The many faces of Morocco

Essaouira, MoroccoWe’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.

Skala, Essaouira, Morocco

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.”

Oasis, Tighmert, Guelmim, Morocco

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.

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  1. I haven’t been to Morocco yet, but have heard quite a bit about Marrakech. Your post tells me that there is much more to Morocco than Marrakech. Loved the first picture of the blue door.

    Also, find it interesting that you are actually house-sitting for 2 months. great way to pay your bills.

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    • SO much more to Morocco than Marrakech. So much more!

      Thanks about the pic.

      Yes, housesitting is wonderful! You get to save up money, live around locals and get to be part of a community, and often there are animals so you can get your pet fix. 🙂

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  2. I love your post about Morroco! I really do hope that you get to learn about and spend some time with Berber people – some of the most loving and genuine people on the planet! I would know, as I travel to Algeria to spend time with Berber family every two years. Hope you learn to love couscous, lentils, and veggies too, not just the mint tea! Enjoy your time in this lovely part of the world; it is truly unique.

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    • Berber people are definitely wonderful, genuine people. I love so many parts of their culture.

      I already loved couscous and lentils, so that’s no problem. Moroccan food has always been one that I enjoyed. And camel is now one of my favorites.

      It is most definitely unique! I’m looking forward to getting to explore even more after our housesit is done.

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  3. Had to check in to see what Morocco is like. Now I’m hooked and will have to read the entire series.

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    • As far as I’m concerned, it’s a must-visit country.

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  4. I also loved Morocco. We spent the last month there. It was amazing. My I suggest you watch how much of that wonderful tea you drink – there is a lot of sugar in each little cup. The calories piled on in Morocco and even with the tummy troubles we had, we all gained a bit of weight. Of course it could have been the delicious food. When are you headed to New Zealand – it’s a long flight from Casablanca, I know.

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    • In the south, they serve it unsweetened and give you sugar so you can add it yourself. Actually, one place in Essaouira did that, too. It really helps. When I make it at home, of course, I control it pretty easily.

      We go to NZ at the end of March or so. I think we’ll be going to Asia first, so it will be less of a haul.

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  5. I’m so glad you guys are finally in Marocco. I’ve read your last post and it scared me a little bit. Enjoy this place, I’ve never been there, but judging by what you have written it’s an amazing place 🙂

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    • It is truly amazing. Everyone should visit this country at least once in their life.

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