Aside from the breathtaking scenery and fantastic, almost permanently sunny weather, Morocco has another hidden gem…it’s warm, friendly people as well as its fascinating cultures and traditions. I summarise my encounters with Moroccan people during my first trip.
As a world traveller at heart, I believe travelling is one of the best life teachers. Travelling broadens your horizons and opens the mind, minimizing problems and emphasising blessings. This is especially true when visiting countries markedly different to your own- pushing you out your comfort zone. Travelling reveals places, foods, languages, smells, religion and culture that one never knew existed! I recently visited Morocco with my family and was blown away by the friendly, generous nature of Moroccan people. In today’s post, I recant our experience with Moroccan people.
Some people are brave and happily travel solo. I, however, am not daring enough to undertake such adventures, but I do love travelling with my family or in a group. Coming from an eastern cultural background, Morocco was not a steep learning curve, as most of the cultural rituals were similar to my own. In fact, it felt comforting to me- a trip down memory lane.
Beware of scammers
I don’t want to start off with a negative encounter, but since it was the first thing I experienced in Morocco, it seems pertinent, to inform others and hopefully prevent further scam attempts. When landing in Morocco, be careful of shady people who will hassle you to accept help with pushing your luggage trolley, and then demand payment. After a long flight, most of us are struggling to keep our act together and a particularly vulnerable to these relatively innocent scams.
I too fell for this trip when a very friendly man starting pushing my luggage trolley, within a few meters he had started yelling at me in a language I could not comprehend, demanding payment. Hello, most people just landing in a new country don’t even have cash, particularly not in the local currency! Thankfully, I was rescued by a kind soul who was able to converse with the shady fellow and return my trolley to me. My advice is to only ask recognisable airport employees for any assistance.
Leaving the airport, you’re likely to be struck not only by the intense heat but also the throngs of people. Once again, but on alert as you’re likely to be hassled by many taxi drivers offering transport- sometimes at exorbitant prices. To be honest I didn’t feel afraid but sometimes it can be a nuisance to weak hearted.
Bargaining in Moroccan medinas
As per usual traders inflate prices of items once they realise you are foreign. I think I was a bit of shock to most as I am an Asian Muslim. When walking in the medinas most would think I was a local, ‘salam’ greetings abound. I must admit I enjoyed these moments! However, when I actually stopped and engaged they realised I was actually a tourist and immediately wanted to increase the price of souvenirs. I’m well accustomed to bargaining and haggling, so I did not find this too frustrating and don’t feel I paid astronomical prices for the things I bought.
I found when we went to eat at places or just visiting, Moroccan people automatically thought I was from a certain part of another Asian country even though I was not. Furthermore, what was funny was, they also called out a famous Asian actors name that most wouldn’t know if you don’t know your Asian celebrities. But anyway, lucky for him I knew of the guy, and the waiter kept shouting out the actors name and saying I’m from the actors hometown. When he came closer I was able to explain in simple English that I wasn’t from there, but not too far from it.
Everyday life in Morocco
I prefer avoiding tourist traps and rather getting to grips with local, everyday life. Rather abstaining from the typical, traditional holiday places that are bustling with tourists. Not that these places aren’t nice or worthwhile visiting, but you know for a fact that due to its fame, it’s guaranteed to bring in many foreigners. It is important for me to actually meet real people while travelling, not our tour companies or hotel staff (i.e. people being paid to ensure you are happy). I am more intrigued with understanding the local history and culture then mingle with fellow tourists all day.
Rural and ‘everyday life’ spots are largely ignored by the majority of travellers. Wandering through these spaces- navigating washing, playing children, farms, grocery stores, offices etc reveals the real, raw elements of a city- its actual grit, heart and soul. These places won’t be found as a centre spread in a magazine or popping up in your Instagram feed. We all only post the best angles, the nicest, trendiest spots- our highlight reel, not our everyday, normal, average moments.
We had arranged a driver to fetch us from the airport. He was late, which is not a great start. Although a bit unprofessional, he seemed to have a good excuse for his tardiness, so I don’t hold it against him. Our driver was a genuinely nice guy who seemed concerned about our wellbeing during our stay in Morocco. I got a deja vu feeling from him, like we had known each other for ages, maybe like a long-distant relative. Although being our driver was his job, it always felt he went out of his way to care for and bring all relevant things to our attention. He gentle caring manner was extremely reassuring to us. This epitomises my experiences of Morocco- that on whole the people are genuinely kind and helpful.
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Aside from my airport incidence, I didn’t come across any swindlers or any scam artists during my time in Morocco. I felt safe- safer than I do when I am in London! I did find local passersby looking at us, but not in a rude way, and most would greet with the usual Muslim greeting of ‘salam’, meaning peace be with you. Waiters and shop assistants were also friendly and accommodating- I can’t recall a single one being inhospitable.
Moroccan children are very open to talking to foreigners, nothing like the west “stranger danger” infused children. Most Moroccan children even wanted hugs from foreign people (Within reason of course!). I found this incredibly heartwarming and was really drawn to these sweet children.
It’s not abnormal to see Moroccan kids playing ball and all of a sudden, they decide to pass you the ball too. The innocence and their kindness is really beautiful.
Most of the kids that you’d see hanging around, you’ll probably notice are very poor. Most will try to sell something or offer assistance for directions in order to make some cash.
In conclusion, I was lucky to be surrounded by good, kind people during my time in Morocco. I would visit again in a heartbeat (especially if someone could pay for my next trip!) and really advocate others to visit. We focussed our time in Marrakech and I hope to explore more cities during my next stay.