So, I’ve just returned from an incredible experience in Marrakech and wanted to share it with you. Some people have been asking me why me and my boyfriend chose Marrakech over the other cities in Morocco and to me, it seems like the obvious first choice. I’m not sure why. However, we were both very interested in visiting the city and it seemed like the best city to start with to get an idea of what Morocco is like, before we explore the rest of it/the rest of Africa in later years.
Please read this blog post first. It tells you about two crazy thrilling and terrifying experiences that happened in Morocco and this post is a lead up from that.
Apart from those experiences, I wanted to share what I thought of Marrakech as a whole and the differences that I discovered. Unfortunately, I don’t have any great pictures as my camera is currently broken and I only have iPhone quality photos, which aren’t great.
First off, I have to tell you that (stupidly) I read pretty much nothing on the country or the culture beforehand. I didn’t really have time and I had a vague idea of the religions and history surrounding the city. I definitely was NOT prepared for the city. I would highly recommend reading up on the culture and history before you visit the country.
Here’s some things I picked up from my trip:
If you know about the city/country, I assume you will know a little about the economic situation. I knew nothing before I went and so wasn’t expecting it to be as poor as it was. Being a typical Westerner with no experience of Africa, I assumed that because it was a touristy area, it would be well kept to a relative standard. This is wrong. Even in the touristy areas, it looks like a bomb site. But it’s still very beautiful, and the gardens and palaces are breathtaking compared to the busy areas.
As I went more in to the suburbs, I realised the extent of the poverty in the country. It’s sad to see and was one of the more awakening parts of the trip.
The animal abuse that you see in the country is disgusting and completely opened my eyes to the reality of animal abuse in countries like this. Please skip this section if you don’t want to hear about the abuse as it’s quite graphic. Horses, donkeys and camels are used everywhere and you see one at least every five minutes, carrying stuff for us humans. Also, there were sweet, little chicks who were coloured bright pink and blue and looked awfully thirsty. I almost cried as I walked past, I wanted to steal them all and take care of them after they’d been treated so badly. Also, cats were everything, dirty and desperate for food, some just dead lying around and no one to look after them.
The worst was when there was a truck stopped in one of the really small streets causing a traffic jam. We tried to get to the front of it before I realised it was a truck with caged chickens and the driver was passing them to the chicken-slayer shop at the side of the road. There were a hundred chickens in these tiny cages, no room to move, sticking their head out for air. The driver was grabbing them by the feet as they screamed and holding them upside down, then handing them to the chicken-slayer to kill. In the chicken-slayer’s shop, there were hundreds of chickens lined up waiting to die.
I was so close to the truck of chickens I could hear them all screaming, and see how badly they needed food or water. One of the chickens faces were so close to mine I can’t get his little head out of my mind.
If there’s one good thing that has come out of witnessing this, I genuinely believe I can’t eat chicken again. That night at the hotel, the only meat thing I could eat was chicken and I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. And since, I’ve decided to cut out meat completely for the foreseeable future. Perhaps when I leave France, and I know exactly where the meat is coming from, I will eat meat again. But at the moment, I’m trying vegetarianism.
Road rules DO NOT exist. I mean: LITERALLY DO NOT EXIST.
I’m not sure if this is entirely true, but I’d be very surprised if there are laws defining what happens on the roads. And I’d be even more surprised if you even have to take driving lessons. With no exaggeration, everyone drives where ever the hell they want to drive. At some points, there are people, people carrying things, people in buggys, bikers, scooters, camels, horses, donkeys, trucks, tuk-tuk’s and, of course, cars ALL IN THE SAME ROAD. It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-metre wide street or a six-lane road, there is always some form of animal or automobile on the road. Here are certain things Moroccan drivers always do:
- Drive over two lanes on a motorway
- Drive on the other side of the road (I am not exaggerating; on small roads, left or right lanes do not exist, you choose the side you like).
- Drive 5cm away from the car in front of them.
- Overtake a bike/camel/horse/scooter/person walking/donkey on a small road with a car and a bike/camel/horse/scooter/person walking/donkey coming the other way.
- Do not care for pedestrians.
- Fit four people on to a scooter (we saw a whole family on one scooter!)
- Beep at everyone.
- Say hi to everyone they know (which is everyone).
- Take a death wish every time they decide to drive.
Driving in a Moroccan car (or anything else) is pretty much taking a 50/50 chance of dying. All I could think about was how my mum (hi, mum) would have fainted and squealed every two seconds. It was pretty fun though.
Everyone is unbelievably friendly
After the experiences I mentioned in the other blog post, I realised how nice everyone was. It really doesn’t matter if they’re trying to sell you something or not, they always want to help. Everyone wants to give you directions, and even if you make it clear you won’t follow them, they’ll tell you to have a nice day and tell you where everything is in the nearby area.
People want to make common interests with you by talking about the local football team from your area or anything about the country you’re from. They really try to speak English even though they don’t learn it in school and are just generally great people.
One of my main worries before going to Marrakech was about how careful I should dress to not gain too much attention and to respect the religion and culture. However, I found that nobody cared, as they are so used to tourists, and pretty much just want to have a nice chat.
If you didn’t read the blog post I linked at the start, there are two things I want you to take away from this post if you decide to visit Morocco:
- If someone tells you they’re not a guide but want to take you somewhere, don’t follow them. They are taking you to their shop to sell you stuff.
- Try to avoid streets where you can hear animals, it will only make you upset.
- Everyone is lovely and there is no reason to feel unsafe at all. At one point, we tried to tell a jeweller to keep the change as he had given us some maps but he insisted that we take the change. He gave us local mint tea and had to run to another shop to even get the change we needed. They really are good people and not malicious in any way.
Again, here is a link to the other blog post if you feel like reading that now.