I’m writing this post on a sleepy morning in Chefchaouen; the call to prayer long ago waking me up and my stubborn body deciding that it really is time to awaken. A rooster is yelling his good mornings off in the distance and my husband (husband! How weird!) Is snoring softly beside me. Everything is quiet except my brain. I can’t help but think about all of the blogs, articles, trip advisor posting and comments about Morocco and how far off they were from the truth. There are so many horrible things you are going to read about Morocco. Honestly, unless they all happened in Marrakech, I’m not sure how they happened at all. I’ve still a couple more days here in Morocco, and all of the stressful and crazy stuff mentored in other blog posts can still happen, but my journey thus far has been a good one…definitely not as relaxing as Europe or a resort, but pure relaxation wasn’t expected.
Being a Woman In a Muslim Country
Okay, so this one problem people talk about (usually your dress) is one that started to get on my nerves near the end. BUT, it was never as bad as it was made out to be. No one called to me, no one leered at me, no one made me feel unsafe. If I were traveling alone, or with some other women, the problem may have exacerbated itself. I did see three women get cat-called from a couple of teenage boys in Chefchaouen…but this happens in the streets of Winnipeg, Toronto, everywhere.
The men will address my husband only, even at restaurants when they told us the specials or asked about something. They’d only take his suitcase to help out, which is so hilariously far from the ‘women need help with everything’ mentality in North America. Which, after a long bus ride, I very much appreciate!
The Dress Code
Guys, there isn’t really one. Walking around in shorts, rompers or shorter dresses? Probably not the best idea (unless you’re in Casablanca where I saw many locals in shorter skirts and tank tops and no head scarves!). Just remember that you’re in a Muslim country and to dress appropriately. Which doesn’t mean full coverage. Ask yourself if your grandma would approve of your outfit and go from there. I’ll be putting together a ‘what I wore in morocco’ post later for extra helpful tips!
If you haven’t read about aggressive sales people in the souks, then you haven’t been reading about Morocco. But, you can relax. They’re not that bad (again, Marrakech may hold all of these issues…but there are so many other places to go – just skip the circus!), and will only hassle you for a second. The Fes shop owners would let me look at my leisure, asking me if I was interested in something every so often, but generally being very nice. I’ve had more annoying sales associates in a mall in North America. People will call out to you to come see their shop, and will always yell out ‘bonjour!’ and ‘welcome!’ To you as you pass. A simple ‘non, merci’ will suffice if you’re not interested in their shop and saying hello back will not get you suckered into buying anything. A quick smile and a ‘bonjour!’ is something everyone can do.
The cab drivers were honestly the worst, always hovering and asking you if you want a taxi, never giving you a minute to collect your thoughts in this new city you just arrived in. Keep telling them ‘one minute’ while you give your brain time to adjust to where you’re going. You WILL get sick of them asking, and if you’re tired and over it, you may tell out ‘UGH WE’RE FINE!!!’ when someone has asked you 10 times if you need a taxi or hotel. Be polite, but be firm, and remember NOT to swear at them. Who knows how hard this is enforced, but I’ve read so many places that it’s illegal to swear at a man if you are a woman. Also, swearing at a complete stranger is rude. Hilariously enough, we got to witness an Aussie bloke just have enough of the taxi men and give it to them about how Morocco always asks for your money. From what I heard him yell about, I guarantee he came from Marrakech.
Remember that this is their livelihood, that they don’t bring home much. That when you convert MAD to cad (or usd or gbp or whatever), you’ve sometimes only paid your driver a dollar or 20 bucks. In the end, will 20 bucks make or beak you? Probably not. And if it will, you shouldn’t be on a trip.
I didn’t have a henna lady grab my arm, I didn’t have anyone be overly aggressive, I didn’t have anyone offer me tea (but I did witness someone doing so to another woman who gave him hell), and only once did we pay someone who ended up as our accidental ‘guide’. This bit happened in the airport when we were stressed, confused, and
happy fine with paying. But, did we get ripped off from our cab drivers or in the souks? Absolutely. Cab drivers will constantly rip you off, no matter the country you’re in, and especially if you’re coming or going to an airport. Guys, I once paid 60 bucks to drive for 3 minutes in Toronto. It happens. Budget for it.
Mindful Tip: before being annoyed at anyone for asking for more from you, convert that money back to dollars! That 200 dirham you may only have is only 20 bucks. That 100 dirham charge instead of 50 dirhams is the difference of five bucks in your life, but could mean so much more in theirs. I get it; paying more than you should is annoying, but you shouldn’t let it ruin your trip. Pay it and move on.
It’s not as Beautiful as it Seems
Those beautiful pictures of the beach in Casablanca? The winding streets in the medina in Fes? The desert and nature views? Guys, it’s all filled with garbage. The photo has either been expertly and painstakingly taken at the right angle to get none, or very limited, amounts of garbage. Or, it’s been edited out of every photo. It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. It’s disgusting and ruins the landscape. Reduce your garbage footprint while traveling with these tips here.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to touch base on this or not because it’s something that definitely still happens in Morocco. Hell, it happens in Canada, too. After reading about all the horrific things that happens to animals in Morocco, I nearly wanted to cancel our trip, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Because it’s not as rampant as everyone makes it seem. At least, not out in public.
Spana Charity has done great work and there have been, no doubt, vast improvements. Working animals are a way of life. The only way for some people to get their products to market, to go anywhere.
There are thousands of cats in the streets and spay and neutering will help this problem, but they’re fed well by locals and tourists alike. Water, leftovers, and even kibble is left out for the adorable creatures who spend days lazing in the sun or in baskets found on sale in the market.
There are many stray dogs, and it hurts your heart to see so many stray animals, but they look content with a lot of the cats snuggling up with shop owners and getting scritches. I’m not a vet so I’ve no idea if they’re sick or not (nearly all look fine to my general eyes), but rest assured, animal abuse won’t accost you.
Moroccans are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We’ve had some great experiences with cab drivers helping us out (like driving through a field to get out of a traffic jam or calling our hotel at 430 in the morning and making sure there was someone there and that we got to where we’re going) and amazing experiences altogether.
A lot of blog posts on the Internet like to paint them in a bad light, making them seem greedy and rude. Which can be true with some, as it always is everywhere. But, a lot of the issues we encountered were not unlike the ones we encounter on a daily basis at home. Perhaps the most annoying part of any issue while on vacation is that it found you on vacation. Any problem, even a little insignificant one, becomes 10x bigger because you’re here to relax and explore and the world should bend in your favour. Even I couldn’t get past some annoyances while exploring this country. But, you’re in Morocco; in Africa! Things are not going to be easy because life here isn’t easy.