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MYTH VS. TRUTH - MOROCCO CONCLUSION - November 26th
As any traveler to a foreign country, I carried more then just luggage. I held a few preconceptions of what Morocco and its people would be like. Beliefs largely based on first hand traveler accounts and yes, I hate to admit, a few public media assumptions.
Over the past month of intra-Moroccan travel I have validated some beliefs, disproved others and arrived at my own conclusions – the goal of every trip.
“Moroccan shop owners are pushy and in your face.”
Ha! Aggressive bartering was nominal compared to all the pleasant shopping experiences. Even in Marrakech’s revered souqs (market places), only a handful of shopkeepers pursued a purchase beyond their invisible shop boundaries. They offered a price, you countered and if they didn’t agree to your price point, they would say so. No chase, no guilt tactics, you were free to go.
“Moroccan men are sexual predators, especially toward western women.”
Seriously? I found the men to be very gentle and respectful. Sure there may have been a few sleazy stares or prolonged glances but you could receive the same behavior in your own hometown. Be aware of your surrounds, don’t go out with strange men and do not encourage amorous behavior (by way of revealing clothing). You’ll be fine ladies.
“Moroccans are the friendliest people on the planet.”
I found this statement to be the most true and accurate representation of Morocco! People are genuine, hospitable and respectfully curious about you and your travels in their country. Open yourself to the people and I promise you will discover the true Morocco.
“Morocco is a spice haven.”
I’m on the fence with this one. Yes, Morocco abounds in exotic spices, usually displayed in 12-inch tall trianglular mounds found on every street corner, but I question the use of these spices. Or lack thereof. Rarely did a meal have an intense depth of flavor. Tasty, yes, but methodically mild. The cuisine also lacked heat, i.e. chili spice. Hardly approaching one-star on Reggie's spice richter scale, I missed this favored cooking component. Final note, restaurant menus lacked variance. Tajines, stewed meats with vegetables, have so much potential (especially with the cornucopia of accessible spices) but Moroccans are creatures of habit. You will find the same three tajines at every restaurant along with couscous, lightly spiced meat skewers and Moroccans favorite eating utensil, bread. Does one person seriously require 3 loaves of bread per serving?
“Moroccans drink the most tea in the world.”
It is true, Moroccans love the taste of their sweet mint tea almost as much as the presentation itself- pouring from a small teapot suspended a few feet above tiny, shot glass sized vessels. It is also true you will be offered a cup of tea at least once per day by a stranger, often from aBerber, one of Morocco's nomadic people. But to say Morocco has the highest tea consumption in the world is impossible. Now if we add coffee to the hot drink consumption statistic Morocco may just have it. Made popular during the French occupation, espresso grade cafes can be found on every street corner but unlike Paris, Nice or Bordeaux, 9.9 times out of 10, the clientele will be entirely male.
I recognize not every traveler will have identical experiences. The thoughts and experiences shared above could be solely my own. But this is why we travel. To determine our own experience-based beliefs. What will yours be? Begin your trip to with a blank canvas and let Morocco paint a personal masterpiece!
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© 2011 Regina Busse