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Morocco: More hassle than it’s worth?

Posted by daveb on April 25th, 2008

Camel shadows in the desertWe’ve now arrived back in the UK after spending a month in Morocco. Before turning our minds to the planning of our ‘proper’ sub-Saharan Africa trip, I thought I’d take a moment to sum-up my views on Morocco, as we experienced it. Note these are my views only and–crucially–not those of Squiffy!

I’ll come right out with it: Morocco is weird.

In parts, it’s simply stunning. The High Atlas mountains, the desert at Merzouga, the walled medinas of Marrakesh and Fez, the kasbah at Ait Benhaddou. We’ve haggled with shopkeepers for lanterns, scaled mountain passes with Berbers and a mule, ridden a camel into the wilderness with nomads, surfed the coast with a crazy adrenaline junkie and yet a week or so after arriving back in Blighty, my overwhelming memory of the country is this:

Hassle.

Almost without exception, everywhere we went we got hassled. Sometimes it was light and friendly (Marrakesh). A lot of the time it was aggressive and unwanted. Sometimes it was scary and downright threatening. My advice to those wishing to journey through Morocco wanting to see the highlights but avoid the hassle? Book a tour with a specialist tour operator in the UK or hire your own car in places to avoid unfriendly towns that offer little more than hassle and touts as in Er Rachidia and Rissani.

So would I go back?

Yes and no. We spent a month in the country and feel that we really got to grips with it–certainly towards the end of our stay–and although there were a number of notable locations that we didn’t get to (coastal Essaouira and white-blue Chefchaouen, especially), it’s a big world with a lot to do and see and so I’d likely choose a new destination over returning to Morocco.

Claire wrote up a nice Morocco trip report, sharing here tips and opinion, on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree.

Comments

Comment from Suz
Time: December 10, 2008, 5:14 pm

Hi Daveb,

I think that the reason that we enjoyed our time in Morocco so much was because we’d actually gone with a tour guide. Now, I know this is against all tenets of Rolf Potts’s “vagabonding” experiences, but we really wanted to make sure we saw sights in the proper fashion upon our first trip to Africa. Feel free to read more of our Moroccan posts – maybe those will persuade you to want to return!

Best,
Suz (a.k.a. Lil’ Boozie)
“3 Troopin’ Travelers”

Comment from Tim Evans
Time: August 14, 2009, 8:20 am

Hi there

I was very interested to read your account, which I have to say I found one-sided in its perspective and conclusions.

I have travelled extensively around Morocco and experience only a light form of hassle in Marrakech (which is quite easy to deal with – see the advice on my own site at http://www.morocco-gateway.com/getting-hassled.html). Outside the cities, I have had little experience of this.

It is my own view that some travelers can overlook the effect of their own behaviour, which can trigger hostility, which those travelers put down to unwelcome “hassle”. Instead they where in fact they should examine and adjust their own behaviour. For example, walking around a poor country in expensive clothing with a camera stuck to one’s head is quite insensitive to proud, indigenous people who do not have wealth (wealth in western terms that is!)

I do not agree that the only way to enjoy Morocco is to book with a tour operator. Many like myself find that doing so means that you are channelled through the tourists run of this deeply culturally layered, beautiful and complex country. You will for sure forego the serendipity of independent travel and discovery.

Tim

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