I Hate It, I Love It – How Morocco Makes Me Bipolar


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

Hates Morocco

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.

Loves Morocco

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.

Chefchaouen medina in blue

The Animal Lover in me

Hates Morocco

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

Loves Morocco

Essaouira fisherman and one of the street 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.

Essaouira fisherman and one of the street cats

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

Hates Morocco

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.

Loves Morocco

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

Hates Morocco

I don’t think you can afford to NOT like Morocco if you’re a photographer.

Loves Morocco

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.

Details of Marrakech, Morocco
Details of Marrakech, Morocco

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.

Moroccan cats - Marrakesh

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.

Did you ever feel the same way about a country?

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46 Replies to “I Hate It, I Love It – How Morocco Makes Me Bipolar”

  1. You took the words right out of my mouth! I left Morocco HATING IT but now, with so much time in between, I find myself missing it. WHAT THE HELL, MOROCCO?!

  2. Well I agree with you, but as a Moroccan, Morocco is the worst country to live in, and trust me there is nothing good about it , Morocco is only for tourists like you, but not for anyone who decided to live there, who cares about food and places when there are more beautiful countries to see, I love my country but not that much to live there for the rest of my life.

  3. OMG! so agreed with this whole article!!! I too have been to Morocco and it is and was one of my most favorites places. I loved the people, and the kitties everywhere, except I was lucky to only see happy, healthy, friendly cats everywhere! The shopping was fabulous and I took a million pictures!!! Would go back anytime!

  4. morocco is wonderfull country , here you can find a good foods , fresh air , lot of a good things , friendly people , safety ….

  5. Oh YES! This sums up ALL my sentiments about Morocco. I was also mesmerized by everything, and I was harassed by a lady in a hammam. Haha! Didn't see any cats at the Chellah though, but the storks look verrry. healthy.

  6. This is such a good post – I've never been to Morocco and have always wanted to… but I've heard a lot of the negative things you've covered above about it. I guess there are two sides to everything xxx

  7. I felt a little like that in turkey. I definitely loved it WAY more than I hated it but the unrelenting men wanting to talk to you and the homeless animals really got to me. Morocco is WAY high on my list though. Can't wait to see it,especially now that I know a little better what to expect.

  8. Would never return to Morroco nothing but beggers and schemers all wanting your money, there only friendly when they know they can get money out of you, yes its cheap to buy goods but the hassle you get even to get a taxi back to hotel is a headache overpricing fares. Will stay clear of this place in future and never return let them find another way of making money and not out of tourist.

  9. I've yet to encounter a country that I have this kind of love/hate relationship with, but I regularly here this about Morocco (along with India and Vietnam). I'm sure as a guy that my experience would be different from yours, especially regarding the whole feeling a bit out of place thing. I'd hate to get started at that much.
    That's heartbreaking about the kitten, but it's good to know that there are people who do care. Oh, and the photo of that last kitty is adorable!

  10. Just came across your blog, and I will be a frequent visiter! I love your pictures, and Morocco is a country my husband and I have talked about visiting, and I will use your blog as a reference when we plan!

  11. This is EXACTLY how I feel about Morocco! I'm actually here right now in Essaouira as part of my 2nd visit to the country. During my last time here I just couldn't wait to leave – especially Marrakech. It's very tiring as a woman both to brush off the touts trying to sell you stuff AND the guys trying to come onto you. It's such a shame because this country is stunning and offers so much. It's certainly a land of extremes and clashes of two worlds…

  12. Interesting take on Morocco. I almost went once but didn't make it. However, I love the appeal of the country but hate the touristy aspect of it. I guess I would want to experience a genuine Morocco without all the hassle and negatives.

    I am not a big cat person but do like animals. How sad it must have been to see that cat die but at least most of them were taken care of. Friendly cats are very fun to pet.

    Maybe I will get a chance to see Morocco one day – I hope. After reading this, I am curious what my impression will be.

  13. I feel this way about Russia. I love it more than I can say, yet am also terrified by it, sickened by so much of its past and present. But still love it and can't wait to go back. 🙂 Your descriptions of Morocco are very similar to the ones my brother gave. I haven't been there but he has and loved it. It helps being male in these male-dominated societies. I encountered anti-female treatment in Vanuatu and didn't like it one bit. 🙂

  14. For me the people absolutely make the place and although I did meet several friendly Moroccans, I feel scarred by an encounter with an especially aggressive and unpleasant stall-holder in the Marrakech souk. The surroundings were definitely interesting but were not hugely different from Egypt. I expected a lot more from Morocco.
    Turkey on the other hand overwhelmed me (in all the right ways!) Have you been Jill?

    1. Hi , I suggest to you tovisit agadir , tiznit , merleft and you ask about algzira beach I am sure you will love it , south of morocco is nice to visiting , people are friendly , good food, fresh air ….. you're welcome

  15. I could not of expressed this better myself. This is exactly how I feel about Morocco living here right now. Such a dichotomy between love and hate. Oh Morocco.

  16. Its funny that I should read this the day before I leave for Morocco for a few months. Morocco is a place where I have been blessed to be able to live and study for off and on in the last 13 years and where I have made many enduring friendships.

    Obviously what you wrote could apply to many places. Imagine, for example someone from Morocco visiting America. The tourist is always looking for love, and in general doesn't have time for the real complexities of life. They need to sum up things and experiences quick with a photo or a generalization(that they read in a book before they even saw the place) and then move on quick to the next place.

    A slow visit to a place where you allow yourself to know and be known by the people takes time, sensitivity and humility.

    I am struck by how much (western) people want to visit exotic foreign (read: eastern) places but see the familiar, and societies that mirror their own values. Is the tourist's goal to remake the image (and cultural norms) of the country they visit into their own?

    Warm Regards

  17. I love this post. I've never been to Morocco but I can relate to it with different countries where one second I was in love with the place and the next I couldn't wait to leave. I guess this is the beauty of travelling and learning to accept different ways of life.
    And, weirdly, this has made me want to go to Morocco even more!

  18. Sounds like one of those places that is worth the trouble. The constant harassment and taxi drivers trying to rip me off would quickly get on my nerves. I do still want to see Morocco one day…. when I have mentally prepared myself and probably not alone.

  19. I feel exactly the same about Morocco, especially about the men. I went to Marrakesh with my husband and although I covered up with long sleeves and trousers, they still stared at me. Very uncomfortable. Luckily it wasn't as bad as with some other girls who'd just wear hot pants, but I guess that's their own fault. It is interesting how you can love and hate something at the same time. I looved the souks for their colours and atmosphere, but hated them for being so hot, crowded and confusing. Great post-it makes me want to go back to see more of Morocco now.

  20. Oh yes, we do want to go back! We have traveled in Ourzazated, Dades valley, Marrakech and Essaouira. I must say that we didn't have any problems with touts or hustlers. I actually told my wife in Marrakech that almost nobody approached us while we were strolling the souks. Maybe it's us?? 🙂 Seriously, we were positively surprised.
    And it's magic for photographers. I just posted one picture of Morocco as being the one super shot that takes my breath away…
    Great post!

  21. I feel kind of the same way about Morocco. I don't mind the hustlers – it's just that everything is ratcheted up a notch – it's a relief to speak with someone who just wants to speak – without an agenda.

  22. I'm with you on a lot of these points. Getting outside some of the bigger cities helped a lot in terms of seeing a non-hassle side of Morocco. I also find casa to be a bit less intense on this front. I don't really have a desire to ever go back to marrakesh. You can't walk two steps in peace in that town, or at least in the medina anyway. It's sad to see sick and uncared for cats, but you're right to point out that cats are also well treated by many people. Cats got lucky when it comes to Muslim culture/history. I definitely want to go back to Morocco, but only to certain places!

  23. So true of many countries in the Middle East and Africa. It can be exhausting, but I much prefer that to just feeling indifferent about a place.

  24. I've never been to Morocco, but it's one country (okay one of many) that I've always wanted to go to, although I have heard it can be overwhelming. But seeing those photos makes me want to go more.

  25. I've not been to Morocco but I can definitely relate to these conflicting feelings when I think about travel in India and many other places in Asia. The travel is so challenging, the culture shock confronting but the rewards are so great!

  26. Ah Morocco,

    Yes, yes and yes.

    Totally, totally, fell in love with Morocco first time I went – revisited it 5 times in 7 years and then, just like that, it was enough.

    Not because of the hassle, or the extreme attitudes at times, or nearly getting stabbed or stoned by pissed off kids being pissed of by my Nikon, or the tiny cats I wanted to take home with me but couldn't, or the endless tajines or almond croissants, or the crazy high atlas taxi drivers….

    – hmmm… to think of it, I can't remember why. Maybe the intensity just did wear me down. Maybe cause brilliant memories can only be spoiled by redoing it all once more.

    Silly me.

  27. Hi,

    I get instantly hook to the blog, i read the entire website throug the weekend. Nice stories!! Congrats, someday i´ll make my RTW

    About Morocco, You´re right i was in Marrakech in March of last year. I have same double feeling about it. From one side what I love the most was the difference from my country (México), culture, food… what I hate the most was that feeling of being hassle… i feel vulnerable, not in a rubbery way but in a personal way… hard to explain. Even that, the city has too much to offer that even with that missadventures you always keep winning…

    Cheers from Mexico City 🙂

  28. Wow. I too loved Morocco, was overwhelmed by its beauty, culture, and people, and often felt hassled and harried. In fact, I was ripped off twice…in the first 24 hours. It stung because both guys feigned kindness and hospitality. I hope to return to Morocco, with a slightly deeper understanding and better prepared.

  29. i feel like there are alot of countries that can make you feel this. Of course, since I've not been to Morocco yet I can't relate to this particular brand of love/hate, but I've definitely been there. ESPECIALLY with the touts. and with haggling. But, then you take a step back and it's so beautiful….

  30. I don't think I've ever had the privilege (?) to visit a country that I had such a polarizing love-hate relationship with but, I think that most places I visit I've felt that push and pull of "I love it here!" and "Get me out of here!" to some extent. I think the best places we visit are the ones that challenge us to some extent, and it does sound like Morocco really pushed you outside of your comfort zone at times. It's one of the countries I'm most excited to visit on my upcoming RTW trip, so I suppose only time will tell whether I have the same reaction to it as you did!

  31. I feel the same way about Morocco! It was the first developing country I ever visited, and it came about three weeks into our RTW trip. I was traveling internationally for virtually the first time. Even the three weeks I spent prior in Europe was a little overwhelming, but once I hit Morocco it was a shock to my system. I had a total love/hate relationship with it as well which was intensified by getting really sick several days into my 15 day stay. Out of all of the countries we visited, I'd like to return and give it a second chance now that I'm a more seasoned traveler. But I suspect that it was not just me, that Morocco itself is prone to extremes and that is part of what makes it fascinating. I also feel the same way about India, which I visited halfway through my trip and which made Morocco seem boring!

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