5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Morocco

Morocco might just be a short trip away by ferry or by one of the many budget airlines from Spain, but it's a different world culturally.

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The regular stereotypes of Europe vanish quickly, replaced by a hybrid of Africa and Islam.

Whether you visit the star studded cosmopolitan Casablanca, or head inland to the great imperial city of Marrakesh, you will enjoy the same scene as visitors have for centuries.

1. Do Your Homework Before Choosing a Guide

"For the little extra expense, always hire a good local guide. You can't beat a local's perspective on their country, culture and its people.

Do your research and ask for references and if possible, make all the arrangements before you leave home."

– Dan Austin, Austin-Lehman Adventures

2. Avoid Any Feet Faux Pas

"Don't show anyone the bottom of your shoe (unless you want to send that person a negative message). Also, take off your shoes when you're invited into someone's home."

– Dan Austin, Austin-Lehman Adventures

3. Dress Appropriately

"Girls, take a shawl/scarf in case you visit any mosques. You need to be suitably dressed/wear something on your head."

- Lucy White, Rough Guides Travel Editor

4. Reduce the Hassle of Haggling

"Haggling in Morocco is a pretty over-rated experience and you're unlikely to get a good price, especially in the tourist hotspots of Marrakesh and Fes.

It's probably better to decide what you want and the price you're prepared to pay in advance - you may then be able to save some hassle by picking it up from one of the fixed-price shops."

- James Rice, Rough Guides Travel Editor

5. Watch the Water

"Wash your hands often with soap and water, and watch out for ice, drink bottled water, and eat cooked food including fruits and vegetables to void being ill while traveling Morocco."

- Akim Elanbassi, Tripbod

A few other things to keep in mind:

  • Most shops and museums are closed on Friday afternoons. It's their holy day.
  • Almost all Moroccans are friendly and honest, and violent crime is very rare. However, it is wise to be careful about pickpockets and petty thievery, in the major cities.
  • Make sure you have small change with you to tip at restaurants. For example: $1 per person at local places, and $3 to $5 per person if you're at an expensive restaurant.
  • The Atlas Mountains get really cold at night - so pack warm clothing if you're hiking there.

What do you wish you had known before going to Morocco?

46 Comments

  • October Mis said

    This is a scam that a foreign student alerted me to in Casablanca. A man approached a female tourist and pretended to want to practice his English and take her to a restaurant for a cup of tea. She agreed and the man who was older 40s or 50s indicated that he needed some change. She gave him 200 dirham and he disappeared into the night never to be seen again.

  • Anya said

    I wish I had known that there were mosquitos that bite and infect you with Leishmania. It is like a flesh eating thing. I was bitten and it made me sick for a year and now I have scars on my face and back. There is no treatment for it in Morocco. I had to come back to Australia for treatment.

  • doudi said

    moroccan people are nicer in north cities like tanger and tetouan and chefchaouen ... but generallyy all moroccan people are nice because that's what they were rased on in their religion "islam" . but you should be careful around crowded ereas , not everyone is good.. also , some awesome places are unknown there , so if you reallyy want to know morocco , a gide won't be enough .
    and most of moroccan people speak either french or english or spanish .. and maybe all of them sometimes :D

  • Anthony Keaveny said

    I have driven to Morocco every winter in my RV for the last 25 years. No more.!! The fun is over. Supermarkets have stopped selling booze, so more illegal and cheap homebrew vodka, Highway Robbery by Police who stop and rob, (Not BMW 7 Series with blacked out windows). Only poor Moroccans and tourists.Think Tunisia. The next outrage will be in a tourist village in Agadir.

  • sara jay said

    Morocco is best destination since last year , it was really good experience in mountain Rif

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  • SANDRA SEMKEN said

    We are travelling to Morocco from Australia ,& have been told we can only take 1000,of their local currency in.Can we take in more .Know we can use arm's ,& credit cards
    Thanking you

  • rowena afuang said

    In Morocco casablanca, They said that travelling together wid ur friend, bf/gf is not allowed, unless you both are married?? Is this true? Also when an artists mobbed by a fans there? Is it prohibited?

  • isaml said

    I do not like Morocco 212+0679210865

  • chayma said

    To rowena afuang: Nope that is not true. Only thing not allowed is to share the hotel room with your bf/gf, need to be married, but this law applies only to Moroccans/Muslims (and it is not even that strict). So no you are not concerned.
    Enjoy your trip!

  • chayma said

    I am Moroccan and I somehow ended up in this page reading comments with a friend who was curious about Morocco. So giving some insights:
    SANDRA SEMKEN: 1000 dhs (local currency) is something like 100 EUR so obviously that can't be true :).. you can take as much money as you want. i mean what country wouldn't allow money to come in!
    If you are planning to go to nice restaurants and stay in hotel you can use your credit card there, also in supermarkets. the local small restaurants and shops usually dont take cards so better to have cash on you. ATM's are everywhere
    Cheers!

  • SALMANE said

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  • Abdul said

    Hi there.
    I've been to Morocco and did a complete tour from Fez to Marrakesh by train. Really enjoyed it. For the money, I just used the ATM. It's practical and safe. Charges maybe a bit more, but much more safer then carrying money. Regarding the transportation, trains are great, Driving just ensure you talk with the driver first and then he's someone that was recommended to you.
    Note that 5 star hotels sometimes are not what they seem. But ensure you talk to a travel agent before that can cross check your options with a local agent before you travel. I was advised to get some guidance from fasotravel.co.uk and they were very useful. In the beginning of year, the tickets are always much cheaper if you're travelling in a low cost carrier. It's a great country with many different kind of things to do. Enjoy the experience.

  • Emma said

    Dont come to Marrakech for a long time unless you plan to visit outside places it's expensive and the Medina is overrated. Generally expensive and not good quality place, totally disappointed tourists are on the decline.

























  • Shaun said

    I'm concerned on safety with terrorism is this something I should be concerned with here?

  • Jerry said

    We went to Marococo in April this year and had a wonderful time. Took basic precautions.
    My friend and I wore wedding rings.
    My friend wore a light shawl
    We brought steri tabs for tap water.
    We booked a qualified local guide and asked him questions about our concerns.
    I speak french, and we used a few arabic words to break the ice.
    We found everyone friendly and helpful, we were cautious but open and had an amazing time.

  • Neil said

    I am planning to go to senegal(cant figure out how to fly there) or morocco to study french for three months. My platonic female friend will be joining me for the same thing.

    Can anyone recommend a cheaper/friendlier city to accomplish this in?

    Thanks

  • Terri said

    I have booked a trip to Morocco for October 2017 with a good travel company. I'm getting nervous that I made the wrong decision. I wanted something different. Maybe this is going to be to different. I would say it is a toss up as to how many people liked it and how many people didn't. Any advice?

  • Vicky said

    I have just booked to go to marrakech with my husband and 5 children 2 teenage daughters my son is 22 and 2 young daughters will be 6 and 9 . We are going in July next year the hotel seems to have everything you need but I also want to go sight seeing is there anything for young children to do , is it safe for them ? Don't want to be confined to the hotel but want my girls to see different cultures and not just the typical Spanish.

  • dover said

    i loved being in morocco i even got married there. lucky for me my husband is Moroccan so him and he's family help me and mother alot. am going there this Monday

  • Vincent DeLorenzo said

    A few months ago I traveled to Morocco and loved the country. I ended up driving a car through the Atlas mountains from Marrakech to Sahara desert. It an inspiring journey I will never forget. Camping in the desert was one of the best moments of my life. One should be careful in the markets and walking at night. Except for the occasional aggressive shop owners or minor touts everyone I met was very nice to me. Truly and amazing adventure, culture, and experience.

  • Hala said

    Being a Moroccan myself, I came across this forum and thought I could share my insights.
    Just like in any other country, caution is advised as Morocco is not 100% safe (no country is btw), and you can come across pickpockets, or malignant people.
    With that being said, such things are present all around the world (having lived abroad in 5 countries so far). In fact, there are no particular threats, be it on safety level or health for foreigners who wish to visit or even move to Morocco.
    The proof is, Morocco is a touristic destination that welcomes huge numbers of foreigners all year-long. And a lot of Europeans ( mostly French and German ) even live there.
    Of course, there are poor and unsafe areas, just as there are modern areas and luxurious and immaculate places, as well as authentic and historical sites.
    Regarding the dress code, it varies a lot, since Moroccans themselves range from conservative to less conservative or not at all, and a lot of us dress modernly and follow fashion trends. Of course, when in a religious place, for instance in mosques and churches, you should dress accordingly.
    And dressing vulgarly is not accepted anywhere anyways, so you’ll be fine I promise.
    For food, as I said before, you can find cheap and healthy, cheap and unhealthy, high gastronomy, etc. The possibilities are infinite, and It’s up to you to choose whatever suits you. And with a little research and a good guide or a friend’s help, you can plan a magic and unforgettable trip to Morocco, get immersed in the culture and soak up some vitamin D, and enjoy the savory food ! You can surf in breath-taking beaches in Agadir, then go to the Sahara, then party in Marrakech …

  • Zakaria said

    I was working on some stuff that is related to the stereotypes given on Morocco when I randomly dropped on this website.
    I am Moroccan.
    There are some things that a person should do before visiting Morocco in order to have a real good visit. For example, do not rely on movies that tackles the Moroccan life which are given by Hollywood. Those are not but stereotypes, but I recommend you to watch movies that are made by Moroccans, those movies give you glimpse on how Moroccans lifestyle which actually diverse significantly.
    Let's go back to Hollywood, the movies that would pop up instantly in your mind would be "Babel"or "Mission impossible 5: Rogue nation" these movies portrays a false image about Morocco.
    The country is not Saharan or rural, there are some places of course but if you were planing to go to Casablanca or Marrakesh you will be surprised.
    If want to know the depth of the Moroccan society and the reason why we are considered a third world country, the best movies to watch would be the ones that are not made or funded by the Moroccan government, because the government has a certain agenda.
    Here are some movies that are made by private Moroccan producers, and not allowed to been seen in national television channels:
    Casanegra.
    -Ali Zaoua.
    -They Are The Dogs.
    -Much Loved.
    -Starve Your Dog.
    If you to see movies that shows the bright side of Morocco, the ones that shows the happy life, what those that were allowed by the government to be seen in national television channels.
    Here are some movies on the good side of Morocco:
    -Road to Kabul
    -Dallas (for this one make sure to write "Dallas film marocain" and not just the name.)
    If you want to knows how Morocco was in the twenty century check the movie The Blind Orchestra.
    All in all, Moroccans are generous and humorous.
    Bare in mind that when it comes to a tourist, people will try to take as much money from as they can. So, try to be smart in consuming it.
    I hope you enjoy you trip in Morocco.
    I tried to be as much honest as I could.

  • Zeynep said

    I will be travelling to Morocco ALONE in March 2017 and although I feel super relax about it, people are trying to give me some worries especially for safety. The stuff I've read here are precious and I will definitely apply some of them, such as wearing a wedding ring :)
    I am Turkish, my appearance is said to be Turkish-Greek-Spanish-Colombian, and EVEN FILIPINO. So I think I will fit perfectly in Morocco, too :)
    I always hear that Moroccans see the Turkish as their brothers/sisters and they love us. Is that really true? If yes, do I have less risk to be scammed/treated as a cash cow? Unfortunately I know the mentality of shopkeepers from my home country as well. Some of our restaurants even give different menus with different prices to tourists to get as much of their money as possible. So, when it comes to bargain, I guess I can survive it but it would still be good to know if they see the Turkish people the same.
    As I will be travelling solo, I will have a lot of flexibility and I want to experience as much as possible. However, is it fun at all to join the dessert tour and camping there at night while I don't know anyone there?

  • Helen Rogers said

    I want to visit Morocco to meet my future husband for the first time .we have been together 1 year now but I have been so worried about traveling there as I have bad anxiety and read so much bad things about Morocco do I have anything to worry about . I am from the UK and want to travel this year in march to his family home as his family have been very patient to meet me .

  • Cinnamon A said

    Hello to all, I am planning a solo trip to Morocco in March, 2017. I am an Nigerian American Women, and I would like to know if I should travel to Marrakech or stay closer to Old City, Tangier, Chefchaouen area for safety purposes. I am not looking for a touristy experience, I love people and their different cultures, and I am what some would call a "Free Spirit" I enjoy life. I would like to bring a couple of keep sakes back home with me, and I am looking to do some shopping, but much. This will be my first trip abroad, and I want it to be enjoyable. I only plan on spending 2-3 days in Morocco ( I have a couple of other country hungers to feed) :) Please assist with any advice you may have for me. My key goal is Safety, but I want to enjoy every savoring minute of this planned trip. And if anyone have any ideas on meeting a future husband, I will take that advice as well :) Love to Love, Cinnamon!

  • MobileLou said

    Morocco is a wonderful place!!
    I have been travelling to Morocco twice a year for the last 6 years, and love it!!
    Don't get me wrong, it has its trouble-makers & less savoury places to go....just like pretty much every other city in the world. There are plenty out to make a buck, but if you've got some commonsense then you'll be able to call their bluff & they'll even have a laugh with you about it.
    Bad things can happen wherever you go, at home or in a foreign land....but by the same token, so can lots of good things!
    In my experience, Morocco is a fantastic mix of modern & ancient life. On the whole, the locals are very friendly & generous, the food wonderful & the scenery spectacular.
    Just go! Enjoy!! xxxx

  • Hellno Helen said

    Helen, you have never met your future husband who is from Morocco? I do not advise going there alone especially if you never met him. How have you been together one year if you never met him? Be extremely cautious as this might be a scam and you might get sex trafficked. To do go alone to Morocco, do not go to Morocco without a male companion and do not go to Morocco to meet a man you met online. It is a dangerous situation.

  • l said

    Does anyone know if RAMADAN effects morocco?? what different? We will be traveling in a group of 5 white english speaking girls, will we stand out lots if there are less people there because of ramadan?

  • sarah said

    My husband and I traveled to Morocco in January 2010. We flew from USA to Madrid, Spain then spent couple days there before flying to Marrakech from Madrid. When we landed in Marrakech we did not have any issues. We had reserved a rental car a few months in advance through Rhino car and we picked it up from a little family run kiosk right inside the airport. We inspected the car well as it was rather old; my husband insisted that they provide spare tires as we read the roads where we were travelling may be bumpy. They obliged and we headed out. Note: we took numbers for the American embassy and several others in case any problems occurred. We headed out of Marrakech immediately toward Essaouira, a beach town. The roads are slow to travel and it was very desolate driving there; luckily our biggest problem were the police who harrassed us two separate times - writing tickets and demanding that we give them money on the spot. We had it to give and maybe 300 dirham at the most. But they were not friendly nor helpful. They spoke French and Arabic. We spoke neither.
    About 5-6 your drive to Essaouira, we arrived and parked outside the walled medina. An elderly gentleman approached to solicit us to take us where we needed to go on foot. The dear man put our things in a wheel barrel and we gave out address. He took us to our Dar (hotel.) We paid and tipped well for services like this, and impromptu tour guide's who approached - always at the right time and much needed/ appreciated. The people were indeed very friendly and generous in Essaouira. We stayed at a wonderful place called Madada Mogador. Location: 7 bis, rue Youssef El Fassi, Essaouira Medina. Beautiful view of the UNESCO heritage port from their rooftop - we had breakfast there each morning. Wonderful restaurants and food , enjoyed monkfish in one near our hotel. The man who guided us at the ports did not speak much English but had a big smile and warm heart. He was so informative, and had drawings of the fishing techniques, taught us how fishing is done, how boats are made and a little history. Loved it! The children / teens approached friendly saying 'America,' and no they did not pick our pockets or ask for anything. The souks were full of haggling, but I had read you should pay what it's worth to you instead of trying to win. They started a bit higher for us Americans I'm sure, but my husband got us a fair deal on things we wanted to take back, which included: a rug, jewelry (loved the half Berber half Twarig man we met named Omar! Forever a friend!!!) and tea, spices, including saffron, and a tea pot. We rode camels on the beach for a small fee. When we checked out after 2 nights, we drove along the beach , looking for a quieter spot and came across a beach with just a few people on it. We collected shells, watched a surfer, and traded some cigarettes for some neat hand made beads. There, we ran into some folks who had a ranch/ stable so we followed them to their ranch and rented horses to ride on the beach. I fell off and got hurt so don't recommend this.. But was a lasting memory. They tried to fix me up so I wasn't hurt which was sweet. After that, we found some surf shop where we had drinks and food. Then headed back toward Marrakech . driving at night was not bad but wished we had got an earlier start - got another ticket from police. Stopped at a stand in the middle of nowhere and bought and mp3 player from a young teen. He even loaded a bunch of music on it for me, taking requests for whatever I liked. People there were nice, except the police.
    Got into Marrakech, had read we would be haggled about parking so my husband was prepared to bully back which he had to do. Not saying it's safe, but he is kind of crazy and I think he 'gets it.' nothing violent broke out just a little yelling match WHICH we won by not handing over cash. In Marrakech we stayed at a great place called Dar One. Derb jamaa el kabir n 19 hay salam, medina Marrakech, phone: 212(0)61306328.
    Had a lovely rooftop area offering nice views of the souks in Marrakech. From here we walked to the Tombes de Saadian (Sadian Tombes) and shopped in the souks. We were solicited for massages which We agreed to and both had a massage. Looking back not so sure it was a good idea to follow the kid back to the massage house, but We did and enjoyed it. MarraKech souk is the famous one with monkeys and snake charmers, very busy and interesting. I did not wear anything on my head in 2010 But I probly would now as I've heard more and more about extreme Islaamists joining Isis out of Morocco. We went to a restaurant with belly dancers and then to a dance club at night. The next day we drove from Marrakech to Ouikameden in the High Atlas mountains. Driving through Marrakech in mid morning was crazy. It was floods of pedestrians in tight alleys ...you just have to go real slow. The red roads to the atlas were beautiful. Again, rather desolate but not a bad drive. Absolutely amazing scenery . bought some lychee fruits roadside as they grow here in the atlas. Made our way to the Strange Lake of Ifni. It was surprisingly busy at the 'ski resort' of Ouikameden. We didnt plan to ski - not great skiing - just wanted to see it. Was possibly the best drive of our trip in Morocco. I highly recommend Esaouira for a laid back beach visit in Morocco. We escaped the noise & traffic of big city Marrakech for few days and got to enjoy the Moroccan culture at a slower less intimidating pace. This made the trip for me. The owners at Dar One were French and spoke English. They helped a lot too with tips etc.
    I've been wanting to get back to Morocco ever since we left.... Hope this post helps travelers to Morocco !! Enjoy!

  • sarah said

    Tourism is one of the bigger industry for Morocco. I would recommend focus less on if you are paying more than the locals for goods and services and focus more on having a nice vacation. If you have the means to travel then pay a fair prices for things. I'm not wealthy but it's easy to see you are better off than others, especially than many in Morocco. No one wants to feel taken advantage of so speak up if you are feeling that way.

  • Magdalena said

    I love to rent a car....do you think its safe for a woman alone? And whatcomponyplease

  • Goran said

    Be careful that nobody is helping you find a spot to park your car in any small town, or if you do, give them some money right away and emphasize that that's all you'll pay. Upon leaving the same person may demand cash for "guarding your car" and helping you find a parking. Happend to me in Chefchaouen, almost got into a fight with the guy.
    If you're driving with hashish, be wary of may police check points outside most towns. International drivers license is a must.

  • Goran said

    Be careful that nobody is helping you find a spot to park your car in any small town, or if you do, give them some money right away and emphasize that that's all you'll pay. Upon leaving the same person may demand cash for "guarding your car" and helping you find a parking. Happend to me in Chefchaouen, almost got into a fight with the guy.
    If you're driving with hashish, be wary of many police check points outside most towns. International drivers license is a must.

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  • Salmane said

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  • Angela said

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  • John said

    We have just returned from Morocco. We are two girls from USA and traveled to Morocco with Morocco Sightseeing Travels Company. Thank you so much to our tour guide Youssef who picked up us from Marrakech, to Sahara desert then to Fes and Casablanca. Youssef was so knowledgeable and flexible with everything we need during our Tour.
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  • MARIAM EL GHAZI said

    When reading the comments, I observed that the main questioning was about clothing.
    In rural areas and villages, you will be better off with pants, long skirts and t shirts, people in those remote areas may be offended if you do not cover parts of the body that are considered private. So what to pack will depend on the your itinerary, if you are planning to visit famous touristic point of interest and chill at the beach you can wear short dresses and shorts, but if you are more interested in visiting hidden villages and rural areas you should take clothes that cover more fully your body. Whatever your choice is, women do not need to cover their hair with a scarf.
    One more thing, you do not need to wear a wedding ring if you are coming your bf or gf.
    For those who are worried about safety, Morocco is pretty safe. No need to worry about terrorism. Of course, you need to be careful with your belongings as there are pickpockets. During your stay, you might be approached by faux guides who will tell you that they will help for no money (ofc they want money), just reply firmly that you don't want.
    For taxis, ask them to put on the meter or agree on the price before going up.
    Morocco is a beautiful country, with a rich cultural heritage and a diversified landscape, I am sure you'll enjoy it.
    From Morocco with love :)

  • Ken said

    I have been going to Marrakech since 1984. People have been super nice in general, few hassles here and there. As the years have gone on, the hassles have gotten bigger. My last trip someone from the street threatened my life in the taxi before I even got the hotel. My assigned driver did nothing and showed no concern to get me there safely or alive. Not impressed with what has happened in this country... too bad

  • Ellen said

    Number 3 on this list is quite misleading.
    If you are a non-Muslim, the only mosque that you are allowed to visit in Morocco is Hassan II in Casablanca on a guided tour. You do not need to cover your head to visit this mosque; you just can't wear very revealing clothing and you will have to remove your shoes for part of the tour - but they give you plastic bags to carry them in.

  • Cliff said

    I visited Fez a few years ago. The one thing I wish I had known: most places in the world I've been able to save a few a few bucks by taking public transport from the airport. HUGE mistake in Fez. I ended up lost and then finally got a random cab, who dropped me off a 1/2 mile from my hotel with a "guide" who followed me and harassed me for money for a solid hour. Kind of a nightmare.

    Once I was able to find the hotel everything was great. I spent a couple days wandering around the Medina on my own with no problem. Got a reputable guide for a trip around the rest of the city.

  • JLG said

    A few ideas because I returned from Morocco this past thursday.
    First, if you do book through a travel agent do not include your meals in the package. You will find that they will take you to restaurants that provide a "tour" menu and it is always the same, couscous or tangine. Although this is fun the first two or three times you eat these wonderful Moroccan dishes, you will be thoroughly sick of them by the fourth or fifth day of eating this for lunch and dinner. Do some research, there are great restaurants you can find yourself.
    Second, people are very friendly and don't seem to mind women scantily dressed in the larger cities, particularly Marrakech. Not the case in more rural areas. The people are very friendly and will be more willing to engage if you are dressed conservatively. Head scarves are not necessary but if you are going to ride a camel in the desert you are definitely going to want one. For the person. I SAID asking about Traveling to Morocco during Ramadan. You will still be welcome to come but you will find most of the medinas empty since the religion requires religious services throughout the day. Our guide also told us that women scantily dressed (shorts, short skirts, tank tops) will not be treated respectfully during Ramadan.
    Third, If you choose to take photos of people, you need to ask permission first. Many people do not want to be photographed and those who will permit you to photograph them will often expect to be paid. You will have to pay between 2 and 5 dirhams. To use the bathroom in roadside restaurants, public locations and tourist attractions you can expect to have to pay someone. One to two dirhams will cover it so make sure you have coins when you travel around.
    Finally, if you are an animal lover prepare yourself. Muslims consider dogs dirty and they are not kept as pets. I was surprised to see very few dogs and most of them looked pretty healthy. They are not friendly though. Cats are a very important part of the culture and they are everywhere. You will find cats in restaurants, hotels and in every tourist attraction and shop. Despite the affection Moroccans have for cats, most of them do not look healthy and the crying, starving, kittens are everywhere. If you are a cat lover you might want to fill a few zip loc bags with kitten food and throw a couple in your backpack when you set out each day. I kind of wish I had done that.

  • Tracy said

    Hi, I'm in my mid 40's and I'm planning on going to Morocco in late October as a birthday gift for myself, and to meet my fiancé. We've been together just over 3 years. We met online through tango. I've met everyone in his family, and we all talk together through skype. Now that I'm planning on going in October, I was thinking about going ahead and getting married while I'm there. I was just wondering will it be hard to marry there with my fiancé being Moroccan, and meself American?

  • Christine said

    Me and my partener have just got back from our 6 day trip to Morocco.
    Stunningly beautiful and interesting, it sure will stay in our memories forever.
    I do wish we had done more homework before heading there tuough, as we were cought off guard and the trip was not the romantic and relaxing getaway we were hoping for, most of which might have been avoided had we been more prepared.
    My main concern was the dress code, I didn't quite know what to expect, and made sure that all my clothes were long and shoulder covered, but I found the Moroccans to be quite tolerant in that respect.
    We had arranged to rent a car from the airport, we bought maps of Morocco and of Marakech, and we drove straight into Marakech's medina. The moment we entered the gate it was a truly amazing experience, like going through a portal into a sort of Blade Runner/Star Wars alternative reality.
    We parked our car with the help of a local wearing a high viz vest and he asked for 50 drh for one day parking.
    We then proceded to try to make our way to our hotel, like wide eyed children dazzled by all the sounds, colors and smells. With a map in our hands, we were quickly aproached by a young man offering to help, so we wilfully followed in his footsteps around the windy roads, under arches, tight alleys. He walked fast always chattering, pointig out this and that. It did seemed like a long way to go, much much longer and complicated than the map suggested, but we were grateful for his help and slightly sedated by the heat. On the way, a friend of his joined in and eventually we got to our Riad. As we knocked on the door and thanked him, the young man asked for some money which of course we obliged, handing him 50 drh. However, his friend also wanted money and his manner was quite aggressive so we took a step back and politely declined. he kept insisting that we give him money even as we were already at the reception, and kept shouting as we walked through the corridors to our room.
    This all happened very early in the morning and after refreshing ourselves we went out again to explore what seemed like a magical city. The earlier unpleasent exchange at the door of our riad, we took as an isolated occurence that was behind us. Sadly, the rest of the day turned out to be quite disapointing and exhausting. The busy streets are buzzing with motorbikes and men feigning affability, only to become confrontational and downright hostile, if you don't hand over money for one reason or another.
    It felt very much as if we were percieved as walking bags of cash. Constantly we were being followed and offered help. if we so much as looked at a shop/stall or our map, some man would start walking with us to take us somewhere we din't want to go.
    It was very tiring having to say every 2 minutes: "I'm ok, thank you but, no, I don't want help"
    Our first day in Morocco ended in a dark alley with 2 young men threatining us for money.
    "No problem, I am a good man, give me some money" we heard time and time again.
    "I put you in hospital" one of them told me very close to my face.
    Somehow we managed to walk away under their shouts: "Go Home"
    The next day we drove to the costal town of Essaouira, a much smaller and gentler place, also with cooler weather, we stayed there for 2 nights and then drove down to Taghazout, a sleepy surf spot where we finally did some relaxing.
    We got to see paradise valley, and had fun splashing in the silky tuquoise waters of natural springs.
    On the last day we drove back to Marakech for one last sleep at a pre booked hotel and then back to the airport the following morning very early. However, even with maps, address and reference points, we couldn't find our hotel, no one could help us, we asked everyone, taxi drivers, police, locals, all were dumbfounded by this elusive place.
    Exhausted as it was getting so very late, we headed to the airport and slept in the car.
    Lastly, on the drive back from paradise valley my partener started to feel very ill, nauseus, hot and cold, shaking and of course the dreaded diarrhea. We had had lunch at one of the places down in the valley and after eating I went to ask for the toilets, as the waiter explained that there were none, I saw behind him the washing buckets and realized that eating there had been a mistake on our part. This was a place without the infrastructure for propper higine and, I was lucky, but my poor Tom paid dearly.

    I will never forget the landscape or the architecture or the sheer intricate beauty of the artifacts from Morocco. But I am sad to say that for the most part, I felt that I was unable to connect with the people. Conversations seemed to circle around where we came from, for the sole purpose of measuring our worth, without any genuine human interaction. A veil of otherness was thrown upon us and it was nearly impossible to break through to a place where people are just people. save a few scarce occasions: A beekeper; Ali the legend, on the top of a mountain, with whom we drank tea and talked freely of everyday stuff.
    It was also interesting to note that, on the occasions that I ventured out without my man, the tone of the men (always lots of men everywhere) was very different, so sacarine, dripping with honey. Again, not at all genuine, but rather a tired old formula.

    I have been taken for a ride, pick pocketed, scamed, hasseled and even groped in all sorts of different places, including the countries I claim as my own: Portugal and England. However, in Marakech specifically, I felt that the various practices of fleecing the tourits as much as possible has gained a wide spread momentum, what's more, the hightened agressiveness seems to be simply accepted by everyone as the norm, rendering the often uttered mantra: "Welcome" feel so very empty and disingenuous.

    The world is full of places I am yet to see and, although Morocco is not somewhere I plan to revisit, I am grateful for the street hassle bootcamp, an intense learning experience. I'm sure it will better prepare me for my next adventure.







  • Merouane said

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