I am infinitely happy that I went to Morocco. I’ve never been anywhere so foreign, so completely different from the life I’ve known. It was exhilarating, intoxicating and disorientating all at the same time. Like any good adventure there were ups and downs, but it made my time there even richer and more memorable. Here are my pros and cons for Morocco:
Like my Pro/Con list for Portugal, I’ll start with the Cons so I can end on a high note.
Hassle: The hassle we endured during our time in Morocco topped any I’ve experience thus far. But with that said, it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. While we were never threatened or followed, the merchants would badger us incessanty to buy, the men (especially the young ones) would stare and say things that would get them slapped or arrested in America, and one time a particularly brash woman in a burka grabbed my hand forcefully, painted what was admittedly a beautiful henna design, and then demanded I pay her. I did not. I probably had the hardest time with the comments from men because, as a Western woman, I do not put up with that bullshit. I wanted to swing around and hit them, ask them if they “kissed their mother with that nasty mouth,” or throw back an equally vulgar comment about the unimpressive size of their penis. But they want you to engage with them so the best course of action is to ignore them entirely.
Safety: I never truly felt that I was in any real danger, but I was on my guard almost the entire time. I was always aware of my things, my proximity to speeding motorbikes, the food I was eating, and most importantly, my person. Because my head was on a constant swivel and my muscles always clenched, I found I was completely exhausted even after the most mundane day of just “walking around.”
Primitive nature: When you visit a country like Morocco you can’t expect all of the comforts of home, and that’s part of what makes it such a different experience. But would it kill ’em to stock some toilet paper in the bathrooms?!?! I think not.
People: People are listed under both my pros and cons because – like anywhere in the world – there are gems and there are jerks. In Morocco you will be swindled. Just accept it, because it will happen, and daily. There are “local” prices and there are “tourist” prices and vendors, taxi drivers, beggars will do their damnedest to get the most out of you.
Culture: When I think of Morocco I think of a smattering of bright colors. Everything that you see, hear and smell is vibrant and bold. It was amazing to be surrounded by this energy, constantly buzzing around me. Here are some of the things my senses experienced that all added to the unique environment:
- See: Brightly colored tiles, ornate metal lights, stall after stall of beautiful scarves, rugs, spices, shoes, bags.
- Hear: Snake charmers playing cobras into a submissive dance, the shouts of merchants luring in tourists, the shrill call to prayer that rang through the city five times daily, the constant buzz and beeps of cars and bikes.
- Smell: Exotic spices like cumin, saffron, cardamom and chili used to flavor tajines, rose water and flowery essences being pedaled in tiny glass bottles, the dusty ground kicked up by motorbikes and stamping feet.
Food: Obviously I loved the food. I wrote an entire post dedicated to the food of Morocco. It was so distinct and flavorful. I’ll crave tajines, olives and sweet tea for the rest of my days.
People: So many of the people we encountered in Morocco were wonderful, kind, helpful people. But none more so than Abdul, the manager at our hostel in Chefchaouen. After just one day, my friend Jess and I sheepishly admitted to one another that we would happily marry Abdul – this is how amazing the man is. He’s soft spoken and reserved, but will fall over himself to help you. For example, Jess and I stupidly forgot to buy our train tickets in Tangier before departing for Chefcahouen, more than two hours drive away. In Morocco, you must buy your tickets in person at the station – the only way you can purchase them online is with a Moroccan credit card. Abdul asked his father to put the tickets on his card, but he didn’t have enough money in his account and because it was the weekend and banks were closed, there wasn’t time for us to give him cash to deposit. Eventually, he had his little sister (who lives in Tangier) go to the train station and buy the tickets for us. She and her mother then met Jess and I at the train station the day we were departing to exchange the tickets for money. They hugged and kissed us, invited us back to Tangier and said that their home was open to us as our own. These lovely people went out of their way to help us and it left a wonderful, lasting impression of the kindness of Moroccan people.