Due to Ryanair’s low-cost flights, many travel to Morocco for only a few days. Classic tour? Marrakesh and desert in 4-5 days.
In addition to constituting a very high environmental cost, not being able to compensate for it with a long stay, it is the classic hit and runs tourism where you must try to see as many places as possible in the shortest possible time without to really understand the reality of the place and its inhabitants.
I, therefore, promised myself that if I had flown to North Africa, I would have done it to make a traveling trip to Morocco and not only to the capital, considering another very important factor. Unlike other places that maybe are on the routes of our travels, Morocco instead is for me in a position where unless I decide to travel to North Africa/ Africa, I will hardly find it along my way.
I always struggle to answer when asked if I liked a country or not… how do you condense in comment sensations, emotions, experiences lived and felt in a place? And how to do it when the emotions and experiences have been mixed?
Yes, because this trip to Morocco for its entire duration has left me with mixed feelings like no other country visited. I will, therefore, try to list the various significant aspects of this country at various points.
NATURE AND LANDSCAPES
Morocco has a multitude of landscapes and natural environments that amaze the traveler, perhaps because when we talk about this country in North Africa we imagine the classic landscape and arid climate. In fact, the mind immediately travels to the Sahara Desert, without thinking and knowing that instead of traveling far and wide through the country you can admire other splendid landscapes, green valleys with villages scattered here and there, Argan trees, the mountain range of the Atlas, waterfalls, rivers, not to mention the ocean, which thanks to its disruptive force and the two waves have become a favorite destination for surfers. In short, there is something for all tastes, and this only considering the geographical and landscape aspects.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Morocco is a melting pot of history and culture, which has Berber, Arab, and European influences. From the rich and frenetic capital Marrakesh to which you can dedicate at least 4-5 days, to the magical and romantic seaside resort of Essaouira, to the great and famous Casablanca mosque, to Rabat with its gardens and the Kasba, to the blue city of Chefachaouen set in a unique landscape, in the ancient and delusional Fes, in the wonderful Ait Ben Haddou at the gates of the desert, a trip to this country is a journey through history, archeology and culture. From the charm of the medinas to the colorful alleys of the Suq and the Kasbah to the palaces adorned with gold and colored tiles to the riads of a thousand and one nights.
Moroccans are strange people, rough is perhaps the word that best describes them because even when they chat with each other it is difficult to understand if they are fighting or not. We have witnessed several episodes in which people were divided before a fight broke out. We met wonderful people, women with very radiant and kind smiles, but often the owners of the places where we stayed were not so friendly. It is an aspect of which we also spoke with the young staff of the hostel where we slept in Marrakesh the last few nights, the only hostel where we slept, the most hospitable and friendly place ever. The influence that religion has had on the people is evident. In Fez, the former Islamic capital of the world and spiritual cradle not only of the Middle East, but a couple in a park not very frequented can also be suddenly stopped by a person to find out that there will be no kiss, or even in the same park you can be stopped and start a conversation about why many ideas about Islam are prejudicial. Basically, I think that especially in large urban centers, there is a big difference between those who deal with tourism and who own activity and who don’t have any source of income and find in criminality the only way to survive.
Moroccan food has disappointed me a little and it is still not clear to me why despite selling all those spices, they do not use them. I always thought I liked couscous, having tasted various versions in France / Italy, but once I tried it in Morocco, it didn’t really impress me, I found it dry, without flavor and without character. Instead, I really enjoyed the Tajine, a dish of meat, stewed fish and fortunately also only vegetables, cooked in Tajina. And among the street food a sort of sandwich filled with ingredients of your choice. If Moroccan cuisine did not seem particularly appealing to us, we cannot say the same thing for the delicious desserts, which are really widespread throughout the country, some of which are the legacy of French colonization. In particular, I would like to point out the millefeuille marocain, present almost everywhere, from the simplest ovens to the real pastry shops that offer a great variety.
Obviously knowing the local language is the best thing to be able to better relate to people, to be able to bargain and not be fooled.
It is not difficult to move within the country, and during our trip, we traveled the country and traveled around the cities, with buses, trains, trams, taxis, also hitchhiking! To reach some places, for example, reaching Chefchouen from Rabat was a really nice adventure, since in some places there are no direct connections, in others, they do not exist at all, or this is what you will be told when you ask for information. It is advisable to get informed by reading travel blogs or forums on the web to better understand the reliability of what has been said, but above all to look for information on the place. Last but not least, don’t give up and be patient. If you want to get an idea of what is the right price to pay for a ride, ask people, from the staff of the place where you stay to people on the street or in shops, as you can guess, the price for foreigners has often doubled /tripled than normal.
SECURITY AND CRIME
I think, as often happens, that there is a big difference between big cities and smaller towns / rural areas, and this unfortunately also because of tourism that has changed and ruined many social dynamics. There have been occasions when I have not felt very safe, in Fes and Marrakesh, because of the swindles in the medina by groups of young thugs supported by the collaboration and silence of the elderly. It was disappointing for me to observe and experience this experience because I knew that it would somehow change or influence my trust in the Moroccan people. Because in my opinion, this is a failure of the travel experience, being trusting one’s neighbor one of the key elements for an authentic travel experience. But it was sad to see how those hooligans made life difficult for the locals who want to help the foreigner and the locals themselves who might get lost inside the medina. Even more sad and frustrating to know that it is the cause as a foreign visitor. The scam obviously consists in asking you for money that may correspond to a month’s wages of a worker (read the post “How to avoid scams and travel safely”).
WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE
Unfortunately, still today, in 2020, we women must ask ourselves a question … Is this country safe for us women?
I am a solo traveler, I love to travel alone, and I will continue to promote the journey alone because I think it is truly a wonderful and unique experience.
But I admit, that during this trip, I appreciated the fact of not being alone, but in the company of my boyfriend, because I think it would have been even more stressful and I should have kept my guard higher.
For women who travel alone, I always remember to: respect the local customs and dress modestly, as a rule, which beyond safety should be followed to respect local populations; avoid nocturnal movements, do not walk in the evening in the dark through the streets of the medina.
As always, the rule of adopting intelligent behavior applies, which should also be adopted, for example, in large European cities.