Whenever someone asks me about my favorite countries I’ve visited, Morocco somehow always makes it up there on the list. Which is kind of funny considering that I left Morocco completely exhausted. Exhausted by the constant hassle, the rough intercity travels, and by its overall intensity.
But to me that pretty much sums up what Moroccos is all about. A country that evokes such a contrast in emotions. I went from loving it, to hating it almost on an hourly basis.
The Traveler in me
The constant hassle, the cheating taxi drivers – they leave us harried and exhausted at the end of the day as we escaped into the relative peace and quiet of our riyad.
Morocco’s famous touts might not deserve their past notoriety but they’re there, and for those not prepared it can get very overwhelming. I’d suggest layering up a good sense of humor and a thick skin when getting off the bus and walking around the souks. It might sound like you’re being rude, but responsing to every single ‘Hi, how are you?’ means you’ll never get to go anywhere.
Worst hassle encounter: Essaouira, Fes.
Morocco has everything! Beaches, mountains, deserts and it’s relatively easy to get around. The buses are not the best, but thankfully the small size of the country means less long distance bus trips you have to take.
Morocco is exciting, it’s exotic. The architecture is different, the people look different. The diversity of its people mean everyone speaks a little bit of everything: Spanish, Berber, Arabic, and French. The old town, the medinah of Morocco is compact, walkable, and to me the kind of towns I love: I can walk everywhere and there are things to see whereever you lay your eyes on.
Stepping into Morocco’s old towns does feel like stepping back in time.
Must visit Moroccan cities: Essaouira for its overal charm, Fes for its souks, Chefchaouen for its blue medina.
The Animal Lover in me
There are so many stray cats in Morocco it’s heart breaking. I saw a black kitten covered in flies, its chest moving occasionally, erratically until it stopped altogether. That kitten died in front of our eyes in front of a busy mosque – and nobody else seemed to care. It still haunts me to this day. I had never felt completely, utterly helpless.
Worst cat problem: Rabat – too many skinny cats
Most of the street cats in Morocco look well-fed. Do you know the signs of well treated animals? They’re not afraid of humans and Moroccan cats are anything but shy. I can tell they’re used to being fed and petted, or at the very worst ignored.
Compared that to the scraggly stray cats of Jakarta who run away when approached.
Then I saw signs of random kindness towards animals:a makeshift cat shelter in Fes, fishermen feeding scraps of fish in Essaouira, a lady giving out milk to the cats in Rabat and I thought – there’s hope. There are those who care.
Best place in Morocco if you were a cat: Chellah in Rabat and Essaouira.
The Feminist in me
Jack describes the medinas of Morocco as ‘one big sausage fest’ – and I have to say it’s somehow apt. Men, men everywhere you see. They man (pun intended) the stores in the souks, they congregate in large numbers in coffee shops – which just killed my desire to do what I usually like to do: go to a coffeeshop and watch people. It was just too weird being the only woman in the place.
Now that I look back, except for the scary lady in the hammam in Marrakesh, we dealt only with men in hotels, restaurants, and shops.
I bumped into a group of Moroccan students in Chefchaoen. They belong to an organization that fights for equality for gays and women in Morocco. We became friends and still talk on Facebook occasionally. The organization is fighting a tough battle but it warms my heart knowing that yes, things are changing – slowly, but more importantly, these are changes the come from within Morocco itself.
The Photographer in me
I don’t think you can afford to NOT like Morocco if you’re a photographer.
Morocco is the most photogenic country I’ve ever been. I took more photos in Morocco than anywhere else I’ve been. Everything was fascinating: the hanging camel head in Fes market, the colors of Moroccan slippers, the people, the madrassas…
I was mesmerized by everything.
The detailed wooden and plaster carvings that cover the walls and ceilings of madrassas will blow your mind. As it did mine.
My favorite things to photograph in Morocco: the souks, the plaster carvings in madrassas, fountains, and the port in Essaouira. And Moroccan cats, of course.
There has never been another country that made me feel this way.
Morocco was everything I imagined it to be but so much more. I was charmed and repulsed, I was loved and abused, I don’t want to go back but at the same time, I sort of do.