Hardened and Broken in Morocco

i am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world

One thing I find I have a hard time doing while traveling is writing extensively about my feelings or reactions to a place when I am there. In most of Europe, it’s been easy enough for me to sum up after leaving: this place was amazing; this place was beautiful; I can’t wait to see this again. While I absolutely love Europe beyond the shadow of a doubt and have fantasies of relocating there permanently at some point, most of the countries in which I’ve visited there haven’t particularly moved me. I haven’t felt like I learned a whole lot from them in terms of the world or even myself.

For me, the learning and growth happens when I am pushed completely out of my comfort zone, forced to see things through a new lens, and deal with things that sometimes might be completely out of my control. Generally, the places I’ve traveled have always had some sort of element of “home” or comfort for me. All of that changed when I was in Morocco. And because Morocco was one of the most difficult places I’ve ever visited, I chose to write about my experiences there each and every day. I’ve shared a few Morocco posts thus far, but the following piece is something I wrote in my travel journal just after leaving, and is something that I wouldn’t ordinarily share, but felt as though perhaps I should this time because I’ve been getting a lot of comments and questions about being a woman in Morocco and what my experiences have been like. Morocco was both wonderful and awful at the same time, and despite what you might read below, it’s a place I have a yearning to visit again.

a comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing grows there

Morocco seems to have both hardened and broken me. I am equal parts headstrong and stubborn (two traits that my father will vehemently deny that I got from him) and Morocco has tested that. I hate feeling taken advantage of, but at some point, I raise my arms and admit defeat because it’s less exhausting than the constant argue and negotiation.

I feel a bit sad about my time in Morocco. I built it up for so long and was ridiculously excited to go there, and though I saw and experienced some of the most amazing things in my two weeks there, I still can’t help but feel sad.

The country is so much poorer than I guess I ever realized or ventured to think about. I saw countless people rummaging through garbage, shanty towns just outside of major cities, and more begging children than I care to remember. Not only that, but it seems like such a lawless place (beyond of the laws of Islam—which also seem lax—I’m looking at you, alcohol and hash). Things run according to their own agendas (time and motives), there seems to be a total disrespect for visitors/travelers—we’re basically seen as cash cows, and perhaps with good reason, but if you want sustainable tourism, don’t swindle people out of their money, don’t accost them until they’re angry (or worse—numb), don’t steal from them, and don’t yell nasty things at them when you don’t get your way.

I really hated that the entire time I was in Morocco, I wondered at every single turn if I was going to be taken advantage of. Who could I trust? No one. And that’s exhausting. I never knew what was truth and what was a lie, who was raking me over the coals or singling me out because I am a “tourist”. I was burnt out at the prospect of haggling for one more thing and at the same time, sick to my stomach at the thought of paying too much.

I learned in a few short days how to become kind of a bitch. You want 1200 dirham for that bag? That’s outrageous, I won’t give you over 460. (“That’s okay—we may not make any money off you, but we will off of the Chinese.”) You want 70 dirham for a 10-minute cab right? You’re nuts—it’s worth 20 tops. You want 50 dirham to walk me to my riad? No thanks, I’ll walk myself for free. You want 50 dirham to see the tanneries when I was told “pay what you want?” I don’t think so; 10 dirhams max.

Morocco certainly put me through the rigors. I’ve never felt more out of place and more challenged than I did there. Some days it felt like such a chore to want to do anything because I was worried about what the day would hold for me—who was going to stare at me? Who was going to say something to me? Who was going to try to take advantage of me? Who was going to follow me? Would I make it through another day in the medinas without experiencing so much sensory overload that I was panic-ridden? In the end, I made it. I wouldn’t say unscathed, but I was happy to have risen to the occasion and to have proven to myself what I was made of.

23 thoughts on “Hardened and Broken in Morocco

    • Thanks, Andi! I look back at my time there fondly, so it hasn’t soured my view of the country. I was just frustrated when I was there and for a short while after I left.

  1. I’ve not been to Morocco but I feel like this could have been written about some of my experiences in India. I’m glad you say you want to return to Morocco. I have the same urge with India. It makes no sense other than, as you say, in those less comfortable moments we do grow and that makes us stronger. Great post! And well done for sticking it out.
    Jo recently posted..The 10 Weirdest Places I’ve BeenMy Profile

    • I was thinking the same thing, Jo, after reading a few friends’ experiences in India. Given that, I probably won’t be going to India quite as soon as I would’ve wanted! But it’s funny that we both long to return to places that were so challenging and different than anything we’ve known.

    • I’m glad you liked reading it, Cindy! And I think it’s worth going. I think it’s just best to know what you’re getting yourself into. You could have a totally different experience than I had. I’ve read accounts of lots of women being sexually harassed there, and I didn’t feel subject to that really at any point.

    • I agree, Raphael. I just hadn’t dealt with it quite on the level that I did in Morocco. I think it definitely makes you a smarter traveler in the future! Also, the internet is a great resource at figuring out how to counteract people in those situations!

  2. It’s not the first time I hesr someone leaving Morocco with these kind of feelings and it’s quite sad because I think in general Moroccan people are very welcoming and friendly ( I lived there for a bit over a year). The touristic cities like Fes and Marrakesh are notorious for tourist harrassing and that’s why there is a special tourist police to deal with these issues.
    Anna recently posted..Once Upon A Time in MáncoraMy Profile

    • I agree, Anna, that the people can be quite friendly and kind. I had several good experiences with people while I was there. As I said, my experience there didn’t sour me on the country. It just took some getting used to, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

  3. I’m glad the experience hasn’t soured you too much! I think it might be easier for me no matter where l go because l grew up in Africa, so l am used to seeing the hustlers and know how to handle them. I agree with you that it’s nice to know what to expect. Good post.

    • No No, Kemkem, it hasn’t soured me at all. It certainly made me tougher and a bit smarter, but I would consider those to both be good things. And I imagine growing up in Africa has prepared you for lots of different countries/situations! :)

  4. Pingback: To Morocco, with Love - meganotravels

  5. Enjoyed reading your experiences in Morrocco Megan, as part of a group of ten women visiting Marrakesh to celebrate one of my friends reaching 50, lets see what they make of our group when it comes to this haggling game!

    • That sounds like an amazing 50th birthday trip, Suzanne! What a great group of friends you are for going and helping her celebrate!

      And yeah, I imagine that’ll be a sight to behold for all those people wanting to swindle you out of money. Hold strong, and have each others’ backs! ;)

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