Souks, oranges and the Sahara

Exotic souks, mysterious tales of sultans past and an unforgiving desert are the daydreams I had long ago of visiting Morocco. What I found on arrival was not quite the fairytale I imagined but what I found was beautiful old cities with rich heritage, a welcoming people, growing economies and a gorgeous and cool desert.

The red clay dirt of Africa combined with ancient architecture and European influence did not disappoint. The medinas (old cities) are old winding mazes full of little shops selling exotic spices, fresh fruit and everything else you could need divided up by trade. The tannery we visited was a highlight but wow, did the process stink!

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Sunrise in the Sahara

Morocco felt more modern than I expected. I had been warned by a few well traveled females that they had felt uncomfortable in Morocco and that women were not allowed to be somewhere as innocuous as a teashop during the day. My tour guide said that women are allowed to be in these teashops but they generally choose not to. I can’t really blame them when the current feel of a shop full of men is intimidating whether or not it is actually quite acceptable for women to join.

I saw a range of conservative dress for women. From full niqab’s to hijab’s to short sleeves and jeans. It was nice to see tolerance and that women are given freedom of choice in that respect. I stayed pretty covered up but was told its not necessary in the cities I visited.

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Mountain viewpoint in Morocco

Strong hassling was one thing I was warned to expect and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t actually that bad. Negotiating is part of the culture and expressing interest will make you a fast new friend until you decide to purchase. One of my tour mates and I did fall for a scam the first day where a man with a convincing story led us into a carpet shop for a “one day only special festival” where the women artisans come down from the mountains to sell their wares. It was clear pretty fast that he’d taken us to a standard carpet shop and a few firm No’s were enough to get us out fast.

Overall, I had a great time and I would definitely go again!

Highlights:
-riding a camel over sand dunes in the Sahara
-feeling lost in the ancient and windy medinas
-tagines: delicious slow cooked personal sized stews in special tagine pots
-freshly squeezed orange juice every morning

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Silk shop in Fes medina

Lowlights:
-the need to stay in a group with men especially after dark
-the food I ate didn’t always agree with me
-a girl in our tour group had her phone pick pocketed on the last night in the souk

Thanks to Driss (our guide), G Adventures, and my tour mates for a great visit to Morocco!

2 thoughts on “Souks, oranges and the Sahara

  1. Nice post! I’m sure it’s hard to find time to write blog entries when you are on a guided tour.

    I got a recommendation for when we are in Agra. The Agra Fort (also called Amber Fort or Red Fort) looks impressive both architecturally and from cultural perspective. It is close to Taj Mahal (can see Taj from one of its balconies); it’s a UNESCO site; and you can take an elephant ride up to it. Presumably it’s also closed Friday, but there may be time for both sites on the day we arrive.

    love, Dad

    Like

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