Traveling holds a special place in my heart. When people ask when I am at my absolute happiest, the answer is always the same- TRAVELING. Doesn’t matter where it is, can even be a local trip! There is something incredibly beautiful about traveling to a new place, without having a clue of what to expect, and learning the culture of that place. Morocco was one of those destinations that surprised me in many ways. I will admit, I was definitely culture shocked. Morocco has very different social norms than Western countries, especially for woman. I only spent a day there, but the experience taught me so much about this country’s rich culture. I left that day feeling overwhelmingly grateful for the experience.
So a few fun facts about Morocco:
- Morocco is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. I was able to visit for a day due to his close proximity to Spain. Took a ferry to Tangier and then a bus to Marrakech.
- Visitors from the U.S. among a few other countries, are allowed to stay in Morocco for up to three months without a visa. Extended visit anyone?
- Tea is the national drink of Morocco. By the way, their mint tea is TO DIE FOR!
- Morocco is one of the oldest recognized countries in Africa, declaration dating back to the year 788.
- BONUS: I’m sure this is not only for Morocco, but relevant. There are two types of camels- dromedary camels, which have one hump, and Bactrian camels, which have two humps. I rode a dromedary camel in Morocco. I was sitting SO HIGH; the view was breathtaking.
As you can see in my pictures, I was dressed modestly. Being on a college tour, we were warned beforehand to make sure that we were not showing a lot of skin while exploring. Gender roles are much more defined in Morocco, and women need to take extra precautions when on the streets of Morocco. Showing excessive skin, drinking and smoking in public, and public affection are considered extremely disrespectful. We were warned to not even make eye contact with men! The best tip I can give you, especially when traveling to another country, is to research social norms first. Granted, as a visitor they do not expect you to follow protocol strictly, but it’s a huge sign of respect for their culture.
The streets of Marrakech are extremely busy! If I could compare it to a visual, I would say it very much reminds me of ‘Aladdin.’ Outside markets lined with so many products and goods, it will make your head spin. Locals hustling and bustling in the streets, looking for their next consumer. Some goods worth mentioning include rugs, lamps, spices, olives, leathers, and clothing. Their clothing is absolutely gorgeous, especially their wedding attire! Rich colors and fabrics, with intricate stitching. Honestly, they put our clothes to shame. I definitely took advantage and bought various spices and homemade skin products. I was super tempted to buy a hookah as well, but the sensible part of me thought about trying to get through customs with that, and I let go of that dream very quickly lol. It’s also good to note that it is extremely easy to get lost, or wander into the parts not suitable for tourists. With that being said, please do not explore these streets alone; it’s best to go with a group of people you can trust. Petty crimes are high in Morocco, especially among tourists. However, it is considerably safe, just stay cautious.
While in Morocco, we had the opportunity to eat. The main meal is usually around mid-day and the course usually commences with tea. Eating with your hands is considered a time honored tradition, meaning it is a method that has been practiced for many years in the culture. It is important to be mindful of which hand you are eating with. Eating with your right hand is considered acceptable, as your left hand is considered impure and to be saved for bathroom duties and cleaning chores. We were served Harira, an authentic Moroccan soup made of lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and meat. Honestly, it was not my preferred dish. Nonetheless, I ate it as a sign of respect. We were also served couscous, a staple dish of North Africa made of grains and topped with meat and vegetables. Very comparable to what we know as rice. I definitely enjoyed the couscous. It didn’t even occur to me to take pics…sorry folks!
Overall, my trip was a once in a lifetime experience! The people we interacted with were very friendly and helpful. I learned a different way of life and got to experience it firsthand. I was in awe of the locals’ hard work and craftsmanship. Every textile good seemed to tell a story with their unique embroidery. The culture was eye opening and continues to put much perspective in mind, even to this day. I am more than mindful when interacting with people from other countries. What seems normal for us, does not necessarily mean it is something they are accustomed to. I believe everyone needs an experience like this. Immense yourself in the culture. Be present in the moment. Cherish it. Most importantly, LEARN. Step out of your comfort zone and tiny box of normalcy with an open mind. I would love to go back and stay for a longer time. There is so much to see and honestly, a day was not enough.