Ten Things I Loved About Morocco
And why it should be your next destination
1. The landscape
Taking what I thought would be a grueling eighthour bus ride to the Sahara Desert turned out to be a breathtaking experience. Much of Morocco’s landscape is mountainous, with slopes that gradually transition into valleys and plateaus. I’ve never seen anything like it before, so stopping for photos and taking it all in are a must.
2. Souk shopping
I surprisingly enjoyed what most people have told me is a pain in the ass. An advertising chum even warned me about the horrors of haggling. He found it “stressful and a den full of scum and villainy.” I don’t agree with him at all because haggling is part of the shopping experience. If agreeing on a price isn’t working out, just leave; the salesperson will come running after you. Just make sure you enter a souk with a proper guide because one wrong turn and before you know it, you’re lost in that labyrinth.
3. Staying in a riad
A riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior garden of mostly orange trees and with a fountain in the middle. A good number of them have been converted into small and intimate boutique-type hotels with stylish rooms and impeccable service. Resist booking at a touristy hotel chain and go for a riad instead, because finding the perfect place can be a rewarding experience. I stayed at the Palais Riad Lamrani in Marrakech and the Palais Faraj Suites in Fes.
4. Camping in the Sahara Desert
A must if you have the time to do so, as it is an experience you won’t soon forget. Temperatures vary from day to night: dry heat during the day
and freezing cold during the evening. Spend time getting to know the staff, especially when they play music around a raging bonfire. Chances are you’ll barely understand each other, but it’s a trippy experience under the right circumstances. Also, make sure you get up early to see the sunrise because the colors are breathtaking and all of it is Instagram gold.
5. Riding a camel
If memory serves me right, most of my companions weren’t too excited with the idea of a camel ride in the Sahara, but we quickly changed our minds once we laid eyes on those animals. We took a 30minute ride into the desert, had tea in the middle of nowhere, and proceeded to take photos of each other for an hour under the baking sun. And if you haven’t guessed it, this too is Instagram gold.
6. That bright clear blue sky
I’ve never seen anything like it.
While the variety of tagines and kebabs were delicious, one dish stands out from the rest. Book a table at Ruined Garden in Fes and order the Roasted Chicken Volubilis. A hot, sweet and sour dish marinated in whole grain mustard, fish sauce, grape juice, and fresh mint, this Roman recipe dates back to 2500 BC and is served by their charming staff without the formality. This dish deserves to be world-famous.
It is almost impossible to take a bad photo anywhere in Morocco. I’ll bet even Stevie Wonder could point a camera phone anywhere and take a good photo. The sheer amount of color visually bombards you the moment you step into this sunbathed country. You see it in their art, textiles, spices, pottery, and in the mismatched clothes worn by the women who prefer contrast and gaiety over drab simplicity.
9. Hammam massage
This is worth trying if you have no issues being naked in front of a complete stranger. Upmarket hotels and riads offer private hammams to their guests. There are also public hammams scattered throughout the cities, but I recommend using the hotel facilities instead, as they’re probably more sanitary and will save you from the horror of being massaged by a big hairy man.
10. My traveling companions
These are the secret ingredients to a good trip. I was lucky to be with 14 other people who were fun to be with and game for just about anything. That alone helped make this trip worthwhile.