Morocco. Never again…

It was my birthday at the end of September and to celebrate, I went with my gf to Marrakech in Morocco for a few days away from London.

I’ve been to north Africa before – Tunisia and Egypt – but never Morocco, so I was looking forward to the experience, but at the end of the trip I was really looking forward to coming home. I’ve been all over the world, and I’m sensitive to other cultures – in fact, I really enjoy exploring other cultures even when I am on a business trip that could be just airport-taxi-hotel-taxi-airport. I’ll always get out, jump in a rickshaw, and try to take a look around and meet people.

And so it was the same in Morocco. We chose to stay in Riads inside the old city, rather than the modern hotels out of town in the new city. We wanted to really be within walking distance of the city centre and the souk. But trying to get closer to Moroccan culture seems to have been a big mistake. I could write a long detailed list of what made me dissatisfied with my visit to Morocco, but it would be boring to read and might end up reading like the expectations of a European visiting Africa, so here’s a few bullets to give you a flavour:

. When I get lost in an unusual city and I don’t have a map, or my map is not helpful, then I’ll ask someone the way to a landmark I know. This doesn’t work in Marrakech because the people expect money for their help, just because I happen to be a foreigner visiting their city – it’s normal for a taxi driver to overcharge I know, but just asking the way? Then, on several occasions when I refused to pay for help, I was followed… I’ve helped countless visitors find their way around London, even using my phone GPS to show stranded tourists the way to where they want to visit. I have never visited anywhere on any continent where the locals are so unwelcoming to foreigners.

. Mindful of local culture, my gf covered up. Even though it was hot and in the 30s, she even wore a scarf to keep her skin under wraps. Clearly it was not good enough as foreign women are easy targets for leering men to call out to – even when walking down the street with a male partner and covered. We were walking around and every few minutes hearing a comment – often in English – such as “nice tits…” or “hey baby”… it was infuriating. Even when we challenged these people, they never acknowledged that there is anything offensive about what they were doing. The only way to stop going mad for the entire holiday was to start ignoring the comments and to let them just wash over us without comment – sad, but true. These people suffer some kind of severe sexual repression and feel the need to demonstrate their own personal misogynistic tendencies on visitors – how strange is that?

. I know Morocco is predominantly a Muslim country. I know that alcohol is forbidden in most places. But I also know that it’s sold in many bars and restaurants (especially in the new part of the city) because the local traders want to capture tourist spending. However, it is so expensive to have a beer, it feels as if the restaurant owners are penalising you for drinking alcohol. All of which does not make it a very fun place to be if you fancy a couple of drinks on your birthday.

I did stay in the desert near Marrakech one night in a place called La Pause. That was amazing. I absolutely recommend it, even for one night, but I could do without the hassle of the city again… Personally I’m going to stay about as far away as I can from Morocco in future. Not because I’m not interested in the culture of the region, but because the people were so offensive I really wouldn’t want to spend another penny there.

How on earth do they treat the tourists who don’t cover up and are not bothered about their culture?

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3 responses to “Morocco. Never again…

  1. Very sorry to hear about your experiences Mark. Perhaps it is because we travelled in a group, but I do not recognise any of your bullets. Even when my gf and I went out to the Souk in Marrakech everyone was extremely friendly and no annoying remarks were made about her. And she wasn’t even covered with a scarf. Asking the way simply was not necessary because someone already came to help me when I only thought about reaching for my map. This is what we encountered in other cities as well, and no money was asked.

    About the beer tough…. you’re right! 😉

  2. Andrew Donnithorne

    Hi Mark,

    I feel that I must totally agree with you. I went to Morocco recently with my fiancee, we were really looking forward to it – the culture, the food, the sights.

    We spent time travelling on a bus to go climbing in Todra, which was great as it was outside Marrakech, but inside was a different story.

    I too did not like the underhand and back comments, I saw no purpose for it and it was infuriating. What I liked least was almost being hijacked and attacked by two guys (one trying to be good, the other trying to be bad) they demanded to show us to our riad, even when we said no as we knew the way.

    They then tried to walk us down unlit small alleys, both of which were in the direction of the tannery. We said no and they then demanded money and the scene became very confrontational. Luckily a short walk away there were two plain clothed police who made sure these men did nothing by showing us to our riad.

    This for me totally spoilt what was a great holiday. I have never encountered this before anywhere and I doubt very much if I would visit Marrakech again.

  3. Morgan Fitzsimons

    Hi Mark,

    I am afraid I have to agree with all the comments that have been posted.

    I do not shy away from travel and have spent three months in India and traveled around Tunisia amongst others. My least favorite place up to date has been Morocco. My dislike is for all the reasons already mentioned!

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