I had looked at all the photos online, I had watched most every documentary on Morocco, I even read a bunch of Travel books about Morocco & even had dated someone from Rabat. But I did NOT expect to feel so at home as I did, and so peaceful & fall in love with the people in Morocco like I did. After having all the fear and stress & PTSD & Anxiety that I had been fighting for the last year; I feel like this place healed me in ways I can’t even tell you. I’m not saying I still don’t have things that need healing, but instead of feeling like there was no good in this world anymore, it helped me see that there truly are good, kind, helpful, funny, and bright spirited individuals left in this world– and that in and of itself made the ENTIRE trip worth it. I went there with no plans, didn’t even know if the guy I had been talking to would actually be at the airport, would I recognize him? Was I putting myself in danger in such a strange land? A resounding NO to both of these questions.
Getting off the airplane in Morocco, it was a smaller plane & you have to deplane via stairs so not having a large carryon or large bags to take off the plane was super convenient. There were a lot of people from France on the flight with me, who were also on a Holiday (Spring Break for them). So it was a little more crowded than usual, and waiting in line in the Border Patrol was so HOT! I honestly thought I was going to melt into a puddle on the floor like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. I had forgotten my little fan in the shuttle at the airport in Paris that I took to see the Museo D’Orsay, and was kicking myself pretty hard. I used my passport to fan myself and after 30 min of standing in line, I started talking to the people behind me who happened to be Moroccan’s. The women were wearing Hijabs, and the men were quiet; the women were so nice, asked if it was my first time there and if I had someone to pick me up from the airport. They advised that anyone traveling here, especially women, alone, should have a prearranged ride– this is for Casablanca. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco, and very much into the business side of things. You can hit the edge of Casablanca, drive 30 minutes and still only be at the 1/3 of the way across the city. Men and women should travel in pairs of 3’s AT MINIMUM at night, especially if pulling out money from a ATM, or parking your car down a dark alley. This is very different from Rabat, just so you know. Rabat is the Capitol and although still large, it is much safer due to the neighborhoods having residents that have been there for several generations and obviously they know everyone in that neighborhood and if someone misbehaves, they know who’s mom to call 🙂
Lest I digress, the Women were so nice, asked if I knew anyone in Morocco, asked where I was traveling to while I was there, how long I was staying, told me some great food to try and the more remote areas of Morocco that people didn’t know about that I should visit. It made the time in that line a lot less tiresome & painful.
It was finally my turn to check in through border patrol. I didn’t have the address of the place I was staying, nor the name of the Hotel, and just saying ‘I’m meeting a friend here and staying with them’ doesn’t cut it for Moroccan Police. So I held up the line while I texted my friend I was meeting and after I got the name of the Hotel & address was allowed through with no problems. Then you wait in another line, where a guard made fun of me for fanning myself with my passport, lol — made me laugh because I guess I didn’t expect the Border Patrol guys to make jokes. Then you go through another security step, where all the luggage has to be scanned again for bombs I guess, before you are allowed outside the airport. Lots of people are waiting, but they have fences that restrict the waiting parties from crowding too much to not be able to get through. My friends I was suppose to meet were right there waiting for me, and the were so TALL!!!!! I have never been to a country where I felt so incredibly SHORT; being 5’4″ (1.6meters) I know I’m on the short side, but I seriously felt like a child when standing next to these guys. They were immediately warm and smiling and laughing, took my luggage for me, and we got in the car and started traveling to Rabat which was about a 1 hour drive away. It was a little colder than I expected, and I couldn’t believe I was in AFRICA! I kept saying that about every 20 minutes for most of the ride to Rabat. It kinda surprised me that the music they were playing was Rap and they were super excited to show me that Wiz Khalifa was going to be playing in Rabat and showed me some of his songs, because I am actually not to familiar with him (#notarapfan). I kinda laughed at myself, because for some reason I had it in my mind that only Arabic/Indian sounding songs would be played on the radio, but there was so much American Music. I was also surprised to learn that Snoop Dog actually had a house in the South of Morocco near Marrakech or something; other superstars that frequent Morocco include David and Victoria Beckham- they actually got married here in Marrakech and renewed their vows in 2008. RedOne the music producer behind putting Lady Gaga on the music Map, winning a Grammy for Poker Face which he ended up giving to the King of Morocco– and has also worked with Enrique, JLo, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, Cher and Michael Jackson. So Marrakech is like the Las Vegas of Morocco, and they too actually call it ‘Sin City’ as well, lol, complete with bars, malls, romantic strolls, carriage rides etc…. which I will address in a separate post.
It was about 1030pm or 11pm at night, most places that you could eat traditional food were closed; so where did we go???? McDonalds…..I hate McDonalds, BUT this was different– the meat was so much better than what you get in the states, they have sauces that are amazing compared to the states, and the FRIES omg those fries, so gooooood – they are literally carved into boats & cut fresh like you would get at any In’n’Out joint. I started laughing that my first meal in Morocco was at McDonalds, but I’m kinda glad to see their spin on it, and to hear that apparently McDonalds was where the “rich people went” to eat. The guys said that if you wanted to really show off to your Girlfriend that you would take them to McDonalds. There were girls there all dressed up, no head scarves, and makeup like you would see on a MAC makeup commercial there. It was so different from the mindset in the States of ‘taking a girl to a nice place’, lol.
They took me on a drive by tour of the City and showed me the more popular places, and the place where most Moroccan families get wedding photos done, by the Mausoleum of Mohamed the V which is a huge tradition there. The Brides gown, omg, so BEAUTIFUL!! Remember Cinderella’s gown in the real version of the Disney movie? Imagine that but with a huge intricate line of jewels down the front with long sleeves edged with the same jewels and a stunning tiara against the dark ebony flowing hair of the bride…..STUNNING….I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of this, I’m still envious thinking of it.
They drove me to Le Pietri Hotel in downtown Rabat, the streets are pretty much impossible to navigate on your own, unless you are a local that can ask directions in Moroccan Arabic. A common saying in Morocco is, ‘you can never get lost as long as you have your mouth’ — I would add to that ‘and speak the language’ — it was kinda fun to see that these huge giants of manly men did not feel it somehow hurt their value as a man to ask for directions, lol.
I didn’t know what to expect at the hotel, but it had an elevator, a dining area, very nice furnishings, and very European toliets, AC, wake up calls available, Wifi, and a gorgeous little balcony overlooking the busy cross street below that was right near Parliament and about a 10 min walk from the Old Medina of Rabat. I was so excited to take a shower and was loving the AC after the hot long wait in the Border patrol. To get into the shower though, I had to sit on the edge and swing my legs over, because the edges were soooo tall! Again, Morocco is not really made for short people, lol. Most of the bathrooms are completely tiled with either granite or cultured marble, which when wet is VERY SLIPPERY and could break your bones if you fall the wrong way, so be wary of this when entering and exiting.
The next day, we explored Rabat EVERYWHERE! I asked Omar and Nabil to show me the Morocco that they wanted Americans to know, the ‘deep Morocco’ that people don’t realize is there and isn’t full of tourists and hoards of vans of tourists taking photos. They arranged for me to stay in a cheaper apartment as well so as to save money because the Hotel was around $80 a night, and the apartment was around $30 a night. Just so you know, there is definitely a difference for the budget price, but it was a unique experience that I was grateful for because it allowed me to walk around in Agadair the ‘shopping’ area of Rabat while they finished up things for work so that we could go and travel. I felt SO underdressed in this part of the city, people don’t wear shorts in this part of town, and the clothing was so fancy, and everything I brought was so warm. So I did quite a bit of shopping & tried to order food on my own from a little café which through charades was able to get something relatively decent. (Note: if you speak any French, you will be just fine in Morocco especially the bigger cities because most business is done via Moroccan Arabic, French and/or English).
The video I have attached here will give you a little summary of the places that we visited & a view of the people of Morocco– that are probably not what matches what most Americans know. But keep in mind, Morocco is where the people from Paris go on vacation…..that should be all you need to know.
If you have any questions of the places featured in this video or would like to arrange a tour of Morocco– I have several contacts there now that can accomadate you, so email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Enjoy the video and be sure to watch til the end for some funny stories 🙂 Happy travels, and get out there and break through those barriers of cultural stigmas and fears.