Travel

Morocco: “the culture shock is huge”

This July saw me venture outside my usual bounds of European cities and hop on a plane heading to North Africa – Marrakech, Morocco to be exact. 
 
This was the first trip I planned which received a lot of criticism from friends and family, with the words ‘hot’ and ‘dangerous’ being thrown around in excess. 
 
I have to admit that I was definitely overcome with fear for about a week before I went, something which I haven’t experienced prior to travelling before. 
 
However, despite my own doubts and my parents’ pleas to not leave the country, I did. I’ve never gained so much from ignoring my parents’ requests before. Morocco, I discovered, is simply other-worldly.
 
Ouzoud Waterfalls
The only trip we took outside of Marrakech itself was to the Ouzoud Waterfalls, the second tallest waterfalls in Africa. The whole day was nothing short of amazing and one of the highlights of the trip. 
 
We organised the trip through a site called Hippmarrakech.com. A driver came to the door of our riad very timely at 8 o’clock and drove us to the falls. The car we were in was large, comfortable and air-conditioned. At the falls we decided to get a tour-guide. This wasn’t included in the tour package and cost about 80 dirhams (€8) each, but it was so, so worth it.  
 
Kahlid was the name of our guide. He was young, had fluent English and was very educated about the area. He brought us in around a village containing the oldest tribe of Moroccan people. There we met the working families and sampled their produce.  
 
Kahlid took us off the main tourist track around the waterfalls and up into the hills.  We went swimming in the waterfalls, fed monkeys and had an amazing lunch. The day we went happened to be the end of Ramadan so the atmosphere was electric. Our tour lasted from about 11 until 2 o’clock and after lunch we walked the three layers of the waterfalls a second time. We met our driver at around 4 and began the two hour journey back to the riad.
 
The whole day went so smoothly and the views you encounter at the Ouzoud waterfalls are unbelievable. It was also great to be able to get out of the city and bask, comfortably in the Moroccan sun.
 
A woman in Marrakech
Something that really worried me before I went to Morocco was the way in which I might be treated as a woman. Articles I read before travelling urged me to cover my shoulders and knees and to ignore the taunts I was sure to hear on the streets. 
 
For the first few days I religiously wore my long skirts and cardigans, but the 47 degree heat proved too much and I eventually resorted to shorts. The reaction I got was not what I expected. Men stared, but no more than they already had been, and it seemed to be in amazement at my milk-bottle white skin. I found I felt safest when walking directly beside my travel companion. 
 
Everyone we talked to referred to me as his wife and assumed that whatever I was wearing had been approved by him. The feminist in me spent the week crying, but I quickly realised the advantages that travelling with a boy to a place like Morocco had. 
 
Once, I made the 500 metre walk to the nearest corner by myself and was jeered and taunted a several times. When I was beside James nothing was said. Morocco is a place where feminism goes to die and it’s good to be aware of that before you book your flights.
 
Morocco has easily been the most foreign place I’ve gone to. The culture shock is huge when you arrive but remains exciting throughout. I would definitely return to this walled city, but next time I’ll aim for October when there’s a slight ease in temperatures!