Halal Holidays in Morocco

Halal Holidays in Morocco

 

The Top five reasons to visit Morocco

 

Morocco is the up-and-coming destination for halal tourism. It offers a wide choice of halal-friendly accommodation in beach resorts, historic cities and mountain villages, great halal food and lots to see and do. 

 

  1. Fascinating culture & history
  2. Breath-taking scenery
  3. Moroccan souks & medinas
  4. Great climate
  5. Morocco traditional food
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.
Morocco Souk shopping

Halal Holidays in Morocco

  The Top five reasons to visit Morocco   Morocco is the up-and-coming destination for halal tourism. It offers a wide choice of halal-friendly accommodation in beach resorts, historic cities and mountain villages, great halal food and lots to see and do. ...
Volubilis Archeological site Morocco Travel

Archaeological Site of Volubilis in Meknes, Morocco

The Mauritanian capital, founded in the 3rd century B.C., became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings. Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in a fertile agricultural area. Volubilis was...
Boiled snails stand at the Jemaa el-Fnaa square, Morrocoo

Top Things to See & Do in Marrakech

Top Things to See & Do in Marrakech, Morocco [at_icon icon="td-marker-location-2"] Marrakech, Morocco, North Africa   Marrakech is a former imperial city and one of the most popular cities for tourists in the Maghreb. It is home to beautiful mosques, palaces...
Archaeological Site of Volubilis in Meknes, Morocco

Archaeological Site of Volubilis in Meknes, Morocco

Volubilis Archeological site Morocco Travel

The Mauritanian capital, founded in the 3rd century B.C., became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.

Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in a fertile agricultural area. Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.

Sitting in the middle of a fertile plain, the ruined Roman city of Volubilis is the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco. Its most amazing features are the many beautiful mosaics preserved in situ, and it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997. Volubilis is about 33km north of Meknes and can easily be combined with nearby Moulay Idriss Zerhoun to make a fantastic day trip from Meknes or Fez.

Only about half of the 40-hectare site at Volubilis has been excavated. The better-known monuments are in the northern part of the site, furthest from the entrance in the south.

In the heat of a summer day, the sun can be incredibly fierce, so bring a hat and plenty of water. Spring is the ideal season when wildflowers blossom amid the abandoned stones, and the surrounding fields are at their greenest. The best time to visit is either first thing in the morning or late afternoon; at dusk, when the last rays of the sunlight the ancient columns, Volubilis is at its most magical.

Although parts of certain buildings are roped off, you are free to wander the site at will. Just beyond the entrance gate lies a small on-site museum, which displays the ancient city’s most celebrated finds and includes some of the prized discoveries, such as some fine bronzes, although many remain in the Archaeology Museum in Rabat.

 

ANCIENT VOLUBILIS

Although the least remarkable part of the site, the olive presses here indicate the economic basis of ancient Volubilis, much as the plentiful olive groves in the surrounding area do today – look for the flat presses and stone storage vats dotted about the site. Wealthy homeowners had private olive presses.

THE BUILDINGS 

Next to the House of Orpheus are the remains of Galen’s Thermal Baths. Although largely broken, they clearly show the highly developed underfloor heating in this Roman hammam (look for the low arches). Opposite the steam room are the communal toilets – where citizens could go about their business and have a chat at the same time.

The Capitol, Basilica, and 1300-sq-meter Forum are, typically, built on a high point. The Capitol, dedicated to the Triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, dates back to AD 218; the Basilica and Forum lie immediately to its north. The reconstructed columns of the Basilica are usually topped with storks’ nests – an iconic Volubilis image if the birds are nesting at the time of your visit. Around the Forum is a series of plinths carved with Latin inscriptions that would have supported statues of the great and good. Keep your eyes out for the carved stone drain-hole cover – an understated example of Roman civil engineering.

The marble Triumphal Arch was built in 217 in honor of Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna. The arch, which was originally topped with a bronze chariot, was reconstructed in the 1930s, and the mistakes made then were rectified in the 1960s. The hillock to the east provides a splendid view over the entire site.

 

Houses with Mosaics

The House of Orpheus is the finest and largest home, containing a mosaic of Orpheus charming animals by playing the lute, and a dolphin mosaic in the dining room. Note the private hammam has a caldarium (hot room) with visible steam pipes, a tepidarium (warm room) and a frigidarium (cold room), as well as a solarium.

On the left just before the triumphal arch are a couple more roped-off mosaics. One, in the House of the Acrobat, depicts an athlete being presented with a trophy for winning a desultory race, a competition in which the rider had to dismount and jump back on his horse as it raced along. To the west of here is the House of the Dog, famed not for its mosaics but a lonesome rock plinth with a giant phallus carved into the top of it – this establishment was once a brothel for weary warriors who would stop off here after making it back to the triumphal arch after the battle.

From the arch, the ceremonial road, Decumanus Maximus, stretches up the slope to the northeast. The houses lining it on either side contain the best mosaics on the site. The first on the far side of the arch is known as the House of the Ephesus and contains a now-incomplete mosaic of Bacchus in a chariot drawn by panthers.

Next along, the House of the Columns is so named because of the columns arranged in a circle around the interior court – note their differing styles, which include spirals. Adjacent to this is the House of the Knight, also called House of the Cavalier/Rider with its incomplete mosaic of Bacchus and Ariadne. The naked Ariadne has suffered somewhat from the attentions of admirers.

The next four houses are named for their excellent mosaics: the House of the Labours of Hercules, the House of Dionysus and the Four Seasons, the House of the Nymphs Bathing, though the nymph mosaics are heavily damaged, and the House of the Wild Beasts. The first is almost a circular comic strip, recounting the Twelve Labours. Several of Hercules’ heroic feats were reputed to have occurred in Morocco, making him a popular figure at the time.

Some of the best mosaics are saved until last. Cross the Decumanus Maximus and head for the lone cypress tree, which marks the House of Venus, home of King Juba II. There are two particularly fine mosaics here, appropriately with semi-romantic themes. The first is the Abduction of Hylas by the Nymphs, an erotic composition showing Hercules’ lover Hylas being lured away from his duty by two beautiful nymphs. The second mosaic is Diana Bathing. The virgin goddess was glimpsed in her bath by the hunter Acteon, whom she turned into a stag as punishment. Acteon can be seen sprouting horns, about to be chased and devoured by his own pack of hounds – the fate of mythical peeping toms everywhere.

Hiring a guide

Information boards are much improved and explain in English, French, and Arabic what you’re actually seeing. It’s well worth hiring a guide, especially if you’re pressed for time. If you prefer to wander on your own, allow at least two hours to see the essentials. The official guides await near the entrance to the site and conduct good one hour tours for about Dh250. Insist on getting one that speaks your language fluently.

 

Getting to Volubilis

The simplest and quickest way to get to Volubilis is to hire a grand taxi for the return trip. A half-day outing from Meknes should cost Dh350, with a couple of hours at the site and a stop at Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (worth an overnight stay in itself). The same trip from Fez (about twice the distance) will cost about Dh1000.

A cheaper alternative is to take a shared grand taxi from Meknes to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (Dh10; ask for Zerhoun), and then hire a grand taxi to take you to Volubilis (Dh30 complete hire, one way). If the taxi waits for you and takes you back to Meknes, the cost is Dh120. If you don’t arrange in advance to be taken back, simply ask the guardian at Volubilis car park to find you a taxi. Note that shared taxis to Moulay Idriss only run from near the Meknes Institut Français.

If the weather isn’t too hot, it’s a lovely one-hour walk (one way) between Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis. Alternatively, trot down on a donkey arranged through Dar Zerhoune in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (Dh150, one hour), and take a taxi back.

Top Things to See & Do in Marrakech

Top Things to See & Do in Marrakech

Top Things to See & Do in Marrakech, Morocco

[at_icon icon=”td-marker-location-2″] Marrakech, Morocco, North Africa

 

Marrakech is a former imperial city and one of the most popular cities for tourists in the Maghreb. It is home to beautiful mosques, palaces and gardens, as well as the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square and souk market. With plenty of things to do and see in both the medieval and modern parts of town, Marrakech is a captivating city. Here is our list explores the Must-See Attractions every traveler needs to do in Marrakech.

 

Jemaa el-Fnaa Market

Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main pulse of Marrakech. By day, the square buzzes with snake charmers, henna tattoo artists and various other entertainers, while at night there are countless stalls boasting traditional lamb dishes and fresh orange juice, among other culinary delights. Tourists flock here all year round to experience the true heart of the city and to discover the intriguing things the locals have to offer in this magical Moroccan square.

 

 

Jardin Majorelle Park

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle | © Adam Jones/Flickr

One of the most popular locations in Morocco, the Jardin Majorelle is the creation of French painter Jacques Majorelle, who spent 40 years injecting his passion and creativity into this magical garden. Complete with enchanting little lanes, tranquil streams and over 300 species of stunning plants, Jardin Majorelle is perfect for those who need a break from the busy city.

 

Visit a hammam

Hammam-e Sultan Mir Ahmad
Hammam-e Sultan Mir Ahmad © Philip Block/Flickr

A visit to a hammam (local bathhouse) will usually involve stripping down and immersing yourself in experiences such as a visit to the sauna, an exfoliating massage and a dip in an ice-cold pool. There are a number of bathhouses throughout Marrakech, and a typical price for tourists is between 50 and 100 dirhams. Don’t forget to bring your own towel just in case!

 

 

Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque

Koutoubia Mosque | © Singa Hitam/Flickr

Given the importance of mosques in Moroccan culture, the Koutoubia Mosque is a must-see for those in the area. The largest mosque in Marrakech, the Koutoubia is not only a spiritual center but a point of reference for international architecture. Setting the trend for buildings in Spain and Rabat, the beautiful 12th-century minaret is an example of ornamental expertise, with characterful arches and rigid proportions, it’s an admirable piece of architecture. Enjoy the call to prayer coming from the top of the minaret five times a day and appreciate the architecture of this important building.

 

Stay in a traditional riad

Riad
Riad © Barbaragin/Flickr

Riads are hidden treasures often tucked away in the narrow streets of the old part of town. Those staying in Marrakech should ensure they spend at least one night in the heart of the old town in a spectacular riad. Take Dar Hanane, for example, where guests are transported from the bustling medina streets into a house of relaxation and tranquillity. With en-suite bedrooms and a roof terrace offering panoramic views of Marrakech, this is just one example of the incredible riads in the imperial city.

 

 

Saadian Tombs Archaeological site

Saadian Tombs

Saadian Tombs | © Tracy Hunter/Flickr

These tombs were created to stand as the final resting place for the many rulers and members of the Saadi dynasty. Rich in history, the Saadian tombs were rediscovered in 1917 after being sealed for centuries. Magnificently decorated with bright tiles, Arabic calligraphy, and intricate carvings, Saadian Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour Eddahbi certainly spared no expense on his tomb, making for a beautiful site for tourists. Located just outside of Marrakech, the tombs are easy to reach, and a fantastic alternative to the bustling city. Carefully restored and well preserved, they now stand as one of the most popular things to see in Morocco.

 

 

Tanneries

Tanneries
Tanneries © Gary Vogel/Flickr

Situated in the northeast of the medina, the tanneries cannot be missed. With an overwhelming smell and many invitations from people in the streets, you’ll easily find your way there. Everything from bags to dresses is found here, and it’s wonderful to watch just how all the treasures are made. Visitors can watch workers as they hand dye material in preparation for trade in the city. Offering up an alternative to modern factories, the tanneries are an intriguing feast for all the senses.

 

 

Museum of Marrakech

Musée de Marrakech

Musée de Marrakech © Matthew Robey/Flickr

Marrakech is full of delightful museums, including the Dar si Said, which displays fantastic Moroccan architecture and objects. The Musée de Marrakech, house in the Dar Menebhi Palace, boasts embroidery, weapons and contemporary art. For historical imagery of the city, visit the Maison de la Photgraphie. In the new part of town, visitors can find many contemporary art galleries displaying work from local talent.

 

 

Old Town Souk in Medina

Old Town Souk in Medina, Morrocoo

Old Town Souk in Medina, Morrocoo © Rafal Cichawa / Shutterstock

On a trip to any Moroccan city, the enchanting souks are a must on the agenda. Marrakech is no exception. Labeled one of the most magical cities in the country, Marrakech boasts a full medina with traditional winding souks and countless treasures. Whether you’re looking for literature, handicrafts, or food, there’s a street and an alleyway for everything. Visitors can get lost for hours in the labyrinth of enticing streets. So relax, explore, and discover some locally made treasures.

 

Ben Youssef Madrasa

 

Ali Ben Youssef Medersa Islamic school, Marrakesh, Morrocco | © Nicram Sabod/Shutterstock

Madrasas, translating to ‘schools’, now stand all around Morocco as historical representations of the education of the past. This particular Quranic school, once the largest in North Africa, was dedicated to the teaching of Islamic law and has stood since the 14th century. Guests can explore more than 100 tiny, windowless student chambers and admire the stunning architecture, from the great courtyard to the richly decorated prayer halls. After almost six centuries, this medieval madrasa stands as one of the key tourist attractions of the city.

Original post was written by Rebecca Wilkinson for Culturetrip

 

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