Morocco was never on my ‘must visit’ list of countries. However, I have always said if you have the opportunity to go somewhere new, do not pass it up. Naturally I had no expectations. After spending over two weeks driving from the very north to the south I experienced many learnings about a place I have come to love and will happily return. Some intriguing, some hilarious, some irritating, but all a memory not to be forgotten. Below are ten somethings I learnt about Morocco.
One. Bargaining at markets is draining and seriously tests your patience. I know it’s a tradition of Moroccan
culture so I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen, I’m just saying I don’t like it. Just tell me how much you want for the damned thing and I’ll pay it. No games please. Although I did figure out that if a store owner at a market introduces himself by name and asks for yours in return he is a) trying to scam you or b) sell you items for ridiculously high prices.
On a more positive note, the souks we went to in every city were awesome. Endless alleyways to explore and get lost in for hours so I really shouldn’t be complaining!
Two. The food is om nom nom melt in my mouth. Tagine (casserole) is the perfect mix of savoury and sweet while their huge bowls of couscous are so fluffy it felt like I was eating a cloud. They restaurants are usually stocked full of fresh fish, particularly in the coastal towns, and street stalls sell whats called a Moroccan breakfast pancake (like a sweet naan bread). I swear I ate a pancake per day for about a week.
Moroccans also seem to like western food. The customs officer, upon searching our campervan, ignored everything else and went straight for the fridge helping himself to a blueberry yoghurt. Perhaps he had just forgotten his lunch.
Three. Morocco’s dog population is a reflection of the human population of the world. The stray dogs (the poor) outnumber pet dogs (the rich) 10 to 1.
In other animal related news there are thousands of chickens, roosters, ducks, horses, camels, donkeys, goats, sheep, cats and cows. Everywhere. All the time. They are great. Except the roosters. You will never need an alarm clock because even in the middle of the city, there will be a rooster going off at 6am.
Four. Taxis are shared and in cities are the most popular form of transport. Trains and buses can be unreliable and a similar price to a taxi. A regular five seater taxi will take up to six passengers (on top of the driver) meaning the regular price paid per person per trip is 10MAD (approx €1). This system makes sense if you don’t mind taking slight detours and not wearing a seat belt.
Our cheapest ride was 80c for 10 minutes down the road. However we also got ripped off several times because of the language barrier – some drivers assume that because we are tourists we wanted to charter the whole taxi. It was impossible to tell them otherwise.
Five. Moroccans are quadrilingual. Moroccan Arabic is the official language however many also speak one of the three Berber languages. Most Moroccans can also speak French and some Spanish. If you’re lucky you’ll come across someone who speaks English, most likely at the markets, and they are usually shocked you can only speak one language. Time to step up my game!
Six. Surfing is a thing. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this prior to my trip considering they have thousands of kilometers of west coast beaches to play with. The surfing culture is also the same stereotype as the rest of the world – long blonde hair, boardies and by the tone of their voice I can only assume they were saying things like , “It’s getting heavy dude” and “Radical”.
Seven. Its best to cover up but you don’t HAVE to. A lot of travelers forums say that women in particular should wear clothing that covers their arms and legs. While I usually did abide to this I saw plenty of women in the cities wearing singlets and short dresses.
The general rule is you can wear what you like in cities and private accommodation but in small towns cover up. Its also acceptable to dress in ‘shorter’ attire if you are going late night bar hopping or clubbing.
Eight. Sitting on, walking down or running across a four lane motorway is acceptable. Other driving related activities considered normal (but not to the western eye) include:
- Driving with your doors open (cheap air-conditioning?)
- Taking your donkey or camel on the motorway
- Men – sitting on horses – standing on cargo – in the back of a truck – speeding – on the motorway. Fuzzy photo below.
- Hitchhiking as a legitimate mode of transport.
Nine. A roadworks detour may take you down a pot hole ridden desert road or no road at all, just dirt. Picture of one of our detours below. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a road until the police made hundreds of cars, trucks and buses drive along it.
Ten. Moroccans love to talk and seem genuinely interested in tourists despite the all too often language barrier. They smile, are extremely welcoming and often easy going if you simply return the gesture.