Morocco, known in Arabic as al-Mumlakah al-Maghreb or "the Western Kingdom," is a country in northwest Africa with a long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. The region is known for its beautiful forests, mountains, lakes and waterfalls. Visit ski slopes 25 minutes from campus or travel to nearby historically rich imperial cities of Fez and Meknes.
Arabic, Berber languages
HIGHER EDUCATION OVERVIEW
Admission to postsecondary institutions is open to baccalauréat (high school diploma in the U.S.) holders, and many schools and faculties require that students also pass an entrance examination. Most institutions or faculties will also require that students have minimum grades in their proposed majors. Furthermore, some institutions will only accept students who have obtained their baccalauréat in the year of application for registration.
The school year in Morocco runs from October to June. The language of instruction in the humanities and social sciences is Arabic, while French is the language of instruction in scientific subjects. Curricula in all fields are, for the most part, standardized by the Ministry of Higher Education.
University education is offered at 14 universities encompassing a combined total of 49 faculties and schools. Three main types of university have been established in Morocco: public institutions set up immediately after independence through the 1970s; newer universities established during the 1980s in response to the burgeoning demand for higher education opportunities; and the private not-for-profit university, of which Al Akhawayn is currently the only example.
Higher education in Morocco and the region operates in a more formal tone; students should address their teachers as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Dr., as appropriate. You will not be on a first name basis with any professor at AUI unless given express permission to do so.
STUDYING IN MOROCCO
Al Akhawayn University offers seven undergraduate degrees from among three schools, science and engineering, business administration, and humanities and social sciences. Fourteen graduate degrees are offered in addition to executive education and special programs for continuing education. All courses are delivered in English. Language classes are offered in French, Arabic, Spanish and Berber.
Of special interest are courses in history and political science that focus on North Africa and the Middle East. Arabic language courses are also offered in Modern Standard Arabic. Arabic is not offered at all levels each semester and students should refer to the course catalog for level selection.
Registration typically occurs upon your arrival on campus, during orientation.
A normal course load per semester is five courses (17 credit hours). Grades are based on the four-point GPA system according to demonstrated performance and skill level.
Exams & Grading
Grading at Al Akhawayn is as follows:
A indicates excellent achievement has been demonstrated
B indicates high achievement
C indicates acceptable performance
D indicates the lowest passing grade (at AUI, a grade “D” which usually requires the student to repeat the course)
F indicates failure either on a letter grade basis or on a Pass/Fail basis
Letter Grades and Grade Point Percentages
A 4.0 90-100
B 3.0 80-89
C 2.0 70-79
D 1.0 60-69
F 0.0 Below 60
Transcripts will be sent to ISEP Global six weeks following the end of term. Be sure to check with your host coordinator to ensure all is completed to allow for timely release of your transcript.
Visa and Residency
COVID-19 Update: Visa and Residency guidelines are subject to change and may be updated without warning a result of COVID-19 governmental regulations. Students should review the Special Conditions of Placement in their ISEP Acceptance Package for the most current information.
Students should always consult their local Consulate or Embassy of Morocco to verify the most up-to-date visa information. Visa requirements can vary depending on the country your passport is issued in.
Residence Permit on Arrival
Most students will not need a visa to enter Morocco, but all students studying in Morocco for over 90 days are required to obtain a residence permit upon arrival. During onsite orientation, you will submit ID photos and complete the application form. The Office of International Programs at Al Akhawayn will send the application forms to the police department on behalf of the students. There is a one time residency permit service fee of 160.00 MAD (approx. $18 USD).
IMPORTANT: Occasionally airlines do not seem to be aware of the process of entering Morocco as a tourist and then applying for the resident permit after arrival, and so students can sometimes be denied boarding at the airport if their return ticket is past 90 days. It is a good idea to bring a copy of this section of the ISEP Country Handbook in your carry-on luggage in case it is necessary to verify Morocco's official policy with airline personnel. If you run into this issue at the airport call your ISEP Student Services Officer, or the ISEP Emergency Line if it is urgent and after office hours (9am-5pm Eastern).
Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Morocco and may stay in country for up to 90 days. For students intending to stay in Morocco past 90 days, a residence permit is needed. Please see below for information on the residence permit.
Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Republic of Congo, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guinea (Conakry), Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Mali, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore (Singaporean nationals may stay up to one month without visa), Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United States of America and Venezuela.
Students who are citizens of a country not listed above will need a student visa to enter Morocco. See the Moroccan consulate or embassy in your home country for more information.
Students who study full-time in a third country and are not citizens of a country listed above (i.e. a Chinese student studying in the United States) can usually apply for the visa at the Moroccan consulate in the country where they are attending university.
Morocco is full of contrasting imagery, colorful sights, new smells and exciting experiences. The Kingdom of Morocco is a country in northwest Africa. It has a long coastline on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Algeria to the east (though the Algerian border is closed), Mauritania and the Atlantic Ocean to its south and west.
The full Arabic name of the country translates to The Western Kingdom. Al-Maghreb (meaning The West) is commonly used in Arabic. Morocco has a population of approximately 31,689,265 and covers an area of 710,850 square kilometers. Morocco is divided into 16 regions, 72 provinces and 17 wilayas. The country is a constitutional monarchy with a legal system based on Islamic law and French and Spanish civil law. Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims (98.8%) of Arab, Berber or mixed Arab-Berber stock. There are small Christian (1.1%) and Jewish (0.2%) communities. The official language of Morocco is Arabic but French is widely spoken along with Berber Dialects.
Religion is a deeply rooted and cherished facet of Moroccan culture. Morocco is predominantly Muslim, but other religious populations include Berbers and Christians. Moroccans are tolerant of other religions but students should be conscious of their surroundings when discussing religion. Because of the large Muslim population, students will frequently find themselves surrounded by the religious traditions associated with Islam, including the call to prayer throughout the day.
While living in Morocco, students should generally keep the following in mind with respect to religious traditions:
- Both men and women should ensure that their shoulders are covered and that pants and skirts go no higher than the knee when out in public. While it is not mandatory to adhere to these dress codes students are encouraged to follow them out of respect for the culture and to draw less attention to themselves in public.
- Most mosques are not open to non-Muslims. For the few that do allow non-Muslim visitors, it is important to dress appropriately. Women must cover their heads and wear long black gowns (abayas), which are usually provided at the entrance.
- Alcohol must not be consumed in public unless within the confines of a licensed establishment.
- Physical contact between men and women (even long-term married couples) is rare.
The most widely observed Muslim holiday is Ramadan, which celebrates the Quran being revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Participating in Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Ramadan is in the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and requires participating Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking from dawn until sunset, pray, show self-restraint and perform good deeds for the less fortunate. The dates of Ramadan shift 11 days each year, depending on the lunar cycle.
When studying in Morocco during Ramadan, students will frequently experience Iftar celebrations, or the breaking of the fast that begins at sunset. Iftar is usually spent with family or friends and includes socialization and the sharing of extensive meals, desserts and coffee. During the month of Ramadan it is common for people to stay up later and sleep in longer. Working hours are normally reduced and the pace of life generally slows down. Students applying and studying during this time should prepare to be patient with day-to-day operations.
Ramadan ends with the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, or the Festival of Breaking the Fast, which is usually marked by food donations to the poor (Zakat), new clothing, small gifts for children, communal prayers and large feasts with family and friends. The Eid is celebrated 29 – 30 days after fasting and begins with the new lunar sighting. The month of Ramadan is both a culturally and religiously important tradition in Morocco. If you are studying at AUI during this month, please be respectful of the culture.
Most Moroccans speak the Moroccan dialect called Darija, while the classical Arabic called Fus’ha is the official language. French is the second language and is widely used in commerce especially in central and southern Morocco. In northern cities like Tangier and Tetouan, Spanish is common. There are also three regional dialects of Berber in Morocco, but these are spoken less frequently. One of these Berber dialects, Tamazight, is used in Ifrane and throughout the Middle Atlas Mountains.
Students who have studied Modern Standard Arabic should be prepared to have limited understanding of the dialect upon first arrival as it sounds quite different. After some time it should be easy to adjust to the new dialect in daily conversations. Students can also ask Moroccans to speak in Modern Standard Arabic if it’s too difficult to understand the dialect. Students with French language skills will also be able to speak with most Moroccans.
It is recommended that LGBTQAI+ students conduct personal research on their host country before departing for their program. The articles below may be a good starting point on such research. However, students should keep in mind that social attitudes and acceptance may vary based on a number of factors including region, age, and the local political climate. If you would like to be connected with your host coordinator or an alumni who identifies as LGBTQAI+ before your departure, please contact your Student Services Officer. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Morocco, the culinary star of North Africa, is the doorway between Europe and Africa. Much imperial and trade influence has been filtered through it and blended into the culture. Unlike the herb-based cooking across the sea to the north, Moroccan cooking is characterized by rich spices. Cumin, coriander, saffron, chilies, dried ginger, cinnamon and paprika are on the cook's shelf, and in the mortar. Highlights of Moroccan cooking include:
- Harissa, a paste of garlic, chilies, olive oil and salt, makes for fiery dishes that stand out among the milder foods that are more the Mediterranean norm. Ras el hanout (which means head of the shop) names a dried spice mixture that combines anywhere from 10 to 100 spices. Each vendor has his own secret recipe (hence the name), and no two are exactly alike.
- Couscous, granular semolina, is central to Moroccan cuisine and is often cooked with spices, vegetables, nuts and raisins. It makes a meal in itself or is topped with rich stews and roasted meats.
- Lamb is a principal meat – Moroccan roasted lamb is cooked until tender enough to be pulled apart and eaten with the fingers. It is often topped with raisin and onion sauces, or even an apricot puree. Meat and fish can be grilled, stewed, or cooked in an earthenware tagine (the name for both the pot and the dish). Savory foods are enhanced with fruits, dried and fresh – apricots, dates, figs and raisins, to name a few.
- Lemons preserved in a salt-lemon juice mixture bring a unique face to many Moroccan chicken and pigeon dishes.
- Nuts are prominent; pine nuts, almonds and pistachios show up in all sorts of unexpected places.
- Moroccan sweets are rich and dense confections of cinnamon, almond and fruit perfumes that are rolled in filo dough, soaked in honey and stirred into puddings.
Food is served in common dishes and eaten with the right hand – the left is used for personal hygiene and should not be used to eat, touch any common source of food or to present money or gifts.
There is no "rule of thumb" regarding tipping in Morocco. Moroccans themselves might only leave a few dirhams on a 150 dirhams dinner bill. For tourists and visitors, 10% is more common for meals. In taxis, just round up to the nearest 5 dirhams, e.g. if the taxi meter says 17, pay 20. For someone who carries your bags to your room or from your hotel to a taxi, 10 dirhams would be appropriate, unless your bags are extremely cumbersome, or the distance is longer than a couple minutes walk.
It is not uncommon for students to experience culture shock when traveling to any new destination. The most important thing to remember is that this shock will subside as time goes on. After the first few weeks of living in a new culture, students typically begin to feel more at home and more incorporated into society. Moroccans are very warm and accommodating; students should feel free to seek out relationships with students on campus for support. Additional tips for coping with culture shock can be found here.
Health and Safety
Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad.
- ISEP expects changes to COVID-19 vaccine requirements for 2021 and 2022 programs. If the student's host country, host university, home university, home country, or travel provider require a COVID-19 vaccination, students must comply with that requirement. ISEP will notify students if we become aware of changes in the terms of participation for their program.
- Detailed information about Morocco can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and Security, Local Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections.
Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections.
-If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here and please contact your Student Services Officer and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.
The basic unit of currency in Morocco is the Dirham (Dh). The Dirham is divided into 100 Centimes. Coins in circulation come in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10 Dirhams and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes. Bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 200 Dirhams. Please be informed that the Moroccan Dirham is a controlled currency. It is illegal to import or export Dirhams. Upon leaving Morocco, you can reconvert only up to 50% of the Dirhams for which you must produce exchange receipts at the bank of the airport. As you change money, keep your exchange receipts. See Xe.com for the current exchange rate.
CREDIT CARDS AND ATMs
There are ATMs around Morocco that will dispense cash. There is also an ATM on the Al Akhawayn campus. However, these machines can only dispense cash in Dirhams. Make sure you have international privileges on your credit card and the appropriate PIN number. Bank ATM cards usually have a transaction fee. Make sure you understand the fees associated with your credit card for cash transactions.
Credit cards are not widely accepted in small establishments in Morocco. However, you can use a MasterCard or Visa card in places such as hotels, gas stations, travel agencies and some large shops in main cities like Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, Agadir, Tangier, Fez and Meknes.
There are two banks in Ifrane, the Banque Populaire and the BMCE, located in the town center. Both banks can handle foreign currency buying but not selling. They can cash traveler’s checks and cashier’s checks in a foreign currency. It is possible to get a cash advance with your Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card in the bank at the counter.
All international currency transactions have a cost. You will need to make a decision about what form of currency is best for you. Exchange students at AUI for one semester do not need to open a bank account. Some combination of credit card, cash and traveler’s checks is normally sufficient.
Research whether a monthly public transportation pass is available for purchase, and whether this is more cost advantageous than individual fares which can add up quickly. Your student ID can also often be used for discounts at museums, travel and more!
Sources of Information
Transportation inside Morocco
- http://www.ctm.ma/ (The national bus schedule. This website is under construction)
- http://www.oncf.ma (The train schedule)
Current News Sources in English
Languages of Morocco
Arabic and Middle Eastern Resource links