Imagine every adventurous travel experience you’ve ever wanted to have crammed into one week and you’ll understand how eye-opening and enriching Morocco was for me. Even now, a week after my departure, Morocco overshadows any city; even now, I’m still planning of ways to get back one more time before I return to the states.
During the time that I was there, I got to camp out in the desert for 3 nights, was serenaded by the traditional beats of the desert nomads, sped 100 km/hr through the steep rock formations in a grand taxi split with 4 random men after missing a bus, bargained for the very first time in the chaotic souks, climbed up to the most famous kasbah at Ait Benhaddou, drank so much traditional tea yet not enough, and made some incredible lifelong Moroccan friends.
However, these experiences weren’t the only reason I left my heart in Morocco.
Before take-off, many people were concerned that I was going with just one other female friend. The culture there is too different, they said. Women just shouldn’t travel alone to muslim countries. It’s not safe. Even the seasoned travel bloggers weren’t spared from questionable behavior from the locals. After being bombarded at all sides with horror stories and warnings, I was having second thoughts. Maybe I shouldn’t go to Morocco… maybe I should become more of an experienced traveler before tackling such a different culture. Still, I left. And as I landed, I prepared myself for any scenario.
But Morocco proved me wrong.
Throughout the entire trip, I can’t remember a single time when my heart wasn’t bursting with happiness and love for this country. Every new wonder we saw, I’d pinch myself… just to make sure it wasn’t all a dream. Each morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn, feeling not even a little bit tired, impatiently waiting for others to follow suit; I couldn’t lose what little time I had with Morocco just because of sleep! The feeling I got while we drove through the dunes is indescribable and one I will forever cherish.
Perhaps the reason I fell in love so hard was because Morocco was simultaneously exactly what I imagined and exactly what I didn’t. The amazing experiences I imagined were amplified and the bad experiences I imagined didn’t exist.
As to the warnings I received… the people there were the kindest and most helpful people I’ve ever encountered; even in the more aggressive, touting Marrakech, I couldn’t help but notice kindness everywhere, found in the interactions between locals and the genuine curiosity about us as two French-speaking Asians, the countless local homes that we were invited into for tea, meeting up with my Couchsurfing host and tour guide in Marrakech purely for the sake of enjoying each other’s company. For introducing me to such kindness, I thank you, Morocco.
Most importantly, Morocco proved to me how skewed the media is about certain countries or cultures, how people from all different backgrounds are beautiful, how shedding my own biases is not only easy but thoroughly rewarding.
What I’ll always remember about Morocco is the dry heat of the desert, watching the sun set from the top of Erg Chigaga, the variety of landscape that Morocco offers, and the high I was on while there.
My only regret about going is that I only gave myself a week. Dragging myself to the Marrakech airport and seeing the sun set as I flew over and away from the beautiful landscape was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
If you’re going to Morocco, I fully recommend you head straight for a small town as your first stop. We did this and I think it’s made all the difference in how we approached the country and its people. Had we started our journey in Marrakech, I think it would’ve been hard for us to have become friends with our hosts in M’Hamid to the extent that we have. Although the larger cities like Fes, Marrakech, even Ouarzazate are the more touristic destinations, it’s not where the true Moroccan spirit can be found. There, you’ll only find yourself frustrated that you’re a walking wallet instead of an actual person; whereas in the smaller destinations, they’re truly interested in interacting with you as people.
I do want to go back before I leave… but at the same time, I’m terrified that my first interaction with Morocco was a fluke… that because I didn’t expect as much out of her, I reaped the rewards. However, this time around, I know how beautiful she can be, which makes potential disappointment so much harder to handle.