Few places on earth conjure up images of the exotic more than Morocco. It’s become a dream of many to make this North African country their first foray into the continent. And with plenty good reason.
After hearing stories of my grandmothers travelling together to Morocco in the sixties (and not for the cheap drugs), Morocco sounded like the type of place I needed a little more of in my “travel resume” that, so far, featured mostly “simple” destinations in Europe, Asia and North America.
And, boy, was I in for a surprise.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty, let’s not mince words: Morocco is a stunning beautiful place. In fact, it’s no doubt one of the prettiest and most diverse countries I’ve ever visited.
It’s also BY FAR the most irritating.
Visiting Morocco has the power to both shock and awe—in ways both good and bad.
Yet, I can almost guarantee that within days of enduring it, you’ll be screaming to get back to those peaceful “safe” destinations you think you needed move beyond. (And, yet, probably at the same time it’ll leave you longing for it. Yeah, it’s F’ed right up.)
PRO: Morocco’s gorgeous to the bone
No, seriously. Traveling nearly the entire length of Morocco, I encountered some of the most enchanting scenes imaginable. From winding along narrow roads in the Atlas Mountains to spending a night under the stars in the Sahara at Erg Chebbi, there’s some severely life-altering scenery here.
Even the small oasis towns in the middle of nowhere will take your breath away. And that’s not even taking into account places like ever-blue Chefchaouen that are mind-numbingly unforgettable.
CON: Morocco is irritating AF
Never have I ever traveled to a place where it was so hard to enjoy yourself in peace. No matter which city I visited in Morocco—whether Tangier, Fez or Marrakech—I spent inordinate amounts of time & energy fending off touts.
From attempting to drag me into carpet shops to assuming I was only there for the hash that David Crosby loved to sing about (and was going to decide to finally give in to after asking for a 50th time), the hawkers in Morocco completely ruined the experience for me.
(And I won’t even get into our tour guide getting arrested or the glue-addict chasing us down in Tangier.)
I hardly felt like there was a moment I wasn’t on someone’s radar as an easy target. Even sitting and trying to enjoy a coffee at a street-side café (like that lovely little one the Anthony Bourdain drank at in Tangier’s Petit Socco in Part Unknown) meant having to endure an onslaught of irritation.
In the age of social media and Instagram, there seems to be a movement towards stripping out all the unpleasantries from the travel experience in order to “sell” followers on a destination. Or be the mouthpiece of a tourism board. Take your pick.
Perhaps ditching my budget backpacker lifestyle from my days as a student long ago has softened me to such annoyances. I don’t have the time nor the energy to psychoanalyze myself to find the answer.
I’ll caulk it up to this. Morocco taught me a simple lesson: Just because you’re a “traveler,” it doesn’t mean you need to love everything about it.
Truly, the biggest transformation in visiting the beautiful/annoying clusterf**k of a country was that my travel bucket list instantly got a hell of a lot smaller.
I’ve now realized that I’m perhaps not as adventurous as I once was. And as much as I still have a taste for the unknown, Morocco made me more attuned to what I like and don’t like when traveling. (Being treated like a human rather than a bunch of dollar signs would be a good start.)
I can’t say I won’t visit a country like Morocco ever again, but I will say that all my “boring” travels to popular places like Japan, Bali, Berlin or Panama are lookin’ mighty appealing right about now.