Morocco, 1997

I visited Morocco for 3 weeks in January of 1997. As it turned out this was during the Muslim month of Ramadan during which business hours, train and bus schedules, and visiting times for tourist sites are reduced. Fortunately this meant that there were fewer tourists around. Unfortunately, it meant that I would not have time to visit every place I had hoped to.

During Ramadan Muslims are prohibited from allowing anything to pass between their lips from sunrise to sunset. So no eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed. This only applies to the local populace and no non-Muslim visitors are expected to adhere to these strictures. I was able to eat and drink in restaurants during daylight hours without attracting any notice.

Anyone who has ever been in an Arab country knows that virtually every male over 16 smokes tobacco. In Morocco many also smoke hashish. Not being able to partake of these pastimes for long hours every day for a month causes frayed nerves and edgy tempers. I saw several fist fights between Moroccan men during my visit. I also witnessed a middle-aged woman physically attack a bus driver. It took several people to get her off him.

Morocco is certainly an exotic locale for Western tourists but it’s also a country that comes with some hassles. As an independent traveler you will be constantly approached by men offering to sell hashish and, in Tangier at least, gay sex. Usually a polite ‘no thanks’ takes care of that. More insidious are men – Moroccan women never approach foreign men on the street – who spend time cultivating a friendly relationship with a visitor by engaging them in lengthy conversations only to eventually try to entrap them in some scam.

Another problem with visiting Morocco is that as a tourist you will be expected to pay far more for virtually everything. It’s necessary to always ask the price of things and then haggle the initial quote downwards. This can get tiring after a while.

Despite the drawbacks to visiting Morocco I think the rich culture and appealing other-world nature of the place will always make it an alluring destination.

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