One of the most common questions I receive from travellers is about alcohol. “Can you buy alcohol in Morocco or religion forbids drinking? Are there bars/clubs? Can women drink in the bars”? Of course, alcohol consumption in Morocco is a sensitive subject, but yeah, an exciting one to discuss!
Although Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol, Morocco is liberal and not dry. By the recent number, Moroccans consume approximately 120 million litres of alcoholic beverages, 68.3 per cent of which is beer.
In Morocco, alcohol is available in many places like bars, restaurants, hotels and touristic resorts. Drinking in public is strictly forbidden, so do not even think to open a beer in a park or to drink it in the balcony facing the main street.
Where to buy alcohol?
(As I live in Marrakech, the information is mainly based on my experience in this city).
If several years ago, you could buy alcohol in the leading supermarkets, now only the supermarket chain Carrefour has a license to sell it. However, you can also buy alcohol in the particular liqueur stores Champion (the cheapest one) and Victoria. Besides, in the big cities, there are plenty of small liqueur stores. They are often hidden; you will not see the sign “Alcohol store,” the windows will be covered. In Marrakech, you will not find the liquor stores in the old town (Medina), they are located outside the wall. The alcohol shops are only open daily till 8 pm.
What to buy?
Generally, wine and beer are the most popular beverages in Morocco. However, alcohol is not cheap. In the shops, the most popular beer Speciale cost 12 dirhams (around 1,1 euro) for a small bottle. Imported beers are more expensive — the cheapest option – Stork that I would only recommend if you are broken.
Wine? My favourite is Moroccan grey wine. Yes, exactly, grey wine! It is neither white, red, nor rose, and it is only produced in Morocco. If you can’t decide what to buy, always go for the Domaine Sahari – all colours – cost around 80 DH (7 euro). Stronger alcohols like vodka or whiskey are quite expensive.
Moroccan bars are usually smoky, strange, unique places frequented by Moroccan men and prostitutes. To make things easy, I made my system classifying Moroccan bars. There are four classes: holes, cheap bars, regular bars, high-class bars and cool places.
- Holes are places where you will rarely see other tourists (except Blondie and her friends). These places are small, dirty, extremely smoky and the beer is cheap (around 15 DH). Even prostitutes are barely seen there. I am in love with the small dirty places as you can discover the real Moroccan spirit there! By the way, that kind of bars have secret names, and it is not easy to locate them.
- Cheap bars are more advanced, clean. Beer is around 20 DH. Often there you will see working ladies and sometimes (still, very sometimes) tourists. One of my favourites is in Marrakech, Gueliz, on the 6th floor of the hotel Tachfine. It has a great terrace with the view of Gueliz.
- Regular bars are clean, and the audience is very different. Beer in these places cost around 40 DH, and some of them even have a draft! Many bars are located in the hotels, e.g. the cheapest next to Medina is in a hotel Tazi. Love the pink colour there! My other fav spot is a Chesterfield Pub in hotel Nassim.
- High-class bars/lounges/restaurants are for those who like fancy places. They often include live belly dancer shows, singers and another programme. The alcohol is expensive, around 10 euro for a small beer or cocktail. Some are famous for daily live music concerts.
- Cool places – the ones where modern young Moroccans, including normal girls (not the night workers), are hanging out and where I love to go for the weekends. My favourites in Marrakech are L’envers (the best electronic music DJs), Café du Livre (with English quiz nights every Monday), La Factory’s (cool industrial design and daily live music), Point bar (more for chilling) etc. Here is a great list by the blogger Maroc Mama.
Ordering beer/wine in the bar, you will get some tapas. Probably, some olives, popcorns, lentils or beans. How many tapas you will get also depends on the city. I noticed that in Marrakech bars are modest with tapas as in Agadir or Tangier you can get even full!
In Morocco, it is not common for local women to go to the bars. Thus, in many places, you will mainly see the male audience watching television or just talking. You will still encounter Moroccan ladies in all kinds of bars and clubs, but these are mainly the prostitutes. Young Moroccan modern women are also keen on going out and drinking. Then they choose different places where the audience is young, and the environment is safe for their reputation.
There is no problem for female tourists to go to the Moroccan bars as long as their friends accompany them. Even if you visit a nightclub or bar that is occupied by the local working girls, nobody will consider you the same. E.g., I am a big fan of cheap local bars and never felt uncomfortable being the only not working lady there.
Although alcohol consumption is not prohibited for tourists during Ramadan, only a few restaurants
To conclude, alcohol in Morocco exist. However, you must be respectful for the culture, never drink in an open space even if it is your balcony. In some hotels, drinking alcohol is forbidden, so read the house rules carefully. Never consume alcohol in public transport even if you are alone in the train coupe.