My name’s Jess and I am the current editor for the Life & Style section of The Linguist. I am about to start my final year as a Modern Languages student studying French and Spanish, having just come back from a year studying at the University of Huelva in Andalucía, Spain.
During my year abroad, I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to Morocco twice – the first time organised by myself and some friends and the second time on a tour by a student travel company. Both experiences were very different but both as memorable as each other.
The first time I visited was to Rabat, the capital city of Morocco. After a long and sleepless night spent at the airport, we boarded our flight, which landed at 5:30 a.m. local time! As soon as we landed, we got picked up by our pre-arranged transfer, who then took us to our Riad (a traditional Moroccan guesthouse). Despite the very early arrival time, the owner was very friendly and allowed us to check in early, even giving us breakfast which consisted of French pastries, Moroccan mint tea, fruit and some different types of traditional pancakes (Msemen and Beghrir). Our Riad was located in a Medina (traditional market), which had hundreds of stalls selling shoes, bags, jewellery, oils and paintings. The downside to staying in the medina was the fact that it was like a maze, with many different alleyways and dead-ends, and because we couldn’t use our mobile data (due to very expensive roaming charges), we very quickly had to remember our way in and out using different reference points.
Over the following few days, we explored the rest of the city, attempted to go to the beach (it turned out to be too windy thus it felt like being in a sandstorm), and took a day trip to Casablanca, where we visited the Hassan II Mosque (the second largest mosque in Africa). Whilst I would say we generally had a good experience over the five days that we were there, we did come across certain issues regarding safety. As we were four girls, we did have quite a few people following us and not leaving us alone until we went into a safer space e.g. restaurants, cafes or supermarkets. Thankfully, I can also speak French (Morocco is a former French colony), so I had an advantage as I was able to converse with local people.
About a month later, I spontaneously booked to go to Morocco again, as a few of my friends had booked to go on a trip with a company that organised everything. This time, we went via ferry to Tangier, which took about an hour and a half from Algeciras. As soon as our boat docked, we went to a beach to ride camels at sunset, which was a very unique experience! There were about 7 or 8 camels tied together and we were led up and down the beach by local people. After that, we went to see the point in which the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea met and then headed to our hotel to have dinner, which consisted of chicken and lemon tagine.
The following day, we visited the blue city of Chefchaouen, which was located in the mountains about an hour from our hotel. This city ‘blue’ me away – the colours were so vibrant, and all of the stalls were selling beautiful products – I ended up buying a sequined cushion cover and some beaded earrings. We had a guided tour by a local guide called Toto, who claimed he was friends with Prince William and David Beckham on Facebook! After spending the afternoon wandering around and drinking tea, we headed to a restaurant located in the medina of Tetouan to have a ‘fantasy dinner’, where we ate meatball tagine and watched short performances from traditional dancers and musicians.
On our last day, we had a guided tour of Tetouan, and then went to a Berber pharmacy where we saw demonstrations of natural remedies using different oils, herbs and spices, with the claim of healing common ailments. We then bought our last few souvenirs and headed back to the ferry port, eventually arriving back in Huelva around 3:30am!
Overall, I feel incredibly privileged to have had these opportunities to explore Morocco. Personally, I would recommend going on an organised tour, especially for safety and the ease of not having to worry about catching trains or buses. I would love to return to Morocco one day as I felt like there’s so much more to see!