To preface this list, let me start by saying that our travel across Morocco doesn’t seem to be of the backpacking or do-it-yourself nature that so many people in the world of blogging seem to be reviewing. The majority of our trip was pre-planned in advance by a travel company called ‘Morocco Off the Beaten Path’ and customized by the planner of our group, Janine. Just to put things into perspective, this is the first time I’ve done a ‘tour’ of this nature where everything is planned for me (i.e this is the first time I’ve given up this much control). Whilst researching to write this article I saw tips like ‘Don’t follow the kids who want to be your guide’ and read horror stories of people walking around Medinas with their luggage for hours lost because of unsolicited advice being given from all directions! That said, I would absolutely recommend for everyone who is visiting Morocco for the first time to do it like we did as it takes out the majority of stress and left us able to relax and enjoy. Alas, with no further ado here are the (first world-ish) lessons I learned on this trip:
- We had to learn very early on at the start of the trip that what you order may not be what you get. Our very first meal my friend ordered a Risotto with Prawns dish and instead received a salad with squid in it. Even though I think that’s hilarious she probably still doesn’t! Certain things are just lost in translation like a margarita pizza is a plain cheese pizza, carrot cake is NOT carrot cake and our one vegan on the trip kept getting meat thrown into his meal for good measure.
- Mint Tea and Cookies are boss! Don’t ever try to walk into a Riad and just go straight to your room without these pleasantries. I learned later on from a friend that Moroccans have such bad teeth because of all the sugar they drink in the mint tea! and it made perfect sense when they told me. Moroccans seem to love a tea more than Jamaicans love tea! I’m currently contemplating whether I should make it a tradition for my own home and bomb rush people with tea and royal Dansk cookies as soon as they brush past the welcome mat by my door.
- Not so much a Moroccan lesson but more something I read whilst on the trip. When you’re in the market you’re expected to haggle on pricing. It seems like somewhat of a cat and mouse game and in the past, I’ve adhered to just because I don’t like the idea of being ‘robbed’. But the article I read was about exacting power over those less fortunate yet being more than willing to overpay for services such as a fancy meal because you’re in a fancy restaurant. It put things into perspective for me; so what if I overpay 30 dirhams for a scarf. It will only be helping someone who is perhaps less fortunate than I am!
- Speaking of being robbed, make sure to change some money into Dirhams immediately, always pay with it when given an option and always try to give exact change. This is a universal travel rule but definitely comes into effect more in a country like Morocco when someone is always trying to rip you off. I knew this before going but yet at the airport upon arrival I suspect I paid more for a sim card than it was worth and at the same time got back my U.S cash at a horrible exchange rate.
- Reaffirmation. Don’t judge a book by its cover. When waking up from a slumber as we arrived in Fez, I was still half asleep as I was ushered through what I can only describe as the slums. Yet as we walked through the door to go into our Riad, a palace seemed to unfold that none of us could have imagined. What seemed like it would be our worst rooms turned out to be the most majestic of our entire trip. When touring the next day our guide told us that this is done on purpose to fool people!
- It is known, but not by me, that the tanneries smell (bad). Because of all the curing they are doing it is repugnant there. To counteract the smell they give you mint leaves. I heard someone say they shubbed (Jamaican for Push) the mint leaves up their nose holes. Nuff said!
- Though you may not imagine it, it actually gets really cold in the desert at night. Like freezing cold! Even though the weather app said one thing, to me, it was one of those ‘but it feels like’ situations. As the sun rises properly the freezing subsides but be prepared for a cold winter night if you spend a camp night in the Sahara!
- Hold onto your valuables in the Sahara! I can’t stress this enough! In a toss-up for perhaps the most memorable event of our entire trip, my friends were trying to climb a dune in the freezing cold (refer to #7) and dropped a phone. In that split second of dropping it in the sand, it was covered and presumably lost to the Sahara forever. Did I mention this was a brand new iPhone 11 purchased mere weeks before specifically to capture this trip? We were digging for what felt like hours in our most desperate times. In our final moments of despair, we were given a rake from the camp supervisors and somehow located the phone. We consider ourselves extremely lucky!
- Hammam. I won’t spoil it for you and if you’re as uneducated as I am then you should be in for a surprise. I highly recommend going into one of these without a clue like we did, it will make it all the more fun.
- News travels at lightning speed. One morning when asked about our unfortunate incident the night before we couldn’t figure out what incident. There was an unstable man who kept begging us for money the night before, both on our exit and returns to the Riad. One of the locals stopped him and ruffed him up a bit and even though he ran back to our Riad and started banging on the door we all brushed off the experience and didn’t mention it. But by the morning it seems to have shown up on everyone’s radar around us! Our driver, our tour guide, the Riad. This was the incident that cemented how prideful Moroccans are for us. This was a bad stain for them and they wanted to make sure we all felt safe and comfortable!
- Bonus. There is a saying that goes ‘if you can drive in Jamaica you can drive anywhere’ and it’s true. So many drivers in Jamaica are so aggressive, that to navigate those streets is a real talent. Well even I have to admit that I was a bit anxious in the front seat of our cab in Marrakech as new lanes were formed, pedestrians looked like they would be run over and parking your hands on your horn seemed natural to everyone.
For any and everyone who’s asked about our itinerary below is the information. Note, I have no affiliation with the tour group and get paid nothing for putting it here. It’s just common decency.
Morocco Off The Beaten Path
Contact: Yassine Echcherki