins.
- Pastilla or B’stilla Traditional chicken or pigeon pies covered with layers of delicate flaky pastry, flavored with cinnamon and dusted with icing sugar.
- Harira Soup This delicious soup is traditionally served at the start of the iftar meal during Ramadan and is made with tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils and lamb.
- Mint Tea
- Fragrant fresh mint tea is the most common beverage in Morocco, served with meals and at every time in-between. It is extremely refreshing!
Is it easy to find halal food in Morocco?
Yes, as a Muslim country, all of the food served in restaurants in Morocco is halal, with the exception of a few tourist establishments in resorts. It is also easy to find ‘dry’ hotels and restaurants which don’t serve alcohol.
Top places to stay in Morocco
The enchanting city of Marrakech needs no introduction. Stay in the heart of the ancient medina for an atmospheric halal city break experience. Find out more about halal-friendly holidays in Marrakesh.
Fes is another of Morocco’s imperial cities and also a great choice for a city break.
Set on the Straits of Gibraltar, the port city of Tangier is characterized by its whitewashed hillside medina. Further south, overlooking the Atlantic coast, Essaouira is a charming fortified town, set on beautiful sandy beaches. Essaouira is home to artists and craftsmen and famous for its marquetry, or inlaid woodwork.
Those seeking golden sand and a laid-back resort atmosphere should head to Agadir. For mountain scenery head to the distinctive mountain village of Chefchaouen, with its unusual blue-washed buildings high in the Rif Mountains, or to Errachidia, which is the ideal base from which to explore the dramatic Ziz Valley.
What kind of accommodation is available for Muslim families in Morocco?
Morocco offers a wide variety of choice for Muslim families. Choose from resort style halal-friendly hotels, exclusive villas or riad style hotels.
There are many alcohol-free or ‘dry’ hotels available, which only serve halal food. There are also a number of hotels such as Le Vizir Center Park and Resort, Villa Koutoubia and the Grand Mogador Tanger Sea View & Spa which offer dedicated swimming pools for women.
What is a riad?
A riad, which literally means ‘garden’, is a traditional Moroccan house built around a central courtyard, which often has its own small swimming pool. Many riads have been converted to small, authentic hotels.
Why are riads good for Muslim families?
Staying in a riad is a great choice for a halal-friendly holiday. Riads are small and family-run. Typically they have around five rooms. All of the food served is halal and the vast majority do not serve alcohol. Some riads are available for private hire by your family group, which allows your family to use the swimming pool in complete privacy. HalalBooking offers the opportunity to stay in a riad hotel in the medina of Marrakesh, in Fes, Errachidia and Essaouira.
Halal Villas in Morocco
HalalBooking offers a good choice of stylish villas and riads which are available to rent exclusively by your family group. Swimming pools in HalalBooking’s villas all offer complete privacy and are not overlooked in any way. Self-catering offers more freedom for Muslim families. It is easy to shop for halal food in Morocco and two of the supermarket chains, Marjane and Acima do not sell alcohol.
What is the currency in Morocco?
The local currency is the Dirham – it’s a closed currency so you can’t usually obtain it outside Morocco. Take cash in major currencies to exchange or withdraw it from a cashpoint machine with your credit or debit card.
Tips for Shopping in Morocco
The renowned Moroccan souks offer an authentic shopping experience, which is as much about the experience as what you choose to buy.
Don’t forget to barter – haggling is an accepted part of shopping in the traditional markets, so you need to negotiate for the best price.
Make sure you have cash ready to pay – either the local currency, Dirham, or a major international currency that will be accepted in some places.
Don’t be surprised if you’re offered a glass of mint tea to seal the deal!
What should I buy as a souvenir of my halal holiday in Morocco?
These are some unique gifts that you can bring back to remind you of Morocco:
- Leather goods – Morocco, and especially the city of Fes, is famous for its traditional tanneries. Buy a pair of brightly-colored authentic slippers known as ‘babouche’ or ‘belgha’ – great for wearing around the house when you get home.
- Woodwork – Essaouira is famous for its beautiful marquetry, or inlaid woodwork, made from the local Thuya tree, a mahogany-like hardwood. You can buy beautiful furniture bowls and ornaments.
- Lanterns – the intricate lanterns with brightly-colored glass are available in the souks of Marrakesh or Fes and look beautiful inside or out. Great for reminding you of your holiday when you’re back home!
- Hand-painted ceramics – lovely pottery is painted in bright colors with traditional patterns and is perfect for gifts or to spice up your home.
- Djellabas – the traditional Moroccan dress worn by both men and women is a great cover-up. Women have a fantastic choice of colors, materials and patterns.