For a bit of respite from the Middle East, I travelled to the north African nation of Morocco for a couple of weeks. I’d wanted to visit Morocco ever since reading The Drifters by James Michener, and although I’d been warned that it could be tricky for solo lady travellers, I was confident that I’d be fine, noting I was currently living in Lebanon. Turns out the advice was right: I was leered at and groped a bit by a group of men milling about a restaurant I had headed to for dinner. I warded them off with a few sharp “yalla imshe’s” (Arabic insults), but I was a bit shaken and not at all sure I wanted to explore further.
Fortunately the next morning I linked up with a few other random travellers and ended up having a great trip. In fact, Casablanca and its handsy dudes were the only real lowlight and I recommend that people skip Casablanca if possible. The replica Rick’s Bar is particularly underwhelming.
But the nearby capital city of Rabat and its mint tea was a welcome contrast. As was the blue boats and whitewashed alleys of the the laid-back coastal town of Essaouira, apparently a favourite of music legend Jimi Hendrix and still renowned for live music, and the bright colours of the leather factories of Fes. Even the snake-charmers in the tourist trap of Marrakesh were charming enough. Perhaps my favourite moment was an authentic hammam (steamy bath) in a village up in the Atlas Mountains.
Did Morocco live up to my Michener-inspired expectation? I’d have to say yes. The French-Arabic-African fusion makes for fantastic food/music/culture/shopping/etc and I’m definitely keen to head back sometime in the future (just not to Casablanca)!