Generally, i try to take at LEAST one international trip a year. This year, i was dead-set on Thailand. However, every single time i logged in to Instagram or Facebook, or looked at the television or a magazine, i saw amazing images of Morocco. I saw the images as a sign that maybe, just maybe, Thailand could wait. Maybe 2018 would be the year i visit Africa.
So, i did!
I realized once the trip was over that you need at least two weeks in Morocco alone just to see all of the main attractions. I had one week to spare since i wanted to re-visit Spain as well, so we went to Marrakech and the Sahara Desert with a plan to return within the next few years to see the rest.
We stayed at MAISON D’HÔTES DARSOR, a Riad that was right in the middle of Gueliz (The new part of town) and the Medina (The old part of town). It was the perfect location because we could literally walk anywhere we wanted to go. The first day we arrived, we figured Gueliz would be the easiest to tackle first being that it was more modern. Stepping outside of our Riad, i felt slightly on edge.
I had done plenty of research on Marrakesh/Morocco beforehand, and most of what i read were warnings. Be careful if you’re a woman! Hold your bags close! Don’t walk around alone and don’t trust anyone! I went on the trip with my boyfriend who is a 6’2″ MMA fighter, but i couldn’t seem to fight off the anxiety.
Turns out, the naysayers online are crazy. Everyone has their own idea of what a place is like, but until you actually go visit, you have no idea what that place is actually like. Yes, i was stared at. Yes, Marrakesh is very overwhelming and it is a huge culture-shock coming from the U.S, but that’s what i expect when i travel. If every place was the same, what fun would that be? Once i got used to the initial shock of the sheer amount of people, cars, donkeys, horses and camels all sharing the roads at the same time, once i got used to the lack of crosswalks and having to risk my life whenever i needed to cross the street, once i got used to everyone trying to scam me out of money, i learned how to maneuver around the city and adapt to my surroundings.
Soon after that, i fell in love with the place. I met some of nicest, most generous people i have ever met in my life, many of them who would come up to us randomly in the street to give us a hug and call us “family.” (i found out later that this was largely due to my boyfriend’s beard. They love beards in Morocco).
Once i started to feel more comfortable with my surroundings, we decided to book a cooking class on a farm. This was Faim d’Epices. It was a group cooking class that just so happened to be full of Americans the day we went.
As someone who loves to cook almost as much as they love traveling, i have made it a goal to do one cooking class in every country that i visit. Learning how to cook a traditional Moroccan dish was that day was quite the experience. Our hosts and instructors were all very friendly and kept everyone entertained considering the dish took eight hours to make. We all left with a copy of the recipe and all of the Moroccan spices needed to replicate the dish that are very difficult to find in the US.
The rest of the trip consisted of spending four days in the Sahara Desert (More to come later), and learning how to navigate through the Medina.
The day that we actually got to the Medina, we ended up there by accident. We were visiting the Bahia Palace which just so happened to be smack in the middle of the old down. We didn’t quite realize it until we exited the palace and entered into complete chaos.
Coming from the newer part of the city, i didn’t really expect the Medina to be that much different, but i was completely wrong. I instantly felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people that we walked into. There were people and things everywhere. People right in your face trying to sell you things, grabbing your hands and arms trying to pull you into their shops, shoving snakes in your face, trying to get you to watch the charm and pay them for it. I learned very quickly that in Morocco, you just have to be assertive. If you don’t want to buy that lamp or scarf, just say NO and walk away. Sure you might be followed for a few blocks, but chances are that no harm is coming your way. If you DO want to buy a lamp or scarf or necklace however, be prepared to put your bartering skills to the test to avoid getting ripped off. 20,000 dirham for a ring? I don’t think so. Here’s 20. They will take it. Trust me.
I think it’s safe to say that Morocco left an impression on me. It was the most exotic place that i’ve traveled to so far. I went on the trip feeling slightly nervous because of things that i had read on the internet and stories that i’d heard from other travelers, but i found the place intriguing and the culture extremely interesting. I learned a lot about a country that quite frankly i knew nothing about, and the only way to really do that is to fully immerse yourself in their culture. i’m currently researching the rest of the country planning for my next trip back.