Let’s be honest – as excited as I was to begin one of my dream trips, I was a little apprehensive when so many acquaintances, friends, and family members expressed their concern about my trip to Morocco. A common phrase I would hear both before and during the trip was, “You’re so brave to be doing this alone!!” – an odd compliment since I’ve never particularly considered myself brave. Determined, cautious, adventurous, perhaps…but brave? Me? I don’t know about that. Nonetheless, I sucked it up and followed through, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off my solo travels than to test my limits in a country that made me second-guess myself.
For the majority of the trip, I definitely felt like Morocco was something to check off the bucket list and be done with…Casablanca was nothing like I expected (though Hassan II made the visit worthwhile, but only barely), Marrakech was gorgeous but far too much of a tourist trap, and the desert excursion was lovely but definitely reflected the Western “Orientalist” viewpoint (that is, the tour certainly played up the stereotypical image of the Eastern desert dweller for their Western guests…and yes, I know that my liberal education is showing). However, after my time in Fes, I was persuaded to rethink my decision. Fes was, by far, the best city of my visit. The people seemed so different compared to the other cities I visited – they seemed to spend their time living instead of playing into the tourism bit, and it was utterly refreshing to wandered the streets of medina without feeling like I was going to be hassled. Additionally, Dar Sienna was the perfect getaway and truly a home away from home, since it was just that: a home, not a hostel or hotel. I can imagine going back to Fes again at some point in the future, renting a room at Dar Sienna and spending a couple days relaxing, wandering around the medina, visiting a hammam…a weekend getaway, perhaps. Needless to say, Fes definitely made Morocco my “visit again” list.
All in all, I never felt unsafe during my time in Morocco, but there were certainly moments in which my gut instinct told me to be more cautious than usual (and I was already in a cautious state of mind to begin with). Most of those moments occurred after dark, of course, when being an unattended female (for lack of a better phrase) put me in the position to receive more unwanted attention than usual. Otherwise, I have pretty thick skin, so ignoring the occasional comment or cat-call (literally, they were making sounds at me that I would use to get the attention of my cats) wasn’t an issue in the least, and I was always covered so I never received any physical attention other than the rare handshake.
Now, for your reading pleasure, some interesting observations from my trip:
- Moroccans, as a general rule, are very warm, friendly people. Unfortunately, they generally wanted to be compensated for whatever kindness they’ve bestowed upon you
- When receiving tips of any sort, Moroccans aren’t shy to tell you exactly how much they expect from you for whatever service they’ve provided to you.
- ‘No money, no honey’ was a oft-repeated phrase on this trip, usually stated when people wanted me to give them [more] money, though one fellow said it to me when I didn’t have smaller change to buy a couple bottles of water.
- According to the driver for the Sahara excursion that I took, as a general rule in Morocco, people who talk a lot are considered naïve.
- From a woman’s standpoint, traveling alone in Morocco isn’t especially dangerous as long as you follow a couple base rules: 1) Ignore unwanted attention; 2) Avoid dark, unpopulated areas; 3) Keep your body covered (headscarves aren’t necessary, but don’t go out in your short-shorts and tank top – long sleeves and pants are the way to go); 4) Always look like you know where you’re going, even if you’re lost. In other words, just use your common sense. Don’t have much of that? Don’t travel alone in Morocco. End of story.
With that, I end the “Taste of Morocco” series to embark on yet another adventure – my long awaited, month-long backpacking tour of Europe. First stop: Lisbon, Portugal!!