Morocco: A Land of Surprises

Morocco is a diverse and beautiful country with a fascinating blend of cultures, religions and influences from around the world. Europe Expert, Rachael wasn’t sure what to expect from her first time in this vibrant country, but it was even more incredible than she could’ve ever imagined. Here are her favorite things about Morocco.

Before my first trip to Morocco, I had some very generic and stereotypical views. Camels, check. Desert, check. Couscous, check. Rocking the Kasbah? Check. I wasn’t even entirely sure what a Kasbah was, but I was excited to find out if I could rock one*.

The Food

It goes without saying that Moroccan food has a great reputation on the world stage. Turmeric, cumin, couscous, and steaming tangine are very well known no matter where you’re from. What I didn’t realise was the delectable quality of the fruits and vegetables I would be enjoying. Melon for dessert, dates as a snack, olives in the marketplace, and figs as a side dish – this produce was fresh and oh so flavorful. There were even a large number of properties with their own organic gardens growing herbs, tomatoes, and other crisp ingredients for use in their kitchens – and to my plate!

The Colors of Fes

You can’t go on Instagram these days without seeing beautiful people twirling and posing in front of bright tiles and golden doorways or leaning against the blue walls of Chefchaouen. But nowhere is more surprisingly colorful than the city of Fes, Morocco’s “cultural and spiritual center.” From a distance, Fes looks like a chaotic yellow and brown monochromatic cluster of buildings, but enter inside any riad, funduq or madras, and it explodes with color and jaw-dropping detail. The Islamic, Andalusian, or Moorish influence becomes apparent through delicate plaster arches that seems to hang suspended from the air, glittering Zellige tile work in the shades of bright jewels, and intricate hand carved cedar wood inlay in the shapes of stars and flowers. With one look around it is easy to see why the artisans of Fes are so highly revered.

The Landscape

It’s not all desert and Imperial cities. Morocco has a landscape that is ever-changing. With four mountain ranges running through the country, limestone cliffs, gorges, valleys, streams, and plateaus abound and are just waiting to be hiked, trekked, and biked. Of course, there is also the vast yet stunningly beautiful orange sands of the Saharan Desert, where it feels so endless that you might just be the only person in the world. Another delight is the contrasting lush green of an oasis against the stark red-clay of the surrounding hills and traditional villages.

The People

Hot might describe the summer weather, but warm definitely describes the people. Mint tea is central to Moroccan life and nothing signifies the hospitable nature of the people more than the mint tea ceremony that is specially prepared as a way to welcome you to a home, riad, or souk. The Berber people, the original inhabitants of Morocco, make up a large portion of the population and have a long history that has been co-mingled with the Phoenicians, Romans, and French. Today, many of the traditions and customs within Morocco are influenced by Islam, yet Moroccans remain respectful of other religions and will discuss their lifestyle with you with an open heart. The Moroccan people seem to want to share everything: their food, their culture, their hospitality – and most of all, their beautiful country.

*For anyone still wondering, a Kasbah is a fortified building, like a citadel.