I wanted to love Morocco. I planned to. I’ve been to remote places. I’ve been to less than clean places. I’ve been to places that scared me, that made me nervous, that made me tired.
Morocco was all of those.
While outside the walls of the Medina were a far different world than inside, it still didn’t make up for the chaos both seen and felt in the city. Perhaps it is the religious aspect that makes it uncomfortable for me – but in as many countries that I have been to, I’ve never felt that a religion was a reason to feel…threatened? Unwelcome?
I felt unwelcome.
From wearing shorts (not SHORT, I don’t have the gams for that), to having blonde hair, every time we stepped out of our Riad I felt targeted. There’s no denying I am not Muslim, in fact, the only experience I have with a Muslim is our dear friend Isabella, who lives in our house in Texas. She’s a doll. But she is not a Muslim man in a Muslim country. She’s never looked at me like I was something to eat, or something to hate.
In Marrakech, you do not see women out eating. You see them – walking, or biking, usually with a child, and always covered. Hair, arms, legs, often even faces, are covered. They do not look at you, they only walk on by. The men, they are at cafes on the street, facing outwards, always, and watching you as they drink their tea or eat their tajines. It is a strange phenomenon, to me. If they aren’t at a café, they are working, or, many times, harassing or hustling you.
I felt constant shadows in Marrakech – always being watched. No matter where we were going, it never failed to have two or three men, or men and children, yell to you that you are going the wrong way, or that wherever they think you are going is closed. “The Square is this way! The souks are closed!” No, it isn’t, and no, they aren’t. It doesn’t matter where you are going or when, they always approach you offering incorrect information, and rarely, if ever, take your No Thank You as a kiss off. Sometimes, they will follow you for quite a while. It’s menacing, and at times, frightening. I’ve never seen anything like it.
This will sound like a cartoon, but it’s true, and I wish I had a video to show you, so that you could believe me…but…inside the Medina is the culmination of 1000 years of no progress, combined with modern day vehicles. When we would step out of the door of our Riad, we were always prepared for the onslaught of chaos. The “roads” are narrow passageways, about 10 feet across. In that 10 foot span, there are men at the edges working on broken motorbikes, a bread vendor, crates set up outside small shops with plastic tubs or shampoos or buckets, kids selling cartons of cigarettes, and signs. This leaves about 7 or 8 feet of passable driving space between the walls. (In the photo above, THAT is the road. Yes, cars will drive there.) Imagine, if you can, that there are taxis driving in this narrow passageway, being zipped around by motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles. Plus the pedestrians, of which there are MANY. Plus, no lie, donkeys pulling carts full of vegetables, or rebar, or trash. It is a constant, overwhelming anxiety attack. Now, imagine trying to walk somewhere in this maze of chaotic nonsense, all while trying to stave off the vulture men trying to lead you astray.
It’s not pleasant.
Yes, the souks are a sight to see. Yes, the shopping is bountiful and you can find a million treasures. Yes, the hammam is fantastic, and there is incredible food to be had. Yes, being able to trek into the Sahara on camelback is something you’ll never forget. But that’s it. Stay a week, maybe 10 days, and do the things. Do all the things you can. It will NOT feel like a vacation – it will feel like an experience… and that’s exactly what it is, an experience. The world is more than a vacation, and I LOVE experiencing all the things this world has to offer. However, I like being able to breathe outside, I like not feeling threatened. I like to have a sidewalk, I like knowing I am welcome. I like being anywhere my blonde hair doesn’t make me a target. That being said, I’m glad we went, and I’m glad we had the opportunity.
I’m also glad it’s over.