“Go to Morocco. It’s exotic and different and you’re going to love it.” That’s what people continued to tell me. I heard this all the time and I jumped at the chance to get outside my comfort zone, booking a backpacker’s dream through Portugal, Spain and then finally, Morocco.
It was definitely exotic.
It was definitely different.
But…. I didn’t know that I loved it.
The medina's are a mesmerizing puzzle, which take you every direction through the heart of the city, and it is so easy to get lost in. There are merchants lining the walls, selling lamps, oils, rugs, leather, jewelry, and so much more. The sweet stalls, sell pastries and treats that you can’t even identify, but they melt in your mouth and leave you craving more. Moroccan mint tea served in those intricate colored glasses, tagine steaming on your plate, couscous tickling your senses; the food here is remarkable. Cut and dry, the sights, smells, and tastes in Morocco, are amazing.
But why didn’t I love it? I felt that I had to wear a scarf and cover my hair before leaving my Riad so I didn’t stick out as a foreigner. But even while wearing my loose, cotton pants, and baggy, long sleeved shirts, hair covered in a scarf, (all the advice I read from previous travel bloggers to avoid harassment) I was cat-called, harassed, called names, and grabbed. I carry an American passport and I am American. Unfortunately this was not a new experience to me, but the rate of harassment was exponential to that back home. I would get anxious to walk through the medina, about who would stop me next and what they would say, frequently staring at my feet with my head down. I felt that I could not enjoy getting lost or looking at what treasures were hanging on all sides of me. When I feigned interest in a stall, the merchants jumped out, “yes, you like? More inside!” They were aggressive, working to make a sale. But the more the merchants persisted, the more the harassment ensued, the less I wanted to be there. I prepared myself for this, and I knew to let go of it and let my wonder guided me to new experiences, but somehow I had enough. I was glad for the experience, but wanted no more of what Morocco had to offer.
That’s when I stumbled across this elderly man woodworking with his feet. Behind him were the most intricate boxes, and when my friends and I stopped to look, he kept working. He did not jump up and harass us to make a sale, but smiled. His work was unlike anything we had seen in other stalls before, the man was talented! Each box was different than the next, showcasing a variety of unique woods and designs. Immediately, a friend and I wanted to purchase one, unsure of which to choose. He grew excited, that we loved his work, and started grabbing different boxes from all around, piling them in my arms. “Open this,” he’d say and grin. These were trick boxes, and I would have to find the key and then manipulate the box to find the keyhole. And guess what? I did it! He was so impressed, stating that no one had ever done that before, and for that I deserved a prize! “Get out your cameras, here, make a video of this!” And he sat back down, working the knife and twirling the wood, all with his feet. The result was a chess piece in which he drilled a hole, strung, and draped around my neck as a necklace. Finally narrowing down our choices and making a purchase, we wanted a picture with him, but he wouldn’t let us leave until he had a picture of us too, and gave hugs all around.
This is the Morocco I sought out.
This was my connection, my experience that I was craving.
We walked away from that sweet man and his stall, and we spent the afternoon on a typical tourist activity; riding camels into the sunset. I was elated about how our morning went and our next connection came with our tour leader, who after talking with us invited us over to see a typical Moroccan home and have some tea. We met his mother and were given gifts of gold bangles and our own mint tea to take home to our families. This family was so grateful that we were there to see their country and they wanted us to have the best experience, the best impressions to take back home with us. These people were so genuine and authentic. They invited us over the next day for couscous, and wanted to take us in and care for us as friends. But this was my last night, my last impression of Morocco, and oh what an impression it was! Morocco: the place where hours before I couldn’t wait to go, now I didn’t want to leave.
So it’s true, once I let go of that which discomforted me, I was opened up to the best side of Morocco. So this is why I urge you, to get outside your comfort zone. You may not always have the best experiences, but this is why we travel, to learn more about other cultures but most importantly to learn more about ourselves.
April 2017 Share Blog Issue
Chelsea Hartman, from Follow Your Hart…Man is a pediatric nurse that is passionate about life. When she is not working, she is exploring this beautiful world. When she can’t jump on a plane to the other side of the world, she stays close to home, taking a look back at all the great adventures she feels she has been fortunate enough to have. Be sure to check out this upcoming travel blogger!
Check Out Her Blog Today!