I think I first want to start by talking about our expectations of Morocco. When we told our friends and family that we were travelling to Morocco and Spain, we got a response that we were really disappointed to hear. Although everyone was excited about Spain, many people asked us “why Morocco?”. We also got a lot of “oh wow, be careful in Morocco”, which really bothered me. It was as if they were saying that they thought Morocco was one of the most dangerous places to travel, and we found out the complete opposite. Although I would love to say that these opinions and remarks didn’t affect me, it did a little bit. I was a little scared at first and honestly didn’t know what to expect.
Arrived in Morocco
We landed in Rabat late at night. After a long time in line at customs, we got our stamp and were off. It took us a while but we made it to our Airbnb with the help of a few locals. I remember these first hours in Morocco so clearly. Walking through the Medina in pitch black darkness with no real idea of where we were going. The warnings of our well-meaning friends spinning through my head. My anxiety going through the roof. I just didn’t want to get lost with no way of finding our way until the day. After about fifteen minutes (which felt like hours) our host greeted us from the darkness and took us to her humble abode where she made us feel like home.
I think I should add, this trip was the first time that either Natalie or myself went anywhere outside our comfort zone. Natalie has travelled to El Salvador a few times with her family. Myself; I’ve travelled to Japan a couple times, however, I’ve stayed in the comfort of my lovely host families. So travelling alone in a country where we couldn’t speak the language was a completely new experience for us. Moving forward, I’m going to refer to the places we stayed as hosts since we booked Airbnb stays for our whole trips. I was too nervous to stay in hostels at that time and sometimes you just need to satisfy your anxiety in order to do other things.
There’s my second tip on travelling with anxiety, sometimes you need to compromise with yourself and that is completely ok. I consider myself an adventurous person but often, I get too nervous or anxious about what could or could not happen. Now that I’ve learned how to slowly push my own boundaries, what happens when I want to do something I consider super out there or adventurous? Travelling was one of those things for me and even more, I wanted to try backpacking and couch surfing. So we had to compromise, I got to go travelling but we had our trip planned to the T. We did carry around backpacks which was a great prep for my future travels, and I learned a lot about packing. I didn’t get to go backpacking yet, but for me, it was a nice way to “dip in my toes” and then I can try it next time I go travelling.
Headed to Fes
Moving along, next day we spent the morning in Rabat and then headed to Fes. This city was so magical. It was everything I expected Morocco to be and more. Our first night we unknowingly booked a stay in an abandoned palace. Mokri Palace is still being renovated but as a way to earn money for the construction, they rent out the rooms. Our host was so welcoming and as soon as we walked into the courtyard, I was in love. The next place we stayed was lovely but I completely regret not stay at the palace for longer. It showed off the exquisite craftsmanship of the Moroccans in such an elegant way. The building was tiled in cool blue and grey tones, all centred around the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. After our first night in Fes, we woke up early for our tour to the desert. The whole trip to the Western Sahara was a bucket list experience for me and I will be writing about it in more detail in my next post.
The Medina and the Artisans
We spent one more whole day in Fes and obviously used that to explore the Medina and visit all the artisans working there. A young man that we met on the street offered to take us around, after careful considerations we agreed. He was great! We walked through the many winding little streets. Kids with their mothers staring at us with curiosity. Being greeted by locals and returning the gesture with a polite “salam alikome”. I knew I was not in Canada anymore. That was the moment for me where I really thought, “I need to see more of the world and seek more of these experiences.” It was so genuine. They look you in the eyes when they say hello to you, and then warm your heart with a smile.
The artisans we saw were so impressive. We saw a place where they specialized in ceramics; not only in pots or bowls but also in the beautiful tile work that is seen around Morocco. Then we went to the tanneries which Fes is quite known for. You can see all the different vats in which they put the leather through multiple soakings to wash and strengthen it. We then proceeded our tour to the rug merchant, naturalist (who sold many different salves and tinctures), and a weaver. I never felt pressured to buy anything and everyone we came across was so friendly.
Off to Chaouen
Our time in Fes was over, nearly our time in Morocco was over. So we headed up to Chefchaouen – The Blue Pearl – for our last night in Morocco. I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful. Such a photographic city. But it didn’t feel like Morocco. It was FILLED with tourists and we even had trouble finding Moroccan food. To be fair, we didn’t do much in Chaouen so I’d be willing to give it another chance but not before some other cities in Morocco.
That was it Morocco. Too short of a visit and I’m looking forward to the next time I can go back. We headed up to Tangier and were ferry bound for Spain!