Hello my dear readers! So sorry for the lack of posts for these last three months. I've been busy with my study abroad program in London and traveling around Europe, but now I'm back in the states and ready to share all my stories with you!
At my uni in London, I had a month long holiday for spring vacation (something American colleges should definitely adopt), and I took this opportunity to revisit some of my favorite cities, like Florence and Madrid, and new ones like Marrakech, Morocco.
People seem to have this idea that Morocco is a bit sketchy to travel to, especially alone. I should also mention that I couch surfed with a complete stranger during my stay. And yes, I realize that raises the risk for danger by about 99%. But let me assure you, I traveled here alone, stayed with a stranger, and survived. It can be safe (...or I'm just incredibly lucky).
Before traveling here, it's important to understand the cultural differences. Modesty is key when it comes to dressing, and I stuck to neutral colors to avoid any unwanted attention. But regardless of how I dressed, Morocco is a very patriarchal society, so I learned quickly that cat-calling and wandering eyes from men was just something I had to accept.
While my friends cautioned against couch surfing, it actually worked out for the best. The guy I stayed with was kind enough to give me a tour of the city and sightsee with me. It was so nice having someone who spoke the local language and knew all the main tourist attractions to see. I would have honestly been so stressed trying to navigate my way around. And because men are more respected, I just felt more comfortable walking around with him (sad, but true).
When I finally made it over from Spain, it was late at night, so I didn’t really do anything except grab dinner with my host and settled into my room. But the next morning (my first official day), I set out for a full day of exploring ancient palaces, riding a camel, and filling up on delicious Moroccan cuisine.
In the evening, my host and I went up to the terrace of Le Grand Balcon du Café Glacier to watch the sunset and the market light up.
On the second day, my host was busy, so I set off to explore more of Marrakech on my own. While I was researching things to do and places to eat, I came across Henna Café (Arset Aouzal Rd, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco). It had great reviews, so I made my way here for lunch. They serve traditional Moroccan food made fresh and the service is so friendly. You can even get safe, locally produced, all natural red henna done here - plus, all profits goes towards helping the community!
Afterwards, I went to the city center and explored more of the main square, Djemaa el-Fna. You could spend hours here watching the snake charmers, musicians, or getting lost in the maze that's the market place. This is the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs, pashmina scarves, and other trinkets, but be aware of scammers and pickpocketing.
While I was walking through the market, a lady came out of nowhere, grabbed my hand, and started to do henna on my hand without even asking first. She then kept harassing me for money and wouldn't leave me alone until I gave her some. So just be careful of people trying to make a quick buck!
I won't lie, it was a bit nerve-wracking walking around with all the cat-calling and not knowing how to fully communicate with the locals. Thank goodness French is their second language, and I knew just enough to bargain at the market. It was also insanely hot, and I didn't want to risk getting shunned by taking my sweater off (I was wearing a maxi dress with a bare back), so I spent the first half of the day just hiding in the shade. If you need to relax a little or find some shade, Cyber Park (Arset El Bilk, Marrakech, Morocco) is the perfect place - there's even free wifi throughout the park.
Marrakech is the most culturally different place I've been to so far, and at times, I was out of my comfort zone. But isn't that the point of traveling? To be outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself into another culture. Whenever I go to a new European city, or even Asian cities, I kind of know what to expect as far as culture-wise. But I had no idea what to expect from Marrakech, which made the adventure even better. I hope to be back someday and see more of it!
*Originally published on Violets for Vivien