Hearing the name “Morocco” conjures images of snake charmers, bright colors, lazy beach towns, and spicy food, but there’s so much more to Morocco than meets the eye.
You could spend weeks in the country and barely scratch the surface, but here are five things you absolutely have to experience when visiting:
Visit Jemaa el Fna in Marrakech at night
Jemaa el Fna, which literally means “The Mosque at the End of the World,” is the main square in Marrakech’s medina. During the day, this square is home to countless orange juice stands; stalls touting olives, nuts, and dried fruits; snake charmers; henna tattooists; monkeys on chains; and more.
However, at night, the entire feel of the square changes — pop-up restaurants emerge offering everything from kebabs and tagines to couscous and fried seafood; story-tellers, magicians, and dancing-boys (boys who dress as girls and dance) offer their entertainment; and various carnival-style games (think fishing for coke bottles) draw crowds.
Visiting at night and not only seeing all of it, but participating in it, is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Get lost in Fes’ medina
The labyrinthine medina in Fes is an easy place to wander around and get lost. It has more than 9000 streets, some of them so narrow that only one person can fit and, if you run into oncoming “traffic,” one of you has to drop down into a doorway to let the other pass by. These streets are lined with various shops and lead to mosques, marketplaces, and tanneries. Part of the fun is seeing what you can find, and then paying someone to help you find your way back to your riad.
If you’re feeling less adventurous, check with your riad or hotel staff to see if they can arrange for an escorted tour through the medina.
Camp in the Sahara
There are numerous companies offering excursions to the Sahara to sleep in Berber camps under the stars. Whether you choose to take a 4×4 or ride a camel for several hours into the desert, it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed. On your way out, stop to watch the sunset over the dunes and be delighted by more stars than you’ve probably ever seen in your life. Then, watch the moon rise, have a delicious meal, play some music and dance around a fire, and take off to the dunes to smoke some sheesha before sandboarding back to camp and retiring to bed in your tent.
In the morning, wake up early to catch the sunrise over the Sahara before mounting your camel or 4×4 back to civility.
Photograph Chefchaouen’s blues
Chefchaouen is one of those towns that almost doesn’t seem real. It’s a quiet town situated in the Rif Mountains and is easily accessible by bus from Tangier. Once in the medina, you’ll find yourself in awe of the blue-washed walls, which are said to ward off mosquitoes. Chefchaouen is the perfect place to get some unique photographs — nothing else in Morocco even remotely resembles it.
Barter in the souks
It’s almost impossible to visit Morocco and not do some shopping. You can easily pick up scarves, teapots, carpets, blankets, leather goods, spices, argan oil, and more for relatively inexpensive if you know what you are doing. Most of the souks don’t put prices on their items, leaving it up to them to name a price for you on the spot. Do your research before you consider buying something, and settle on a price you’re not willing to go over before beginning your bargaining. It’s unfortunate, but a lot of people will try to rip you off and some will even play on your emotions to get you to pay their higher prices. Don’t feel guilted into paying what they’re asking if you feel uncomfortable — there are plenty of other souks offering similar, if not the same, things for better prices.
About the Author
Megan Allene Smith is a former cubicle-dweller turned career breaker, currently gallivanting around the globe. She’s on a mission to experience, photograph, and write about the world. You can connect with her on her blog, Meganotravels, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.