“Can I please have my Berber Whiskey with no sugar?”

“Of COURSE my sister! You do not need sugar, you are sweet already!”

Every time I they called me sister, I felt my heart melt, opening up to this amazing culture. It isn’t a gimmick. Arabic cultures, especially in Morocco, people are family. I saw men help others pull carts up hills, give money as a thank you for repairing the road, feed stray kittens spare food, help a small boy who fell skating. Kindness was EVERYWHERE, overwhelming and wonderful. People greet one another in the streets, making moments of time pass with conversation. More than once and more than one guide asked for a moment to pray or to say hello to a friend.

Furthermore, no one groped me. No one insulted me. No one tried to convert me to a new religion.

Morocco is my 13th country I’ve visited. A lot of people, my husband included, asked me why I wanted to go to Africa and on top of that, a Muslim country. My question to them was always, “why the hell not?” Honestly, I’m INFURIATED at the blogs I read that spoke about Muslim misogany, warning that I would be touched and yelled at. EVERYONE WAS THE NICEST. Even the stray dogs were fed and never cringed.

Morocco is not for everyone. Truly. My travel partner will most likely go back to America with a sign of relief, but I find myself wishing I lived in a culture of kindness like this. Americans…we are too frigged. We love our friends but how many friends do we really actually love?

Now, do not mistake my empathy and understanding for rose colored glasses. My own mother accused me of this when I raved about Thailand. My complaints about America are the same as they were then: we do not focus enough on interpersonal relationships. I am not immune, as an introvert who can go two weeks in silence completely happy.

But more than anything, I came to Morocco to see if the rumors were true: are Arabs and/or Muslims really the dangerous people the bible-thumping fear mongerers claim they are?

Hell no they are not.

I’m sure the true Middle East is different and I can’t speak for those. But Morocco was magic. It smelled of cigarettes, spices, body odor and meats. I smelled sugar, death, sweat and exhaust. I loved it, deeply.

I loved the women who glared at me, the old men who smoked cigarettes, peering as I passed. The children who threw shy smiles my way, the cats that begged for more more more tagine!

So here is some sage words from my Arabic brothers and sisters, from the words of toothless men and sniffling guides:

1. Always keep your heart outside…it’s better that way.
2. Bargain with everything, but not your stomach.
3. Buy carpets first, then have children.
4. You only need five hours of sleep.
5. There is fat…and then there is fat. There is good fat and then there is not good fat.
6. “Did you agree to the swap?”
“what swap?”
“We swap you! You stay in Morocco and he gets camels and carpets!”

The negative:

Friendliness and helpfulness do not come for free here normally. It’s definitely a poverty and tourism thing. My friend who came with me, who is from the Midwest, was very frustrated by this. More than once I had to remind him that he should ignore all calls of “hello!” or “do you need help?” because it can either lead to dangerous situations or getting scammed.

The bathrooms are disgusting, especially in the desert (if there are bathrooms). And you usually have to pay for it, unfortunately. 2 dirham is normally the amount (20 cents) but I also had a boy in an Oasis attempt to charge me 20 dirham ($2) for using a shack with no toilet paper and a toilet that needed three buckets of water poured into it to flush. I told him he was crazy and walked away.

Flies. I’m finally at the point where flies on my skin…I don’t even feel them anymore. Is that gross? Yes.

Morroco

Rating System: (Hell No = 1 —- Fuck yeah = 5)

Cheap? 3

This place is expensive for Africa. Clean restaurants are expensive unfortunately. But if you’re willing to chance it, I had dinner and lunch for less than $3 one day, eating street food. If you don’t want to do that, meals are at least $15 each, water is $2 for a large bottle, taxis are as expensive as you let them swindle you.

Friendly? 4

Yes…sorta. I have met some very kind and helpful people…and I have met kind and helpful people that demand compensation for it. My travel partner was displeased at this behavior, despite me assuring him it’s a normal in impoverished countries. You just have to refuse guides to your hotel, no matter how much they pressure you.

Humor? 3

They’re actually pretty funny, although most of their humor that I understood was racist or insulting to others. I heard a LOT how bad the Japanese are, they’re constantly making fun of them for taking too many photos or for being stingy. An Arab made made fun of a teenager for being fat and buying some pastries. This is NORMAL and not necessarily meant to be harmful.

Weather? 5

BEAUTIFUL. Chilly during the evening actually!

History? Unsure

There doesn’t seem to be either pride or disdain for their history. Not a ton of museums either.

Safety for women? 4

I’m actually shocked but pleased to say you can walk around here just like any city. I say “any city” because you still must be cautious, but even in a thick throng of men, I was never grabbed, touched or anything to make me scared. Yes, I was stared at. Some of the staring made me super uncomfortable. I recall one guy who leered at me like we had a secret, a creepy smirk upon his worn face. No thanks bro.

Have you been to Morocco? Tell me in the comments below what you thought!

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