The Amazigh People (“Berber”)

Most of the people don’t know much about the Amazigh people, haven’t even heard of them at all… that definitely changes once they traveled through Morocco.

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Egypt is what Amazigh people, also known as “Berber”, call home. The word “Berber” comes from the Greek word “barbaros”, which means barbarian. Today no one will feel offended by that word anymore, yet for sure it will make them happy to be called Amazigh people or Imazighen, as they call themselves in their language (Tamazight). Some people might use the word “Berbers” as a synonym for nomads, which doesn’t fit for all of them. Only a few from different tribes are having this kind of nomadic lifestyle.

But Berbers aren’t just Berbers.. there are many different tribes with different dialects, different traditions and a different way of living. Only in Morocco you’ll find already three of them. The biggest tribe in Morocco, called Ishelhien is the one that lives in the area around the High-Atlas Mountains until the Western coast (around Agadir) of Morocco. The Berbers in the North of Morocco call themselves Riffians. The once that lives around Agadir and southern are called Swassa.

More than 60% of the Moroccan population still speaks the Amazigh language and therefore see themselves as Berbers. Actually mostly all inhabitants of the north African countries are originally Imazighen (Berbers). The ones that doesn’t identify as Berbers might call themselves Arabs which is genetically not true, but due to the Arabization and the Islam coming to the their countries they don’t feel as Imazighen anymore.

Last but not least, the word “Amazigh” basically means “free people”. Known for their heartwarming hospitality that describes them perfectly well. You won’t find an Amazigh that doesn’t invite you to a cup of sweet mint tea or to have dinner with the family. So whenever you get the opportunity to get closer to the Imazighen, take that chance and you won’t regret it.



Bucket List: Morocco

1. Spending a night under the stars in the Sahara Desert – Merzouga
An unforgetable experience – to sleep under hundreds of stars and – if your lucky – being able to see the milky way. Ride on camels into the dunes (alternatives are mostly available) and spend a night in a tent in the middle of nowhere – nothing but sand around you.
A night you will never forget.


2. Getting lost in the Souks of the Red City – Marrakech
The Berber Souks of Marrakech are full of hidden shops with everything you didnt even know you needed. In this connection the first rule is – bargaining.


3. Get to know the unique culture of the Amazigh people – Dades Gorge
Experience the culture and history of the Amazigh (also called Berber) people in the Mountains. Heartwarming hospitallity and unique traditions, surrounded by untouched nature.


4. A festival in the desert – Zagora M’Hamid
Next to Merzouga the Sahara desert of Zagora is (unreasonable) underrated, yet so stunning. The Erg Chegaga is the largest and still untouched erg of Morocco.
If you visit this place in the end of March take some time and join us for the Festival des Nomads


5. Paradise Valley – Agadir
Hidden in the South-West of Morocco close to Agadir you’ll find an oasis in the middle of forests and mountains – a canyon filled with turkis water. Feels like paradise..


6. Chefchaouen
Explore the Instagram-City in the North of Morocco, also called “The Blue Pearl“. Surrounded by mountains and forests lays the completly blue painted city Chefchaouen which has an interesting history of the three main religions being combined in one place.


7. Getting the best fish in town.. – Essaouira
Only three hours from Marrakech, but a complete different world. Essaouira, a port city, where you will get the best and definetly freshest fish in Morocco. And if you’re already there, you should try wind surfing..


8. To the roots of your new handbag – Fès
Once you are in Fès don’t miss out the Tanneries in the Medina. A place where moroccans have an oldschool and natural way of roducing and coloring leather. Therefore the best place to get it..


9. National and international Art – Assilah
Once a year, in August, artists from all over the world get together in this north-western village on the atlantic cost of Morocco to decorate the walls of the Medina. A great place to relax and take breath.


Most of these sights are covered by our 10 Days Trip – check it out here.


Price guide – Travelling

There are many different ways to explore Morocco. Motorbike tours, renting a car, coming with your own car or using the local transportation. Some travelers are trying to make their way through Morocco just with a bike or hitch-hiking. I even met a guy once who bought a Donkey and travelled with him the whole way from Marrakesh to the desert near Zagora to a festival.

If you come with your own vehicle you should check first about the brand and if, in case of an accident, you would be able to repare it somewhere nearby. Volvo for example isn’t that popular in Morocco. For sure you would find different ways to change for example broken pieces but it will be more complicated and probably more expensive.
Otherwise is Diesel with 9 Dirham, so around 0,85€ quite cheap and even Benzin with 12 Dirham (1,1€) cheaper than in Europe.

If you are interested in renting a car, we can recommend you a rental service in Marrakesh, where you get cars from 35€ per day on. Complete insurance is already included.
If you find cheaper options in the internet they always add fees for insurance, age etc. and most of the time a huge deposit to it (600/700€). Be carefull when you rent a car in the internet.

The local busses are connected almost all over Morocco. They go everyday a few times for a decent price. You can check prices and timetables from the companies Supratours or CTM on their websites. The busses from these companies are normally going and arriving on time, they are clean and more professional.
In every city you also find a bus station called gare routière, where the no-name companies start from. These busses are 10/20 Dirham cheaper but you can’t really count on them. Same with the shared taxis. They are a bit more expensive and faster in the end, but they will wait until the car is full.

Between Marrakesh and Tanger is also a train connection. The train goes faster than the busses and also on time. The prices are very similar to the busses. There are train stations in Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca, Fès and Tanger. You can check timetables here (ONCF).

Islamic laws and Custom

Morocco is a Muslim country which follows the Islamic Laws. Nearly 99% of Morocco’s population are Muslims, but not all of them are practicing it. Still it is usefull to know a bit about the religion and the basic rules.

There are the Five pillars of Islam a Muslim should follow which includes five basic acts. They make up Muslim life, prayer, concern for the needy, self-purification, and the pilgrimage.

  1. Shahada (Faith) means to believe in the one (god) Allah, and his messenger/prophet, which is Mohammed. If someone wants to convert to Islam it is essential to utter a set statement (normally recited in Arabic) which says: “There is no god but God and Mohammed is the messenger of God” (لَا إِلٰهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله)
  2. Salah (Prayer) includes praying five times a day in the direction of Mecca. The first one is before sunrise, the second one in the middle of the day after the sun has surpassed its highest point, the third one in the evening before sunset, the fourth one in the evening after sunset, and the last one is at night.
  3. Zakāt (Charity) means to share all you have with the poor people, or all the people who deserve it. This pillar is obligatory to all Muslims who are able to do so.
  4. Sawn (Fasting) describes the time in Ramadan from sunrise until sunset where the people don’t eat, drink, smoke etc. to pay respect to the people who don’t have enough to live.
  5. Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca) means that every (able-bodied) muslim should travel to Mecca at least once in his life to clean his/her self from bad habits.

These pillars are extremely important for every Muslim, and therefore something you should respect. The Moroccan inhabitants are extremely open minded when it comes to different cultures or religions as long as you treat them with respect. Always have in mind: you are the visitor in their country.

Alcohol is not allowed by the Islamic laws. You can only get it in licensed hotels or bars, and in some supermarkets. Drinking on the streets, or generally in public is forbidden. Even drinking in your accomodation will not be possible if they don’t sell it there.

Sexual relations outside marriage are punishable by law. If you travel with your partner you should be careful with body contact, especially kissing. Sometimes in less touristic and more traditional places it can be a problem to get a room together if you are not married. But even if you are married it is not common to show any kind of affection in public.
Homosexuality is a criminal offense in Morocco and people who show it in public can be send to prison for it.

If you are traveling to Morocco during Ramadan you should respect the fact that everybody around you can’t eat or drink during the day. Try as good as possible not to eat in front of them, because it may cause the people to act agressively (which makes complete sense if you imagine how hungry they are). In your Hostel or Riad it is not a problem to eat/cook, and even inside some restaurants you can feel completely comfortable with eating. Drinking water, juice etc. on the street is fine, especially in the warmer months of summer. The exact date may change depending on the moon, but here the estiamted dates for the next years.

Ramadan 2020 – 24th of April to 23th of May
Ramadan 2021 – 13th of April to 12th of May
Ramadan 2022 – 3rd of April to 2nd of May
Ramadan 2023 – 23th of March to 21th of April

Language guide

Morocco is a multicultural country where you can find a lot of different influences like Arabic and French, which are also the official languages. Most of the Moroccan people speak the Moroccan arabic called ‘Darija’. They use mostly Arabic words mixed with French, the Berber language, and some Spanish influences.
The Berber population which is separated in three tribes speak their own language, Tamazight. Their dialects can be so different that they don’t understand each other. To learn more about the Berber culture click here.

To get around in Morocco easily it is good to know a few words in Darija. With that language you should be able to communicate with every Moroccan. Because of the still growing number of tourists coming to Morocco nearly everybody in the streets will speak a bit of English and French; mostly even the basics from Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian or Dutch.

Small Talk

Hello! = Salam aleykum! / Salam!
Good Morning = Sbah Lkhir / Sbah Nour
Good Night = Ms Lkhir
Good Bye! = Bslama!
How are you? = Labas?
Is everything good? = Kolchi bikhir?
I am good = Labas
Thank you = Shukran / Saha
Where are you from? =
I am from … =
– France = France
– Spain = Spania
– Itlay = Italia
– Germany = Allemania
– Netherlands = Hollande

Numbers

One = Wahd
Two = Juuj
Three = Tlatta
Four = Arba
Five = Khamsa
Six = Sta
Seven = Sba
Eight = Tamania
Nine = Tis3a
Ten = Ashra
Twenty = Ashrin
Thirty = Tlattin
Fourty = Arbain
Fifty = Khamsin
Sixty = Stin
Seventy = Sbain
Eighty = Tamanin
Ninety = Tis3in
Hundred = Mia

Welcome to Morocco

You couldn’t make a better choice than spending some time in Morocco. Between traditional sweet Mint tea and delicious Tajine there is a complete new oriental world waiting for you to explore.

For most of you it’s probably the first time in Morocco, maybe even the first time in Africa. That sounds scary in the beginning but don’t worry: Morocco is one of the safest African countries to visit, and probably for tourists even safer than some European capital cities.

Cases of robbery happens, as for sure everywhere in the world, but if you behave decend and friendly everybody will give you as much as respect as you give them. To be safe, avoid quiet areas and be vigilant all the time, especially at night. In general it is very safe in Morocco. The country is well organized with similar safety standards as most European countries.

Morocco is a Muslim country which follows Islamic laws and custom. We would recommend to learn a bit about the religion before your visit, so you can act appropiate from the first moment on and not offend anybody. If traveling alone as a woman be respectful and careful with your choice for clothes. Moroccan men are not used to european fashion including Hot-Pants and Crop-Tops. Always try to cover at least your knees and shoulders to avoid any kind of sexual harassment.

All european inhabitants can enter the country without asking for the visa beforehand. You get it once you leave the airplane in Morocco. You can spend a maximum of 90 days in 180 days (in a row) in Morocco for tourist or business reasons. Working Holiday Visas are not possible in Morocco.

If you are interested in learning some basic words in Moroccan arabic called ‘Darija’ click here. If you have any other questions about how to get around in this completely different culture, with a unknown language and different lifestyle we’re pleased to help you. Just contact us.