When it comes to Morocco, there’s a heavy myth that I want to dispel. Before Instagram, Morocco was never that far up on the radar for me of places to visit. With the help of social media platforms coupled with travel wanderlust, FOMO very quickly became a thing. The only photos that I ever saw of Morocco were of the beautiful hotels, jaw dropping architecture, and stunning scenery. But that isn’t the case. Sure I loved Morocco, but to be very honest, it probably isn’t going to be a place that I would suggest that everyone put at the top of their travel bucket list. While it’s most definitely a phenomenal place to visit, travelers be wary. Here are some things to keep in mind before you book that trip to Morocco.
There is a significant disparity in socio-economic status.
Within the confines of your riad/hotel, everything may appear to be perfect. A plush mattress, air conditioning, smoothies at all time of the day, clean water, flushable toilets – essentially what you’re used to having back in the comfort of your own home and even better. But the minute you step out the doors of your hotel, everything changes. Inside the Medina, there is a significant disparity in socio-economic status from tourists to the general locals. Walk past any alley way and you’ll easily see at least one home constructed out of concrete without finished floors, walls, or even proper plumbing. People can be seen sleeping on straw mats, to brushing their teeth out of tin pots filled with water. Your experience of Morocco may not necessarily translate to be exactly accurate as to how the locals live. Morocco is not a 24/7 resort for the locals. The country is still mostly developing – what you see on Instagram is not representative of what the rest of the country lives like.
Gender equality is a rare aspect.
Men are still considered to be more valuable than women. Women are rarely out in public during the day and typically flock to the streets in the evenings. Although the country itself is fairly safe, I wouldn’t recommend that any women travel there without a male – not unless you enjoy a challenge. You’ll be taken a lot more seriously by the locals if you aren’t alone – and especially if accompanied by a male companion, and you’ll also be able to not only haggle for better rates, but not be mislead into back allies.
You’re expected to haggle.
When it comes to shopping, the entire economy is based on haggling. The owner of the riad that I stayed at told me that the general rule of thumb is to always haggle for 40-50% below the asking price. Typically the shopkeepers are aware that you’ll try to haggle, so they’ll increase the prices of their products before you have the chance to reduce it. A good way to make sure that you’re getting the best deal is to do sufficient research before hand. Go online and find out what the regular prices are for different products that you want to buy (ie. rugs, slippers, kettles, pillows, etc.) so that you can create a bottom dollar for what you’re willing to spend. The last thing that you want to do is overpay for your souvenirs or worse – disrespect a shopkeeper by offering way below what they regularly sell for.
Money makes the world go around.
And people will do whatever they can to make money. You’ll most likely get lost within the Medina as it’s designed to be a giant maze, and the children/teenages will prowl on lost travelers to guide them for cash. You’ll also encounter hecklers in the square that will follow you around telling you that their restaurant is the best — trust me, they did this to us for almost 5 minutes before we completely walked out of the square. I’m not kidding when I say that your regular social etiquette boundaries will be pushed in Marrakech. Is there a way to stop it? Not really, but the best way to prevent it from continuing is to completely ignore the ones that are bothering you. The less attention that you give them, the less attention that they’ll give you.
There are good people out there.
We got lost one time and this kind lady guided us exactly to where we needed to be. We had stopped her in her journey to somewhere, and she completely back tracked her steps just to help us — all without asking for money. It just goes to show that with all the money hungry folk, there will always be kind ones who are willing to do a good deed without being rewarded for it.
As long as you’re careful, you won’t be pick-pocketed.
We were warned by many of our friends that pick-pocketing is a huge issue when in Morocco. Luckily for us, Marrakech didn’t seem like the most pick-pocket plagued city. We weren’t overly cautious, but kept an eye out, and were always aware of any suspicious activity. We were fortunate enough that we were never once pick pocketed, but I’ve heard stories of otherwise, so traveler beware.
Google Maps will not be your saviour.
We’ve heard rumours that Marrakech didn’t allow for the Google Maps team to enter and map out their area, which is why Google Maps isn’t totally accurate when you’re walking around the Medina. Whether that’s the truth or not, we can’t confirm. But what we can confirm is that using Google Maps definitely isn’t going to provide you with much help. With so many tunnels, dead ends and curved alleyways, you’re best off getting a paper map from wherever you’re staying and laying out your route directly onto there. Back to the 90’s we go! It was actually quite nice using a paper map all over again, kind of nostalgic!
The OJ there is the best you will ever taste – anywhere in the world.
My friend Camilla had told us that she had previously visited Marrakech a long time ago and didn’t remember much of it, besides the fact that the OJ was out of the world and something that we had to try. I’ve been on a little bit of an OJ kick lately so I figured it wouldn’t hurt. After I had my first one, I could see why. Every cup of OJ taste like it was extracted from tangerines. Perfectly sweet with a rich orangey flavour, it’s nothing like the tart and citrusy orange juice that we drink in North America. Now I never want to buy OJ from the grocery store ever again!
As a tourist, you can wear whatever you want.
Before embarking on our trip, I did a lot of research into what I would be expected to wear while visiting Marrakech. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the locals, while at the same time be able to wear what I wanted. I quickly learned that as a tourist, they don’t really care and you can wear whatever you want.
But you might still get uncomfortable looks.
I also learned though that men there aren’t used to seeing women that unclothed, which led to a lot of uncomfortable stares. I quickly remedied the situation by wearing a long t-shirt dress over top of my less than modest tops and wore long skirts over top of my short shorts. I maintained these methods of cover up between my riad to the final destination to ward off any uncomfortable looks – but it was definitely tricky to handle since it was so hot while we were visiting.
Thanks for making it all the way to the end of my post! The goal of this post wasn’t to shatter anyone’s visual of Morocco but rather to provide some insight into what being a traveler there really is like compared to what is shown on Instagram. Being an Instagrammer myself, I know that we often choose to only show the best parts of each day, which can really skew a viewers impression of how our entire day went. Hopefully if you still have plans to travel to Morocco in the near future that this opens up your mind a little and that you still enjoy it to its fullest capacity!