Occupying the northwest shoulder of the African continent, Morocco is rich with history and full of color. For some, its essence can be found in the bustling souks and walled medinas of Imperial Cities like Marrakesh and Fez. For others, the country is typified by the plunging sand dunes, camel trains, and Bedouin villages of the Sahara Desert. There is something for every kind of traveler in Morocco. Foodies come to taste flavorful tagines cooked according to ancient recipes and couscous paired with meat and/or vegetable stew—Morocccan staples that can be enjoyed at any restaurant in the country. For culture vultures, the mosques, museums, and palaces of cities that date back to the eighth century are the main attraction. Meanwhile, nature lovers will find magnificent scenery from the wild beaches of the Atlantic coast to the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains.
On a trip to Spain some years back (about 2-3 years after 9-11), we decided to take a ferry from Tarifa to Tangiers. So, we drove over to Tarida from Marbella/Puerto Banus, boarded a high-speed ferry, and hoped for the best. We thought it was very exciting to visit Africa for the first time.
Since we bought a package deal, our guide, a real Berber, met us after we went through customs and immigration. Or maybe we went through immigration on the Spanish side, I really do not remember.
Now, please remember this was a “package” tour, so we had to endure camel rides (we declined), snake charmers, and soccer matches. Though it was all in good fun, the fun stopped when they took us to a retail rug business. They put the hard sell on us. Somehow, we escaped, but a couple that joined up with us were harassed incessantly.
As we walked through the Medina, the hawkers and salespeople were out in full force. Two things began to stand out. One, a young lady in our group purchased a T shirt for a boyfriend back home. She carried the bag on her arm, an indication that she was a shopper. She was constantly “attacked” by other retailers, until we told her to stash the bag inside of her purse.
Two, the young lady of another couple that joined up with us, was wearing really skimpy “short” shorts. Every male from here to the dessert had to make comment. It was quite a scene, and a very unpleasant experience. There was no respite until we found our designated lunch place in the Medina. Word to the wise, including our friend Angela will visit soon. Cover up!!!! Long pants, long sleeves, big hat, small purse!!!
As we sat there, eating and drinking, many of the other people in our group of about 15, refused to eat anything. We tried the food, and found it interesting, tasty, and somewhat strange. Though we never got sick, I understand the reluctance of others on the tour to avoid ALL things local and Moroccan.
Though I returned to Africa some years later for safaris, and a visit to Barry the V in Cape Town, the Moroccan adventure remains fresh in my memory. Was I glad we went? Yes. Was it memorable? Yes!
If there is a moral to story, I cannot venture a guess. Maybe something like, do not judge a country by your first visit? Or perhaps Morocco is just so different than central and southern Africa?