Morocco was never on my “places to visit” list. Not because it isn’t a beautiful country, which I saw firsthand, but because I envisioned my first trip to the motherland would be to South Africa, Nigeria or Ghana. However, a friend of mine told me she was thinking of going in December and wanted to know if I was interested.
After some thought, I agreed.
December kicks off my personal new year, so I was excited to explore a new country as I ushered in my birthday. When I arrived, I quickly realized why Morocco is known as a “gem of North Africa.”
Here are 6 reasons you’ll love Morocco:
Travel affords us the opportunity to experience another culture, and I greatly appreciate the beauty and richness of the Moroccan culture. From the languages spoken, which include Berber and Arabic primarily, as well as Spanish, French and English, to the mosques, which serve as a safe space for religious practice, my goal was to take it all in. After visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2015, I was eager to get to Grande Mosquée Hassan II in Casablanca; however, it slipped my mind that I would need to have my legs covered. I wore a dress the day we went to Casablanca, so I wasn’t allowed in. While I was disappointed, I have the utmost respect for the culture and plan to visit again the next time I’m in Morocco.
The souk — a busy marketplace filled with items for sale — embodies the Moroccan spirit and culture. I spent the day exploring one in Marrakesh and bought argan oil and lots of tea. Carpets, which are handmade in excellence there, are for sale. You can get so many quintessential Moroccan goods: pashminas/scarves, lanterns, djellabas (traditional garb) and tea pots, to name a few.
Tip: Use your bargaining skills. Also, it get’s very crowded, the streets are narrow and motos are everywhere, stay alert.
This part of the journey concerned me bit. I’m a picky eater and never had Moroccan food before I boarded the plane. It all worked out, though, because the food was delicious. The vegetables and fruits were extremely fresh and the same can be said about the meat and amazing bread. Most days were spent eating kabobs and tagine. But I couldn’t resist American-franchise food, which I never eat at home. Let’s just say McDonald’s and KFC saw me from time to time.
I love tea, so I was in heaven. I found myself drinking tea at least four times a day.
Marrakesh is a major city with a lot going on. Rooftop restaurants, art galleries, busy streets and a fun club scene. Hence, Essaouira is a nice escape from that. Like other Moroccan cities, this port city has a lot of history that can be found in its architecture, including the city walls, harbour and cannons. During the 60s, Essaouira was considered a hippie haven with Jimi Hendrix penning “Castles Made of Sand.”
I had the freshest seafood by the beach in Essaouira and spent time at the beach enjoying the clear skies and beautiful water. There’s a relaxed ambiance and calmness about the city.
4. Atlas Mountains and Waterfalls
If you told me I’d spend several hours hopping from rock to rock, catching my balance and climbing, I wouldn’t believe you. But there was something so fulfilling about hiking up the Atlas Mountains the day before my return home. There were several times I wanted to quit, but the group I was in, namely my friend Ariel, kept me motivated to keep going. And once we got to the top, the breathtaking view of the waterfall and the sun beginning to set was so worth it.
Members of the Berber community that I met enroute and nestled within the mountains were very welcoming. One gentleman gave me a Hamsa (the Hand of Fatima), before leaving his store. It serves as a reminder of my trip, the universal family we’re apart and that I’m always protected. The Hamsa is named after Fatima Zahra, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
Every person I encountered during my week’s stay was friendly. Moroccans I met were beautiful inside and out. I can’t forget an older Berber woman who taught me how to loop the wool to make a classic Moroccan rug. It’s moments like that, I can’t forget.
6. Architecture & Art
Moroccan architecture is breathtaking. It wasn’t long after my plane landed that I saw the fusion of various cultures. Even walking the streets, you’ll see Arab-style architecture all around. In Marrakesh, I visited Ben Youssef Madrasa, which was founded in the 14th Century, and fell in love with the intricate designs all around. The architecture found at the former all-boys school is only one example of the art that can be found across the country.
I can go on and on about Morocco. I’ve been blessed to see several countries and this is one I’d definitely make another visit to.
Have you been or plan to visit Morocco? Let me know in the comments section!