So it’s been about 5 days since we touched down in Morocco. So I figured it was time to get some of my thoughts down on paper. We have been extremely busy, always in the process of either visiting something or planning our next move so free time has remained a luxury.
We arrived at the airport of Marrakesh at around 10 pm Morocco time and went directly to our hotel. Having already read about the culture, I knew that bargaining was not only suggested, but you were a full out sucker if you didn’t get yourself into the game. But we were tired so we accepted the first price that the taxi driver offered. About 7 euros each so nothing too excessive. Our day was FILLED with public transportation so when we finally touched down (my first time on African soil, by the way), we were pretty wiped.
Let me tell you that of all the countries that I’ve visited (quite a few), I would put Moroccans at near the top of the list in terms of friendliness. I’m not naive. I do realize that their nicety is often spurred on by their desire to make a buck, but I rest convinced that they are a kind, open, hospitable, and warm hearted people. We have been in Morocco for only 5 days and have already been invited into the homes of strangers 3 times! While I did read about this traditional Moroccan hospitality, it was a pleasant surprise to actually experience it. This, I cannot say for any other country that I’ve visited:
- The Japanese were extremely helpful and friendly with offering directions (usually accompanying until arrival) but never was I invited into a Japanese home.
- The Chinese that I worked were also very helpful, but in the 2 months I spent there, working with them, eating with them, and going out for drinks with them, did I ever see one of their homes.
One of the Visits
The prettiest site so far would have to be the Cascades d’Ouzoud, one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen and definitely a must see if you ever come to Morocco. I would even go as far to describe the area as ‘video game-like’, specifically one of the levels from Mario Kart 64. We took the trail from our Ryad to go check out the waterfall from various viewpoints.
The waterfall zooms down to a river where (unless you want to go swimming in arguably dirty water) the two banks are inaccessible from each other. The only other and far hygienic option is to take one of the boats manned by a Moroccan, who will charge you about 10 dirhams (1 euro) for the 30 second trip. We took the boat to the other side, started up the trail, and after about 15 minutes of hard uphill climbing, we were lost. We seemed to had lost all of the tourists and the only life around were the magot monkeys and probably snakes (which we didn’t see thank god). We kept walking in the hopes that we would stumble across someone and finally came across a Berber house. Using my limited knowledge of the people and culture here, the Berbers are a group in Morocco that are often relegated to Berber villages given that they do not receive all of the advantages that the rest of Moroccans receive. They are given the short end of the stick.
Anyway, we asked the first person we saw and she immediately invited us in to see drink a tea and see their traditional Berber home. We sat down on deteriorating woven stools. The mother served us mint tea, bread, and butter and we spent the next 15 minutes enjoying our tea and swiping at bugs. Not much was said given the mother’s lack of French or English, but I think everyone felt at ease nonetheless. Now living in a traditional house like that is something that I would have some difficulties with, given my relatively prosperous upbringing. But seeing the way that the poorer rural population live in Morocco was very interesting. We saw the daughter (who spoke French fluently), the father (who spoke French very well), and the mother (who spoke maybe 3 words). Oh, and they had about 5 goats.
After the tea, the father invited us into his ‘room’ to smoke with him and watch his Arabic music videos. Seriously, I didn’t even smoke but his videos reminded me so much of Borat! The mustachioed, suit toting Arab men singing their traditional songs was enough to plant images of ‘my wife!’ and shitting in plastic bag in my mind. He smoked his hash (very common in Morocco), and we watched his video in silence. After that, he led us all the way back to our Riad. We didn’t say a word the entire trip which lasted about 10 minutes over some fairly treacherous terrain. Oh, and he was in bare feet.
And perhaps most surprisingly, he didn’t ask us for any compensation for his directions. Having already been assaulted by vendors in Marrakesh; having payed for a impromptu tour of the medina by someone who just started walking and talking with us; having been ordered to pay a few dirhams after taking a picture of someone; this family was a pleasant surprise. Authentic Moroccan hospitality!
Another little word on the people. Despite all of the aggressive selling; despite the gentleman who asked me adamantly to pay for a picture I had taken; and despite each outdoor restaurant at Place Jemaa El F’na literally grabbing us and stopping just short of putting our butts IN the seats; I have never felt physically threatened by any Moroccan and from all that I have seen, I am convinced that they are a warm and friendly people by nature. But who just want to make a buck like the rest of the world.