Hello- in June my fiancee will be studying in Barcelona for 6 weeks. We are hoping to travel into Morocco for 3-5 days which is a short time so we are looking for suggestions. All 4 people are from the New York City area with a background in the arts. The 2 women in the group have travel experience including US, Canada, Eastern/Western Europe, Central America, India and Kashmir.
Our initial interest was Fes, based on proximity to Spain and also because its touted as the cultural center of Morocco.
However, travelers tend to paint negative portrayals of the urban areas in the northern part of the country. Mostly this is limited to pushy guides and eager merchants.
If I were to describe what we are looking for, it would be an authentic Moroccan experience marked by architecture, cuisine, jewelry and some relaxation.
1) where to visit based on our short time frame?
2) how do you find the best accomodations?
3) how to barter at the marketplaces without being insulting?
4) should we avoid the cities altogether?
Thank you very much to all of you who respond,
Make that very pushy guides and very very overeager merchants...
I've never been to Morocco, but I'm planning to go one day.
What people reported is the general hassle you've got all over the Middle East and some European countries. Whether Syria, Egypt, Turkey or Israel, Italy, Spain, Greece - it is always "look here lady", "very cheap lady", ...
The Moroccoans and Egyptians just take it up a notch. But it is part of the local culture there, their strategy of marketing.
It is like TV ads - nobody likes them, but the commercials pay for your otherwise free TV.
The everyday Moroccan gets yelled at just the same, the litany "deep red grapes, just as sweet as your eyes, lady, very cheap for you" is what every arab woman expects to hear when she goes to the market.
What is not so nice is the hassle western women recieve. Being percieved as "loose", be prepared for groping hands and being leered at. But in a group with men it won't be such a problem, as long as the men act according to local custom. "When in Rome..."
Get some books from the "Culture Shock!" series, especially on Spain and the Arab countries as well as Islam in general. (Learn how to behave in an arab muslim country before you go!!!!) Books like the Culture Shock! series help you understand what you are facing and can get you to decide.
I'm a single women and I've been all over the Middle East on my own, I'll go to Iran this summer - and I would never ever pass up FES just because of the tourist touts. Fes and Marrakech must be some of the most magical places in this world, they would be the only reason for me to go there.
(Sorry, not interested in the Beaches at Agadir.)
As an international students exchange program coordinator(St Olaf college, Minnesota, to be precise) and free lance cultural tourism consultant, may I make some suggestions about your short stay in Morocco.
Fes is certainly the spiritual capital of Morocco, and as such, it is rich in history and architecture. There are some interesting Mederessas (traditional Coranic schools) to visit. However, it's a little bit risky to visit t on your own . So you need to take a local guide, which is not always easy because guides will take you shopping, which you don't want to do most of the time. Fes has also a problem of insecurity due to its location close to the Northern part of Morocco- Known for its drug problem.
I can only speak about Marrakech where I live and teach English.
Although it's a long way from Spain, it's easy to take a night train from Tangier to Marrakech. The next day you'll be in Marrakech. In Marrakech you can visit a number of interesting historical monuments (Badia, Bahia, Dar Si Said, Medressa Ben Youssef) and some beautiful gardens ( Menara, Majorelle)
You can also walk in the souks and admire the handicrafts.Marrakech is more cosmopolitan than Fes and has a large French community. So a few Americnas strolling the streets won't be a bizarre sight.
As for accommodation there are a lot of hotels and riads which cost from 250 dh to 1000 dh. You can also, if you like it, stay with a host family to experience the Moroccan way of life and enjoy Moroccan cuisine. And if you like to learn how to cook Moroccan you can try the website
their website will give you an idea about what to learn and how much it costs
Should you need further information, don't hesitate to ask