People ask all the time what it is about Morocco that keeps me going back. The first time I visited I just wanted to see it. Just the sound of the names of the major cities intrigued me: Cassablanca. Marrakech. Fes. All cities I had heard of and in the same breath as other faraway and romantic-seeming cities like Timbuktu, Constantinople (Istanbul), and Bombay. I wanted to see the Sahara, ride a camel, and photograph the colors.
But once there I realized Morocco is all of that: faraway, romantic, colorful. And it’s a lot more. It’s vast! It’s landscape goes on forever. Only a bit smaller geographically than California, Morocco has everything: mountains, desert, seaside, rich rural culture, and vibrant cities. And more. There’s a grandeur about it on one hand and a plainness on the other. A quietness and a calmness countered with a buzz of excitement and energy.
So what is it about the place that keeps me going back? The people, the food, and the Muslim culture!
I feel safe in Morocco, like I understand the people. I can hold my own there. I can walk through the medina and souk and manage to mostly-thwart their efforts to flirt, sell, or cajole. It’s all a part of the experience. People are helpful and will go out of their way for you when they can. I’ve seen it over and over. They seem authentically happy to have a conversation with you and seem genuine when they say they just want to talk to you. And most everyone speaks a variety of languages. For sure French, Arabic, and most speak some English. So it’s easy to communicate for the most part, at least in the cities.
The food! It is among my favorite taste palettes of any place I’ve visited (Vietnam is right up there, too!). Tajine, brochette, dates and oranges, couscous, grilled lamb! And all with rich spices to add incredible flavor to the simplest of meals.
The Muslim culture. The call to prayer 5x each day is beautiful and calming. But it seems less stringent religiously than other countries seem to be. Now I can’t say that for sure but it seems more relaxed and easygoing than some of its Arab counterparts. I think that’s what makes it easy to travel there: it’s relaxed and easygoing. While it’s important to dress modestly in these Muslim countries out of respect for the culture, Moroccans are more easygoing about it in the cities.
I visit Morocco for all of these reasons. But there’s so much more. So much more that I cannot describe or photograph; there’s a feeling about the place. A calmness; a slowness. A tranquility. But mostly that’s off the beaten track.
If you visit, see all the hotspots in Marrakech and Casablanca, but then spend your time off the beaten track, discovering the hillsides, the riversides, the souks in small towns. Eat at roadside barbecue restaurants. Stay under the stars in the Sahara. Get away from it all and experience the tranquility of Morocco!