by Jennifer Skakavac
If someone were to tell me I will be visiting Africa on exchange, I’ll look at them and say, ‘Hey, Europe is already enough!’ Boy, was I wrong. After being encouraged and peer pressured by a friend to go to Morocco and after some intense stalking of travel pictures on Instagram, I decided to book a flight and just completely chuck myself in the deep end.
It was an amazing and completely bewildering experience. As a group we visited Rabat, Marrakech, Fes and did a 3 night tour in the Sahara. From my experiences, I learned several things about the culture and myself.
- You will be scammed, but it’s ok.
I was travelling with a bunch of Australians, and yeah we do not look like locals. The markets in Fes were completely amazing. We got a guide, and roamed through the mazes of the Medina and visited the world-famous Leather Tannery. However, whilst in the markets, we were getting scammed left, right and centre. I am not the best at haggling, I tend to feel bad after pushing the price really low and haggling, and I tend to accept really quickly. However, from my experiences, I learnt that I really shouldn’t be feeling bad about haggling. Commerce is not charity. Instead undertaking haggling should be treated as a sport, always go 70% less than the starting price, and then slowly start meeting the seller in the middle, but even then, always try to never steer away from your first price. If the seller resists, just walk away. They might come chasing, but if they don’t, there are many of the same souvenirs in the markets. Doing this might grab you some great steals, and you can use the money ‘saved’ to buy more of amazing orange juice in Morocco.
- You will realise how fortunate you are.
Morocco has made me realise how fortunate I am to call Australia home. When visiting a Berber home during our Sahara tour, the family lived a very basic life. Their main focus was on family, food and maintaining the farm. If all was ok, they were happy and expected nothing else from life! It made me realise how silly I was to be obsessing over material things, such as always having the latest iPhone. My experiences with the locals taught me to appreciate the little things in life and that happiness can be found in the darkest of times (shameless Harry Potter plug).
- Walking against sand in the Sahara is the hardest thing you will do in your life.
Although this might seem like a joke, I am not lying, I nearly killed my lungs and my calves walking up a massive sand dune in the Sahara to catch the sunset. It hurt and it was soo windy, and I have never experienced such physical pain in my life. (P.S. I have never broken a bone before *knock on wood*). But was it worth it? Well DUH! The Sahara desert is insanely beautiful and the patterns of the sand look like a painting brought to life. We went camel riding on our last day in the Sahara and we caught the sunrise! I would definitely recommend taking a Sahara tour that ends and starts in Marrakech. Marrakech itself is really beautiful, especially at night.
Overall, I would definitely recommend a visit to Morocco. Although, you will get sick of tagines and may get demoralised from shopping in the markets, you will love the country and non-stop atmosphere. Definitely stay in as many riads as possible, if you want to feel like royalty and live the lush life in Africa. But overall, chuck yourself in the deep end and live like a local!