So- I wrote an update after the first two weeks of my time in Rabat, Morocco and I promised an update when I was done. My last two weeks in Morocco were way more fun and interesting than the first two. I think leaving Rabat and seeing more of the country made a significant difference in how I felt. Also- I think after two weeks you start to get comfortable and settle in and things generally start to get easier anyway. By the time I left the country, I kind of wished I had another two weeks to really enjoy the place now that I had “settled-in” a bit more.
So- take a peek at the pics if you want- and the rest of the story continues below. It was super hard to narrow down the photos to show you- so there are a lot of them. (Remember that for now – Until I get my photo storage figured out- some of my best photos will be in Instagram not here. You can click on the photos on the side of the blog to go to the Instagram account on the web- or follow me at Digital_lala.)
OK- so Fez. Oh Fez. Again- the guidebooks and blogs kind of ruined it for me. All this- “Be careful! Don’t let one of the guys “be your guide” (at least until you are ready), be careful of pickpockets, you will get lost, it’s so overwhelming…” So truthfully- I went into the Medina to explore that afternoon very closed to any possibilities. I didn’t even take any pictures. (Maybe one or two but not like you KNOW I like to do!)
We did have a young man who “glommed onto us” the minute we hit the gate and no matter how hard we tried to shake him- he was still there. Before very long I just decided that we really had no choice but to accept it- it would def help my stress level if we were not always worried about this young guy. He told us up front “You don’t have to pay- this is my job.” But of course- that’s not really true- and all the guidebooks were warning us about them after all! But I figured- well even if we have to pay him a few dirham this trying to evade him is exhausting. The others I was with had various reactions to the situation, but eventually we all just “submitted” and even started asking him for suggestions and to take us different places.
When we finally decided we were in a place we were ready to explore on our own- we gave him a few coins and despite what the “guidebooks said” he humbly accepted the amount, did not try to argue for more, thanked us, waved with a smile and walked away. (All that stress for nothing!)
Travel Lesson: Suspend expectations and stop reading travel blogs (No wait- don’t do that second part!)
We zigged and zagged a little and ran into another group of young travelers- and banded together with them to try to find our way out of the maze of the medina and to a place to grab a snack and some coffee/soda. THAT was an adventure, but it started to be fun and I was definitely starting to relax. After being shuffled around a few tourist restaurants, starving and thirsty, we made it back to the riad where we were staying.
Now THAT place was amazing. Gorgeous, relaxing, high-end… my flatmate and I went in and had our spa treatments. All the stress of the day just melted away with a spa Hammam and a massage. (I will be blogging about having a hammam experience- it was almost spiritual!)
We left Fez in a private van service with a super great driver- who stopped along the way at some cool places and at perfect intervals and we headed to Chefchaouen. Now Chefchaouen is where the whole story of Morocco changes for me. I loved it there.
Travel Lesson: Being able to communicate changes everything!
Chefchaouen is the north of Morocco. Settlers escaping the Spanish Inquisition settled there, Spanish tourists flock there… see something familiar here? Everyone speaks SPANISH or ENGLISH! I could say anything I needed to and I understood everything anyone said to me because we were likely to have at least ONE language in common. (AH- relax, breathe, COMMUNICATE!) Ironically, the ability to communicate in languages I am comfortable with, actually made me more comfortable trying out the Darija words we had learned in our classes- so I was also speaking more Darija than before too.
The people in Chefhaouen we much more open than in Rabat too. Everyone smiled at you or spoke to you and didn’t look away and scowl. There were a lot less “sneaky” comments made by the men there too. HA! If they thought you were cute, they openly admired you and told you so. THAT I am much more familiar with and know how to deflect or smile accordingly.
Anyway- in Chefchaouen I got my “groove back.” I started to take photos and enjoy doing it again. I even pulled out my “pro” camera not just my iPhone and stood in the middle of streets and just didn’t care so I could get the photos I wanted. What a happy place- I will always remember the peaceful blue streets, the super friendly people, the chill and relaxed atmosphere.
On the train back home I made the decision- I needed to be free of all the stress and fear of the first few weeks. I needed to forget what those blogs and guidebooks said and I needed to trust my own instincts for people, and trust what I was seeing in front of me. I needed to think that everyone in Rabat was as nice as the people in Chaouen and go with that. I did.
Travel Lesson: YOU decide your experience!
Going back to Rabat felt good. I smiled. I enjoyed the people. I made decisions to see good and to go out and do things with new people and new friends in town. We ended up more than once walking around the city laughing and enjoying being out with new Moroccan friends. (You can see in the photos- a good time was frequently had by all!)
I was walking down the street one day and I thought to myself… OK- now I know I COULD live here if I needed to, and I would’t mind staying a little longer now that I am so much more comfortable. I went with a couple of the girls early one morning with out cameras into the Medina- and it was great! I was comfortable greeting everyone with Salaam Aleikum! And I received more than one smile in return. I took a bunch of photos, we even found a totally little hidden gem of a location and when the worker outside told us we could go in… we said THANKS and went in and had a great time exploring the tiled room full of amazing art!
So- in the end. I am not saying I am ready to head back to Morocco anytime soon. However, I definitely warmed up to the place and learned quite a few lessons along the way. I miss it sometimes and I will always look on my time there as an absolute essential experience in my travel world. 🙂
Travel Lesson: EVERYTHING can teach you something if you are open to the instruction.
Have you ever been to Morocco? How did you find it?
Have you ever learned a happy lesson (or two) from something you didn’t find particularly appealing at first?