For most visitors, Morocco is a land of exotic enchantment, with busy souks, sunny weather, and a culture that is unlike wherever they happen to come from. Most of these things are certainly part of the appeal, but there are other, more surprising things that come along with it. Although the country is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, there are plenty of things the travel brochures don’t mention that continue to surprise foreigners.
There are hundreds of cats on the street
No matter what city tourists go to in Morocco, they are likely to see plenty of stray cats on the streets. In Morocco, cats aren’t traditionally viewed like they are in most western countries, and the amount of homeless cats can be surprising. It’s just a fact of life that tourists currently have to get used to.
There are hustlers and hagglers everywhere
Tourists in Morocco often stand out like a sore thumb and street hustlers and hagglers quickly find them. Many of the travelers can often find the experience of every other vendor coming up to them and trying to sell them something rather exhausting, especially the first few days in the country. However, most tourists wise up and eventually pay them no attention even if they keep getting approached.
It can get very cold
Travelers often book a trip to Marrakech or Fes and think they are going to be in a hot and sunny climate, given the city’s location near the Sahara desert. While that is true in the summer, the cities get pretty chilly the rest of the year. Other cities in the country near the mountains such as Ifrane can get snow throughout the winter.
The trains can get really packed
Tourists used to riding trains in Europe or North America are often surprised when they get on a train in Morocco. The trains in Morocco get extremely packed as they take people from town to town. When a train stops, crowds of people often overwhelm the doors to get on and off due to the short stop times. After a few of these experiences, many tourists just end up hiring a car for the remainder of their trip.
You’ll probably get lost at some point
No map or travel guide can prepare most tourists to what they are about to experience when walking through the Medinas in large cities. In fact, using a map can get travelers more confused as these areas typically just look like a spiderweb of meandering alleys and dead ends. It’s better to use a GPS if you have it or follow some mental breadcrumbs.
The food is cheap
Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for, and sometimes you do. While hotels and flights to Morocco tend to run on the high side, tourists are often surprised just how cheap the food is. Whether it’s eating out at a restaurant or buying some fresh fruit from a market, travelers are in for some great deals. Even the most touristy places are still cheaper than what they are used to paying.
All your favorite shops are probably there
Many travelers come to Morocco to experience a culture very different from their own, buy local goods, and avoid commercialism. It’s no wonder many are somewhat shocked when they walk around and realize all the stores they are used to at home are in Morocco, too. H&M, The Body Shop, American Eagle, Banana Republic, Aldo, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, you name it, and you can likely find it in the big Moroccan cities.
You have to beware of fake ‘guides’
When visiting the major medinas, tourists might be surprised how helpful some locals seem. There are usually dozens of men waiting at the entrances, offering to show tourists around, chat with them, and help them navigate the maze of streets. Tourists end up with a nasty surprise when they realize these fake guides just want money, or are just hoping to lead them to a friend’s shop to spend more money.
The people don’t like having their photo taken
Most people in Morocco don’t like being photographed at all. It isn’t because they think the camera will steal their soul or something, it’s just part of their culture of privacy. Some also don’t want you taking pictures of their shop for various reasons. And the few who do want you to take photos will often demand money for it. Even when taking pictures of a big street scene or monument, it’s possible that somebody will approach you to see what you have taken a photo of, or demand money.
The people are very friendly
Despite all the headaches that travelers can experience in Morocco, one thing they agree on is how friendly the people are. Warm hospitality in a fact of life in Morocco, and the many smiles and conversations with locals can be heartwarming.
Related content on AFKTravel: