Morocco in my rearview mirror

I’ve been back at home for a couple days now, and I’m rewinding past my time in the UK, France, and Spain to reminisce on my Morocco experiences.

Before I left, I had read a lot of different posts on Morocco and was getting increasingly worried as I read over and over again how horrible the country is for female travellers.  I’m going to have my voice as contrast, because with a little bit of prep and sensitivity this is the kind of place that any adventurer should aim to see.  What prep do I mean? Simple things like expecting to have shopkeepers, taxi drivers, and guides vying for your attention because that’s the way they know how to earn their living.   And knowing it’s best to be polite because a quick smile will make your decline that much easier for them to accept.  Think ahead about what you’re going to be wearing while you’re there and do your best to fit within some of the local custom.  I doubt you’ll fool anyone into thinking you were born there, but the effort to show respect in this regard will end up making your experience so much better.

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This is one of my more ‘revealing’ Morocco outfits, and I still generally covered my shoulders with the scarf when I was in town.  I definitely got more propositions wearing this than when I had on a long loose dress with sleeves.

Arriving in Marrakech is a breeze, the airport is small and easy to navigate.  If you have a ride pre-arranged you’ll find them just outside the door after you pick up you luggage (assuming it arrives! :S)  I chose to take the city bus and I’d recommend that for anyone wanting to travel cheaply. Assuming your accommodation is near the main plaza get on bus #19 across the parking lot of the airport, and it will drop you off right across from Koutoubia Mosque and the Jemaa el fna plaza.  Expect to pay 30 Moroccan Dirhams (MAD) or 50 for a round trip if you’ll be back to the airport within 2 weeks.

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Wander the courtyards
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Sharpen your bargaining skills with locals
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Go explore the colourful market stalls
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Visit a women’s collective for pure Argan oil products and a glimpse of how it’s made.
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Spend the afternoon browsing artisan markets

Rooftop patios and mint tea are a couple more things I’ll forever associate with Morocco now, as both factored into every single day I was in the country – generally more than once a day.  Soooooo good!IMG_1367

The landscapes in this country are much more diverse than I had expected, so that’s an enticing bonus for anyone that gets bored easily (like me!) as there’s always something new to see.  Desert sand dunes, stunning beaches, lush forests, arid mountains, and more. IMG_1370

A stunning place with generous and friendly people, great food, rich history, vibrant colours, and so much to do.   Morocco is a great place to explore for a while!   I have so much more I could say and share, so if you’re planning on going there yourself please send me a message.  It’s fun for me to relive my travels by passing on suggestions!

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Find fun ways to beat the heat
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Watch the sunset from a hilltop
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Explore the ancient city of Fez ( also spelled Fes)
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Walk the blue streets of Chefchaouen

Let me know your favourite Morocco experience – I’d love to hear about it!

– Ali

 

We need to talk…

Morocco, I don’t know how to say this nicely, so I’ll just blurt it out.   We’ve had a lot of fun over the past couple weeks –  I really like you and you’ll always hold a special place in my heart – but I think we need to end our time together.

I’ve been sensing an increasing restlessness in myself again, and I recognize this feeling by now.  Even though I was regularly on the move and in new cities I found I was less enamoured with it all and more quickly worn out by the minor irritations.  (Here’s where I’d say “It’s not you, it’s me” !)    It became more of a challenge to meet the barrage of requests and demands and invitations with a genuine smile; and the fun of dressing differently dissipated.  But really, I need to say again how great this experience overall has been.  Yes, I had someone make a comment to me about every 15 seconds any time I walked down the street, but in general these comments were benign and would end the instant I said “non, merci”.  In that sense the shop keepers and wanna-be guides were more polite than in other countries I’ve been.  (“You’re really great, Morocco, but we’re just too different”) 


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One thing I will always love about travel is witnessing a bit of local customs. Not only the traditions protected from ages ago and now dressed up for tourism, but also the unique interpretations on global trends. I noticed right away that Moroccan Millenials are very fashion savvy.  An example, Birkenstock sandals are a worldwide trend, even on my feet now. But the interpretation of this trend is so different here, with guys wearing the shiny patent leather sandals in styles that are ONLY sold in women’s sections at home. (If you want an idea of what I mean, look here: Birkenstock Morocco FB page.)

On the traditional side, I spent an afternoon luxuriating in a Hammam, a Moroccan public bathhouse.  These have been around for eons and it’s an incredible way to rejuvenate.  I was going to say ‘relax’ but in my experience that’s not very true.  Here’s why:  It began with an attendant guiding me back to a dressing room and showing me the hook where I could leave my clothes; she gave me two towels and said she’d be back in a moment.  I put on my bikini and then followed her a to a warm steamroom, all eucalyptus and orange blossom and dim light.  Right away she took away the towels and told me to remove my top, and as I stammered and stalled she explained it was normal… So off it went. When in Rome, right??   After a spray of water, she covered me head to toe in black goop that smelled amazing and had me lie down on the marble bench in the steamroom for 10 minutes.  When she returned it was another shower to remove the soap, followed by the removal of all.my.skin. Thankfully after a few minutes I got used to the scrub and stopped imagining I stumbled into a horror movie, and instead imagined the glowing new skin this should reveal.  Seriously.  The goal in Hammam is to scrub until the skin peels off in long strips!  My reward for enduring the filleting was another head to toe coating of scented Argan oil with a mini back massage, and then I was ready to rejoin the world with my new gleaming skin.

I brought my JLo glow to Tangier, my last city in Morocco and only an hour by boat from Spain.  It’s a great city, but I didn’t see most of the highlights as I had already mentally checked out.  Instead I spent a great day chatting over coffee with a fellow traveller, wandered through another Medina for a bit, and I indulged in one last cup of Moroccan mint tea that I will miss dearly.  And with that final smooch my breakup with Morocco is complete.  Au Revoir Morocco, and Hola Spain!