03 Dec Morocco. My first failed trip.
The time has come. At last. We all have that awful experience on our trips. One place you really couldn’t wait to get out of as quickly as possible.
As i write this post i have bought a ticket to go back home. 3 days earlier. A lot of money wasted. Two extra tickets because I first booked a wrong flight, three nights accommodation lost and others.
Just because I didn’t enjoy my first days in Morocco.
I can already hear the cursing and “are you mad?” questions but i care not for them.
This is my experience here and I think that too many people only describe the good parts of this country while ignoring the countless problems that one can face here.
Before starting this I must state that I am 1.90m tall and about 100 kilograms weight so I am not exactly little nor am I exactly the quiet little mouse who keeps his mouth shut.
Throughout my post you will see me contradict myself many times and that is because there are some good things here, some beautiful things and I can’t just ignore them.
Since I am in the airport and I don’t have a clear plan I will be jumping from one thing to another so it might get tiresome at some point.
But please follow me because when watching social media these days all you get to see is an abundance of colors, pretty things and peaceful moments and Morocco is really nothing like that.
Let us start with the most important thing when visiting a country. Or at least one of the most important things in my opinion.
Morocco is a mix for me regarding people. I have met some really amazing people for which I am really thankful but I also met some ugly, nasty people.
And you will say ‘oh well that’ s like it everywhere’ but it is not.
In my honest opinion Morocco has more unpleasant people than it has pleasant ones.
And while this thing might be true for many countries in the world, here you feel this.
I think that people working with tourists(hotel staffs, restaurants staff, rentals, airport, etc) are really welcoming because they understand the value of tourism and they do understand that each happy tourist brings others back in the country.
Alas the same is not true for most people outside these areas. Morocco is one of the few countries, if not the only country, where I felt stared at all the time.
Before going to bed last night I read a small article by another blogger explaining exactly what I am writing to you now.
I felt a general dislike for foreigners throughout the two cities I visited. On my third one I just snapped and bought the tickets back home.
You see my plan was to visit Chefchaouene, Rabat, Meknes and Fez but upon reaching Meknes I decided I had enough.
And this wasn’t all due to the constant looks I was getting but also to the attitude of the people in the Medinas.
I will insist on one thing here then later I will detail the other thing that upset me.
I understand that Morocco is a poor country. I really do. But I have visited poor countries in the past and I never felt so harassed in my life.
Every step I took was accompanied by constant questions of where I am from, do I need that, do I need that other thing, come see this, come buy that, let me show you this, etc.
And for those of you who visited Turkey I am sure you know how aggressive vendors can be. But they are little kids next to these people.
And the main difference is in their attitude.
Turks are fricking awesome sellers, they are great negotiators and they can take a no.
You will never see a Turk curse you for not buying something or showing you hand signals. Which happened to me in Morocco.
I was in Chefchaouen taking pictures and a Moroccan boy approached me with the question where I am from. I answered then he invited me on an alley to show me a shop and I said “a bit later” then proceeded to take a picture of another tourist who asked me to do that.
After taking that picture I raised my camera to take a picture and the Moroccan boy drove past me putting his middle finger up in my lens.
Normally I could have snapped his little neck in less than two seconds but here I was in a foreign country and might I say a not very civilized country at all.
Because even though people praise Morocco for being progressive I am sorry to say but this is still Africa so progressive doesn’t really mean anything.
I got the same experience in two other places(ugly comments not the finger) when I refused to buy some trinkets.
And this is the main difference between Moroccans and Turks or even Egyptians.
Turks make you feel welcome regardless if you buy something from them or not and they love to negotiate.
In Morocco there is no negotiation. Only haggling. There is no art to it, no pleasure.
You can sit with a Turk for hours over tea and just discuss. Not here.
I will let this go for now and maybe add later on it if I deem it necessary.
You might already know from reading my blog or from following my Instagram account that I love taking pictures.
And before diving into this I must clearly state that Morocco is a very photogenic country. In fact the houses, the dresses, the fruits, the animals all could add up to amazing pictures.
But you see… There’s a little problem here.
Moroccans hate this photography art. And no, hate is not a hard word here.
Before jumping up irritated I suggest you google “is it easy to take pictures in Morocco?” and see the thousands of people complaining about this.
Moroccans hate having their pictures taken and this could lead from silly comical things like a woman covering her face more than 40 meters away when I raised my camera to even aggressive behavior(admonitions or in some cases, didn’t happen to me, violent behavior)
Loving photography I have my camera on a strap around my neck all the time.
Morocco is the only country in which i kept my lens cover on and half of the time I was pushing my lens down so that people understood I wasn’t taking pictures.
Even so I got looks or comments and in more than a few occasions I had to reassure people that I wasn’t taking pictures.
And that’s plain tiresome.
I don’t want to end up like many people do to pay to take people’s photos. Because I think that street photography should be accurate and depict the facts as they happen. Not have locals model up for a few dirhams.
Shit, almost missed my boarding. As I was focused writing this the gates opened and people started moving towards the airplane.
That would have been funny. Paying a ticket twice and ending up staying here.
Back to the photography now.
I will quote something from another blog now so that you can see how others feel about this country also when it comes to pictures.
“Taking photos in Morocco is difficult. Full stop.
In any case, if you’re an adventurous and avid photographer, you’ll agree with me when I say that a trip in which the lives of the people, their customs and the colors of their country are not captured, is a wasted trip.”
And this is exactly how I felt here.
Morocco could be a heaven for photography. The houses, the colors, the clothing.
You have the perfect ingredients.
But it’s more like a hell for photographers.
And mind you I was using a 55 zoom on an apsc camera.
For those of you not loving photography I will only say that a 55 zoom lens all zoomed out puts a little bit space between you and your subject.
But it clearly this isn’t enough in Morocco.
If you check my Cornwall photography article you will notice my picture of the old fisherman taken with a 16 prime so that’s close.
Like 1 meter, 1 and a half meter tops.
Unless you pay for it or risk a whole lot you will never get that photo in Morocco.
And that is truly a shame.
Chefchaouen’s blue walls is like a magnet for the Moroccan women colored clothing. And it looks amazing. I would have enjoyed having a few more memories from there but such wasn’t the case.
And I think in the end this has been my biggest disappointment. Maybe I could have ignored the looks, the crowds, the things I will detail later but this was a stop for me.
I frankly got tired of holding my camera pointed down and have people look at it strangely on the streets of Chefchaouen and Rabat.
Well how to say this?
Morocco is dirty. And when I say dirty I really mean dirty.
I think only Egypt rivals them here.
People say countries in Asia are dirty but really there is no comparing between Thailand and Morocco.
And I will only talk about Thailand because that was the country I visited in Asia.
And before moving forward since I mentioned Thailand I must stress upon one thing.
Thailand’s people are amazing. Yes there is poverty, yes they have issues and problems there also, yes to many things but they also smile.
And is one thing to be greeted with smiles and another thing to be greeted with scowls.
I wrote an extensive post about food in Thailand and if you did not read it here’s a quick summary. Despite the lack of hygiene present there also I had no problems eating only on the streets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
But even though I found those places to lack hygiene they cannot compare to Morocco.
Upon visiting the Medina’s, the old markets you will be shocked by one thing.
How dirty they can be.
And I am not talking about any kind of dirt. I am talking about nasty dirt. Dead animals(rats, cats, etc), pieces of animals thrown out(raw or cooked), all kind of house garbage and most shockingly feces. And no, not only animal feces but human feces also.
It could be just my experience with the Medina in Rabat but trust me on this. I have never seen a place so dirty in my life.
Whenever you see pictures in social media you see beautiful girls lying in the pools of riads or in the hammams quoting inspirational stuff like”I could live like this forever” or “take me back to Morocco any day”.
But don’t let that misguide you.
Most people ignore or don’t even go out that much.
If you spend 5 days in a riad and use the taxi to go from A to B you could think that well this place is OK.
But if you walk like I do for 15 to 25km each day and hit all the spots by foot you will see another face of Morocco. And I’m pretty sure you won’t like it.
Yes I drove a rented car in Morocco. I planned for four cities and found it the best way to reach them.
And yes, even though many people warned against driving at night in Morocco I did that too.
You want to know how it went?
First of all there is a big difference in the quality of the roads from Rabat towards Meknes, Fes, etc and the quality of the road between Fes and Chefchaouen.
On my first Morocco driving experience I witnessed almost anything.
Huge craters in the road, animals crossing whenever and wherever they felt like it, hundreds of peoples in big groups stopped on the roads just sitting or walking slowly, no real rules of traffic, people jumping out of ditches or by the sides of the roads into the main way, dirt roads, no lighting roads(for more than half of my trip lacked illumination), police road checks(about 5) and much more.
At one point I just hit the breaks because I thought I seen a shadow only to realize that on the middle of the road a man was crossing dragging his donkey after him.
If I didn’t have the inspiration to hit the breaks I would have hit the animal in full.
Dogs and chickens crossed my path, kid groups near the road or just standing on the road forcing you to go round them and more made me think only of how I could get sooner to Chefchaouen.
Adding to this pleasant mix is the fact that many people do not use headlights when driving at night so it is really a lottery if you see someone or you don’t.
So my honest advice about driving in Morocco is not to drive at night. If in daylight you can handle the chaos, the lack of rules, cars crossing 3 bands and crossing your path, people crossing the street and just ignoring you, during night time things are really dangerous.
To not make this an all bitch out post i will list some things I enjoyed and things I think could help Morocco grow as a tourist destination
I am the first one to admit that Morocco has much to offer in terms of beauty. It has the ocean, it has high mountains, it has old towns, fishing towns, it has some nice architectural art, it has the desert and more.
So I would be a fool to say that Morocco is an ugly place.
No, I think Morocco is a land that is truly beautiful ruined by the things I wrote above.
Trust me I wanted to see Fez and I even planned to come back in 2019 to visit Marakesh, Casablanca, Agadir and Essaouira.
Will I do it?
I don’t think I will reach Morocco again unless someone dear to me desires to see this country.
Morocco is a color festival. People are dark skinned, clothes are brightly colored, cities have plenty of colors so yes, this could be heaven if you are a photographer.
Alas, it is not.
And that is bad. Because only seeing the real people of Morocco, only seeing their clothing, their habits, their passions many would be interested in visiting this country.
If you are constantly watching out so nobody is upset you are taking pictures this will ruin your mood soon.
Even though I ate only a handful of meals I can state that I really enjoy Moroccan cooking.
Meats, vegetables, Couscous, spices, all blended into delicious recipes.
I will detail these things into a later article. I really hoped I could experience more, more accommodations, more meals, more places seen but as it sometimes happens even if you plan a thing thoroughly it has a chance to fail.
Many people will wonder why I left personal security out of the list.
And that is because that is very subjective.
If dirt and poverty can be seen by all, safety is different for all of us.
What I experienced is this.
I never really felt threatened even when walking some miles away from the city centers, in places I seen no other tourist but myself.
But that could apply just to me. Some people could feel threatened, some not.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t get only scowls or weird glances or got approached to buy things most of the times.
What you need to take into consideration, at least in Chefchaouen, is the amount of people that will try to sell you hashish. If you don’t know what that is, google it.
A bit of warning though: I know it might seem bold and interesting to smoke shit in a foreign country. You feel powerful, confident, etc.
But trust me. Your ass will not enjoy a Moroccan prison. And also trust me on the fact that drug related offences are punished pretty hard in Morocco.
The usual penalty for smoking or buying Hashish is 10 years imprisonment so even though many, many people smoke it please remember that this is still illegal.
Oh and please be smart. Many street vendors are police informants in disguise.
So to end this first post in Morocco I can say the following.
I am pretty certain that I will not return here, at least any time soon.
There are a myriad of places that offer more than Morocco and are also more tourist friendly.
So how to know if Morocco is for you?
- You care nothing about real photography and are satisfied with the usual holiday snaps? GO.
- You plan to go on a circuit, drive tour that will pick you fron the hotel and take you to places? GO
- You like great food? GO
- You have just a few days to kill and think Morocco sounds exotic? GO
- You enjoy sitting in old Moroccan houses, the riads, that offer much more than hotels? GO
- You are self centered and really do not look at people next to you? GO
- You just skim thru places, moving fast from one location to another without diving deeper in?GO
Now, don’t go if:
1.You really want some professional pictures. Yes, things can be arranged, you can get local help, pay for pics, use a 200 zoom, etc but why so much trouble?
2. You don’t like feeling stared at all the time
3. You hate negotiating for every little thing
4. You hate people clinging on you at every step
5. You have eyes to see the dirt
6. You look for spectacular things. Don’t get me wrong, the mosques are nice, the palaces are OK, the gates the same but a bit to the right lies Egypt and there you really have lots of things that are worth seeing.
7. You hate driving a lot. Morocco is big and driving, especially in the cities, will stress you a lot.
8. You hate not knowing what to expect. A person might greet you warmly or scowl at you. I have read many articles written by female travelers that warned against the harassing looks they kept on getting from all the males.
9. If you’re still not sure if it’s safe or not.
10. You want to be treated at least half decent when paying some/a lot of money to reach a new place.
You see, my point is not to bash this country and its people but to simply state the truth as I seen it.
My truth from my experiences.
Yes I could have used a longer zoom, I could have cared less about the dirt, the ugly people.
I could have ignored the constant hassle and just focus on my beautiful accommodation and good meals.
But would that help you? Or me?
And it wouldn’t help Morocco either.
To be honest if I would have read an article like mine on the internet I would have considered twice before buying my tickets.
And this is what people should do. Because there are a lot of amazing places in the world that deserve to be seen and unfortunately, for me, Morocco is not one of them.