Maybe you meet weekly with friends for a pub or bar trivia night. Maybe you play Trivial Pursuit online as an app on your phone or tablet. Maybe you like to show off your natural curiosity to your friends and family.
Maybe you are going to travel to Morocco and you’d like to learn a little more about Morocco?
In any case, it’s always good to have some random little-known fun facts about Morocco in your back pocket, because you likely didn’t learn any of these at school!
Morocco Local Insider, Your Destination Guide for Travel to Morocco, shares our 12 favorite random yet interesting fun facts about Morocco. Prepare to impress!!
1. The Sahara Desert is the largest “hot” desert in the world.
The first of our list of fun facts about Morocco is maybe the only one you may have learned at school!
The Sahara Desert sweeps across in North Africa, starting in Morocco and Mauritania in the west and extends to Egypt and Sudan in the east. All in all, the Sahara Desert covers 3.5 million square miles (more than 9 million square kilometers)! This makes the Sahara Desert the largest subtropical desert in the world.
Why the distinction? Because the only larger deserts than the Sahara are the Antarctic and the Arctic, which are considered polar deserts.
This could be a stand-alone on our list of fun facts about Morocco: The Sahara Desert is so large that its dust and sand is carried by winds to North America, affecting weather patterns and air quality in the United States!
2. Oldest Homo sapiens remains were recently found in Morocco.
It may be common knowledge that Africa is considered the birthplace of humanity. After all, the earliest remains of Homo sapiens were found in current day Ethiopia in 1974.
However, the relatively recent 2017 discovery of even older Homo sapiens remains in Morocco rocked the archeological world! Experts believe that the fossils of these Homo sapiens in Morocco are more than 100,000 years older then those unearthed previously in Ethiopia!
In Morocco, it’s common to refer to others as “brother”, “sister”, “auntie” and “uncle”. These are terms of respect, but with the reveal of one of our most incredible fun facts about Morocco, who knows? Maybe you are actually related to Moroccans!
3. In Morocco, you will ride a dromedary, not a camel.
One of the most popular activities for tourists when they travel to Morocco, is to ride a camel in the Sahara Desert.
But it’s one of our amusing fun facts that in fact, it will be a dromedary to ride in the Sahara, not a camel. While both animals belong to the Genus Camelus, they are actually two different species.
In Morocco, we have dromedaries, and they only have one hump. To make it easy to remember, think of the letter D on its side, and that it looks like the one hump on the dromedary’s back.
4. Many international movies and TV shows are filmed in Morocco.
Ouarzazate is considered Morocco’s “Hollywood”, and is home to two studio sets which can be toured by the public. Among countless TV series and movies, Homeland and Gladiator were filmed in and nearby Ouarzazate.
However, Morocco in general is a popular destination for movies and TV shows. For example, Game of Thrones had scenes shot in Essaouira, The Bourne Ultimatum was filmed in Tangier, and the James Bond special Spectre, as well as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation were shot in multiple locations throughout Morocco.
As a Moroccan, it’s a lot of fun and a good challenge to spot when Morocco stands in as the double for unsafe destinations in movie or TV plots. Even as I write this blog, an Indiana Jones movie is being filmed in Fes! It’s cool to see the mini transformations of Fes, such as blocking off certain sections of the medina, and covering up the modern street signs of the bank with a “dentist” or “hammam” sign, written in both Arabic and English.
5. Argan trees only grow in Morocco.
These days, argan oil is world-wide famous, with major beauty brands such as Moroccanoil and Jose Maran cashing in on argan’s health benefits for both hair and skin.
But one of our incredible fun facts about Morocco, is that Morocco is still the only place on earth where the argan tree grows and thrives!
And did you know that argan oil is not just for skin and hair? Culinary argan oil can also be used in recipes in places or other nutty oils such as walnut. Argan oil also stars in “amlou”, Morocco’s beloved version of a nut butter, which is made with almonds and sweetened with honey.
We have seen that some other countries who want in on the argan tree’s popularity and who are experimenting with seedlings, but Morocco remains the only country with established argan trees.
6. Not all Moroccans are Arab.
This may be one of our controversial fun facts about Morocco: Not all Moroccans are Arab, and some Moroccans who aren’t Arab, may take offense when others generalize Morocco as an “Arab country”.
So why is Morocco often referred to as an Arab country?
Morocco is located in North Africa, which is commonly included in the Middle East, in which case, the region is called “MENA” (Middle East – North Africa).
Like for the majority of other countries in this region, Arabs swept across the continent to the western tip of North Africa (Morocco = Al Maghreb in Arabic, which means “the west”), bringing Islam to the native population. Morocco then became a predominately Muslim country; it is reported that 99% of Moroccans are Muslim.
BUT! The important note is that there was (and still is) a native population of Morocco! Though the indigenous population of Morocco is often collectively referred to as “Berber”, this name is also considered offensive to some, as it is said to tie back to “Barbarians”. Instead, it’s becoming more politically correct to use the term, Amazigh (single) or Imazighen (plural). (The “gh” is pronounced kind of like the letter “R”, similar to how “R” is pronounced in French.) Tamazight is the generic name for the native languages used by the Imazighen in Morocco, though there are some related languages/dialects in specific regions.
Of course, with Arabs coming to Morocco in the early 8th century, it is normal that Arabs will co-mingle with the Imazighen. But there are still individuals today who proudly self-identify first as Moroccan, and then as as “Berber”. This is why more tactful to NOT refer to Morocco as an Arab country.
7. Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the United States as an independent nation.
This is maybe one of our most unanticipated fun facts about Morocco, and we wonder, is it ever taught in American schools?
In 1777, the Sultan of Morocco was Sidi Mohammed ben Abdullah, and he recognized the importance of establishing good relationships and trade agreements with other countries. Through a proclamation to allow American ships into Moroccan waters, the Sultan planted the seeds of a diplomatic friendship between the United States and Morocco.
One of our related fun facts about Morocco: Although it took some time to establish, the United States’ first (and now oldest!) overseas property was in Tangier. It served as the US Consulate in Morocco, and you can visit the site at the American Legation Museum.
8. Morocco is home to fossils and dinosaurs.
The most dinosaur and fossil remains have been uncovered in North America, China and Argentina. But after our Homo sapiens reveal, you are now probably not shocked by another of our archeological-related fun facts in Morocco: fossils and dinosaur bones can also be found in Morocco!
In the areas ranging from the Middle Atlas to the Sahara Desert, Morocco is still uncovering many types of fossils, such as ammonites and trilobites, as well as dinosaur bones and shark teeth.
One of the most famous dinosaurs found in Morocco is the Spinosaurus, which is believed to be bigger than a Tyrannosaurus Rex!
9. It snows in Morocco!
Morocco is perhaps best known for its largest city, Casablanca (“Here’s looking at you, kid”) and sweltering weather for Sahara Desert tours.
So, it may seem like one of our most astonishing fun facts about Morocco that yes, it actually snows in Morocco! Morocco is sometimes called a “hot” cold country, because of its range of temperatures.
You will see snow-capped peaks in the Rif, Middle Atlas and High Atlas Mountains, and towns near these locations will get snow. For example, Ifrane is a popular destination near Fes to enjoy a white wonderland of snow, and Oukaimeden is a popular destination for snow bunnies for those near Marrakech.
In fact, if you’re traveling in Morocco via the mountains and the Sahara, between Fes and Marrakech during the winter, be aware that you may have to change routes! During snowy weather, it’s not uncommon for these roads to be closed temporarily due to unsafe driving conditions.
10. You can visit Spain on mainland Africa!
You may already know that you can see mainland Spain from Morocco near Tangier, since the two countries (and continents of Europe and Africa!) are separated only by 8 miles (13 kilometers) at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar.
But one of our least expected fun facts about Morocco is that there are two Spanish enclaves on the northern coast of Africa on what could be considered Moroccan soil. One of the Spanish autonomous cities is called Sebta (Ceuta in Spanish) and is just outside of F’nideq. The other is Melilia (Melilla in Spanish), just near Nador. There are also a few islands / islets that also fall under Spanish rule but which are claimed by Morocco.
Sebta and Melilia are often described as “being bordered by Morocco”. Going back in history, all of these places were under Moroccan rule.
General entry requirements for Sebta and Melilia are the same as if you were going to Spain. At a minimum, you need a passport, even if your nationality does not require a Schengen visa, as you are crossing between Morocco and Spain. Spanish is the official language in these two autonomous Spanish cities, and Sebta and Melilia also follow the same time zone as Spain.
11. Widows wear white in Morocco.
In most western countries, the color of mourning is black. But in Morocco, widows wear all-white during the mourning period, which lasts 4 lunar months plus 10 days.
But if you happen to be in a Moroccan airport and see groups of people dressed all in white, please don’t assume that they are all in mourning! When Muslims perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam, pilgrims will dress in all-white clothing as well.
Interesting note and another of our bonus fun facts about Morocco: Widowers in Morocco traditionally do NOT wear white when in mourning.
12. The oldest and continuous running university in the world is in Fes, Morocco
In the 9th century, Fatima Al-Fihri established Al Karaouine madrassa in Fes. It has since become the oldest and longest running university in the world!
This is one of our debatable fun facts about Morocco, as there is some contention whether the madrassa model is the same as a university, but since UNESCO and the Guinness Book of World Records give the honor to Al-Karaouine, who are we to disagree?!
Although Al-Karaouine was founded by a woman, it seems only male Muslim students were able to attend until the 1940s, when women were first finally admitted.
You will likely see many spellings of the name of this university such as:
We know that all of those vowels look difficult to get your tongue around and pronounce! The difference is spelling just has to do with how Arabic is transliterated into various languages.
How many of our random fun facts about Morocco did you know already? Which of these fun facts about Morocco did you find the most interesting? Of course, these are NOT the only fun facts about Morocco!
All you have to do to learn more is book a trip to Morocco and discover first-hand some fun facts about Morocco for yourself! Mint Tea Tours‘ escorted private tours with English-speaking drivers and local expert guides can help you in your quest.