I filled with excitement as our moving campus pulled into the port of Casablanca. This was my first time in Morocco and I had no idea what to expect.
Morocco is the type of country where you actually should have some research done before hand. The culture and atmosphere is so different than Europe and North America. From henna tattoo street artist to mountains outside each window, Morocco is a beautiful and enticing country.
While studying abroad, I was able to visit many countries, Morocco being one of them. I wanted to share with you 10 VERY important things every person should know before traveling to Morocco.
1. There is no speed limit
The cab drivers in Morocco are one of the scariest endeavors I have experienced. Around each curb I thought we were going to hit someone or something. Did I mention there are no seat belts?
2. You MUST be fully clothed
In Morocco, it is important that you wear full coverage clothing. This is a part of the Moroccan culture and is highly important for entering Mosques and travelling about the city. Please note that the average temperature in Morocco is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so dress as best you can, fully clothed, for this temperature.
3. Take a walk to the Mosque
The Mosque located in Casablanca is as beautiful as the pictures show. The sea brushes the large rocks near
the shore. You might even see a kid or two jumping from the ledge about 20 feet high into the water!! The Mosque is so pretty from the outside, I could only imagine what the inside must look like. This is quite a sight to see and a peaceful place where you will also see many individuals praying.
4. Travel to Marrakech
Marrakech has the most unique souks, also known as shops, with tons of culture. You will also find performers of some sort on every street corner, whether it is a henna artist or musicians. This is a very lively city with lots to see and do.The travel time from Casablanca to Marrakech is about 3.5 hours by train. There is no air conditioning on this train, which means it is extremely hot.
5. Stay at the Riad Rouge
Staying in hostels are a wonderful investment and a great way to meet people. Since we were traveling with a group, it worked out well to stay in a larger hostel. The Riad Rouge hostel has the most unique indoor courtyard where tea and cookies are served all day! Our room had bunk beds and a window overlooking the indoor courtyard. This place is extremely homey and offers the most comfy couches, evening hookah sessions, and breakfast to complete your stay. You must stay here if you travel to Marrakech.
6. Have a bowl of chicken couscous
You have to make sure you get a bowl of chicken couscous. This is the specialty in Morocco and for a good reason. It tastes fantastic!
7. Avoid going to markets by yourself
The markets can be a scary place if traveling by yourself. The markets are basically covered from top to bottom in items and this creates alley ways which makes it easy to get lost in. On our trip, my friend Taylor and I were wandering through the markets looking for a leather bag to purchase. The locals make their living off of the tourists, so of course they want you to purchase their items. As we were strolling along, i can across a bag that I was quite interested in. The seller started harassing us to buy the item, and when we wouldn’t, he chased us down the alley ways! Eventually we paid two local boys to get us out of there…Never go to the markets on your own, ever.
8. Hike Ourika Valley
As you hike the valley, you will encounter small Berber villages, sheep, and even baby goats. At the top of the valley, you will be greeted by a gorgeous waterfall which is well worth the hike. Wear good pants when hiking. I decided to wear my hipster pants and by the time we reached the top of the mountain, they ripped….
9. Visit a Berber Village
No matter what, you must visit a Berber Village. A Berber village is a group of hut -like houses with NO electricity. Everything looks like something you would see in a movie. From little tea pots to wooden beds and fire pits, the village is quite fascinating. When we where they, the locals showed us how they made flour from scratch and what a normal day would be like in the village. This
was a huge culture shock to many of us on the trip. If you can, try to also visit a Berber Pharmacy where they have different herbs, lotions, oils, teas, and much more. When we were there, they showed us how they make some of their products from the natural ingredients. Talk about home remedies!
10. Interact with the Locals/Volunteer
Morocco is full of millions of people and tons of culture. Interacting with the locals was one of the most life-changes aspects of my trip. A group of students from Semester at Sea volunteered to help out at a local culture center. We drove through the “slum villages” which are practically made out of cardboard boxes and piles of trash. When we got to the center, we were welcomed by the students with a song. These children and teens were so grateful for us to be there. We then painted two buildings white and a new shade of blue. As we cleaned the streets near the center, we had time to connect with the children and engage in conversation. To finish up the day, they prepared a delicious feast for us and then performed music by drumming on what looked like empty bins. By the time it came to say goodbye, tears filled my eyes.
Morocco is a beautiful country with some of the most wonderful people and amazing sights. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend traveling to Morocco. It’s crazy how one place can change your view of the world.
Where have you traveled? What places changed you?