Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Returning to Morocco: My Thoughts on the Maghreb

No two experiences are ever the same. The first visit anywhere may mold one's conceptions about the destination, but the second one is where the details emerge. And this was no different when I returned to Morocco.

As you realize by now, I loved Morocco so much when I went two years ago that I spent 10 days there this past February/March. The first time around, my perceptions included the following: no "good deed" is free; everything is dirt cheap; women can't walk five feet without being verbally harassed; and the orange juice and mint tea are the best things I've ever tasted. These notions still hold true, but there's more to them than I'd initially realized.

Since my return to Morocco, here's what I've noticed:
  • There are no women sitting in the cafés, at least not in Marrakech or Tangier--cafés are absolutely male-dominated.
  • On that note, any female taxi driver, shopkeeper, or souk worker took me by surprise...
  • ...yet the women are way stronger and tougher than you'd expect.
  • Hammams are open late so women can bathe after finishing the cooking, cleaning, and other chores. Men really do run the households.
  • Tourists get "ripped off" so much because, at the end of the day, the shopkeepers and street performers need the money wayyyyy more than we do. Thirty dirham, or three euros, is pocket change to us; for them, that means putting dinner on the table.

But the most important realization I made is that Morocco challenges me for the better. Dodging verbal harassment, going to the bathroom in a hole, and being unable to drink the water have made me a more flexible traveler, more grateful for what I have, and more knowledgable about life in a developing country. Sure, it may be stressful to ensure I have enough bottled water with which to brush my teeth, but it also makes me think about the comforts I enjoy back in France and in the United States.

Regardless, I'd "rough it" any day if it means I get to be in Morocco. And you better believe I'm going to return for a third, fourth, and even fifth time.

How have your thoughts about a destination developed after returning there?

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