A Guide to Sustainable Travel in Morocco

<a href = "https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix-pix/31063308270"> Colourful Moroccan spices at a market | © Eric Bauer/Flickr
<a href = "https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix-pix/31063308270"> Colourful Moroccan spices at a market | © Eric Bauer/Flickr

North Africa’s Morocco offers an abundance of sights, sounds, and experiences for visitors. With more and more people travelling in the Kingdom, many are considering ways to make their trips more sustainable. As well as being eco-friendly, preserving cultural identities and being considerate towards the local community, the concept of sustainable travel encompasses other ideals. Read on for ways to make sustainable practices part of your Moroccan adventure.

The overall goal of sustainable travel is to manage resources so that economic, social, touristic and aesthetic needs can be met in the present, while also protecting and conserving biological diversity, cultural aspects and life-support systems for the years to come. Essentially, people of the present should be able to meet their own needs and expectations without compromising the needs of future generations.

Buy locally produced goods

While there are some shopping malls around Morocco (usually found in major centres such as Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakesh), they often involve an element of foreign ownership and investment. Buying from smaller shops and market stalls means that the bulk of your money will go into the pockets of local people, and it will ensure that age-old skills and crafts are not lost to machines and mass production lines. With the extensive souks of Marrakesh, Fez, and other towns and cities, you’ll be spoilt for choice – and strolling through the souks is also a huge part of the overall Moroccan experience. Plus, markets are the best place to purchase fresh goods, spices, and other Moroccan goodies. Shop like a local and support local farmers at the same time.

Leather tanneries in Fez, Morocco | © 16:9clue / Flickr

Visit local workshops

Watch skilled artisans hard at work in their workshops and studios to gain a greater appreciation of the traditional techniques, tools, and materials that go into producing a wide variety of items. It is possible to buy goods at many workshops, thus cutting out any middleman fees and making sure that the proceeds go directly to the craftsperson. This is both an interesting and an ethical way to buy goods in Morocco.

Craftsman working with wood in a workshop in Morocco | © Evan Bench / Flickr

Stay in small-scale, locally owned accommodations

There are a large number of quaint guesthouses around Morocco, many contained within traditional buildings that have been renovated and repurposed. Known as riads and dars, such accommodations allow visitors to get a glimpse into traditional local life and step back into a time when wealthy merchants and members of high society relaxed in lavish abodes. While some properties have been bought by foreigners, visitors can still find those that are run by Moroccans. Many locally owned guesthouses are run by extended families. Staying in such accommodations helps to sustain the local economy and keep family businesses in operation. If opting for an establishment that is foreign-owned, ensure that local staff are employed at the property before booking your stay.

Dine in independent restaurants

As with accommodation options, many local restaurants are operated by Moroccan families. As well as providing a boost to the local economy, dining in such an establishment means that you can often enjoy traditional Moroccan fare that has been made from recipes handed down through generations. The food is often more authentic and tastier than that in larger chain restaurants. Additionally, tucking into local cuisine generally means that ingredients are local, thus reducing the need for the nation to import products. While there are plentiful restaurants serving up foreign cuisine, why visit Morocco and deny yourself the pleasure of savouring local delights?

Traditional Moroccan tagine | © Kevin Gessner / Flickr

Enlist the services of local guides

Rather than joining a large tour group that has been organised from outside the country, a more sustainable alternative is to book tours that are completely operated by Moroccans. Not only are the guides and drivers Moroccan, but the behind-the-scenes work, such as administration and logistics, is also carried out by Moroccan citizens. Do be wary, however, of scams involving unlicensed guides and touts and be sure to check out an individual’s credentials before agreeing to any tours.

Berber man with camels in Morocco | © John Y. Can / Flickr

Use a range of suppliers

Try to vary the establishments that you use while in Morocco in order to distribute income throughout the community. While it may not be practical to change accommodation every night, if you are staying in a particular town or city for an extended period of time, you could consider comparing a few guesthouses throughout your visit. Dining in a variety of restaurants and cafés, and shopping at different stores and stalls, can also help to make your visit more sustainable.

Olive vendor at a market in Morocco | © Christopher L. / Flickr

Support local charities

There is a fairly large number of people in Morocco who ask for money on the street. Before trying to help on an individual basis, however, you may want to consider donating to one of the several excellent charities operating in Morocco. The aim of these charities is to identify the most responsible means of distributing funds. Look for locally operated charities if you want to make a donation, rather than larger charities that have high administration and operation costs. Charities exist to help both people and animals.

Avoid exploitation of people and animals

Unfortunately, as with many places across the globe, people and animals may, at times, be exploited in Morocco. Avoid establishments that employ children, for example, and ensure that any tips given to service industry staff can be kept by the individual. There are women’s cooperatives around the country that ensure fair conditions and pay for female workers, and visiting such places can be a worthy experience. Camel rides and horse-drawn carriage tours are popular activities for tourists in the Kingdom but make sure that your experiences are ethical as well as enjoyable.

A road sign in Morocco | © Carlos ZGZ / Flickr

Take public transportation

Using public transportation is more environmentally friendly than other transportation options and is also often kinder for the local economy. With great bus and train connections in many parts of the country, travel like a local for some terrific Moroccan adventures. Using shared minivan services can be a better alternative to taxis when planning a trip to more remote areas.

Marrakesh train station | © Anthony Stanley / Flickr

Be careful with water use

Being ‘water wise’ is important wherever you visit. However, in a desert-nation like Morocco, water is an especially valuable resource. Ways to save water include taking shorter showers, turning off taps when your brushing teeth, only washing clothes when necessary, and not taking more drinking water than will be consumed.

Morocco’s arid desert | © Carlos ZGZ / Flickr

Conserve energy

Another eco-friendly tip that applies the world over is for visitors to be mindful of their energy use. Things like turning lights off when not in use, limiting the use of air conditioning systems and opting for fans over air conditioning are just a few of the many easy steps that everyone can take when travelling in Morocco.

Minimise waste and dispose of waste correctly

Carrying a refillable water bottle is a relatively small step that can have a big impact on the environment. Moroccan landfill sites often aren’t equipped to deal with huge amounts of waste, and plastic bottles can be especially problematic for the environment. Refilling a bottle can drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste when travelling in Morocco. Keep in mind that tap water is generally considered safe to drink in almost all parts of the country.

Reducing the amount of plastic waste in general is kinder for the environment; favour reusable shopping bags over plastic bags, limit the use of drinking straws, buy products that create less waste, and so on. As with everywhere in the world, do not litter – keep hold of any rubbish until you find a bin.

Beautiful beach in Morocco | © Fr Maxim Massalitin / Flickr

Engage with locals

Chatting with locals can be a great way for all parties to learn more about different cultures, foster tolerance and build bridges between different groups of people. Using local guides, restaurants, and accommodations often provides the ideal opportunities to interact with locals in an informal setting. While visitors should always keep their wits about them, over-cautiousness can lead to people missing some great opportunities to make new friends.

Teenage boy in Morocco | © 16:9clue / Flickr

Intrepid is the world’s largest provider of sustainable holidays. To start your responsible travel journey in Morocco click here.

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