First impressions will never tell the whole story, but for a traveller entering a new territory, it is the only basis for which to make an opinion. Sadly, for me, upon entering Casablanca, my first impression can be summed up in one word: a ‘dump’. On the way to the hotel, our taxi driver thwarted an attempted hijack as we waited at a set of traffic lights. A crazy man demanded the 3 of us out of the car with our bags. The driver gave him some money, and we were safe.
As a whole, Morocco was interesting… the country is beautiful in a very different way, but in my experience, the people are another story. We had a lovely tour group, and a not-so-professional tour guide. But that´s another story too! The landscape is depicted by scorched beige shades of pure barrenness, sprinkled in dry olive trees and fruit ĺadden cactus plants. There were also a few gum trees around! Temps were around 49 degrees celsius every day.
The highlights were the Roman Ruins of Meknes and Volubilis, and the night we spent in the Sahara Desert… camel riding at sunset, African drumming at dusk, and sleeping on the flat roofs at night to a violent, warm breeze… There were also some amazing oasis’ in the desert, filled with quince, peaches, and date trees.
The Fez medina was a crazy mess of narrow alley ways, cramped with donkeys, and stalls including everything from bee-infested honey treats to baby hedgehogs in cages.
As a city, Marrakech felt more equipped and tolerant of the tourist. In saying that, it still has a long way to go. The incessant haggling at their world famous markets, and horrible things said to us when we didn’t buy, was enough to never return. At one stage I was slapped across the head for refusing to buy a $700 scarf which was identical to the 1-Euro scarves being sold on the streets of Spain. From a female, Westerner’s perspective, it was not a comfortable experience traveling through Morocco. The entire trip I was seen as a cash machine. We even had people shout out to us ¨I can smell your money! Come here!” and when we refused, we were sworn at.
I was religious about hand sanitizing, and became a vegetarian for the trip (although this didn’t stop me from getting sick!) I find it hard to eat meat while surrounded by hanging goat carcases – their black hairy heads still in tact, and body skinned all but to the tip of their tails, which included a puff of hair, like the skinner was shaping a show poodle.
Initially excited about the food, we were all really disappointed. As ‘vegetarians’, our only option was vegetable tagine, or cous cous, and after having that for lunch and dinner everyday, I physically couldn’t have it anymore. Fortunately my trusty travel-sized vegemite came in handy on the Moroccan flat bread.
This is a poem Leah, Liss and I composed as we traversed through the Moroccan countryside with our lovely little tour group: