Samuel Turner

The first day I arrived to Morocco, I was absolutely blown away by the country. The exotic rich smells of peppermint tea and incense flowing through the streets, the mesmerizing and tangling alleyways of the medinas and the organized chaos that is Moroccan markets and eateries overwhelmed my senses and expectations.

Moroccan buildings

But it wasn’t all sweet tea and fluffy flat bread. The first day I was ripped off by a young boy who insisted on showing me to my hostel and local eatery. After paying what I would later find out to be a small fortune for lunch and his obligatory ‘tip’ for his service, it left a sour taste in my mouth that the locals are constantly trying to rip off tourists. Countless times after this, locals would rip me off some way or another whether it be in taxis, food stalls or even local baths. Some weeks later I would find myself bitten by a dog, resulting in a necessary trip to the hospital with three rounds of rabies injections ensuing. The next day my wallet would be stolen. Add food poisoning three times and a postal service that lost my replacement bank card after twenty days of waiting. After all these issues, hindrances and problems, Morocco is still one of my favorite countries in the world. Let me tell you why. 

Moroccan Markets

Morocco is a melting pot (or should I say tagine) of cultures, given its history of colonization, conquering and occupation. French, Portuguese and Spanish elements spread their influence across the country, varying on your location. On top of that, are the traditional Berber people and the main ethnic group nowadays is a combination of these indigenous people and their Arabic conquerors. Further south you will find very proud Berber people who will speak their native language rather than Arabic. As you can imagine, this culmination of people results in a diverse country with a myriad of foods, subcultures, experiences and customs.

Sights

First things first - Morocco has so much for you to explore. One day you literally can be riding a camel in the Sahara desert and the next catching a wave along the coastline. One day sleeping in the mountains of Chefchauen and the next looking over to Spain from the northern city of Tangier. The incredibly diverse landscape has a little something for every traveler. I can’t possibly go into everything you need to see in Morocco, but I’ll outline some must see things that make this country so exquisitely unique.

Camels in the desert

A trip out to the Sahara Desert is a must for anyone visiting Morocco. Easily accessible from Marrakech, the typical three day tour will take you through some old Berber towns, the breathtaking Todra Gorge and through countless winding mountains on your picturesque drive to the frontier of the desert. Be prepared for typical tourist traps on the way such as carpet stores, artisan co-ops and such.

The relaxing city of Chefchauen is delicately placed amongst the cool, crisp mountains and the city reflects the same ambience. ‘The Blue City’ is known for trapping travelers in its embrace, with its thriving medina pasted completely in rich and deep blue colors. Other than some hiking options there is not much more to be seen in Chefchauen - and that’s exactly why people love it. The locals here will be a lot less pushy than Tangier and Marrakech.

Alleyway

Last but not least you have to visit the coastal portside city of Essaouira. Not much to see in terms of sights, but a gorgeous little fish market breathes life into the old city where you can pick your fresh lunch to be grilled. Watch the sunset amidst the gentle caws of the seagulls and crashing of waves and get swept away in the gorgeous atmosphere of this salty, sleepy town.

Beachside

Affordability

Morocco has to be one of the most affordable places I’ve been to so far. Incredible food, great accommodation and decent travel options all within the backpacker budget. One dollar will buy you:

  • Four pounds of fresh, juicy tangerines
  • A meal of harira (a spicy chickpea and vegetable soup) and a cheese crepe)
  • A steaming pot of green tea stuffed with sugar and mint
  • Two pounds of fresh vegetables at the local market
  • A piece of fried fish with bread and dip

Your average hostel will cost anywhere from $6-$15 depending on your location. If you head further south and away from the more touristy towns, you can find ‘pensions’ or budget hotel rooms for around $5 a night.

Morocco has a lot of beautiful things to see as previously mentioned, but a lot of them are completely free, which is another huge benefit. Main attractions in cities such as the Saadian Tombs in Marrakech, the castle walls in Essaouira or any of the huge palaces around the country will cost you around ten dirhams. The typical tour to the Sahara Desert for three days and two nights will cost you a measly $70, including your accommodation, transport and some meals. I travelled comfortably for less than $20 a day.

Moroccan food

Ambience

Out of around thirty countries I’ve been to, I’ve never found a place quite like Morocco when it comes to the ambience. The vibe of Morocco is that of relaxation and less of your classic hostel mood of hustle and bustle. There’s not a high turnover of guests and you will notice more people less intent on city exploration and rather chilling out, reading, sipping tea and enjoying everything Morocco has to offer. I spent many days simply in local eateries, playing cards in cafes and on the beach. I stayed in Essaouira for 11 nights, never once feeling guilty about my lack of traveling. I was trapped under the mystical spell of Morocco and I was so glad to have been.

Colourful building

Don’t forget:

  • Morocco is wonderful and relatively safe, but don’t forget about pickpocketing. Keep your valuables close and zipped up!
  • Morocco is a Muslim country. Girls have to be aware of ‘cultural differences’ and keep in mind the clothing requirements for women.
  • Unfortunately, getting ripped off by the locals is a big problem. Research the standard cost of products and services before arriving to avoid unpleasant situations!

 

Samuel Turner is an Australian journalist with a passion for adventure, travel and food. Follow him on Instagram @turnernator and Facebook Samuel Turner.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.