If you search for Morocco you will be mesmerized by the colors, the patterns, the artwork they do, the houses they live in with those interior gardens and swimming pools. Instagram is full of such #nofilterneeded pictures. And it’s true, Morocco is all about those beautiful things. You only need to snap it from the right perspective, catch some poses at the right time, and good that there is no smell in your capture.
Wonderful pic, right? When I looked down I saw a…
Morocco is one of the places where you go to get out of your comfort zone.
I already told you about how it helps you to break the habits and embrace all the creativity it unleashes in you. But, sometimes it can be tiring to be out of your comfort zone, it can be maddening to keep adapting and it might kill your mood to keep paying for mistakes, right?
So, blame it on the fact that I went twice there in such a short period, or the fact that I stayed for too many days in the old Medina, or that I listened too much to all those sellers in the souks. Damn, I was happy in Milan, in the mall where no one approached me and I saw price tags.
Let’s rewind and see, what are the bad parts, that might shock you when you first arrive there, or that you might avoid, or the ones that you should just not keep in your memories.
There, I said it. If you want to see only the beautiful doors, the colors, the artwork, fine, but you have to overlook the amount of plastic and all kind of trash left everywhere. It makes me so mad to see amazing landscapes, or beautiful beaches, or roads that seem to take you to heaven and by a closer look, there is plastic everywhere!
Legzira beach t’s in top 40 beaches in the world, it’s a place so magical, hard to find and you have to go down so many stairs just to reach the sandy beach, and still…you walk between stones and plastic.
You snap a beautiful picture, but there it is, a hill covered with dirt. Damn tourists would you say, right? I would say the same, but most of the local people there, stay and contemplate, they don’t even clean in front of their restaurants. There are no trash bins!
Paradise Valley – the road is long, full of curves, you leave your car far away and you immerse in a forest and you keep walking and searching for that magical place you saw in the pictures. And you find plastic. And I’m not talking about the funny colorful chairs that keep popping up in the river as cafes. People go there and forget to bring their trash with them.
Marrakech – oh well, the old Medina can’t be a clean place with so many people everywhere. It’s like they celebrate each and every night with huge amounts of food and everything. During the day on those narrow streets, people walk, go on their bikes, motorbikes, travel with donkeys, chickens while everybody wants to sell you something. They sell huge amounts of vegetables and fruits, most of it gets left behind when the sun sets…
Just a few steps away from the old city, you enter a new world – a very civilized one and a clean one. In Gueliz & Menara, you will find wide streets, amazingly green parks, contemporary art, anything you’d wish from a European city. Of course, there are also some streets where the garbage can’t be overlooked, but somehow, you get the feeling of clean.
In one of the parks, there is an installation that calls attention to the amount of plastic. It’s almost a year since they restricted plastic bags. But there is a long way until they will clean everything is out there already…
Cheap, but dirty accommodation
It’s full of contrasts. Very poor versus very rich. Very cheap versus very expensive. Don’t be fooled by the name hotel, it can be worse than a hostel. You might also find a great hostel where they change your sheets every day and use huge amounts of chlorine. Most bathrooms are moldy and all those carpets and every piece of furniture they use might be full of dust because there are just too many things there.
You are a walking wallet.
Yes, you, the white European or American, who is curious about another culture and the work they do, you should pay for it, cause you have no idea how authentic it is, how much effort they put in it or how amazing it would look like in your perfect home.
There are 2 aspects that can make you loose it. At least, I…lost it.
- wanting to live like a local, buy local food
I love fruits, vegetables, and water. I don’t need fancy food or lots of street food. I’m happy if I can walk around in the market and choose which fruits I will mix because there are too many to even wanna try them all. Every day was an opportunity to buy some vitamins. If it would be as easy as I thought… I was in Tangier, where I loved their market, mainly because they had some prices and I knew how cheap things are, besides being organical and tasting like heaven. I never bought anything at the same price again. My biggest rip off where some strawberries, 4 bananas and a mango at the price of…10 Euros. Yay. It should have cost around 2. I bought some fruits in Agadir at some decent prices and the next day I found out that for the same melon they asked for 3 Euros instead of 1, for berries 1,5 and right next to them the price was 0,5. I was craving for cherries, and I set behind some locals and saw how much they paid, they got change from 10 dirhams. When I got in line and gave a 20 dirham bill (2 euros) for half a kilo of cherries I almost did not get change. When I asked for it, I got some coins back… The old guy that made me wanna share this with you was the worst. He had no teeth, moved so slowly, he must have been around 80-90 years old. He had some leftover cherries, it was already late at night, and it was the only place close to my place. He didn’t want to tell me the price, weighted half a kilo and I gave him 10 dirhams (1 Euro). He asked for more. I left the cherries there. I prefer to pay 3 Euros at home for a kilo of cherries or wait until they will cost around 1 Euro.
Water never has the same price and with more than 40 degrees you need it. In March we paid 4, 5, 6 dirhams for a bottle of 1.5 l. In Carrefour the price is 3.5 dirhams. In the Souks, I bought it in the same place 2 days in a row, once with the guys, for 6 dirhams, the next day alone. With a big grin on his face, he asked for 10 dirhams. I always got higher prices when walking around alone. The same thing at a pastry shop, where they serve you hot msemmen, my favorite thing to eat. The locals got it in front of me for 6 dirhams 2 pieces, I paid 15 dirhams. Yey!
2. buying objects from the Souks
“Haggling in Morocco is a pretty over-rated experience and you’re unlikely to get a good price, especially in the tourist hotspots of Marrakesh and Fes.”
Oh my, this got me so tired that I couldn’t buy anything. If you experienced Turkey you might know how things work. You ask for a price, you get an astronomical one and you bargain it by half, or even better.
In Morocco, from what I heard, the right price should be a third from what they ask at first, but that means more than a half hour of listening to all that bullshit. If you have some experience, bought some stuff and know some prices, it can make you so mad to argue with them and really get a good price. You wear what you bought from another store and tell them how much you paid and they say that it’s not the same, it’s different and it’s not as good as theirs. They have the same stories, the same approach, and after hearing them for so many times sometimes you just crash. Either you buy it and realize afterward that it wasn’t worth it, or you get out of the souks without actually buying what you wanted. It can get frustrating. But if you go there for 2 days and know what you want and how much you want to pay for it, should be fine.
Tell them you are from Romania. You might get another discount because “you don’t have money, you’re like us!”
Well… taxis have their stories in each country right? Is it worse? Maybe not. It’s cheap, that’s for sure, but you have to know the worth of it. I paid different amounts of money for the same rides. It also depends if you are alone or with other people, it depends if there is a driver, or more drivers. More means more money in each case. From Gueliz to the Jemaa el Fnaa you should pay 20 dirhams, but 30-40 is also ok. (divide by 10 to have the price in euro). The airport is another funny story, as usual. It’s very close to the old city – walking distance, max 45 minutes. Bus – 30 dirhams. Taxi should be 100 dirhams, for 3 people. Usually Riads, Hostels, and Hotels arrange it for you for 100 or 150, or even 200 dirhams. That’s a lot. If you are 3 people, it’s ok, but if you’re alone, try bargaining it, or ask for a Grand Taxi, and share the ride with others.
If you want to go to Jardin Majorelle from the Old City/Medina/Jemaa el Fnaa should be no more than 30/40 dirhams.
Pray to all the Gods that you get out of there alive. Told you about the narrow streets where they tend to fit in everything that moves. You have to be careful and aware every second. It’s tiring, but it’s also an exercise for your attention. Yeah, leave your phone, and enjoy the craziness. If you’re in the new city, or anywhere and want to cross the street, they don’t really care, everybody is on his own until the other side. Driving there? Oh, the fun. Not impossible, but truly another experience.
Don’t ask for them, or don’t rely on them, or…don’t listen to them. If you are lost and can’t find your Riad and it’s late at night, 1 Euro will save you. Kids also ask for money and offer you directions all the time.
No paper. No toilet paper. No napkins. No soap. If you carry wet tissues, disinfectant and paper napkins you will make it anywhere.
I heard horror stories about scams with all kinda travel agencies. Be very careful when you book a desert excursion or any kind of excursion.
Don’t go to see how they paint the leather. It’s not the last day you can see it, they say that every day!! And you don’t want to see that. It smells terrible and you have to pay for that experience…if you don’t want to pay they will force you. (20 Euros!!)
But don’t forget. I went there twice, and I will probably go again. It’s a great experience. It’s a different culture. If you are a true traveler you owe it to you to experience it on your own terms. Learn from the bad experiences others have. Take in account all these pieces of advice. Try your own approach, it might be the best adventure for you.
The difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary one is only a matter of perspective.