The good the bad and the ugly of our journey of a lifetime….
What did we think of Morocco? I can start telling you, before you read any further, that we actually had a good time.
We found Morocco full of wonderful people: locals invited us several times for mint tea and we also met along the way fellow enthusiastic travellers making the trip really interesting.
We started in the medieval city of Fez and Unesco World Heritage site. Our first impression was amazing: we visited herbalists: people who specialise in making perfumes, oils and tinctures to make you feel better and beautiful. We also visited the old ancient mosque and the oldest university in the world and we found the architecture incredible. We even checked out the famous tanneries and much to our surprise they didn’t smell as bad as we were warned despite their use of huge amounts of pigeon poo.
One of the anecdotes of that day was to walk thru the meat section of the markets (souks). We were shocked to see camels and goats heads but nothing prepared us for the actions of one seller: he took a chicken from its cage, and with one swift movement, he decapitated the animal. Needless to say, if you want fresh chicken now you know where to go! But it did make us wonder, where does our food really come from?
The next day, we departed to Chefchaouen and just after we checked out of our Riad in Fez (a Riad is type of home converted into a hotel), I decided to kneel down to take a picture of one of the many kittens on the streets. I’m still trying to figure out wether locals hate tourists taking pictures of the cats, but a woman took a dislike on me, she hit me on the back of my head and when I turned around, she slap me on the face as well as shouting in Arabic! As I had no clue what she was on about and my nervousness, I didn’t become immediately angry but I bursted into laughter which made the woman even madder at me. I had to run to reunite myself with the group before this woman hit me again!
On the way we stopped in the town of Meknes where we witnessed a fight that broke out in the Medina between some guys who were chasing each other with crowbars! We left the scene and went for a calmer coffee instead! But when we were sitting down, a cute 5 year old boy approached us and started hugging my husband, it was weird, but we realised that many kids there do this so you feel sorry for them and give them money.
Once in Chefchaouen, we checked into our beautiful Riad. We explored the town and it’s even more beautiful than described in the guide books. It’s all true, the entire town is painted in blue. At night we went to eat dinner and my husband asked for the regional specialty. The waiter chuckled, brought the dish and waited for my husband to finish it. He asked him if he enjoyed the plate, he said yes: it was delicious. What is it? The waiter said, its ox penis! We made fun of my husband the entire trip. According to the reviews of the restaurant, that dish is the most popular one to order. I’m glad the rest of us didn’t even try it.
The next day we returned to Fez, our driver said to us, he would drive safely because it is a long journey that should take between 3-4 hours. We were relieved he seemed a careful driver, the reality was different! He talked on the phone, never wore a seat belt and took us to our destination in 2 and a half hours!. Once we got to Fez, we had no clue how to get to our Riad. For those that don’t know, the old town of Fez consists of 9000 streets and 40000 (yes you read well, 40thousand) dead ends. It is a huge labyrinth that hasn’t changed much in centuries. Before we knew it, we had a bunch of people, including a motorcycle chasing us, apparently they all knew where the hotel was, but the trend is, that some of these people are waiting for lost tourists to navigate them thru the labyrinth and then demand more money to take you out of it. We were lucky our taxi driver approached an old man who was honest and took us to the riad. The experience was frightening.
Next day, our new driver and tour guide for the next 4 days, Mahjub, came to pick us up from the Riad and drove about 8 hours to our desert camp with Morocco Country Side Tours on the border with Algeria. He made several stops along the way and we found his stories fascinating. We saw the famous Atlas Mountains and how the scenery changed so drastically within a few hours. Morocco has a lot to offer for nature freaks, it is certainly without a doubt a beautiful country. Once in the desert we visited a family of nomads, it was humbling seeing their way of life as they live in the desert and need walk miles to get water every day. Their cute little girl Asha, had the most contagious laugh and genuine smile. She had nothing other than a bicycle that probably a tourist had given her as a gift, but I wonder how was she going to ride that toy in the middle of the sand dunes? Nevertheless she was happy and she didn’t need much to be happy.
In the desert we also got to eat the famous Berber pizza. I’m still raving about it, it was the most gorgeous blends of spices I’ve ever tried.
At the camp we also danced to the tunes of Berber music and drummers, it was fun celebrating like the locals and the locals did seem happy to do this every night. They enjoyed themselves as much as the tourists did.
After two full days in the desert which included an exhilarating journey by camels, we went to the Moroccan Hollywood and saw some of the locations where the movie the Gladiator was filmed— they are actually real towns where people live.
Our final part was Marrakech. There we found a city of contrasts: some of the poor are very poor and some are opulent rich. We went to the YSL museum and the Marjorelle gardens which are beautifully maintained but makes you wonder about all the poverty that surrounds them.
In Marrakech central square, we were shouted at loudly by some guys because they photobombed our picture. We posed for one picture for my husband before we realized, three other guys came, photobombed us and then demanded money. I thought they were going to hit my husband at one point. Tourists, like us, should learn how to say in the local language: NO. We were also harassed into buying things. The salespeople can be very aggressive and you end up either buying out of fear, or you just leave the shop without actually buying what you liked in the first place. In that square, we also saw monkeys in chains performing for the tourists, it was really awful to see that these practices are allowed. We also saw snakes charmers and one guy tried to put a green snake on top of me and we screamed in unison in fear as he came out of nowhere. Of course after that, we left the place in one go. We had seen enough.
What we enjoyed was the kindness of people, amazing food we ate pretty much everywhere we went, the wonderful nature and the vast amount of history in this African country. As a souvenir, we bought spices, and these spices are so fragrant in my kitchen they are a good reminder every day of our trip to Morocco.
We had some hilarious experiences as well as some scary ones, but definitely this was a trip to write about, because it makes other road trips we’ve ever done seem mundane and boring! And I’m glad we were curious enough to go into places off the beaten track. Sometimes you have to go for it, but always remember to be safe and if in doubt about your safety, get out of there.