10 Reasons Why Morocco is Great for Every College Tourist
Morocco may not be on the top of your list for studying abroad but “Al-Marghrib” is the ultimate destination for all adventurous college travelers.
Many of my friends and family were skeptical regarding my decision to study abroad in Morocco. While it may not be in the top ten destinations to attend classes overseas, it is a mixture of cultures both east and west, modern and traditional. In the streets you can hear a cacophony of languages. French, Darija Arabic, Berber, and Spanish are spoken here.
This country spans the Atlas Mountains, Sahara Desert, Atlantic, and Mediterranean beaches. Contrary to popular belief, it is home to over 32,000,000 people. The cities and villages encompass some of the oldest standing examples of Moorish architecture and its citizens give the area a unique charm and mystique unlike any other country in the world. Between the culture and the wide range of price points, Morocco is an ideal spot for any college tourist.
1). Affordability: Morocco is a very affordable place for tourists. However, prices may vary depending on what city you choose to visit. Currently, one dollar in American currency is equivalent to ten Dirhams in Moroccan money. A bus or train from one city to another can range between five dollars and thirteen dollars each way. Food is very reasonable. A typical lunch costs under eight dollars and dinner is only a little bit more, but I recommend that you stay away from the usual tourist trap restaurants! Domestically grown Mediterranean fruits and vegetables is approximately half the price of produce grown in the United States. Hotels in most major cities charge less than sixty dollars per night, which is unheard of in most countries, especially Europe. There is no better way than to begin your day with a forty cent cup of coffee that tastes better and is more flavorful than the best brew that Starbucks has to offer!
2). Food: Moroccan Cuisine is some of the most vibrant in the world due to its unbelievably rich flavors from its locally grown spices, and fresh cultivated ingredients. Almost all meals come with piping hot baked bread made from stone ground flour. From vegetarians to carnivores, and picky eaters, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Tangine, is a stew filled with herbs and spices which can be prepared with a variety of meat, and fish. Couscous is a common grain that can be topped with sweet onions, cinnamon, chicken, or vegetables. There is an assortment of cuisines from Mediterranean, Arabic, Andalusian, and Berber which have been incorporated into their food. And contrary to what your mother said, here is a place where it is perfectly permissible to eat with your hands (most notably, please remember to use your right one). Nothing completes a meal better than a traditional cup of their celebrated freshly brewed sweet mint tea which is not only delicious but can be served either hot or cold.
3). Vast Landscape: Although Morocco is equivalent to the size of California, you will be surprised to encounter exotic landscapes fluctuating from the snowcapped High Atlas Mountains, to the Sahara Desert which is dotted with an intermittent oasis. The beachfront towns of Essaouina and Sidi Kaouki, is where you can go wind and kite surfing. Feel free to explore the Taza caves located between the Rif and Atlas Mountains, or the breathtaking waterfalls in Ouzoud. Due to the diversity of geography, there is no need to travel far to take part in exotic excursions. It is all here for you to discover!
4). Enriched History: Deeply engrained in its history, Morocco is home to various excavation sites, ruins, and rich Islamic architecture. Volubillis is one of the ancient, well preserved, and almost mythical Roman archeological sites located in the central part of the country. This is a place that has countless historical sights in every city from old kasbahs, riads, and medinas to some of the oldest mosques in the world.
The people here are rich in tradition and their brand of hospitality is legendary. They are renowned for being kind hearted and welcoming. Do not be surprised if you are invited over to their home for tea, after just meeting one of the local inhabitants. Most Moroccans are invested in familial relationships and their homes are typically open to neighbors, friends, and guests.
Rest assured that you will not be left stranded here. Between, taxis, buses and trains there are various modes of transportation to get around. The cities have two kinds of taxis here-grand taxis and petite taxis. Grand taxis are inter-city and can seat up to six people depending on the size of the cab. There are grand taxi stands located throughout most of the major cities. Petite taxis have a specific color in each city and can only stay within the city limits. These smaller taxis only allow three people per cab. Main bus stations are usually centrally located and you must go there to purchase bus tickets prior to getting on the bus. CTM is a major bus company and tends to be the most reliable carrier. Trains are an easy method of traveling from city to city but you should purchase your ticket from the station, which can save you some money. Purchasing a first class ticket is only a few dollars more and is well worth the additional expense especially since it has air conditioning and other amenities.
A hammam is an amazing experience that is not a traditional custom of other countries. It is similar to a turkish bath since hammams are a place to scrub, exfoliate, and fully cleanse the body. Men and women bathe separately but the experience and procedure is basically the same. You can wash and scrub your body in one of the steam rooms, but don’t forget to purchase the legendary black soap and exfoliating gloves. While you are there you have the option of having an attendant scrub your skin for a small fee or you can do it yourself. This lavish experience will cause your skin to glow, clear your mind, and give you a sense of well-being that will encourage you to come back again and again.
8). Souvenirs Galore:
This is a country known for its unique individual artisan crafts. Colorful, hand painted ceramics can be found in most cities and can easily be bubble wrapped and safely placed in your suitcase to be brought back home. Argan oil is a staple of the country that is grown in the south. It is sold in various bottles and can be used for both your skin and hair. This exceptional oil is also used for dipping bread, on couscous, and in salads. Leather goods are considered a bargain since the tanneries are still operating in cities like Fez. All types of hides are used and you can find almost anything made out of leather or have something custom made inexpensively (compared to leather goods in the states). Lanterns are an excellent buy and are hand crafted in numerous geometric patterns and colors. Some of the lanterns are electrically wired to be used as light fixtures. Of all the items one can purchase here, Morocco is probably best known known for its spectacular rugs and carpets. Hand woven wool, and cotton rugs come in all sizes and are sold in various medinas throughout the country.
A Medina is the old Arab quarter of a city that is known for its tiny streets, shops, mosques, and intimate traditional homes. The medinas are also the grand bazaars where you shop, eat, and see how business is conducted in this part of the world. Do not expect to purchase anything without bartering and haggling for a better price! At first glance, this custom may seem bizarre but it is a way of life here and part of the culture. One cautionary note, buyer beware! Do your due diligence and research how much items should cost. By doing so you will avoid regretting paying ten times the amount you should have paid for a leather bracelet.
Morocco is known for extremely warm summers (averaging roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and moderate winters depending on where you may be located. Winter near the mountains can be cold and snow may even be on the ground, and although the Sahara is still warm, nights are usually still chilly. The best time to visit Morocco is in the Spring or Fall due to more tame temperatures in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s during the day. Nights are a bit chillier but rarely below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.