At the crossroads between Africa and Europe, with influences from the Middle East, Morocco has to be one of the world’s most exciting tourist experiences. The greatest attractions are the four great imperial cities – Fez, Meknes, Marrakech and Rabat – and the chance to experience the Sahara Desert in relative comfort. Add to this the two dramatic mountain ranges of the Atlas and the Rif; numerous delightful smaller towns such as Tetuan, Tangier, Chefchaouen, Safi and Essaouira; the Atlantic coast resorts around Agadir, colonized by the package tour industry; and the cosmopolitan city of Casablanca, with its stupendous new Grande Mosque. Moroccan craftsmanship is legendary, exemplified in traditional architecture, textiles, jewellery and pottery. Shopping for these things in the souk is also part of the fun, provided you can cope with the high-pressure sales talk.
Having a meal in the Djemaa el Fna, the big open-air square in Marrakech, is also unforgettable because of the entertainers – and likely to be delicious. Apart from its incredible variety, Morocco is very easy to visit. It is the only African country easily reached by train from Europe – to Algeciras and then by ferry to Tangier. Moroccan railways are modern and efficient and there are good bus services too. Tourism is well devel- oped and it is possible to survive on a small budget. Morocco managed to stay independent until 1912 when it became a French protectorate (look out for the French influences that remain). The country recovered its independence in 1956 and since then has been a constitutional monarchy, though the king has wide executive powers.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Trekking & Porters Rights:
Mountain trekking – it’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging. But how many of us could do it without the porters who carry our luggage and equipment? Porters are an essential part of treks. However, they often suffer appalling working conditions.
Porters work in some of the harshest tourism conditions in the world, carrying tourists’ backpacks. Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the porters carrying trekkers’ equipment in the Himalayas, on the Inca Trail in Peru and at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Lack of shelter, inadequate food and clothing, and minimal pay are commonly faced problems. Morocco is home to the Atlas mountains & Mt Toubkal – Tourism Concern has carried out numerous treks to Mt Toubkal, supporting ethical trekking & supporting porters rights.
The majority of UK operators now have policies on porters, paving the way for improved pay and working conditions for hundreds of porters. Look out for the Ethical Trekking logo or use one of our Ethical Tour Operators. Tourism Concern have carried out a very successful campaign on Porters Rights, to learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Porters Rights:
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of the friendly people of Morocco, especially if visiting the souks, is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more, check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
In Marrakech and other towns and cities across Morocco, traditional snake charming is a widely practiced to bring in income from tourists. Many endangered snakes including spitting cobras, puff adders and Montpellier snakes are used by snake charmers. These snakes are captured in the wild, trafficked and kept in very poor conditions (without water, food and good standards of hygiene) and suffer from a very high mortality rate.
Monkeys are also widely used for street entertainment in Marrakesh and other towns and cities across Morocco. The monkeys used are often kept in small and cramped boxes throughout the day where they can suffer from heat stroke and illness, due to a lack of space and high temperatures. When night fall arrives, monkeys are forced to perform whilst heavy chains are placed around their necks. As unknowing tourists walk by, monkey trainers throw the animals on to the shoulders of the tourists by wrenching the monkey by the neck and forcing them to climb the tourist’s body. Without showing any consideration for the suffering the monkeys endure, monkey trainers repeat this routine every single night.
Prior to becoming performers, monkeys endure several months of rigorous training which includes having chains placed around their necks whilst they are attached to a ceiling, which forces their bodies to adopt a straight posture. During this cruel process, handlers often tie a monkeys hands behind their backs and deny the animals food. Tourists can help combat the problems facing monkeys by avoiding giving money to their handlers and by urging them to provide their animals with more nourishment and stopping physical abuse.
See more at Right Tourism: http://right-tourism.com/issues/animals-attractions/photo-prop-animals/#sthash.RVuydG9R.dpbs
Campers, hikers, and climbers should all follow a “Leave No Trace” approach when exploring the great outdoors. In many popular trekking locations around the world, a lack of this ethic has resulted in highlands and peaks being littered with garbage. Here are some suggestions for keeping the trekking regions beautiful for everyone to enjoy:
- Carry out all your rubbish or dispose of your trash responsibly. Don’t overlook easily forgotten items, such as foil, cigarette butts and plastic wrappers. Take into account how long items take to degrade. For example, aluminium cans take 80 to 100 years and plastic bottles take up to 450 years. Besides, while degrading harmful chemicals end up in the ground water.
- Collect rubbish where you see it on walking trails. If you cannot carry it out of the area, take the litter to a local rubbish collection depot or incineration centre.
- When buying things from shops, do not accept plastic bags.
- Never bury your rubbish. Digging disturbs soil and ground cover and encourages erosion, and buried rubbish may be dug up by animals, which may be injured or poisoned by it.
- Minimize waste by taking minimal packaging and no more food than you will need. Take reusable containers or stuff sacks.
- Take your used batteries home to your country.
- Where there is a toilet, please use it. Where there is none, bury your waste. Dig a small hole 15cm (6in) deep and at least 100m (320ft) from any watercourse. Cover the waste with soil and a rock. In snow, dig down to the soil. Ensure that these guidelines are also applied to portable toilet tents.
- Please encourage your porters to use toilet facilities as well.