Have you ever had an experience that transformed your life? I have! This transformation occurred…
Four intergenerational, interracial, and intercultural women took a trip to Morocco. Three had traveled together before but one was new to the group and had never met two of the women. Prescription for disaster? Actually, it went amazingly well.
The places we visited took us from one side of Morocco to the other, spending lots of time in a van looking at the amazing scenery. We landed in Casablanca and left the next day for Chefchaouen, then onto Fes, the Sahara Desert, Skoura, Marrakech, and Essaouira before traveling home.
What did we see and learn along the way? We all agreed that one of the most satisfying experiences was getting to know the Moroccan people. They were some of the kindest, most helpful people that any of us had encountered – and most of us were long-term world travelers.
Another somewhat surprising revelation was the role of women in society. They are integral to the functioning and organization of the country. They do not play a secondary role as some might expect in an Arab country.
What were the highlights of the trip?
- Our guide and driver were awesome, given that they spent two weeks with us and were able to keep their sense of humor and judgment.
- At our first stop, Casablanca, we visited the country’s biggest mosque and had dinner at Rick’s Café, made famous in the movie Casablanca. The mosque was extremely impressive. Rick’s had a great atmosphere, great food, and great Moroccan wine.
- Chefchaouen is the blue city and the effect of so many dwellings painted from top to bottom in bright blue paint is mesmerizing.
- Fes is often considered the cultural center of Morocco and has a rich blend of commerce and history. It was here that we were introduced to some of Morocco’s main industries: pottery and leather goods. We all did our part to keep the economy going.
- The Sahara Desert trip where we spent two nights in a tent, rode camels, and visited a nomad family, was the high point of the trip for many of us. But, it was winter in Morocco, and there was no heat so it was very cold at night and early in the morning. This made it very hard to change clothes or take showers. Brrrrr.
- A stopover in Skoura on our way to Marrakech was a lovely interlude. We stayed in a casbah and it was a relaxing and lovely time. The rooms were lush and the pool and outside gardens were very inviting. However, we only had one night here and, as indicated before, it was cold so no outdoor pool time for these travelers.
- Marrakech –how to describe this bustling, vibrant city? Sensory overload, perhaps? We stayed right near the main area so we were in the thick of things for the three days we were there. Everywhere people were selling things and motorcycles were roaring by. Given the narrow streets, we stayed close to the sides of the buildings to ensure that we didn’t collide with any motorcycle…that would have been messy! This city of constant doing was fun, alive, and very memorable. Two of us, the younger two, ventured out to nightlife in the market and one came away with a marriage proposal. That was certainly unexpected!!! We also saw the famous hotel, Mamounia, and gardens, Jardin Majorelle, featured in the movie, Inventing Anna. Pure luxury and beauty.
- Our last stop was Essaouira on the Atlantic coast, about four hours south of Casablanca. It is known as the windy city, and it did not disappoint. On the way to Essaouira, we saw the famous goats in trees along the roadside and stopped to take pictures. Essaouira is much calmer than Marrakech. It has an active market community but there was less pressure to make a purchase.
- We stayed in traditional Moroccan housing while visiting – which meant riads and a Casbah. Riads were once the estates of the wealthiest Moroccan citizens. Today many serve as unique cultural lodging for visitors to the country. These rectangular-shaped buildings sported open-air courtyards surrounded by lovely rooms. Staying in riads introduced us to some of the most wonderful people who worked in these places. It would be surprising if the term “customer service” was not invented in Morocco because those we encountered in these establishments went out of their way to make our visits enjoyable.
- If you are a cat lover – as two of us are – Morocco will be heaven for you. There are cats everywhere. Most of the ones we saw were community cats – outdoor animals not seemingly owned by anyone. But, amazingly, most looked well fed and we saw many examples at outdoor cafes of patrons throwing food to those who congregated near tables.
What should you know?
- Markets are in all the bigger cities and make for a vibrant but sometimes hectic scene for visitors
- The places we visited were safe. While it’s always good to watch out when you are visiting a foreign country, we never felt in danger or at risk anywhere we went.
- While we saw some women with traditional dress, most Moroccan women did not dress all that differently from what might be experienced in other countries.
- Many of the tours we took in Morocco were led by women who were at a managerial level in the companies they represented.
- Unless you are making major dollar purchases, most vendors and eating establishments want cash – Moroccan DH. As a result, we found ourselves going to ATMs quite often. Make sure you have a debit card or US cash that you can convert. We did not use our credit cards very often.
- Tips are expected almost everywhere. The problem is that the ATM gives you $100 and $200 DH ($10 and $20 in US currency) so it’s hard to have the change you need to tip reasonably. Many merchants do not want to break $100 or $200 DH for smaller purchases.
Bottom Line: Morocco is a beautiful country filled with beautiful people and it is especially enjoyable when you travel there with friends. If you decide to visit, be prepared for a wonderful adventure!