Why I Fell In Love With Morocco

Going to Morocco was a turning point in my life. It happened just when I needed it most, and it changed the way I lived when I returned. Partially because it was an adventure with some amazing people, at the most opportune moment, but also down to the fact it showed me a type of life I never realized could exist, I fell head over heels in love with the country.

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The Atmosphere

Tumbling out of the airplane and making our way through the airport, the difference was immediately notable. T.I.A: This is Africa – and even this far north they won’t let you forget it. There were no orderly queues or barriers to prevent you moving between sections, no micro-managed check-in system. You simply joined the crowd and hoped you would eventually be spat out in front of a customs desk.

Driving to our accommodation through a buzzing dusk, motorbikes and scooters sped by with too many passengers and not enough safety equipment; At one point a whole family, baby wedged between mum and dad, whizzed past.

It wasn’t until near the end of my trip, as I stood on top of Essaouira’s rampart, with no safety barrier in front and a significant drop down to the crashing rocks below that I was able to put my finger on it.

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This country wasn’t resigned with the systemic fear that grips the West. In Morocco you were still allowed to make your own mistakes, you were still allowed to be responsible for your own actions; in essence, you were still free.

 The Beauty

 My first experience of a desert-esque landscape was somewhat mesmerizing. It came after a very stressful morning trying to navigate our way across the country. After five of us had piled into a four-person taxi, found a way to squish an extra person in the back seat and set off at an alarming pace down the motorway, suddenly all I could see was miles and miles of yellow nothing, broken up by towering sandy hills at irregular intervals.

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The infinity of this bleak and serene landscape was so thoroughly contrasting to the bright, vibrant and dynamic festival that is central Marrakech, where our journey had begun. An even greater contrast still to the luscious greens and cascading waterfalls of the Atlas Mountains.

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Morocco’s charm is one of authenticity: the vast open landscapes and the bustling hubs of human civilization. The cities don’t feign beauty and the wild country isn’t cultivated and tamed.

The Culture

 Before visiting the country myself, I’d heard endless horror stories about Moroccan culture and the way it treated tourists. Anecdotes of harassment, insults and the strict, and sometimes aggressive, upholding of Islamic traditions came from multiple sources. However, I had a good feeling about this trip, so none were enough to deter me. And, as usual, instinct prevailed!

The culture we were welcomed into was one of the most friendly, hospitable, witty and open that I’ve ever experienced.

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Sure, in the big cities you were approached by people trying to sell you things. It was true that if you ignored them, avoided meeting their eye and pretended they didn’t exist, then they would double in persistence. However, if you treated them like a real human, laughed at their pushy marketing tactics and clearly indicated you’re not interested, then more often than not they’d leave with a twinkle in their eye and beaming mischievous grin on their face.

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The People

 Every single person we met was a complete joy to be around, eager to show us the ins-and-outs of their country and always ready to flash a smile. It seemed as though the countries long history as a trade epicenter had made salesmen personalities a part of daily life.

Our hostel owners were all entrepreneurial young adults, who were as much in the business for meeting like-minded individuals as they were for making money. In our second stop, the surf lessons we took that started as a seemingly professional venture, soon dramatically dropped in price and was revealed to be merely a friend who owned a few extra surfboards.

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This laid back attitude to service was a charm in itself. Breakfast time in our Marrakech Riad involved the first of us awake locating which bed that day’s shift-runner was in and letting him know that the guests were up! In most food joints, more often than not you’d be waiting a while, parts of your order would never appear and any attempts to hurry the service would be met with lovingly patronizing laughs.

In fact, this was summed up perfectly when a traveling companion of mine asked where the tea she’d been waiting for, for a significant amount of time, had got to. With that characteristic twinkle that by then we’d grown to know and love, the waiter gently reassured her ‘it would come when it comes’ and that she should ‘be less European.’

lovemorocco9^^^ This is what you get when you ask for ‘takeaway’ coffee in Morocco

The Food

Moroccan cuisine had been a long-time favorite of mine and, as with many visitors to the country, was one of the main inspirations for my visit. I was not disappointed. Morocco provided a culinary experience that seemed to snowball as each day passed.

Our first real meal was at the famed night market on Jamee el F’naa, the main square in Marrakech. The veterans of the industry bluntly announced to us that it was the ‘same shit, different stall.’ They then continued to use hilarious attempts at cultural appropriation to attract passing clientele (we heard a lot of ‘absolutely spiffing’ and ‘no horse meat here). Regardless of this, we were still more than impressed by the spread laid out for tourists.

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Kebabs, rice, fish, tagine, it seemed they had it all. It wasn’t until we found ourselves in a quiet back-alley family-run shop in Essaouira that we realized just how meager this initial spread was. Right next to the sea, our time in this city was spent feasting on freshly caught sardines and seafood, grilled on an open fire and served with home-baked bread and crisp, fresh salad.

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Plus, you couldn’t go wrong with the tangy and succulent warmth of a lemon chicken tagine, no matter where we ordered it.

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Maybe it was just a perfectly timed holiday, or maybe Morocco is really a place where dreams come true. Either way, the only way any of us are going to know for sure is by going back there! If you’ve visited, I’d love to hear if you shared my admiration and wonder!

Check out my Morocco Vlogs:
Marrakech 2014
Essaouira 2014 

24 thoughts on “Why I Fell In Love With Morocco

  1. Love you post! It is a real pleasure to read all this positive comments on your staying there – want to go even more. I am planning to visit Morocco and crossing the whole country by car, should be fun 🙂

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    1. Yes! Doing it by car is a good idea.We really struggled with public transport because it was pretty unpredictable with strange routes. (you can’t get the train south from Marrakech apparently?) You will see even more with a car 😀

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  2. Visited Morocco many years ago when I was a teenager and not been back. Great post sounds like you had a great experience! #feetdotravel

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  3. Looks like a great place to visit I can see why you love it. All that food looks fabulous too! Hope to visit one day and thanks for the tip about taking a car.

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  4. Mmm. I seriously want to go to Morocco just for the food. It all looks amazing! ❤ Great post! We're looking forward to visiting someday (it's at the top of Mr. Nerd's bucket list). Maybe even this year – who knows. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. What a fun read. You’re not wrong, Morocco isn’t afraid to be its raw self. I loved the country’s diverse nature but often found the city’s a bit suffocating. I did get sick of the touts but the people I actually got a chance to talk with were great. Looks like you had a blast and saw some great parts of the country.

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  6. Love the point you made about – “This country wasn’t resigned with the systemic fear that grips the West. In Morocco you were still allowed to make your own mistakes, you were still allowed to be responsible for your own actions; in essence, you were still free.”

    Maybe it’s just exactly that we can’t be trusted in the west to have no safety barrier because we will walk into the significant drop down to the crashing rocks below!

    Either way, it’s interesting to see how relaxed some countries are compared to back home. Btw I loved the picture of the takeaway coffee.

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    1. haha thank you! I’m not going to lie – morrocan’s are definitely more agile and dextrous than us so you may be onto something! we went on a hike in the mountains and were struggling to get up some giant boulders and a local guy ran straight past up in flip flops carrying the biggest bag of oranges I’ve ever seen! haha. It was a truly illuminating experience!

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  7. Really enjoyed reading about this country! Never been to Morocco, but it looks like a place full of colors and adventures! I´m already dying for this kind of non-European vacation! These last 2 years after I was back from Asia, my recent travels were around Europe and to the States, which is also great, but less exotic for sure! From your experience it looks like Morocco is a great place to start exploring Africa…

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    1. I know what you mean about a non-European vacation! I love western travel but there’s something so special about visiting a culture that it totally different to what you know. Plus, it’s much cheaper than having to go to Asia or South America! Morocco is also definitely a great start to Africa, they call it the ‘gateway to Africa’ or ‘Africa Lite’ (which is hilarious). So it’s perfect to get a taste so you know what to expect once you start exploring a bit deeper.

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