8 Things That Surprised Me About Traveling in Morocco

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The most frequent question I get about being a travel blogger after the standard “what's your favorite country?” and “how do you make money?” usually relates to how I decide where to travel next.

My answer is always “it depends.” Sometimes I go somewhere because of a specific event or because the timing just works out. Sometimes I get invited to travel to certain places by tourism boards. And sometimes I find that a destination is just suddenly calling to me and I can't ignore it.

This is exactly what happened with Morocco.

Amanda at Ait Ben Haddou

For years, Morocco had never been super high on my travel wishlist. It was one of those places that I assumed I'd make it to “one day,” but not one I felt any particular urgency to visit. But then in 2018 something changed.

I can't say what it was – maybe a combination of gorgeous Instagram shots and the fact that I enjoyed my 2017 trip to Egypt so much – but I suddenly found myself with a fierce desire to visit Morocco.

When I feel these fierce pulls to a certain destination, I can often be quite impulsive with my travel plans. Just a couple weeks after having the realization that I really wanted to visit Morocco, I was booking a tour with Intrepid Travel during the company's Cyber Monday sale.

I expected to like Morocco, but I ended up absolutely LOVING my time in the country.

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca
Chouara Tannery in Fes, Morocco
Chouara Tannery in Fes

Part of this came down to the stars aligning for this trip (I went at a great time of year and found myself in a very small group with a great guide), and part of it came down to my expectations for Morocco really being blown out of the water.

I'd had some preconceived notions about what traveling in Morocco would be like, and, as it turned out, many of them were just wrong!

Watch my latest Morocco video:

8 reasons to travel to Morocco right now

Here are all the things that surprised me about traveling in Morocco (AKA reasons why you really should consider going!):

1. It's safer than you probably think

Is Morocco safe to travel to? Well, my answer would be that it's no more dangerous than any other country you might visit as a tourist. In fact, it might be safer than several countries that tourists flock to all the time if you look at violent crime rates.

Amanda at Hassan II Mosque
I did not feel in danger as a female traveler.

Even though Morocco is geographically located in North Africa, the country didn't suffer like many of its neighbors did after the 2011 Arab Spring. Morocco is fairly stable, politically speaking, and there haven't been any violent uprisings there in recent years.

The things I worried about the most before traveling to Morocco were petty crime like pickpocketing, and experiencing verbal sexual harassment as a woman. I'm happy to report that I never felt in danger in Morocco (even when walking around on my own), and that I didn't even experience the level of harassment that my pre-trip research had prepared me for.

Will you get comments walking through the souks as a solo female traveler? Yes. But I get similar comments walking down the street in Cleveland, Ohio, so I'm not sure that should be a reason for anyone to avoid the country.

Amanda at Jardin Marjorelle
(Though, Morocco is slightly prettier than Cleveland!)

Morocco passed a new law last year that imposed tougher penalties on sexual harassment and violence against women, and tourist police are often undercover in the most touristy areas to help keep people safe. At least two women I spoke to who had previously visited Marrakech (3-4 years ago) commented that the city felt safer and the vendors less “pushy” in 2019.

This is not to say that Morocco is 100% safe, or that nothing bad could possibly happen to you there; bad things can happen ANYwhere. But statistics show that you are far more likely to die in a car crash on your way to the airport than from any violent crime while traveling.

RELATED: What to Wear in Morocco: A Complete Morocco Packing Guide for Women

2. Religious tolerance

I didn't know this about Morocco before I visited, but the country has been known throughout history for its religious tolerance. There's been a notable minority of Jewish people in Morocco for centuries (many of them fled to Morocco during the Spanish Inquisition), with almost every major city having a Mellah, or Jewish Quarter.

Essaouira gate
On this gate leading into the Essaouira medina, you see crescent moons (associated with Islam), and also a Star of David inside the flower on the right.

The current Moroccan King, Mohammed VI, has made efforts in recent years to restore and preserve hundreds of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries around the country, further solidifying the importance of this relationship.

This religious tolerance undoubtedly adds to Morocco being quite peaceful and stable.

3. Diverse cities and landscapes

Before visiting Morocco, my only other experience in North Africa had been in Egypt. Egypt was a fascinating country, but it felt quite same-y wherever you went – the cities felt similar, the color palate was the same dusty tan, and the desert seemed to encroach everywhere.

Even though any map will show that Morocco has only a very small sliver of the Sahara Desert within its borders, I erroneously assumed that Morocco would be similar to Egypt. But how wrong I was!

Amanda in Midelt, Morocco
Canyon in Midelt, Morocco

Morocco has such a diversity of both cities and landscapes. Fes with its labyrinthine medina is completely different from Marrakech's and its rose-colored buildings and palm trees, which is completely different from the blue-washed Chefchaouen, which is completely different from the Berber towns in the High Atlas Mountains.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Chefchaouen, Morocco
Rose Valley, Morocco
Kasbah in the Rose Valley

And the landscapes. Oh, the landscapes! There's everything from sand dunes to arid mountains to cedar forests to rolling green farmland. They even grow grapes and make wine!

The diversity of Morocco was something that definitely surprised me.

Sahara Desert dunes at sunset
And of course the Sahara Desert

4. It has incredible historical sites

Morocco has a long history, guys. At one point it was part of the Roman Empire, it's been home to nomadic peoples for millennia, and it has gone on to influence several other cultures (you can't visit Spain or Portugal without seeing tiles and Islamic arches!).

I knew that Morocco would have some interesting sites to see, but I had no clue that we'd be visiting a UNESCO World Heritage Site or ancient town or other historical marvel just about every day on this trip.

Some of my favorite historical sites I visited included:

Volubilis* – A former Roman city, complete with lots of mostly-in-tact mosaics that rival the ones you can see in Pompeii (except that Volubilis is a hell of a lot less crowded than Pompeii!).

Mosaic in Volubilis
Mosaic in Volubilis

Fes el Bali* – The oldest and largest medina in Morocco, the Fes medina dates back to around the year 800 AD, and is a veritable maze of alleys and souks. Exploring some of the 10,000+ streets within the walled medina in Fes was a trip highlight.

The kasbahs – A kasbah is essentially a fortress or fortified town, and they're all over Morocco, especially in the south. We visited some amazing kasbahs, including Kasbah Amridil in Skoura, which basically looks like a giant sandcastle.

Kasbah Amridil in Skoura
Kasbah Amridil

Ait-Ben-Haddou* – Officially known as a ksar (a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls), Ait-Ben-Haddou is essentially what you probably picture when you think of Morocco. It was built to be a waypoint along along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech, and is still incredible to behold.

Essaouira* – I went to the seaside town of Essaouira on my own after my tour ended, simply because I'd heard so much about it and dreamed of seeing the famous harbor of blue fishing boats for myself. Essaouira is a laid-back coastal town with a cool vibe, and was definitely worth a visit.

Boats in Essaouira, Morocco
Boats in Essaouira

And of course there were the medinas and kasbahs in other cities like Rabat and Meknes and Marrakech, too – Morocco is basically a history-lover's dream!

*These are all UNESCO sites in Morocco. I visited 7 of Morocco's 9 UNESCO sites on this trip! 

5. The food is amazing

Usually after a couple weeks traveling in a country and eating roughly the same things over and over, I'm dying to eat something else. But you know what? I really didn't get tired of Moroccan food!

Moroccan food staples include tagine (basically meat and veggies cooked in a clay vessel called a tagine), couscous, meat skewers, olives, bread, oranges, dates, and mint tea. We tried some other things, too (like pastilla in Fes), but mostly ate tagines and skewers – and I didn't hate it!

Chicken tagine in Morocco
This chicken tagine doesn't look fancy, but it was one of the most delicious!
Skewers in Fes
Meat skewers

This is mostly because each tagine dish will be slightly different depending on where you eat it and who's making it, so you don't *really* feel like you're eating the same thing over and over again.

I also came to appreciate Moroccans' love of sweet mint tea any time of day, as well as the abundance of oranges. I would NEVER drink 2 glasses of orange juice per day or reach for an orange for dessert at home, but it just felt right in Morocco (and my body is still craving oranges!).

Oranges in Chefchaouen
I could not eat enough oranges in Morocco!

6. Luxury really is luxury

I've been to other countries where “5-star” doesn't really mean 5-star, and where luxury is simply defined differently than it is in the West. In Morocco, though, luxury really is luxury. The country is far more developed and “Westernized” than most people realize; cities are vibrant and streets are clean and hotels that boast luxurious touches really do deliver.

This isn't to say that you won't encounter poverty or the occasional squat toilet, especially outside of the major cities. But overall there's a lot more luxury to be found in Morocco than I realized (yup, I totally admit my ignorance here!).

Royal Mansour in Marrakech
Royal Mansour in Marrakech

In Marrakech, I went with a few of my tourmates to the Royal Mansour for an afternoon tea. The Royal Mansour is a 5-star luxury hotel owned by the King of Morocco, and it lives up to this. You don't just book a room at the Royal Mansour; you book an entire private riad.

I couldn't afford to stay here on this trip, but going for an afternoon tea (and a nosy look around the hotel and spa) was the perfect – and most affordable – way to get a taste of luxury in Morocco.

Afternoon tea at Royal Mansour
Afternoon tea at Royal Mansour
Royal Mansour spa
Royal Mansour spa

7. It's so much better on a tour

I've been to plenty of places where people book group tours and thought to myself “you really don't need a guide here.” There are plenty of destinations where independent travel is the better way to go.

But as a solo female traveling in Morocco, I 100% believe that my experience was better because I was traveling in a small group with a local guide.

Morocco is one of the more developed countries on the African continent, and European tourists regularly take city breaks in Marrakech. But the country as a whole isn't super well-connected for tourists; it's not easy to visit certain places independently, and especially not as a solo female traveler.

Amanda and a camel in the Sahara Desert
For example, you pretty much have to be on a tour to visit the Sahara.

Not that I'm saying you can't travel solo in Morocco – you absolutely can, and I know plenty of travelers (male and female) who have done so. But there are places I visited that you wouldn't be likely to go on your own, and other places (like the Sahara) that you flat-out can't visit unless you book a tour or hire a guide.

I mentioned before that I never felt in danger while traveling in Morocco. I think it's important to mention that I also never felt overwhelmed or lost or worried during my trip, simply because I was on a tour where all the details were handled for me by someone else.

Not having to worry about things like how to get from A to B, or what accommodations would be safe for me as a solo woman, or what to order in a restaurant, or how much to tip someone made my trip infinitely more enjoyable.

Horse guard outside Hassan Tower in Rabat
For example, our guide let us know when it was/wasn't okay to take photos of guards; it was fine here in Rabat!

I won't lie to you: I know other people who have struggled with traveling in Morocco; even people who didn't enjoy their time in Morocco at all. I can only speak from my own experience, but I know that my own experience was made better by not trying to do everything on my own.

I booked the Morocco Uncovered tour with Intrepid Travel, which is a 13-day tour through the highlights of Morocco. I think this tour had a near-perfect itinerary, and can't recommend it highly enough! (Read my full tour review here.)

Looking for a tour in Morocco?

Here are several tours worth checking out:

8. It's unlike anywhere else you've been

Lastly, Morocco is just… different.

Since my trip ended, people have been asking me “what was it like?” I know they want me to compare it to other countries they've been to; to say it was like Egypt or Turkey or Greece or somewhere else they know. But the truth is that Morocco is unlike anywhere else I've been!

Rose Valley, Morocco
In the High Atlas Mountains
Marrakech souks
Marrakech souks

It has Mediterranean and Berber and North African and Islamic aspects to it, both in landscapes and culture. But I can't compare it to anywhere else I've been.

Morocco is unique. It's a land of colorful tiles and golden sand dunes. Of clay-brick kasbahs and goats that climb trees. Of piles of spices and maze-like medinas. Of striped djellabas and hot, sugary mint teas. Of juicy oranges and fluffy bread and the sweetest dates you'll ever eat. Of intricate mosques and Roman ruins and the High Atlas Mountain. Of oasis-like riads and carpets, carpets, carpets.

Royal Palace door in Fes
Royal Palace door in Fes
Amanda at Riad BE in Marrakech
Riad BE in Marrakech

I hope that, maybe after reading about my time there, you'll feel the same fierce pull to Morocco that I did. And I hope you'll visit and experience it for yourself.

For more on Morocco:

Have you ever been to Morocco? Did any of my observations here surprise you?

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"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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59 Comments on “8 Things That Surprised Me About Traveling in Morocco

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  1. Thank you so much for your list of things to pack. I am trying not to overpack so there will be room in my bag for souvenirs! I leave in less than 2 weeks and am excited to get back to traveling. I took have been to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Peru, Portugal, and Russia. Always on your so that I don’t have to worry about how to get around Keep on traveling!

    Hi Amanda, I loved reading about your experience. I’m traveling to Morocco in two weeks and I am so excited!!! I can’t wait to experience many of the things you’ve described. I will return to leave a comment on my experience ❤️

    There’s more to Morocco than the desert. Your choice of places does not reflect the country”s vast contrasting regional landscapes, cultures and colours. You should visit Tangier and the north some time. You’re over dressed for Morocco where beautiful women from around the world feel comfortable in skimpy clothes. Relax, it’s safer there than Ohio and other parts of the world. My last point is, I object to rumbling helicopters and 4×4s near ancient sites in the deep south and weakening their structures and disturbing the natural surrounding landscape and wildlife habitat. MB

      I didn’t just visit the desert, though it’s true that some of my favorite photos from Morocco are the desert ones! As for me being “over-dressed” for Morocco… I dressed how I felt comfortable – I never feel comfortable in “skimpy” clothes, not even at home. Unless you are a solo female traveler, please don’t try to give advice on how we should dress.

        Don’t be that thin skinned feminist. Everyone has the right to express their opinions/views. If you don’t like it then leave it. You don’t have any right to tell others not to express their opinion because they are not the same gender or race as you. If you are too sensitive about other people views then blogging is not the best thing for you.

          Here’s the thing, though, Paul. I’ve been traveling the world solo for more than a decade. There ARE certain things a female traveling alone needs to keep in mind, especially in countries where cultural norms might be different to what we are used to at home. Dressing both comfortably and respectfully can have a HUGE impact on how a woman will experience (and feel safe in) certain parts of the world. It’s simply fact, not an opinion. And if it makes me a “thin-skinned feminist” to point out that men simply don’t understand that what a woman puts on her body can impact her experience, then I guess that’s what I am. I’m sorry if your fragile male ego cannot handle a woman saying she understands her own travel experience better than you do.

            You handled that beautifully. Men seriously have NO idea.
            Thanks for this post– really looking forward to my (fully guided) trip to Morocco in March. Love your packing list, too!!

              LOVE your blog – thank you so much. I just found it the other day and have been pouring over it ever since. My adult daughter and I are planning a trip to Morocco in March. We love your perspective. It’s amazing that men (or anyone) on your blog think they should somehow be able to tell you what clothes you should wear!! I literally laughed at the comments. Love your “what to wear” blog for Morocco and my daughter and I will certainly be looking at those suggestions. And we love the outfits and dresses in your photos. Thank you!

            I love your perspectives. I travel as a child then lived overseas as a solo. I learned to dress conservatively as a child when I was touring, in public. I did wear hot pants to work during my career but the outfit was dressy, with knee boots and the formal DSS f Bermuda shorts in Bermuda! It would never occur to me to do that in any other country, nor this one now.

            My next adventure gets me to Greece wher some of the ligious sites require a skirt below my knees. I have pants that are more conservative than that! I’m not giving up on my regular pants as I have a mobility scooter, so I’m taking your advice and wearing a skirt over my pants! To me that keeps everyone happy. The dress pants I have, from the back look like a skirt and if I can get a skirt that will go over those I may do that instead. I always have a sun shirt, with long sleeves and my shoulders are covered with what I wear as top. It just seems normal to me to be conservative in a country that is conservative, too.

            When I moved overseas I was given an expat book that noted that some countries have only our Hollywood movies as a guide to how American women behave. Horrors! Unfortunately still true, so we checked countries so that we would know where to go in pairs if we needed to. Please keep helping those of us that know that traveling as female has some things to be careful about. Those who travel less, even in the US sometimes are unaware of the danger they may be in. And yes, I walked back to a hotel, stepping over drunks, from a off off broadway play —- in NYC, not my brightest move!

            OMG, the mansplainin’ that just happened here… Amanda, for those of us guys who are not afraid when women offer wise advice, I thank you for your article.

            You’ve posted both reassuring and valuable info. We’re heading to Marrakech for a week+ with four women in our group, including our daughter and our son’s girlfriend, and what you’ve shared above is exactly what I wanted to know as a dad and husband.

            Thanks and keep on traveling!

    Enjoyed reading your experiences and information on Morocco. I have a trip planned for Morocco, May 2022.

      I hope you have a great trip! Morocco is such a fascinating place.

    Amanda William’s, I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed your travel experience in Morocco, or a small section of it. It is refreshing to read such an informative article by an honest and open-minded blogger. I often find myself at loggerheads with ill-informed, scare-mongering false travel writers who don’t take the trouble of finding out about the country. You’re quite right, Morocco is a tolerant and relatively safe country to visit, even for a street-wise woman on her own in a cosmopolitan city. It’s a pity that you didn’t the time to see my native Tangier and other interesting places in northern Morocco, which, without bias, of course, is the best part of the country. MB (Visigoth Tangerine).

    Ok you are young and from the US, I am Australian and nearly 80.
    I have worked in many countries in the world except Africa. Morocco is for young people especially females who enjoy all the art markets and sights. There was nothing for me, except for the food, and then my illness prevented me eating.
    For an old Australian it is a nightmare. Marrakech is the worst, filthy streets, beggars everywhere, cannot walk anywhere in peace, and the worst part is in the Medina trying to find your hotel. 30% of tourists get travel sickness and I was one of them despite being extremely careful with washing, water and food. Haggling in a taxi. The taxis appear to be held together with sticky tape.
    There are worse places: India, parts of the Philippines, Mongolia.
    Look at Thailand today: brilliant clean food, reliable metered taxis, peace for tourists on the streets, cheapest hotels in the world. You do not have to beg for a beer.
    If you are Australian, don’t go to the desert here in Morroco, go to Uluru, where you see the same brilliant starts, many camels, sand as far as you can see and it is clean.
    If you are under 60 go for it if you must.

      Sorry to hear you had a bad experience in Morocco. I think Morocco is a country that is right for some people, but maybe not for all – and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that either of our experiences was “right” or “wrong.” I found Marrakech to be far more modern (and far cleaner) than I was expecting. As as for getting lost in the medinas… well, it’s Morocco! That’s kind of expected!

    You are absolutely correct about morocco, i made my first trip here in 2002 and i been here 15 times now, i left america in 2016 for morocco i just fell in love with this place and i been everywhere you been to in this country and much more.

    Hi, I’d like to go to Morocco for a while but I’ve always been a bit scared and I’ve always put it off. Then some friends of mine went there some time ago and they advised me to go there absolutely with my partner and they even advised me to do the same tour that they did.
    Reading your article I seemed to understand that you were fascinated by many things. So I would like to ask you if possible if this tour that they recommended seems good to you or if you have others to recommend besides those mentioned in the article because unfortunately I only have 8 days to stay away?

    I await an answer and thank you anyway

      Hey Paul! I definitely recommend taking a tour in Morocco, especially if you only have a short time to travel. I cannot personally comment on any tour except the one I personally took since obviously that the one I experienced! But if you have friends who recommend a particular one that fits in with your plans, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a good option!

    Hi! Loved your post – very informative. Thanks for that. My wife and I have been talking a lot about Morocco lately, but we’ve been hearing that the tourist “hassle” level in major cities in Morocco is off the charts and really “next level” compared with many / most other lesser developed countries. We’ve spent a fair bit of time in Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia – so we’re familiar and comfortable dealing with locals in such places, and we do certainly appreciate and try to be sensitive to the fact that we are very much the “have’s” when we travel to such places. But if it truly is as bad as we’ve heard we’re afraid that it might just make it really really hard to not get frustrated and annoyed, thus threatening to ruin a vacation. Have you any thoughts at all on this and if there is truth to what we’ve heard?


      Hey Darcy! So I think there is indeed some truth to that – you WILL get hassled in Morocco. I did find that I got hassled a LOT less when I was traveling on a guided tour, though. When I was out with my group mates and a guide, I actually was harassed far less than I expected to be. But I’ve talked to several people who have traveled in Morocco independently and who were definitely annoyed by the amount of hassling. So I do believe it depends on several factors. If you’re worried about it affecting your overall enjoyment of the country, I would suggest visiting on a tour (or at the very least hiring guides in the larger cities) in order to mitigate some of that!

      Darcy I too have lived in multiple countries, I guess I was young enough when I saw the poverty in Naples that my reactions to how dirty a place is isn’t something I notice as much. But the hassling has always seemed to be totally annoying, regardless of age. I had a colleague offer to pay for a copy watch or shirt with copy money: that was the only time I saw anyone flat disappear! I did notice in some countries we visited that the guides would ask their clients if they wanted was being sold and if not shoo them away. Most of the time it was clear the tourist was annoyed and it only took a few words to get them to stop. My conclusion is that many places have don’t make the tourist miserable laws which makes it easy for even female guides to tell the hassler to stop or be reported. Having said that in Cairo one guy decide to pretend he didn’t speak English by answering in first Spanish and then German, he always got full paragraphs back in the language he chose! To hear him tell it was hilarious, especially since it appeared the vendor spoke at least 7 languages!

      I do think that age and attitude of the tourist matters although I must then be a magnet! Nevertheless, I’m hoping our tour goes as my Dad has talked about Tangers and Casablanca since I was quite young.

      Like Amanda I tend to dress conservatively, in public anyway, perhaps because I’ve live in countries where the locals seem to believe our Hollywood depiction of foreign women is correct. That hassling I truly want to avoid, it makes vendors seem mild!

    I had no idea that Morocco had so many oranges! 🙂 You’re REALLY pushing Morocco to the top of my list of places to travel this year!!

      I didn’t really know they were so known for their oranges, either, but they were seriously DELICIOUS.

    There’s definitely something about Morocco, isn’t there? The first time I visited I took a tour with Explore! by 4x4s through the Atlas mountains, staying in little Berber villages and it was amazing! I returned last year, to visit Chefchaouen and this year I’m climbing Mount Toubkal. Yep, absolutely somewhere you have to return to 😀

      I think Morocco is one of those places that you really need to devote some time to – and you definitely need to visit more than just Marrakech to love it! Good luck with Mount Toubkal!

    The thing that really draws me to Morocco is how colorful everything is. It seems like a bad picture can’t be taken as everything is so vibrant. Great post, I hope to get there one day

      Yes! Even the dry, arid landscapes are vibrant in their own way. I took SO many photos in Morocco.

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