Morocco was definitely different to anything I had experienced in Europe so far. I couldn’t give any one single word to describe my time in this country, mostly because the two places I spent time in were completely polar opposites.
I booked a 4 day Gecko’s tour, which was self-guided; so accommodation, transport, hotel transfer and a 3 hour city tour were included, but there was no schedule during the day, and I was the only one booked for my particular dates. So it took the hassle out of my trip without tying me down to a fixed schedule. While I probably would have gotten better value doing it myself, it made me feel a bit more comfortable having everything done for me here.
As soon as I arrived in Marrakech I was picked up and driven to the bus station for the three-hour trip to the coastal town of Essaouira. Essaouira is where Moroccans often take holidays to, because of the windy weather it’s very popular for activities such as kite surfing etc. It’s also a fishing town, so seafood is the food of choice here.
Essaouira was great for down time, I spent a lot of time just hanging around the harbour or beach, sitting in cafes or wandering around the old streets. The amount of stray cats in the town was phenomenal, they walk around the town like they own the place, without opposition from the locals. I was told that cats are very tolerated amount Moroccans, particularly because of their penchant for cleanliness.
I also had the pleasure of making friends with a local, who was kind enough to show me around to good restaurants and take me to drink tea and watch live African music at a quaint artsy club.
I highly recommend Essaouira for a couple of days if you are in Morocco, as I was soon to find out, it was a refreshing change of pace from the cities like Marrakech.
I was only in Marrakech for one night, so I headed straight to the Medina for some shopping and the famous freshly squeezed orange juice. This place is not for the claustrophobic, or those who value their personal space, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I recommend just plunging in, even if you might have a travel bug and feel like death (not from experience or anything…). I took a picture of some of the snakes that are there, and it turns out you have to pay for that privilege, so keep that in mind. Remember to haggle for everything (except the food), because you’re not being pushy or stingy, that’s the way of doing business. People will always try to get you into their stores, they’ll notice when you flick a glance at the wares and try to haul you in. Keep your cool and just enjoy it.
I have to admit, a couple of hours at the medina completely exhausted me mentally, it’s seriously a different and overwhelming experience. Despite the aggressive business style, the Moroccan people were some of the nicest, most hospitable people I’ve ever met (in a relaxed environment). This was my take away from this crazy country, and I’m very grateful for that.
Flying onwards to Barcelona!