Before going to Morocco we had little expectations. Out of the few friends that had visited, a handful had serious warnings for us. “A friend of a friend got robbed.” “My friend got harassed because she was American.” “Women are not respected.” “Everyone in Morocco will scam you.” “You are crazy for going. “
Looking back, we are happy we went with our gut and ignored the negative reviews. Yes, they are going to try and make money off of you, as do most countries. Moroccans specifically though, feel that if you’ve traveled as far as Africa from where ever you’re from, you have some money.
While we had a few experiences that did warrant caution, it was no more than we would have taken anywhere else. Overall, the trip was overwhelmingly positive and enlightening for the both of us. The cities we visited were rich in history and culture, the people were friendly, and the food was full of flavor. What more can you ask for? Of all the places we’ve been, the souvenirs we brought back for our family have been our favorite, as they were all over-the-top intricate and gorgeous. Although we could detail our adventures in Morocco for days, we tried to briefly cover the cities we visited for those that might be inspired to visit Morocco.
Marrakech is hard to articulate. It is overwhelming for the senses. Vibrant colors overload your brain; the smell of tagine is around every corner, while the sounds of constant movement is palpable. It was the most quintessential Moroccan city we went to and was everything we visualized the country to be in our minds.
Morocco is a muslim country and there are some clear gender differences. While it was clear from the start that some tourists (specifically women) just did not do their research in appropriate clothing choices, (or just really enjoyed attention), we were unaware that I would have an unfair advantage coming to Morocco. Everyone thought Amauri was Moroccan. My personal Moroccan tour guide!
Although feeling like the rich white lady with her own tour guide was definitely a highlight, Marrakech has tons more to offer those without my unexpected perk. Our favorite? Getting completely lost in the medina. (Fun fact: We learned the hard way that you can pay a local a $1 to steer you in the right direction after realizing you haven’t seen a non-Moroccan for the past hour.) In the medina, there is an exhaustive list of things you can stumble upon – a monkey, a snake charmer, fresh orange juice, dried fruits, and/or shiny treasures.
Our introduction to Marrakech was our favorite memory. In the taxi on the way to the hostel, our cab hit a car. Both drivers looked at each other, in what we assumed to be a tense moment, then both started laughing and drove off in different directions. Minutes later the taxi stopped in the middle of a random street, rushed us out of his car, and introduced us to an employee of the hostel at the same time. Without any notice, the man from the hostel quickly had our bags on his back and was jetting through the medina with us pathetically lagging behind him desperately trying to catch up. That single experience summed up our time in Marrakech perfectly – chaotic and nothing less than an adventure.
Our one goal of going to Morocco was to visit the Sahara desert. We knew it was going to be a treacherous 3-day tour, but were confident it would be worth it. A once in a lifetime experience. Our chariot to the desert was a 15-seat van, filled with travelers from Mexico, Australia, Canada, Germany, and the US. Our Moroccan driver wore a leather jacket and ray-bans, had his cell phone glued to his ear the entire trip, and decided to nickname us “Brazil” and “Obama”. Who says organized tours can’t be fun?
On the tour we visited Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, where Gladiator and Game of Thrones filmed.
…met an artist who created print pieces from tea, saffron, and a magnifying glass.
…spent a night watching Berber drummers.
and in the biggest highlight of the Sahara Desert tour, we rode camels into the sunset and spent the night in a tent in the Sahara Desert.
There always has to be a city we enjoy the least, and Fes was it. While in Morocco, we heard warnings about serious pick pocketers in Fes, so we caved and booked a walking tour for the day. Our tour guide was an old Moroccan man with leathery skin, toothy smile, and an affection for soccer. He was a pleasant man that gave us insight into the cultural and gender differences of Moroccans, but as it is with tourist traps, we were eventually brought to his friends businesses so that he could profit from our purchases. We took it for what it was worth and tried to enjoy the experience, but getting ripped off is never a good feeling. In Fes, we visited the tanneries where they make leather, spice shops for medicinal purposes, and of course a rug shop. After a full day in the city, we were happy to change scenery.
In our brief research of Morocco, I put Chefchaouen on a pedestal. It was out of our way, but I was adamant that we would both love it. Usually, this is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, I won the travel lottery and was spot on with how awesome Chefchaouen is. The little blue mountain town provided more than we ever expected. It was relaxed, quiet, and we were able to browse the shops in peace. We also couldn’t help falling in love with the quirky blue walls that highlight the city center.
In the evening, we sat at a little cafe watching the sun go down, playing cards, and drinking mint tea. We sat back, watching the chefs run to the grocery store for more ingredients and shooed away the street cats that begged at our feet. After the chaos of the bigger cities, Chefchaouen was a breath of fresh air. If I were to give a list of recommendations for Morocco, this little blue mountain town would be at the top.
Another city, another story about a taxi. On our way in, the taxi was struggling to find our hostel. He drove around the town hopelessly lost, asking people for directions. To our surprise; a local man jumped in the front seat and offered to help. When we finally found it, the local man was out of the taxi as fast as he had jumped in, seemingly satisfied with just having pleasant conversation with a few strangers. This exchange reminded us just how different our cultural differences were.
Asilah is a small beach town in the North of Morocco. It is a popular destination for Europeans, as it is only a few hours away from Spain via ferry. However, in the month of November that we visited, there were no tourists. Restaurants, grocery stores, and the medina were filled with only locals. It was perfect.
While there, we were lucky enough to witness a sunset that has been deemed one of the best in Africa. That is a big claim. The wind was fierce that day, so I put a scarf around my head while we watched the locals go about their business. For a minute, it was a shocking realization that no one knew we were tourists (or simply didn’t care). After saying “la šukran” (no thank you) so many times in the last two weeks, it was nice to be able to sit back and relax.
Feeling like we were experiencing an authentic local experience, we concluded that Asilah was the perfect city to end our adventure in Morocco.