So my dream to travel to Morocco came true in March 2018!
A must on my bucket list for many years but with a sneaking fear of the country through a number of negative postings of how unsafe Morocco is for women to travel alone, disrespect from men towards women, pick-pocketing, and more kept me from making that final decision.
My friend, Alison, who also had Morocco on her radar and we had discussed booking many times, put caution to the wind and held me to some strict dates to plan the trip and just give her the final itinerary!
How do you start when you don’t really even know much about the country except the wonderful photos of Marrakesh, The Desert Tented Campsites, a beautiful Blue City and the striking colors throughout Morocco – many more photos of the shopping, the dyes, ceramics, clothing, and so much more.
First off, a map of Morocco!
And then to explore the distances between the various points of interest and to explore what the key Must Sees, Must Buys and Must Do’s when visiting Morocco are. After many hours of trawling social media boards, following travel bloggers, Googling and finally finding a reputable operator in Morocco to book the dream holiday, a 13 day trip seemed way too short to truly experience Morocco.
As a first time traveller to Morocco, with so much to do and so little time, the way we finally experienced our trip, was absolutely the way to go!
Having a dedicated driver and a comfortable Prado, from airport arrival to airport departure, was ideal. Salah was both driver and guide throughout, making our trip special and without pressures or tensions to waste time on booking taxis, finding our accommodation, catching a train and just making the trip calm and pleasurable. Not to mention, doubling up as a photographer, where necessary!
Kamal, our host, was open to all my requests on the routing of our trip, the number of days at selected destinations, types of accommodation suggestions to have included, add on guided tours we would enjoy, cooking class in Marrakesh, last night in Casablanca at the 4 Seasons Hotel on the Beach, dinner at Ricks Café – the Restaurant where Casablanca was filmed so many years ago, and so much more!
I am sure that one can do Morocco on a cheaper budget – however, for our budget, the experience was made so much more special having expert guidance at all times.
More on our trip in future blogs – however, there are some tips to take into your planning of your trip to Morocco and I am so pleased to be able to dispel some of the negative comments that are made about this amazing destination.
Some Advice & Dispelling the Myths
- Do not buy into negative stories: Don’t waste time thinking that you are going to be mugged, grabbed, pick-pocketed, treated disrespectfully, or that something terrible is going to happen to you. We never felt unsafe or threatened at any time and the men where totally respectful at all times.
- Be Vigilant: Like in any new environment, wherever you travel, be Vigilant. Just keep an eye out and trust your instincts – if you feel that something is potentially not right – even if you are wrong in your assumption – just take whatever precaution to avoid a potential problem.
- Read up about Muslim culture: Respect their culture as you are visiting their country. We ensured that we dressed according to their ways, which we totally enjoyed and found most comfortable at all times! Do not take photos of people without their permission.
- Morocco is extremely clean and apparently as Muslims are not prone to littering Morocco surroundings are always clean. They have stopped the use of plastic bags (which is now a finable offence) and have recycled soft fabric bags as an alternative. An important initiative.
- Morocco has many different landscapes from beautiful oasis areas spanning up to 4 kilometers of beautiful palm trees, peaceful and filled with twittering birds to kilometers of agricultural land covered with green wheat fields, olive trees, fruit trees, and then the desert areas with high red sand dunes. The spectacular Atlas Mountains form a backdrop for many areas whilst road tripping. A beautiful country with good road system to enjoy either self driving or with a qualified driver.
- Learn a few phrases in either Arabic or French as a sign of respect. Most Moroccans speak English but also French and Arabic. So learn phrases such as:
- Salam – Hello
- Shukran – Thank you
- Laa Shukran – No
- These seemed to be the ones most used and accepted by all on the whole trip.
- Other words to understand:
- Riad: a large traditional Moroccan home which is where you will be staying and is very authentic in design.
- Hamman: A traditional Moroccan bath house where you get scrubbed down (like a spa).
- Dirham: The local currency (1 Dollar Rand R12,00 Duram 9) as at March 2018.
- Medina: Old City walled and the local market place.
- Souks: Shops, vendors and crafters within the Medina.
- You may bring alcohol into the country. We were able to enjoy our gin and tonic or whisky each evening. There are some outlets which may have an alcohol stash somewhere in a back room – however, finding one is not easy. Some restaurants do serve wine but generally not the norm. We stayed at the 4 Seasons Hotel on our last night and as they are situated between 2 Mosques they are alcohol free zones. However, we were able to enjoy good wine at Ricks Café that same night! Strange though – they do make very good wine – mainly for export!
- Dress respectfully as you are in a Muslim country. Cover your shoulders and legs as much as possible. Scarf is ideal for any occasion to cover your head or shoulders. Jeans, loose pants, long dress, jacket, and scarf is all you need. Costumes at pools in hotels are acceptable.
- Riad hosts are most friendly and helpful. They can assist you with finding local guides, teaching Arabic words, explaining the culture and foods and also can arrange transportation.
- Trading in the Souks: you must enjoy making a deal with your trader! A point of reference is the following: If they wish 60 Duram for an item (about R90) you offer, if you are interested in the item, 20 Duram to which you will get a counter offer and enjoy the interaction. You should settle somewhere around 30 Duram. If you really do not want the item – walk away.
Look forward to telling you more in my next blog post soon!
– Shirley Shearer