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The heavy scent of spices hangs in the air under the brilliant sunshine. There's no place like Morocco. Blending together Middle Eastern culture, European charm and a vast history of local tradition, it's hard to believe this northern African nation is just 8 miles from the coast of Spain. Unlike other countries with more strict Middle Eastern social and cultural constructs, Morocco is a more moderate and peaceful country, according to CNN. In fact, the region has enjoyed climbing levels of tourism in recent years. CNN reported the nation doubled its number of international visitors from 2002 to 2011, and the current ruler of the nation - King Mohammed VI - plans to increase those numbers in the future, hoping to attract roughly 18 million tourists annually by 2020.
If you want to experience relaxed Middle Eastern culture with a pleasant twist of European character and local history, Morocco may be the best country for you.
Pleasant weather year round
According to the Moroccan National Tourist Office, the country experiences comfortable weather throughout the year. Although the heat can be sweltering, a pleasant coastal breeze off the Atlantic Ocean keeps the land from being uncomfortably hot. At the same time, the mountains further inland are often cooler. When the summer heat subsides and the cool winter temperatures set in, visitors can still enjoy a nice swim by the coastal beaches or go skiing in the mid-range Atlas Mountains. Every season can be pleasant in Morocco and no time is bad to travel the country.
Interesting customs and relaxing atmosphere
Although many Moroccans are strict Muslims, according to the Huffington Post, some locals enjoy more typical western indulgences. The more energetic traveler can find night clubs and bars in big cities like Marrakech or Casablanca. At the same time, culture lovers can try finding an Aissawa. These are more cultural sacred musical parties enjoyed by many Moroccans. Aissawas are a perfect place for travelers that love dancing and listening to interesting music.
There are a few cultural and societal elements travelers may want to be wary of when traveling to Morocco, the Huffinton Post reported. For instance, using the right hand in certain settings can be very important. Many Muslims typically believe the left hand is unclean. While most of the food is enjoyed without utensils, hand shakes are common and many other social interactions involve your hands, it's important to refrain from using your left. Some people may not be phased by left hand usage, but others can take it as a shock and find it offensive or rude.
Additionally, travelers should be careful to dress appropriately. Although Morocco has a relaxed atmosphere in many regards, there are still some cultural norms tourists should keep in mind. Among them include covering yourself in public, especially if you are female. Pack a lot of clothes that cover your arms and legs and fit loosely so you are more comfortable in the heat. Also, be sure to pack a one-piece bathing suit if you plan to hit the beaches.
Places to go and sights to see
It can be easy to stick around Marrakech, according to CNN, but don't be afraid to explore the rest of the country. Visit the Berber villages to haggle at some of the local shops in the High Atlas. What you find in one of the small markets may be better than anything you get at a souvenir shop. If you love beaches, travel to Essaouira or Sidi Ifni on the Atlantic coast. For some extra excitement, Taghazout attracts waves of surfers. On the other hand, you can even find a lively environment in the Sahara in the desert town of Merzouga. Seeing the enormous sand dunes and riding the camels may is an exhilarating treat under the brilliant sun.
It may not be a desert paradise, but a lot of the enjoyable parts of Morocco can also be found in China. Here, the culture is just as alluring and diverse and the cuisine can be equally tempting and mysterious. From bartering at a small street market to enjoying the various night clubs and lively bars, China has a surprising amount in common with the beautiful nation of Morocco.
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