Banks, post offices and most shops shut on the main public holidays, although transport still runs.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Independence Manifesto 11 January – commemorates the publication in Fez of the Moroccan nationalist manifesto for independence
Labour Day 1 May
Feast of the Throne 30 July – commemorates King Mohammed VI’s accession to the throne
Allegiance of Oued Eddahab 14 August – celebrates the ‘return to the fatherland’ of the Oued Eddahab region in the far south, a territory once claimed by Mauritania
Anniversary of the King’s and People’s Revolution 20 August – commemorates the exile of Mohammed V by the French in 1953
Young People’s Day 21 August – celebrates the king’s birthday
Anniversary of the Green March 6 November – commemorates the Green March ‘reclaiming’ the Western Sahara on November 1975
Independence Day 18 November – commemorates independence from France
Major Islamic Holidays
The rhythms of Islamic practice are tied to the lunar calendar, which is slightly shorter than its Gregorian equivalent, so the Muslim calendar begins around 11 days earlier each year.
The following principal religious holidays are celebrated countrywide, with interruptions and changes of time to many local bus services and increased pressure on transport in general. Apart from on the first day of Ramadan, offices and businesses close.
Moulid (or Mouloud) an-Nabi celebrates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Children are often given presents.
Eid al-Fitr (Feast of the Breaking of the Fast), also known as Eid as-Sagheer (the Small Feast), is the end of Ramadan. The four-day celebration begins with a meal of harira (lentil soup), dates and honey cakes, and the country grinds to a halt during this family-focused period.
Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) sees sheep traded for the ritual sacrifices that take place throughout the Muslim world during this three-day celebration. Also known as the Eid al-Kabeer (Grand Feast), it commemorates Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The sheep sacrifice is often a very public event – be prepared for the possibility of seeing blood running in the gutters and sheep heads being flamed over fires in the street.
Because the precise date of an Islamic holiday is in doubt until a few days before the start of that month, the following dates are only approximate.
New Year begins (year)
21 Sep (1439)
11 Sep (1440)
31 Aug (1441)
20 Aug (1442)
Travel During Ramadan
Ramadan Mubarak! (Happy Ramadan!) Ramadan is a lunar month dedicated to sawm (fasting) – from sun-up to sundown, the faithful abstain from food, drink, tobacco and sex to concentrate on spiritual renewal – and zakat (charity).
Many businesses operate with limited hours and staff, so try to book accommodation, transport and tours in advance. Call offices to ensure someone will be there. Most restaurants close by day; pack lunches or reserve at tourist restaurants. Stores often close in the afternoon; bargaining is better before thirst is felt in the midday heat. For the next few years from 2017, Ramadan falls in the summer, so be prepared for long, hot days.
Sunset streets fill with Ramadan finery, light displays, music, tantalising aromas and offers of sweets. After an iftar (fast-breaking meal) of dates, soup or savoury snacks, people gobble sweets until the late-night feast. More visits and sweets follow, then sleep, and an early rise for the sahur (meal before the sunrise).
Tourists are exempt from fasting; it’s hard enough at home under controlled conditions. To show support, avoid eating, drinking or smoking in public, and grant people privacy at prayer times. Taxi drivers don't appreciate being flagged down minutes before the evening call to prayer announcing iftar.
When a new friend offers you sweets or invites you to a feast, you honour by accepting; refusal is crushing. You’re not obliged to return the favour or eat the sweets; reciprocate the zakat by giving to a local charity perhaps.