Sultan Jessa: Morocco has lofty goals to attract tourists from around the world!

Story and Photos By Sultan Jessa

Rabat – MOROCCO: This North African country, bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, already has a strong and thriving tourist industry.

The government invests heavily in tourism development in this country of 33,000,000 million people.

Tourism has more than doubled since 2002.

According to available statistics, nearly 11 million tourists visited Morocco last year considering the special Ministry of Tourism was only established in 1985.

But, the government led by King Mohammed VI wants to increase the annual visitor number to 18 million by 2020.

This is a lofty goal.

The Kingdom of Morocco has been one of the most politically stable countries in North Africa.

And despite terrorism threats, the government takes great pain to assure tourists the country is safe.

There is some risk of terrorism near the borders and in remote areas.

All tourists are advised of this.

Morocco has a different lifestyle, cuisine and atmosphere that than other Arab countries.

This tiny country is easily distinguished by its Berber, Arabian, African and French cultural influences.

Morocco was a French protectorate from 1912 to 1956 when Sultan Mohammed became king.

He was succeeded in 1961 by his son Hassan II, who ruled for 38 years and played a prominent role in the search for peace in the Middle East.

Today, Mohammed VI is a cautious modernizer who has introduced many economic and social liberalization policies.

Morocco has wonderful beaches, four mountain ranges with cascading waterfalls, century­old cedar forests and immense plains flowering with orange, tangerine and almond trees.

One is surprised to see carpets of greenery, the desert with camel caravans and even snow during the month of November, December and January in Ifrane, which is often dubbed as Morocco’s Switzerland.

Nature and constantly changing weather conditions makes Morocco quite attractive during different times of the year.

Bargaining is an art that is practiced with a smile with a cup of hot traditional mint tea.

During our recent trip to Morocco, we found it extremely frustrating to go through customs, immigration and security.

We quickly found it is common to spend two to three hours at the airport during busy tourist season.

The government has to take drastic measures to speed up immigration and customs if it is serious about tourism.

No one looking after customs and immigration counters seems to be in a rush to speed up procedure for tourists who are often tired after long flights.

Tourists are advised not to change money on the streets.

This is illegal.

But, try to go government approved banks and you run into an even bigger problem.

We tried changing currency at several banks without any success.

All we wanted to do was to convert Euros and American dollars for the Dirham the Moroccan currency.

Since we were towards the end of our journey to Morocco, we did not want to end up with lots of Dirham.

But, none of the banks would change $100 US so we can get some Dirham and rest in American currency notes.

What you enjoy the most in Morocco is the aromatic taglines slowly cooking food.

The souks or markets a delight to visit.

At the souks you find anything from traditional ceramics to metal lanterns, leather goods and a wide array of colorful costumes.

The narrow streets of souks are filled with hagglers, hustlers, mule­drivers and motor scooters.

The hagglers are eager for tourists to get photographed with snakes and monkeys for a small price.

Morocco’s souks are not for the faint­hearted.

In the narrow streets, donkeys have the right of way. If you don’t follow this simple rule, you may end up dancing lips to lips with a donkey.

Most mosques are off limit to non Muslims. Nearly 99 per cent of the population is Muslims.

Very few mosques are open to non­Muslims.

One exception is the towering Hassan II Mosque, a masterpiece and a true landmark in Casablanca.

This mosque can hold 100,000 worshippers inside and out.

We started in Casablanca and then headed to Rabat, the capital, Fez, Marrakech and numerous other places in between.

Morocco is different, unique, exotic and definitely worth visiting.

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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