How to Ensure Your Holiday to Morocco is Sustainable AND Fun!
A family holiday to Morocco is one of the first things on our travel list for once COVID-19 is over! We’re planning to visit many countries in Africa, on a slow and sustainable trip that gives us plenty of time to explore, meet new friends, and support responsible tourism operators.
We were supposed to be on this trip in 2020 but of course it’s postponed for now, so I asked an expert on travel in Morocco to outline the best way to travel sustainably there.
This is a guest post from Driss Benchemsi: a writer and an explorer who has studied on three continents and speaks four languages. He blogs and shares articles, photos and videos from his time living in Morocco and visiting for over a decade at Think Morocco.
Sustainable traveling is all the rage these days, and for good reasons too. Having a holiday to Morocco is great and all, but it’s also easy to end up wreaking havoc on yourself and the environment, therefore ending the journey with more regrets than satisfaction.
One of the most efficient ways of dealing with this is by placing major emphasis on sustainability and proper planning.
Thankfully, Morocco is a country that is conducive to sustainability. There are numerous locations, accommodation, and traditional restaurants, that all ensure your journey is as fun and responsible as possible.
- 1 What is Sustainable Travelling?
- 2 Local Tourist Sites for Sustainable + Amazing Holiday to Morocco
- 3 Tips For Seeing Big Tourist Sites Sustainably
- 4 More Tips for Sustainable Holidays to Morocco
- 5 Sustainable Accommodation in Morocco
- 6 Sustainable Transportation
- 7 Sustainable Tour Options
- 8 Final thoughts
What is Sustainable Travelling?
First, before we go into details about the various aspects of responsible and sustainable travel on your holiday to Morocco, it is important to establish what sustainable travelling really is in the first place.
Sustainable traveling is the act of making sure that your journey is as conscious as possible, both on the environmental level, cultural level, financially, and even psychologically.
And the best part is, being conscious of all these singular aspects ensures that they all work hand in hand to give you one giant outcome that is a truly fulfilling journey.
The more environmentally, socially, and culturally conscious you are on your vacation, the more healthy your journey is and the more fun you have.
Local Tourist Sites for Sustainable + Amazing Holiday to Morocco
Jemaa El Fna
Walking through the Jemaa el Fna is always a thrilling experience on any visit to Morocco. It is also one of the most sustainable spots in the country.
There’s enough cultural and social interactions here to last a lifetime, as well as merchants who offer really high quality products at a reasonable price.
The farmers here also grow their crops organically before bringing them down to Jemmaa El Fna, as opposed to imported products found in big malls and establishments.
Another culturally vibrant location in Morocco, the Marrakesh Medina is one of the most popular tourist sites in the whole country, and has managed to hold on to its sustainability throughout the years.
Where it triumphs the most is in its aspect of cultural and social sustainability. Here you have all kinds of good and services, embellished by traditional entertainment such as Moroccan music, snake charming, and acrobatic displays by the side.
Oudaias Kasbah in Rabat has to be one of the most physically pleasing sites in the whole country – which is saying something considering how many beautiful locations there are in Morocco.
The street is peaceful and charming and is definitely one of the places where you’re all but guaranteed to really enjoy your holiday in Morocco.
Tips For Seeing Big Tourist Sites Sustainably
Going for traditional and culturally vibrant places is great for achieving a fun and responsible holiday to Morocco. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to exclude going to the big places.
In case you want to take a look at the huge tourist sites and still retain your emphasis on sustainability, here are a few tips to always have in mind.
Or, to put it in another way, being conscious. It all begins with you having it in mind that sustainability is one of your major goals on that trip. This will determine how you relate with people, and the environment both en route to your destination, and once you get there.
Focus on People but Remember Respectful Photography
Great people are everywhere. And one of the signs of a successful holiday is how inspired we end up being, not just from the places we see, but from the people we happen to come across. And you’re just as likely to come across great people on a trip to the Hassan II Mosque, as you are at the Marrakesh Morocco.
When taking photos, it’s important to be respectful and to communicate with a view to friendship rather than simply take photos of people who are different to you. Local people aren’t photo opportunities, they are living their lives and always deserve to be asked about whether they want to be photographed. This post about Respectful Photography explains more.
Crowd photos are usually ok, unless there is a religious, cultural or common sense reason not to record it. Always ask yourself first: “am I being sensitive to local people?” and “is this photo necessary?”
Focus on Story and History
Again, to consider your journey a fun and successful one, you have to have been inspired on the journey to a certain degree.
And for you to be truly inspired by a place, you really have to look past the size of the towers and the gold bricks, and focus on the story and history behind them.
More Tips for Sustainable Holidays to Morocco
Here are some general tips you should always have in mind on your trip to wherever you happen to be going in Morocco.
Be Respectful of Local Customs
Morocco is an Islamic country, so if you cannot abide by Muslim customs please do not travel there. These include dressing modestly, only eating with your right hand, removing your shoes before entering someone’s home, and not assuming you can enter or look inside mosques.
Support the Local Economy
It’s always advisable to spend your money on local businesses and individuals, such as the locally-owned hotels, restaurants and cafes, tour companies, markets and stores. This way the benefits of your travel experience directly benefit people who live in the town you enjoyed, not offshore investors or nameless companies.
Many travellers try to get the very best deals while shopping at local markets, which can lead to disrespectful bargaining. Haggling is expected in Marrakesh and sellers will start the process at a very high price, so knowing what it’s worth and being able to recognise quality is important. Always be respectful and not aggressive, and never worry about agreeing on a price that is only a few dollars more than you wanted to pay.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Eco-sustainability is one of the most important aspects of a sustainable journey. And as such, you have to be really conscious in this regard.
It may be a little difficult to focus on this on a hectic journey, but you have to ensure you never forget to minimise your waste, and never be careless with it. One easy way to reduce your waste is to take a reusable water bottle along with you. You can’t drink tap water in Morocco, but many hotels have filtered water available for guests, and you could consider taking a quality water filter along with you, too.
Morocco is a pretty hot place. Be conscious of conserving water, not just to make sure it remains in abundance for yourself, but also as a consideration for others who need it just as much as you do. Over 36 million people live in Morocco yet it’s classed as a ‘water-scarce’ country, so conserving it is very important.
Sustainable Accommodation in Morocco
For sustainable accommodation, the goal is generally to find a locally owned Riad in Morocco. If they have an emphasis on environmental friendliness and responsible services, even better!
Below are some hotels in Morocco that fulfil these conditions. You can also check out EcoBnB’s Morocco listings for more ideas, or if you’re keen to try a homestay there are many listings on Homestay.com, including several for popular beach destination Tangier.
Located in Marrakech, this hotel is one of many hotels in the city bent on preserving culture and traditional heritage, both in the physical designs, and inner workings of the establishment. They are a yoga and nature retreat and also run tours of the Sahara and multi-day trekking through the Atlas.
With a mission to “comfort with a conscience,” it is clear that this establishment cares about sustainability. It’s located in the Atlas mountains, near Marrakech, and it’s locally-owned and eco-friendly. There are solar panels for electrical needs and a drip-irrigation system for the gardens.
This is an 18th century building in the Médina of Marrakech that has been in the same family for over two centuries! The Riad Kniza offers a luxurious traditional experience, and each visitor chooses from one of three aid organisations for a donation to be made on their behalf.
Sustainable transportation in Morocco is all about being environmentally friendly and making the most of your time spent moving from one place to another by getting to know people and places.
Some of the best places to do this are in public transportation. By taking public transport, you’re not only contributing to the local economy and reducing carbon emissions, but also, hopefully, you’re learning new things at the same time.
A particular favourite are the trams, taken by people from all over the world. Not only are they great for the environment, they also have huge social benefits. Getting around Morocco is also pleasant by train, which is inexpensive, and a more sustainable way to travel long distances than taking flights
Sustainable Tour Options
One of the most effective ways to ensure your holiday to Morocco is as responsible and fun as possible is to get tour package options.
Apart from an extensive knowledge of the region, and the ability to make your life a lot easier, tours and guides, especially those geared towards sustainability, will guarantee that from the time you get off your flight to the time you get back to the airport, you don’t have to worry too much about having a sustainable itinerary.
They do the job for you. Below are some tour services I’d recommend:
Mohamed Alla, a Berber man and certified mountain and desert guide, founded this locally-owned tour company with friends of his. Between them, they speak five languages, and they share the same vision: “to contribute to the sustainable development of the local community with respect to Morocco’s cultural and natural heritage”.
Intrepid Travel is an agency with a really in-depth knowledge of Morocco. They place major emphasis on eco-friendliness and overall sustainability, especially on optimising cultural aspects of your journey regarding national history, customs, music, and art.
Regardless of the date and year of your travelling, Naturally Morocco has you covered. They have comprehensive itineraries for sustainable travelling to Morocco, and some awards of excellence to boot.
Just as the name implies, Eco Desert is geared towards organising eco-friendly trips. They have not only an extensive knowledge of the area, but also everything it takes to ensure your journey is as sustainable as it comes.
Thanks Driss! This is a great guide to planning a holiday to Morocco that’s fun, sustainable and ethical. I can’t wait to travel to Morocco and other countries in Africa once international travel is possible again!
Read more of our sustainable travel guides:
- Our responsible travel guide to Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Our huge guide to sustainable accommodation across Malaysia
- Our guide to an ethical experience at Uluru in the heart of Australia