I am so glad to have changed the way I travel. When I was younger, I went to Hong Kong Disneyland and now it gets me thinking: what did I learn from Hong Kong? I traveled Asia extensively and saw the Batu Caves, the lively streets of Khao San and the biggest mall in Dubai but what did I pick up with these countries? Today, I kept squeezing my head trying to remember: did I learn Bahasa in Malaysia? Do I even know a single technique how the Vietnamese cook their food? I’ve been trying to remember even if I already know the answer.
My trip to Morocco is coming to an end and I can really say that I know a lot about this country and culture. From Couchsurfing, to work exchange, to learning how to cook their food, to staying with a Moroccan family – that’s how I sum up my experience. I can’t even believe that three months have passed and a lot of challenging things already happened to me in this country. But you know what? I am fully embracing every single day that I stayed and lived here like them. One day, I will look back and say, “I really know Morocco.”
1. It’s a Muslim country
Does it matter? For me, it does. I’ve visited a lot of Muslim countries before but this is the first time that I was able to fully understand how they live according to religion. The best part is, I was here during the month-long observation of Ramadan, which adds to the tangibility of the experience. I saw how religion runs this country; I’ve seen people go to the Mosque and pray everyday (even with my Couchsurfing friends);
2. Morocco poops oranges.
During my long road trips within the country, I have passed by vast lands where orange trees stood. It must be the first time in my life that I have ever seen such thing. It’s amazing! I don’t know how much oranges can Morocco grow but all I know is that, they never run out of this fruit.
3. The people are very kind.
I, myself wasn’t sure about safety when I first landed Morocco. I kept listening to people who said, “it’s very dangerous there.” I even had arguments with some family members along the way. I was here for three months and I met a lot of kind people who offered me their homes, introduced me to their culture and taught me the language. You can see that their hearts are really big once you try to interact with them. The vendor, people on the streets, waiters, chefs, drivers, regardless of the hustlers – kind is the right adjective for them. Dear family and friends, I safely traveled Morocco. These people protected me and loved me as their friend.
4. The food?
… is okay. The first few weeks of my stay was all about complaining what I eat. I missed Asian food so dearly that it started appearing in my sleep. Restaurants serve very oily tajine but the best tea and coffee compromised. But hey! I stayed with a family who fed me with the real Moroccan tajine and coscous. It’s a lot different than eating in restaurants! How the food is cooked is crafted with art and love. I also learned that the locals only go to restaurants for coffee and to hang out with their friends but they always eat at home. That also explains why everytime you enter a restaurant to eat, you will be sitting down with a lot of other tourists.
5. Economy wise…
I learned from a friend that employment is a bit tough in the country. They don’t have as much jobs and if they have, it pays very little. With this, people opt to stay at home to put their efforts to family businesses like selling fruits, carpets, lamps, (Moroccan crafts) etc. I also met some young lads who is personally picking up oranges from the farm and selling it on the streets as juices. When in doubt, the Philippines offer big employments in call centers where everyone can apply even if you are not a college graduate. In Morocco, they don’t have such thing because they only speak Arabic or French. Some speak English but not the level that call centers require. The education system is quite challenging too. Because of the employment scarcity, not all families can afford to send their children to school. Children who do not go to school ends up like the older people who cannot find jobs – helping in the house. I met kids who learned how to operate gadgets, how to speak a foreign language, through tourists.
6. They talk violently but they are harmless.
The first day I landed in Casablanca, I already witnessed people fighting at the parking lot of Casa Voyageurs (train station from the airport). You will see fury on their faces. I got a bit scared and avoided it. Until then, come Ramadan, I saw major mouth fights in Fez. Men shouting at each other while the rest is standing in between. That didn’t stop there. On my way back to Casablanca, I took a local bus with a friend and the whole ride was loud. One man at the back didn’t want to pay for the bus so the controller got really angry. The man is trying to be macho by not paying but sorry, he pissed everyone off. Despite all these, I never saw people physically hurting each other. Othmane said that Moroccans like to talk but never punch or use their hands to hurt other people. But coming from an outsider’s point of view, I was always terrified with the shouting. However, I got used to it along the way. Whenever you encounter these kinds of situations in Morocco, worry not. It will not end in a blood shed.
7. They breathe through tourism.
Of all the Muslim countries, Morocco considers itself as one of the most lenient. They are used to tourists wearing shorts – something that is not bearable for some Muslim countries. Like what I have mentioned in item number 5, almost all Moroccan families have businesses selling Moroccan crafts, ergo, they need customers. This is where the tourists come in.
8. They speak a lot of languages.
In relation of being fond of tourists, Moroccans can speak German, French, Spanish, English, even Dutch, but only the basics. For example, a receptionist in a hostel can speak “This is your room,” “50 dirhams per night,” “The toilette is this way” in all those different language. However, if you try to get out of that conversation rail, they will be lost. The primary language is Arabic (Berber for some regions of the country), and secondary is French.
9. They eat with their hands. (and with a lot of bread)
When you immerse with a Moroccan family, you will notice that they don’t use utensils in eating. It’s customary for Moroccans to eat with their right hands, sharing one big pot for the whole family/group. Alongside a delicious tajine meal are big chunks of bread which serves as a scooping utensil.
10. It is very rich in crafts
If I had a chance to buy all these things and bring it all the way around the world, I would. Morocco´s artisan economy is very rich that it is very visible to all of its cities. Carpets, shoes, leather goods, bags, lamps — everything is here. If you´re pegging your house to have an antique-like-medieval look, Morocco is the place to go to.
I had a very nice and exciting three months of my life here! Thank you Morocco and all the bitter-sweet memories that we shared. It´s time to go. 🙂