Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Morocco: Highlights & Lowlights
I hate you. No, I really love you. Ok, now I hate you again. I’m so torn. Ugh Morocco, you drive me crazy! I just can’t make up my mind about you.
Now that I’m gone I have a clear head to reflect on you.
Morocco was a tough pill to swallow, especially traveling solo as a female. I have never been harassed so hard and aggressively in my life. I thought I had thick skin, but damn! This trip really tested my boundaries and I often questioned if traveling solo in Morocco was actually a good idea or if it was just plain stupid.
My recent trip to Morocco included half solo travel and the other half with friends. I traveled to Fez, Rabat, Chefchaouen, and briefly in Marrakech solo and then my bff Rachel and her bf Ryan joined me in Marrakech, Essaouira, and the Sahara desert.
I never imagined visiting Morocco would cause so much stress on me. I cried 3 times during my trip (and I’m so not a cryer). It was probably the most emotionally challenging place I had ever visited. I enjoyed my experience, but let’s just say I had never been so happy to see my friends in my entire life when they finally arrived.
Here are the highlights and lowlights of my experience in each Moroccan city:
My introduction to Morocco started with Fez, probably not the best first impression I must say. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Fez, you either love or hate it…with the majority not fans of it.
Well, I hated Fez. I’ve never been harassed so much in my life. The store owners were the most persistent sales people I have ever met . If I went in and didn’t buy something, most of them got angry and made me very uncomfortable. A few times, they even grabbed me by the arms. Super aggressive and NOT cool.
Not only that, the city smelled really bad and was extremely dirty. I may get some backlash for saying that, but thats’s my honest observation. The rest of Morocco wasn’t in that condition, just this city.
I think my negative experience started within my first 5 minutes in the medina when I saw some chickens being killed and it scarred me for life. I know that’s life and eat chicken myself, so I’m not trying to be hypocritical here.
But this was different….
I saw this man grab the chicken by the neck, from the backside so its face was visible for everyone to see, and then he took a knife and slowly slit its throat. He didn’t chop it off quickly…he slit it SLOWLY. Like in the scene from Game of Thrones during the red wedding where Caitlin Stark’s throat was slashed. Just like that with all the blood gushing out.
I literally cried and had to leave. I couldn’t eat chicken after that for awhile. I mean, why did he have to kill it in such a brutal way? It was tragic. That picture will never leave my mind. Never.
Honestly, you couldn’t pay me to go back to Fez. But I understand everyone’s experience is different and some may like the madness. It just wasn’t for me, and that’s ok. Never again Fez. Never again.
On the bright side: I did buy an awesome leather bag that I will use as my new camera bag, so something good did come out of visiting.
Rabat was such a breath of fresh air after Fez. The capital of Morocco surprisingly had lots of character and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was more calm and less hectic than Fez, which I really appreciated.
However, my trip to Rabat started off on a bad note as well. For the first time ever, I got totally abandoned by my Airbnb host. Stuff happens and I had to book another place last minute. I only had one day in Rabat and this misfortune took almost half my day trying to figure everything out.
What started off on the wrong foot ended up being okay and I really enjoyed Rabat.
Rock the Kasbah
If you have time to do only one thing in Rabat, I recommend heading over to the The Kasbah of the Udayas. The walk up to it is a photo treat in itself as the tiny streets are painted bright blue and are so adorable. I felt like I was back in Chefchaouen!
From the Kasbah you can see the surfers riding the waves below and the backdrop is absolutely gorgeous!
Where to Eat in Rabat:
Le Dhow Boat Restaurant–I usually don’t like tourist places, but this was an exception. Only 3 restaurants came up on google maps as being walkable and this was one of them. The funky decorations and the location on the water with a great view of the Kasbah was worth it alone.
Fun fact: the boat was constructed in India and took 2 years to build. It was then lugged all the way over to Morocco. Such a cool story and a great atmosphere.
Oh, and they had wine. All the wine. Wine solves all problems. I ended the day in a happy place!
Side note: wine is super tricky to find in a “dry” country.
Chefchaouen (Blue City)
Ahhhh Chefchaouen (insert bulging heart eyes emoji here). I could have stayed here forever.♥
The blue city is often called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco”, and that it definitely is!
There are 2 main theories on why the city is blue: to protect from mosquitos/heat and the latter as a spiritual symbol. It was believed that Jewish refugees started painting the city blue to symbolise the sky and heaven.
Whichever theory is true, it’s such a spectacularly beautiful place to see!
Chefchaouen was my favourite city in all of Morocco, without a doubt, hands-down. It was also where I got harassed the least and felt the safest. I even felt ok wandering the blue alleys alone after dark.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 20 Photos of Chefchaouen that Prove it Might be the Most Photogenic City in the World
There isn’t much to do in Chefchaouen, but the magic lies in just wandering around and experiencing the bright blue colors. I couldn’t stop taking photos and it’s one of the most photogenic cities I have ever seen, if not the most photogenic!
It’s a little (okay maybe a lot) out of the way but SO worth it! I took the CTM tourist bus from Fez and it took 5 hours. Don’t miss this unique city! I have never seen anything quite like it!
Where to Eat in Chefchaouen:
Restaurant Morisco–This one is in the main square, but that doesn’t mean it’s overpriced or super touristy. What to Try: Tahliya (Goat meat tajine with honey, raisins, and almonds). This was the BEST meal I had in all of Morocco. The meat was super tender and the mixture of sweet and nutty blended perfectly. YUM!
Molin’arte-I randomly went into this one as it was near my riad. The food was tasty and the place was so inviting and cozy. And the fruit juices were extremely good!
I really liked Essaouira . It was a very relaxed seaside town with great local fresh fish! Don’t go there without eating fish!
You can walk through the markets and watch them bringing in the fish straight from the nets. There are many restaurants near the fishing area where you can pick your own fish and have them cook it. It is priced based on weight.
Make sure they tell you the price of it before you agree to cook it. We paid around $36 for 3 people for 3 sea basses, and lots of calamari and squid. It was super fresh and not “fishy” at all, just how I like it!
Essaouira is also one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones! The big scene where Khaleesi obtained her unsullied army happened right there in the fortress walls near the fishing area! Surprisingly there were NO signs advertising GOT….which may be a good thing since there weren’t many tourists! #score
For a good sunset: head to Taros rooftop. It’s kinda touristy but they serve alcohol and the views can’t be beat! We highly enjoyed it. Did I mention they have wine? THEY HAVE WINE!
For brekkie/brunch: Yoo
Fresh juices and frozen yogurt parfaits. Healthy, yummy, and in a cute little secluded square.
For dinner: Tiskala
The ambiance of this place can’t be beat. It’s super cozy, dimly lit, with separate little seating areas and comfy couches. The food was pretty good, but I wouldn’t say awesome. But the ambiance won us over and we went back twice!
Ohhh Marrakech, where do I begin? Marrakech is hectic AF! That’s the best way to describe it. There is SO much going on at all times and it’s very fast paced.
You’ll see snake charmers, street food vendors, various performers, monkeys with chains tied to their necks (poor things), henna artists, and so much more. You name it. Marrakech has got it.
The Souks of Marrakech
Marrakech has the best souks in all of Morocco, hands-down. It was the best shopping and I highly regretted buying a bunch of stuff beforehand in other cities.
I found the same items for a fraction of the price in Marrakech. Marrakech was my last stop on the trip so it was hard to hold out! Wait til Marrakech to do your shopping! Just do.
Specialty items: leather goods, pashmina scarfs, sandals, carpets, spices, dried fruits, argon oil, tea sets, hats, etc.
Ahhh Marrakech had such unique things! If I hadn’t taken a RyanAir flight with already overflowing luggage, I would have bought SO much more! I wanted it ALL!! I would go back to Marrakech solely for the shopping!
Don’t miss: Fruit juices. The fruit juice stands were abundant in the main squares. Starting at 4 dirham ($.40), we had about 2-3 juices a day! They were so refreshing and so good!
Where to eat in Marrakech if you get sick of Tajines:
Henna Art Cafe for fresh juices, a comfy rooftop, and affordable/unique dishes.
Earth Cafe for healthy veg/vegan options.
Nomad for hearty and flavorful food (also the great rooftop views!).
Note: most restaurants on this trip were picked by my bff Rachel, as she is the foodie in the group and does all the research, so I definitely can’t take credit for it. Thanks wifey!
If you’re not opposed to getting severely harassed/haggled and have a strong stomach, street food is a cheap option.
What to do in Marrakech:
- shop til you drop in the souks.
- don’t miss tasting the fruit juices.
- drink mint tea. As much as you can. Everywhere.
- entertainment galore in Jamaa el Fna square.
- visit Ben Yousseff Madrasa for beautiful architecture and an inside look into a former traditional Moroccan school
- visit Majorelle Jardin outside the medina . It was beautifully decorated and had some really cool plant life (especially the cacti)! A taxi from the medina should not cost more than 50 dirham!
What I didn’t like about Marrakech:
The monkeys on chains for entertainment and the pushy/rude vendors.
When we walked down the food vendor “aisle”, each vendor would aggressively step in front of us so we couldn’t move and shoved a menu in our faces. All we wanted to do was take a look at options, but that was impossible to do when they literally blocked us off from seeing anything else.
I have an issue with personal space and I get really defensive when someone impinges on that, especially if they touch me. A few times, I just wanted them to back the fuck off. Is that too much to ask?
We were even called derogatory names when we didn’t want to eat at certain food cart vendors. They thought we were British and were bad mouthing British people. One yelled at me to go back to my country. Is that really necessary? Not a delightful experience at all.
You can’t go to Morocco and skip the Sahara desert. I feel like this is THE quintessential thing to do in Morocco. But keep in mind that it is extremely far! As in, most your time will be spent driving. It’s 9-10 hours from Marrakech. It’s painful but the Sahara desert totally is worth it!
Despite our shitty tour company, riding camels in the Sahara desert during sunrise and sunset and laying on the sand viewing the Milky Way was one of my best travel moments yet! Nothing can beat that. We also got to stop in Ait Ben Haddou, another GOT filming location, which we were super excited about!
Learn from my mistake: there are several ways to book Sahara tours..online, through your riad or hostel, or on the streets of the medina from various vendors.
Booking in advance online is usually twice as much. It’s cheaper to book when you arrive through your riad/hostel or street vendors. We booked through our riad for €92 for 3days/2nights.
Our riad was great, however, this tour they offered was awful! The accommodation were extremely low budget, the food was complete shit, and our tour guide was terrible/kinda a dick. And worst of all, they didn’t accommodate my gluten allergy like they promised. All they had was bread and a cake for breakfast with no other options, so I went completely without breakfast, watching everyone else eat, leaving me in tears one day because I was starving/hangry.
If you book on arrival, make sure to get ALL the details and have them show you pictures of the accommodations. If I could do it again, I would have paid more to have a better quality tour for sure!
Would I Return to Morocco?
I have such mixed emotions when it comes to visiting Morocco. I don’t like to say never, but I honestly don’t see myself returning to Morocco any time in the near future. I had a crazy time and I got to travel with my bff and her bf for most of the trip so that made it extra special.
It’s definitely not one of my favorite places I’ve visited, but I’m so glad I went because I liked to be shocked and surprised. And that was 100% accomplished! But by the end of it, I was definitely ready to leave and return to calmness, cleanliness, and lack of daily harassment.
I saw some wild and new things, I experienced gazing under the stars in the Sahara desert, seeing the Milky Way, riding camels dressed like Princess Jasmine, drank way too much green tea, walked the maze like streets of the heavenly blue city, was forced into a quick marriage with a local Berber man with a ceremony while visiting a Berber village (joking but it was funny…he even had a quick ceremony in the presence of all our tour members #awkward), bought some unique souvenirs, and experienced a culture so different than what I have ever seen.
Morocco was hard on me, but it’s such an interesting country with so much to experience. I was always on the edge of my seat, my senses were forced into overdrive, and my boundaries were constantly being tested. Morocco is hectic, it’s crazy, it’s dynamic, and at some times shocking, but it’s such a vibrant place you will surely never forget!
If you could only visit 2 places in Morocco, I would definitely say the Sahara desert and Chefchaoen. These 2 places were the highlights of my trip!
Morocco is a 3rd world country, so go in expecting lower standards than you’re used to and you wont be disappointed. If you like madness, you will love Morocco.
Although I’m in no rush to get back, I would definitely recommend anyone to go and visit, Morocco is a must! Weird to hear after reading this, huh? Can you feel the dichotomy here?
Morocco surely gave me thicker skin and now I feel like I can take on anywhere! Bring it on world, bring it on!
Have you been to Morocco? Have you had similar experiences, or completely the opposite? Let’s discuss!
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