Everything You Need To Know About A Gap Year In Morocco
If you are planning for a gap year in Africa, yet feel like doing something beyond the wildlife scenes - then you must surely consider Morocco for an offbeat experience! This North African nation has a perfect blend of Arabian culture with European vibes and the authentic touch of Berbers. Gear up to explore the epic mountain ranges, ancient cities, sweeping deserts – and soak in the warm hospitality of the people.
Why Should You Plan A Gap Year Trip To Morocco?
Ah well, that's a pretty important question! Of course, when you think of taking a year off and wish to set out for an overseas journey, it is relevant to think twice about it. In case you're wondering whether a gap year in Morocco would be a good idea or not, take a quick look at the following reasons to convince yourself. To say the least, we feel it's gonna be a great thing!
1. Indulge in knowing the richness of the culture!
It'll be an interesting ordeal to explore the amalgamation of different cultures - Berber, Arab, Spanish, and French - and witness how they've made an impact on Morocco over centuries. While the charm of the old cities still lingers and the medinas are largely untouched, new towns have come up with all bustling vibes. Every year, famous art and music festivals are held in many cities, such as the well-known World Sacred Music Festival in Fès. From the Islamic prayer calls to the aroma of French patisserie - there's probably nothing which won't appeal you.
2. Travel like a local and tick off all that’s there in your bucket list!
The list of things to see and explore in Morocco is endless! While it might seem like a task for the tourists, you'll have enough time during your gap year to wander across the country and soak in its beauty. From the gorgeous sand dunes of Sahara to the breathtaking peaks of High Atlas, from the alleys of the kasbahs & medinas to the golden sandy beaches - make sure to tick off all that's there on your travel bucket list. Make friends with the locals who'll tell you about the hidden gems, the authentic food joints, the offbeat destinations and much more!
3. Be a volunteer and make a difference to the underprivileged communities.
Well, a gap year isn't just about traveling and exploring! In fact, it's a phase that can be properly utilized by doing something as meaningful as volunteering. You can choose to be a part of the NGO Support Volunteering Program in Morocco, that aims to bring a sustainable development with respect to human rights issues, education, childcare issues, government accountability, etc. Other than that, you can also opt to work for the Women Empowerment Program or volunteer as a teacher, helping the young adults with their English communicative skills. It’ll be an incredible opportunity to make a difference and you’ll also get to boost your CV/ Resume with such an experience.
4. Intern and gain first-hand international work experience!
If volunteering is not your thing, then maybe you can opt for an internship in Morocco and work in an international set-up, gaining immense exposure and learn new skills, while polishing your existing ones. Pre-med, medical & nursing students can be a part of the Healthcare Internship Program while others having an interest in media studies join the Journalism Internship. It'll be an incredible opportunity to work under the guidance of the professionals and learn some tricks and hacks from the experts. There will be immense scope for peer learning as well and you'll get to make amazing social connections.
A Look Into The Cultural Norms!
Before you kickstart your gap year in Morocco, here are a few Dos & Don'ts that you must be aware of.
- Although, a significant population speaks French, learning a few basic and commonly used Arabic words can be really helpful.
- When meeting someone for the first time, do greet with a firm handshake along with inquiries about their health, happiness, and family pleasantries.
- Do wear clothes conservatively, especially, when visiting a mosque. Western wear is acceptable in Morocco, but a protocol needs to be followed.
- Use your right hand for eating, greeting, and exchanging things. The left hand is considered unclean in Morocco.
- Do leave some food on your plate while eating, else the hosts will keep refilling your plate thinking you haven’t had enough.
- Make sure to remove your shoes when entering your hosts’ house. This is a sign of being a well-mannered and well-informed guest.
- Tipping is an integral part of Moroccan life. A tip of, anywhere between, 5% to 10%, of your bill will suffice.
- Try and carry more of plastic money (credit cards) or traveler’s checks to make payments. Keep as less money in cash with you as possible.
- Do get a complete understanding of the local culture and traditions of the country from your in-country coordinator.
- Do inform your local coordinator about your plans for the day, in case planning to explore the city on your own.
- Do not offer alcohol to a Muslim, unless you are in a bar or they are already consuming it.
- Ramadan is a sacred festival for Muslims and people keep fasts for the entire day. Avoid eating in public in such a situation; it looks rude.
- Do not accept a ride in a taxi that does not has a meter in it.
- Do not take pictures of women or government setups without prior permission.
- Avoid involving in using any kind of drug while your stay in Morocco. The penalties for possessing even a small amount of drug is very harsh.
- Avoid giving gifts in the form of liquor, pork, items with logos, figures of dogs/owls, etc.
- Do not make any kind of comparison from your home country and Morocco.
- Do not refuse if you are offered with a cup of hot mint tea. It’s a signature beverage in Morocco and is offered as a sign of hospitality.
- Avoid moving out alone at night, especially, if you are a women volunteer. If it’s too urgent, inform your local coordinator and/or take a partner volunteer along.
- Do not forget to keep your essential documents in a safe place, so as to not to misplace them. You would need them for the entire trip.
Things To Do In Morocco During Your Gap Year:
Now that you know why you should take a gap year in Morocco and also have a rough idea about the cultural norms, here are the best things to do in the country! Marrakesh’s medina, a mazelike medieval quarter, offers entertainment in its Djemaa el-Fna square and souks (marketplaces) selling ceramics, jewelry, and metal lanterns. The capital, Rabat’s Kasbah of the Udayas is a 12th-century royal fort overlooking the water. Soak in the authentic vibes of the land as you explore the nooks and corners of the country!
Explore the hustle and bustle of Casablanca
The largest metropolitan city of Morocco, Casablanca is the blend of modern, medieval and ancient. The economic and demographic center of Morocco, the city is also the largest artificial port in the entire African region. A city with a signature Mediterranean climate of warm summers, pleasant winters, and a moderate rainfall, the city is known for its street food, nightlife, and the big city fervor. The food, the streets, languages, and people carry in them the French, Spanish and the Portuguese influences along with its indigenous Berber and African inheritance. The King Hassan II Mosque, Old Medina, The Shrine of Sidi Abderrahman, and Mahkama du Pacha are some of the notable sights of the city.
Additionally, Rick’s Cafe which is featured in the world renowned movie ‘Casablanca’ is one spot that cannot be missed when in the city. Only a train ride and a thousand beautiful window scenes away from Spain, Morocco is truly an amazing blend of Europe and Africa.
Revel in the vibrant and glorious history of Fez
Touted as the cultural capital of Morocco, Fez is where the Arabic cultural heritage of Morocco meets the Berber heritage. A city ideal for walking around experiences one of the coldest winters of Africa, making it simply an absolute go-to spot of the country. The Medina part of the city is best explored unguided. One of the signature experiences of the region is to simply get lost amidst its souks and stalls. A particularly notable experience of being in Fez is paying a visit to the ‘Al-Qarawiyyin’, one of the oldest libraries in the world and that too founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri. Bou Inania madersa, Merenid Tombs, Moulay Idriss II shrine, al-Tijani mosque are some of the other sites to visit owing to their intricate architecture.
It’s time to camp in the deserts
Starting at Marrakech, the touring of deserts across begins on a high in the city. Encompassing sights of Southern Morocco as one heads to Nkob, deserts of Merzouga, Todra Gorge, and Ait Benhaddou have some beautiful sights on offer. From camping overnight in the deserts to taking a walk amidst the palm groves of the region, the desert mapping is one of the most popular ways to experience Morocco.
Take a hike in the Todra Gorge
A beautiful series of limestone riverside canyons, The Todra Gorge is situated on the Eastern part of Morocco and is of the most riveting sights of the region. Extending over a 25-mile terrain amidst the mountains, hiking in the Todra Gorge is one of the most signature Moroccan experiences that you can take.
Watch the mesmerizing meeting of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic
The reason why Morocco is called the ‘Gateway to Africa’ is because of the city of Tangier. It is on the Maghreb coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel. Cafe Hafa in Tangier is one iconic restaurant that has been visited by internationally acclaimed writers, musicians, and performers. Rolling Stones, Beatles, Paul Bowles, and William S. Burroughs to name a few.
Say goodbye to your blues in the ‘Blue City of Chefchaouen’
One of the most beautiful cities in the whole wide world, Chefchaouen is the reason why blue is the warmest color. Well, at least Chef lovers think so. A city that speaks more Spanish than French, a not very usual phenomenon in Morocco, it’s world-renowned for its picturesque medina, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Rif Mountains, with prayers in chorus enlivening the spirit of the city every few hours. Offering very quintessential Moroccan experiences that include Medina, hiking up the Rif mountains, old-world streets, and souks, the visual treat that is Chef is a sight unparalleled. An absolute unmissable when in Morocco.
Explore the street art of Marrakech
A largely dry city where the Atlas mountains can be seen from a distance, the city has a wide expanse of souks, stalls laced with an orangy-like tinge thanks to numerous orange palm-like trees all over the city. The highlight of Marrakech is Djamaa el Fna, the old city square and in the heart of the medina.
Visit the backpacking ‘Mecca of Morocco’ - Essaouira
Morocco isn’t all mosques and souks, there is a very real, very happening backpacker city of Morocco - Essaouira, also fondly known as ‘Essa’. The city hosts a world-renowned music festival and houses some of the most beautiful.
The Souks and Foods of Morocco
Morocco is somewhat incomplete without the souks and its street food. Although it is not easy to navigate easily around the chaotic streets going from souk to souk but that’s the very essence of Morocco. The mantra of meandering in Morocco is - just walk around without a map but keep a guide handy for exploring the souks and the streets.
Take a Moroccan Train
There is a train that takes one from the city of Casablanca to Southern Spain and has some of the picturesque views in the journey. The tickets are cheap and one gets to meet a lot of locals and backpackers during the journey as well. While the Casablanca to Marrakech route is exceptionally beautiful, there are ample other routes to explore and all of the information and booking can be sourced from one Moroccan Government Travel Portal.
In no way a second fiddle to any European backpacking country, Morocco is the perfect blend backpackers look for. Beaches, sands, mountains, music, souks, and streets ( and the list could practically be endless. ) Time to head to Morocco you think?