Thoughts on Morocco I – the overwhelming pluses

After seven moths spent in Morocco, five of which living in the medina of Salé, and more than 15 cities visited, here are some thoughts on this experience.

Morocco has some of the friendliest people I’ve met. I was helped, hosted, and fed by complete strangers, in situations that rarely have a correspondence in Europe:

  • Neighbors bringing food & helping out – it happened in the new city and in the medina, our neighbors were very kind. They also helped when having to find food while I was sick, sending their children to some hidden shop in the medina. Or while having to deal with the intricacies of the counterfeited Jinkers water heater, fiding a good plumber, and dealing for the first time with changing gas tanks. Thanks Abdelhaq and Youssef in Fadesa!
  • Complete strangers inviting us to spend the night at their place, giving us food and a comfortable place to sleep. Thanks Firdaouss, Moustafa and Hind!
  • The policemen in Meknes, that invited us to share a tajine with them, while on duty. Too bad we could not take a picture to have as proof 🙂
  • The neighbors in the medina of Salé, that acted as close relatives, helping whenever we asked, and that called me on my mobile the second day after I left Morocco. Thank you so much!
  • Friends’ families that adopted me and my strange eating habits. It’s not easy being a vegetarian (+fish) in Morocco, but it’s manageable. Thanks Reda, mama-Reda, Amine, and…
  • … and all the friends in AIESEC and JCI that made my stay in Morocco so pleasant, thank you!
  • Random conversations with people – from bus stations to medina streets and tramway workers. It was incredible to listen and be engaged in conversations with total strangers, from all walks of life.
  • A private school that allowed me to spend my ‘other working hours’ using their internet and lobby to do online courses and talk to friends. Thanks ILCS, Abderrafi and Aicha!
  • The French teachers that helped me improve my language skills after I asked them to “politely correct my mistakes” 😀 Thanks Coralie!
  • The taxi driver that yelled something in Arabic while I was jogging, and something that I’d like to think was “Good job! Keep it up!”.

Thoughts on Morocco III – traveling

Morocco is an exotic country for many Europeans and traveling inside Morocco has its perks. The most obvious advantage is that it’s cheap, and if you take the time and patience to do it like the average Moroccan – with train, bus, and taxi – it will come out really cheap. You will also get the chance to meet the locals, something that is hard from a rented 4×4.

My advice is to travel in groups. If you travel two-three people, chances are you’ll get invited to people’s homes. You’ll be fed and even hosted by complete strangers, something that doesn’t happen very often in urban Europe. 6 is also a magic number when traveling in Morocco. It’s somehow unlikely that families will have the place to host all of you, but there’s a big advantage in mobility – you are exactly the right amount of people for a big taxi (grand taxi).

If you choose to travel like the locals, bring a considerable amount of patience. Trains usually come on time, but buses have nerve-breaking delays. In remote places such as Beni Mellal or Azilal it takes time until the taxi fills with the six passengers it needs to be full. So options are that you either wait or pay for the remaining empty seats. Which is cheap, but you’ll miss the chance to hug a stranger while sharing the right seat, no seatbelt, while the driver tops 100 on a curvy road…