5 things that surprised me when visiting Morocco
Morocco had been on my wish list forever until I finally visited the country on a whirlwind trip in 2014. But did I actually know what to expect? Not at all. The only Arabic country I had been to before was Egypt, so I used that as a reference. That turned out to be a misconception: in only two days I got one surprise after the other. These are the things that surprised me the most about Morocco.
1. Strict customs
True, I’d heard it before, but to be honest I thought other people were just a bit unlucky. But no way: if you’re a journalist, especially if you write down that you’re visiting Morocco for work (I was on a press trip), prepare yourself for an intense interrogation. After lots of questions about who I was a journalist for, and after repeatedly telling them my website, I finally was allowed into the country. Trying to explain to Moroccan border security what a ‘travel blog’ is turned out to be quite the challenge. It was just as hard when we left the country, by the way. Mister had even bigger problems, working as a camera man and editor. So if you’re a journalist or blogger and you want to visit Morocco: just make up a job, and your life will be easier.
2. There’s grass!
Like I said, I expected Morocco to be some sort of Egypt part 2. I had visions of 1001 nights, sand dunes and terracotta-colored houses. What I forgot for a second was that I visited Egypt in the middle of the country, and Morocco all the way up north. Which is about a 100 kilometer difference, looking from the equator. Plus I visited Egypt in October and Morocco in early March. So it’s not really a surprise that Egypt was a lot more dry than Morocco during my trips. After our plane flew over some sand-colored mountains we suddenly saw meadows appear. Brighter than bright green! With my jaw somewhere in my lap I stared out of the window, and I stayed like that until we hit the ground. (Northern-)Morocco is incredibly green. Who would’ve thought!
3. Dentists do great business here
Sometimes I’m surprised by all the sweet things Moroccan mums buy at our local supermarket in The Netherlands. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with some biscuits or ice cream every now and then. But energy drinks, three types of cookies, chocolate, candy, and that’s ALL they buy? That’s even too much for my menstruation cycle! But now that I’ve visited Morocco I understand where their sweet tooth comes from, because literally everything in Morocco is sweet! Just the tea alone ruins your teeth, and with every building you enter there’s trays full of cookies. Cookies. Everywhere. (Living the dream!). I really don’t mind some sweet stuff, but when even the croissants at breakfast turned out to be sweetened, I really wanted to take a bite of sand.
4. They know how to party
I admit: I should’ve known. Where I live, we have a loud wedding parade riding around at least once a week, beeping their horns. And during Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) it’s not just the whole family, but also quite a few crates full of food entering the flat. But still I had never experienced a Moroccan party. I had the wrong illusion that it would all be quite easygoing, maybe because the women often wear hijabs and it’s expected that, being a western woman, you sort of behave when you’re in Morocco. But as soon as the music comes on, people lose it! I was at the celebration of the first direct flight from Rabat to Amsterdam and one person after the other disappeared onto the dance floor, surrounded by at least fifty ecstatic people!
5. There’s donkeys. EVERYWHERE.
There are some things you never think about. For instance, the fact that donkeys are walking around everywhere. Maybe because I’m not used to it back in The Netherlands, or maybe because I hadn’t seen one donkey in Egypt… Whatever it was, I was completely unprepared for OMG LOOK SUPER CUTE AND FLUFFY DONKEYS everywhere. At the country side, on the road, in the city. They use donkeys for everything: as a four-legged plowing machine, a pack machine, a touristic attraction…
Now I want a donkey.
Even though I might be joking a little bit here and there in the article, I absolutely ADORED my quick visit to Morocco and I cannot WAIT to go back and see more of the country. It was beautiful.