We’ve been in Morocco for over two weeks so far. We’re currently ensconced in our lovely home on an oasis in the middle of the desert just outside of the small town of Guelmim, and we’ll be here for about 2 months. We’re doing a housesit for a Swedish expat couple. We’re taking care of their home, garden, dog, and some chickens and rabbits.
While getting to Morocco was an adventure in its own right, I really haven’t stopped marveling at this extremely unique country. As I’ve marveled at all the cultural differences, new foods, and struggled with the languages (my French is still very beginner, and I only know a few words in Arabic), I’m wondering if it’s really possible to “know” Morocco.
Tangier is a bustling, larger port city. Being in the part of Morocco that was once controlled by Spain means it’s easy to find people who speak Spanish. Very clear, beautiful Spanish as a matter of fact. Tangier itself is a city that seems to be trying to figure itself out. In some ways it’s very European while also being strongly Arabic. Parts want to be trendy and kick against the Muslim-accepted societal norms, while others are quite content.
Marrakech is, well, quite another world. Going from big city to medium-sized city usually brings some changes. When we went from Madrid, Spain to Granada, it was a noticeable difference, but the smaller town was still very Spanish.
Going from Tangier to Marrakech, though, is like being in another world entirely. Granted, we were in Tangier for a very short time, but the only real obvious commonalities were the language and the money, although you’ll find less Spanish speakers for sure.
Marrakech deserves its own post, so I won’t go into a lot here. However, this city is so incredibly unique I don’t think a realistic comparison exists. It’s so much more than just the noise, smells, and serene chaos. You can’t begin to understand Morocco without trying to unpuzzle Marrakech.
From there we traveled to the coastal town of Essaouira. Inside the medina, the older, walled portion of the town, it is every much as chaotic as Marrakech, but completely different. The town itself has a much more relaxed feel, though. But you’re still in a completely different world. The food is different. The vibe is different. The noises are different. After a week, I felt like I had only begun to scratch the surface. Still, after Marrakech and Tangier, this was a welcome retreat.
We continued further south to Guelmim, the gateway to the Saharan desert. And, once again, we had stepped into another world. We got here very late at night and found a hotel by the bus station. So far in our travels we have managed to avoid using squat toilets. Our luck ran out here. It ended up not being as bad as I had envisioned, though. Although Tigger is quite sure if he has to use one he won’t be able to do it “without breaking a leg or something.”
As we walked around our new town, an unmistakable feeling hit me. This town was Morocco. It wasn’t trying to be anything else. We had found an authentic place. There were no large amounts of tourists to attract and appease. People were simply doing what they do: Going to work, having tea with friends, shopping, selling food and other items from carts, and so on. I was, and remain, ecstatic. Every journey into town in a crowded grand taxi (aka minibus) or when crammed into a petit taxi reinstills it for me.
Unlike Tangier, Gulemim knows what it wants to be. It’s simply. . . Guelmim.
I feel like I’m truly experiencing Morocco finally. Yes, the other areas also embody this delightful country’s enigmatic incarnations, but for now I’m enjoying this version of Morocco.