Memoirs from Morocco – a unique experience
Even If it’s been almost two years since I flew from Spain to Morocco, it left me with lasting sense of awe and changed my perspective about how I see the world. It’s one thing to see a country in photos and documentaries and something completely different to experience a country with your own eyes. Before going to Morocco, our Erasmus coordinator from our campus told us “This is not a typical trip. Going to Morocco is not a vacation but an adventure you will never forget. “ And he was right. Morocco was anything but a vacation.
Why I went to Morocco
I am not gonna say it was a country high on my bucket list that I really wanted to visit. In fact, I was your typical nineteen year old girl doing my Erasmus in Barcelona who was clueless about what the world has to offer. During my Erasmus, there was an organized trip to Morocco and all my fellow Erasmus buddies were really thrilled about it. Other friends that have already taken the trip in the past have spoken really highly of it. The price was quite tempting too, approximately 200 euros !
More curious than ever to discover whether Morocco lived up to the hype, I spontaneously booked my trip to Morocco. I mean had to deal with some “not so happy” parents that were questioning my sanity but guess what? Morocco turned out to be an invaluable experience that proved to be life changing. Am I smarter or wiser? Probably not. But It definitely made me more open minded, adjustable and flexible. It even inspired me, to be braver when it comes to traveling and follow the least popular routes.
Spain to Morocco
Even If there are ferries that leave from Spain to Morocco, I would say the effort is not worth it since it takes much more time and sometimes it’s even more expensive than a flight.
We booked a flight with ryanair from Barcelona and It cost approximately 60 euros return ticket.
Traveling as a team
We were 50+ people from 26 different countries from EVERY part of the world. At least half of them were people I frequently interacted and went out with but the others were people I had just met. Even If there were cultural and language barriers, we blended nicely and every difficulty we faced along the way we acted as a “team” whether it was simply a bathroom emergency during a 6 hour bus trip or just standing our ground to stay in the desert for as long as it takes to find an Aussie who disappeared from the camp in the desert. Did I say we lost a person in the desert? That’s right but a story for another time!
I am definitely not a Tour Agency person BUT
Thinking back at my Moroccan experience, the tour guides were probably some of the highlights of the trip. Moha and Ali were pretty funny and accommodating throughout the entire trip. In fact, we approximately 200 euros that included accommodation,food,tours, transportation and 24/7 guidance. Every morning, they would sit and have breakfast with us and by night they would join the dinner and little parties. When Moha visited us back in Barcelona, he arranged to meet with us all. What I want to say? They were really far from the idea of a tour guide I had in mind and it felt like we had local friends.
I’m pretty convinced we saved some money too by booking the tour agent. I mean If you know your way around Morocco, that wouldn’t be a problem but we had no idea. Morocco is a chaotic country and the only country I would recommend booking a group package. The tour guides helped us avoid any tourist traps, advised us on the best way to exchange money and took us to the “safe” restaurants in Morocco. So I’m happy to say I had a positive first experience with a tour agency.
Camping under a sky full of stars
What If I told you I spent an entire day without any tech gadgets and internet? (first world problems flag). The existence of a bathroom was out of question and all they have said to us “Bring at least two bottles of water and baby wipes”. Dressed in my carpet style themed Moroccan dress and my vibrant blue hijab, we rode the camels in the desert for a couple of hours until we fade it to the camp in the Sahara.
There’s something so beautiful and tranquil about the desert that it’s very hard to explain unless you experience it. You might be thinking the desert is just a dry place without any people living in it and endless miles of sand dunes. That’s exactly what I thoughtat least. I couldn’t understand why people were so excited to visit the Sahara. As a nature enthusiast, I like everything green and flowery, so what would I even like there?
The beauty lies in the serenity of the desert. The brief period of time I was riding the camel, I couldn’t help but keep a really wide smile during the journey and nothing really mattered at that time. It was just me, Lexi the camel and the infinity of the desert. And let me tell you about about the landscape – it was unreal, especially during the sunset time when we found a really nice dune to admire the picturesque view.
Once we arrived at the camp in the desert, we had a really nice Moroccan dinner. Maybe it wasn’t that good, I am not sure but after DAY 3 I couldn’t help but eat whatever was served on the table. The real fun started shortly after, when we all gathered around the bonfire.Then, we had an absolutely fantastic live performance by the Moroccan guys who were singing, playing their instruments and dancing at the same time. It was actually incredible to take a step back from the technology and enjoy the pure joys life has to offer. One of the coolest experience has been stargazing under a sky full of stars. I have never witnessed anything like this before and probably that night was one of the best in my life! Everything was so unique and unreal that shook me by surprise.
Lessons from Morocco
As I said earlier, Morocco has been my first adventure outside of Europe. Having lived my entire life in a country as small as Cyprus, I was quite shocked to experience and see some things for the first time. The 5 days spent in Morocco expanded my horizons in surprising ways. These are many things I learned from Morocco during my brief stay that I’m happy to share with you.
There are still Berbers living out there
Call me arrogant, but I was shocked to find out that there are actually people out there that chose the nomadic type of life. I mean, It’s Morocco and it’s the 21st century, is this still a thing? I am wondering If that was out of choice or lack of opportunities. When we visited the desert, we did a 4×4 tour and stopped by some Berber’s hut. If my memory doesn’t fail me, the family that lived in the hut had a flock of sheep or goats and lived by trading their products. It was also obvious that there was not such thing hygienic standards there , the kids were literally covered in flies – I’m being serious.
Apparently, the kids did not have access to a school – they lived in the middle of the desert. When we arrived, they were shocked and were staring at us with a mouth wide open like we were coming from a different world and they completely lacked any social skills as they were hiding behind their mother´s skirt. The mother was super friendly. She spoke in fluent french with other people in the group and. She even offered cup of tea, but politely I declined no matter how tempting it was to tick off from my bucket list the ” Have tea with a Berber” . Following the voice in my head was probably one of the wisest decisions I made during my trip in Morocco.
Sandstorm and sandboarding
How could I ever forget the time we were caught in a sandstorm? It certainly hurts a lot – feeling all these little grains of sand hitting on your skin with so much power. It started all of sudden when were doing the 4×4 tour in the desert. We had to pause the tour and wait for a few minutes until it calmed down and stopped completely.
Also, we also had the opportunity to sand board in the desert which is only recommended for the brave ones as it’s a bit challenging to keep a balance If you have no experience.
The Locals: the good..
Most of the time we stayed in the rural areas of Morocco very far from the civilization. When I think of the locals, I fondly remember the smile of the Berbers that guided us in the desert and how simple minded and friendly they were. I also remember the sweet girls that were working in the argan oil factory and were kind enough to teach us about the procedure. In small villages, when the buses would drop us, the little kids would start running towards us and give us flowers and a big humble smile.
.. And the bad
It wasn´t until our last day in Marrakesh that I have experienced the ugly side of Morocco, when I visited the Medina. The guides told us in advance that we should walk in groups just for safety reasons. It was the very first time I have experienced such a harassment. It wasn’t dangerous at all but as I am not accustomed to such situations, it made me feel really uncomfortable.
Learning to haggle
I have never known before how to bargain. I mean, everything in Europe has a price tag and I am just used to pay the price shown. But while being in Morocco, it’s part of their culture to haggle, so I considered it a cultural experience. I managed buy for 2-3 hamsas silver necklaces for the amazing price of 60DHs, (6 euros) when the starting price was about 150Dhs! Awesome,right? I did two terrible buying purchases though. My brother’s 43 Sized leathered sandals- the fit was terrible and the it was 2 sizes smaller. Ugh, Also, I bought a leathered backpack which smelled so bad. I thought It would go away eventually but It never went. I washed it so many times and even destroyed the leather. But seriously, the jewelry in the market were so beautiful and cheap that I would highly recommend!
Many shop keepers were asking If it’s my first time here.
“Oh no, I’ve been here fore at least 3 more times”. I lied.
But then they know they don’t have to deal with a first timer. Worked, maybe! Even If my experience in Marrakech hasn’t been exactly the best , there’s something about it. Something beautiful,chaotic and mysterious. It’s full of beautiful things, full of delicious aromas , colors and full of life.
Morocco is definitely not as close minded as other countries in the Middle East. They are accustomed to receive millions of tourists every year. and their economy depends on it. Many women even feel comfortable walking around in their shorts and crop tops. Although it’s warm and the heat could be hectic somethings, I would strongly recommend to dress modesty. Western women or European as we are often called are perceived as “available” If we are willing to show parts of our body. So to avoid any unwanted attention, I would definitely stick to more conservative clothing. It’s about time to use this cool bohemian dress in your wardrobe or the long wide pants you have forgotten about. I would even recommend investing in a traditional Moroccan kaftan, jabador, or jilaba. Clothes in Morocco are super cheap and you can get a nice dress for as low as 50-100 Dhs. I still have my embroidery blue dress in the wardrobe and it’s the best souvenir I brought home.
An issue we frequently had to deal in Morroco, were the toilets. We haven’t always had access to the toilet and thankfully our guides were frequently doing some toilet breaks along the way. Also, most of the toilets are the “squat and go” variety and it’s less common to find western type of toilets. Don’t forget to bring your own toilet paper and a hand sanitiser since they will more likely be handy. (thank me later!)
Travel Essentials for Morocco
- Imodium: Traveller’s diarhea is a REAL concern in Morocco. At least two thirds of our group fell ill and we were passing around imodium like skittles. Lesson learned? Bring imodium!
- Sunscreen: Welcome to Africa! Whether it’s winter or summer it is ESSENTIAL to bring a sunscreen. We only spent 5 days during April and was enough time to get a real tan, no kidding!
- Water,water,water: You should aim to drink big amounts of water cause it’s very likely to get dehydrated If you don’t drink enough amount of water.
- Insect Repellant: We were also advised to bring insect repellent to our trip in Morocco especially during the camping in the desert.
- Swimsuit: If your hotel has a pool, do not forget to bring a swimsuit to cool off and evade the heat.
- A light sweater: The High Atlas Mountains can be cold , so it’s necessary to bring at least a light sweater and you never know what to expect from weather.
- Backpack: If you decide to to the camp in the desert, you will most likely have to ditch your carry on bag and only take a backpack with you with the only things you REALLY need.
- Toilet Paper/Baby Wipes: As previously mentioned, it’s not always accessible to have toilet paper in the bathroom and baby wipes could be essential too If you need to wash your hands or your body.
The Tour Agency
People are keep asking me which is the tour agency I have used. It’s called Viajes en Marrueco and it’s a local Moroccan tour.agency. The tour guides speak English, Spanish and French which is really convenient. There are very popular for trips from Spain to Morocco and highly ranked. Strictly out of confidence, this is not a sponsored post but an experience I had as a traveler. Here’s their facebook page, you can read reviews from other people on tripadvisor and make up your mind before booking with them!
They say there is no natural beauty in Morocco
Lies,lies ,lies! Look at these beautiful lanscapes!