Morocco, Essaouira – Background and Research

Morocco Postcard Map

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

Morocco is in North Africa which geographically and politically is included in the United Nations definition of the area comprising  seven countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.  It is the twenty-fourth largest country in Africa out of fifty-four and is one of the most developed with the sixth largest economy of the continent (after Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, and Angola).

Of all the countries in Africa it is the closest to Europe and technically Britain because it is just twenty miles or so from the Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and along with France and Spain it is one of only three countries with both a Mediterranean and an Atlantic coast line.

Morocco is placed one hundred and twenty-sixth in the Human Development Index which isn’t especially good and means that it is categorised as having only medium human development in an index that ranks countries by data composed from life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.  It is sixty-sixth in the OECD Better Life Index and forty-second in the Happy Planet Index which is one place behind the United Kingdom but way ahead of the United States which is as low down as one hundred and fifth.

I wonder however if they consulted absolutely everyone.  There is an awful lot of poverty in Morocco and with no welfare state payments or safety net there a lot of street beggars.  Even for those in work it is not so wonderful and Morocco is in the top three countries in the World where workers are dissatisfied with their jobs, the other two are Nigeria and Japan. Japan?

Essaouira Derelict Doors

Morocco has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites but the chances of visiting more than one or two in a single visit is very remote because they are spread evenly right across the country.  This time we were visiting the Atlantic port of Essaouira which is included in the list.  Previously we had visited three others at Marrakech, Fez and Meknes.

The country has one thousand eight hundred kilometres of coastline and twenty-three Blue Flag Beaches.

Essaouira is only one of five place names in the World that contain all five vowels in just one single un-hyphenated name.  The others are Donaueschingen in Germany, Dogubeyazit in Turkey, Berrouaghia in Algeria, Alexandroupoli in Greece and Mediouna which is also in Morocco.  So, with two  Morocco is the clear winner in place names with all five vowels in the name.

Football is the national sport and the national team have appeared four times at the FIFA World Cup finals and fifteen times at the Africa Cup of Nations where they were winners in 1976.

I have been to Morocco before.  The first time was in 1989 when I went not to Africa but to the USA and visited World Disney World!

Epcot World Showcase

Of all the countries at the EPCOT World Showcase the Morocco Pavilion was the only one in which the country’s government aided in the construction and they did this so that they could retain some measure of Islamist control over the design of the mosaics and to ensure that everything was as authentic as possible in the representation of the Muslim faith.

The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has two fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”

Well, one thing that I can confirm is that they have certainly got the shopping bit completely right because Disneyland and the Souks of  Morocco certainly have a lot in common when it comes to trying to part visitors from their money as I found out when taking a guided tour of the Fez souk.

Fez Colours

31 responses to “Morocco, Essaouira – Background and Research

  1. A great over view of the country Andrew. Did you have a good trip?


  2. I had to laugh because the latest prompt from the Daily Post is “Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” Tell us about it.” and my immediate thought was “Yes, Morocco.” And then your post popped up!

    We stayed in Fes for five nights. Flew into Casablanca, then caught the train. Took us something like 38 hours of travelling from home so we weren’t in the best state by the time we arrived in Fes. Just to be fair.

    Fes was amazing and I’m glad we went but it was so challenging. We were totally exhausted by the time we left Morocco. We were ready for the quiet and order of Lisbon. 🙂


  3. I bet there is some place in the Highlands with all the vowels, as every Gaelic place name seems to have a minimum of 36 letters. And how can the home of the brave etc be so low in a happiness index? Why, they all have their own gun for a start!


  4. Very interesting read Andrew! I think it would be a fascinating place to visit but not sure I’d feel comfortable going there at present with the security issues in the North Africa region.


  5. Midwestern Plant Girl

    Great post! Really liked visiting the links you mentioned for ‘life ratings’ in different countries.


  6. Morocco has always fascinated me, but stories about the place have put me off. Love all that color, but I believe it would be overwhelming. 😀


    • It is certainly a culture shock and a visit there requires some preparation and once there some discipline especially in the souks. Essaouira was a lot more relaxed than Marrakech which I agree is quite mad. I don’t think there is anything to worry about visiting Morocco unless you are sensitive to smells!


  7. I really enjoyed this post, and the idea of anyone researching a country before they go. I typically research and study the language, but I am astonished how many (usually American) tourists do not. Your incorrigible humor is there too – with Disneyland and place names with vowels. Does it get easier to fight off the vendors with practice? I was thinking that I would love to go to Morocco, till I began reading the comments and was reminded of how distressing it is for me when people are not only hassling me verbally, but physically pulling me to their shops, draping unwanted scarves over my head, pressing wooden carvings and decorative bowls into my unsuspecting hands…ugh. Where did this horrible practice in so many areas come from? I am sure they don’t treat local shoppers like that.


    • Well, they certainly do all of that. Just wear blinkers, keep hands in pockets and practice over and over again “no thank you”. Before visiting a place like Morocco research is essential to prevent dropping any cultural changers.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve always liked the idea of Morocco but believe the reality might be a bit much. Cultures that hassle tourists just don’t appeal these days. Interesting that you found a place outside Marrakesh to be not as frantic. Great camel photo!


    • Marrakech is a tourist magnet so this is where the pestering is at its worst. I also found Fes to be hard work but Meknes, which has far fewer tourists was no bother at all. Essaouira was also fine.


  9. Great background. Looking forward to more!


  10. Is Casablanca worth visiting?


    • Never been there Rick but I am told not. It is a modern business city with not much to attract tourists. Most people will go to Marrakech I guess and maybe Fes and I am told that Agadir is a bet prospect than Casablanca.


  11. I was in Morocco years ago for a day trip and found it to be very interesting. I was at Epcot last month and thought the Morocco pavilion was one of the best of the eleven countries represented.


  12. Pingback: Travels in Spain – Andalucía | Have Bag, Will Travel

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