Just Wanderlust Blog » A discerning, food-loving, & culturally curious road warrior seeks the world's beautiful and bizarre destinations.

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Is Morocco Like Egypt?

Prior to visiting Morocco, Mr. T and I had preconceived notions that it would be similar to our experience in Egypt.  While we enjoyed the historical and cultural aspects of Egypt, it was rowdy, at times crowded, full of hagglers, and no joke – covered in smog.  Even the buildings were all a “sandy” color purportedly because paint just doesn’t last there due to the pollution.  Without doing much research on Morocco, we assumed that the countries would be similar.  We couldn’t have been more wrong!

Morocco was unlike any other country we’ve been to.  The big cities of Marrakech and Casablanca were just as developed as any first world country (tall buildings, wide streets, city parks, etc.).

(The mosques in the medinas were so richly decorated.)

The medinas in Fes and Meknes had commotion similar to walking through an Egyptian souk but these “old towns” had more character.  The locals washed their hands in public fountains, the mosques were intricately decorated with tiles and carvings of religious symbols and stories, bakers sold freshly baked bread, local men carried about their day leading their donkeys through the medina, and vendors sold everything under the sun from tangine pots to those gorgeous moroccan lamps.

(This baker in Fes works tirelessly to bake fresh bread which is sold for 10-25 cents a pop.)

If you wander into the market, you’ll find barrels of mint, clucking chickens in cages, stray cats in search of their next meal, olives galore, and lots of freshly hung meat.

(Mint is a huge in Morocco – probably because no good cup of tea is without this critical ingredient.)

(Chickens are butchered to order.)

(Stray cats dining on chicken intestines that a butcher just tossed on the floor.)

(If you love olives, you’re in the right place.)

(I’m not sure meat gets any fresher than this.)

Duck into a riad (traditional Moroccan house) and you’re welcomed into an oasis with a courtyard and a place to rejuvenate and escape from the inevitable commotion in the medina.

(Ahhhh, I loved walking into a riad and being surprised by the calm and beauty of its courtyard.)

Outside of these cities, the roads are paved but long and even lonely at times.  If you drive to the south eastern part of Morocco, you’ll be surrounded by red rocky landscapes, towering gorges, ancient kasbahs (some still in use today), and random spurts of palm trees marking a palm oasis.

(Towering red rock canyons are common in the southern part of Morocco.)

(The famous kasbah known as Ait Benhaddou.)

The locals in these remote parts are so friendly, too!  If you stop by to chat, it’s not uncommon to be invited to tea and Moroccan mint tea is so good!  If you make your way to the Sahara, you’ll find camels, endless sand dunes, and the most hospitable Berbers who will teach you how to tie your scarf to protect yourself from the wind and heat.

(Trekking through the Sahara to our desert camp for the night.)

Nope, none of this is similar to Egypt.  Or anywhere else I’ve ever been to.  Morocco is distinctly Morocco.

That is just the tip of the iceberg, too.  We found that overall, Moroccans were a friendly bunch and the country itself has no shortage of cultural and historical attractions – although a different kind of culture and history than Egypt.  There’s also plenty to learn about the Muslim religion since Islam pervades most of Moroccan life.  Unlike in Egypt where every vendor asks for a tip, tipping is not as big of a deal in Morocco.  Haggling, however, is common but this is true of many places around the world.

If you’re lucky enough to consider a visit to Morocco, I wholeheartedly recommend it, and I recommend you visit several towns to get a feel for the country.  Every town we stopped by was distinctly different from the previous town.  Lastly, don’t forget to spend a night in the Sahara!

PS – If you’re looking for a guided tour, we loved the private one we had and it was only slightly more than the the price of a group tour.  Email me if you need recommendations.

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Nuha - December 17, 2014 - 4:50 pm

Hi – we were hoping to visit Marrakech for a few nights. Would be grateful for some advise on which tourist attractions to visit and which tour company to go for, for the Atlas mountain excursion. There are too many! Thanks.

JustWanderlust - December 19, 2014 - 10:39 am

Hi Nuha – I was in Marrakech for a few days – you don’t need much more than a day or two there to meander the markets…and you don’t need a tour guide for that city. If you want to visit the Atlas mountains, contact Hassan at Merzouga Experience. He does custom tours for reasonable prices. When we went with him, everything was included (transportation, accommodations, breakfasts, and most dinners) and he’s a fun, honest guy, who took us around and let us take plenty of pics and never made us feel like we were on a time crunch. Hope that helps!

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