Thank you for the coffee, monsieur. I shall miss that when I leave Casablanca.
September 8, 2007 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Not going any time soon, but considering exploring Morocco within the year. Why? Ummm, I have no idea. So tell me about your best & worst experiences there. Best places to stay, best memories, worst memories, things not to miss, things to avoid, impressions of the country, the people, the food, the land, etc. Enlighten me. Inspire me to actually consider this. Or not.

At this point I can read, write & speak very poor "supermarket Arabic" so I can communicate in MSA a bit... no intellectual discussions, but basic important stuff. Not sure I'd want to travel in Morocco solo or in an all-female group, have you done that? I may possibly meet m/f friends from Egypt there. Honestly not sure yet though, just toying with the idea really.

Bonus question: Since I may be traveling with Egyptians, I'm also curious how Moroccans feel about them, if anyone knows. I'm always interested in whether or not there are inherent tensions between different nationalities other than what I know about (God knows I'm painfully aware of what people think of my nationality already).
posted by miss lynnster to Travel & Transportation around Casablanca, Morocco (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ooo, really, you're going? :) Yeah, there's stereotypes about Egyptians - but also about pretty much every other ethnic/social/linguistic group, too.

Try to have the best of both worlds - do a little travelling on your own, then meet up with your friends.

I'll stop now, otherwise I could have a VERY long post just answering your first paragraph.
posted by Liosliath at 10:40 PM on September 8, 2007

Response by poster: It's okay. Post away! Not sure if I'm going... so we'll see. I want to hear what everyone has to say, though!
posted by miss lynnster at 11:28 PM on September 8, 2007

Response by poster: And of course you know I want to hear your experiences, Liosliath! You obviously have a lot of insights about Moroccans... :)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:30 PM on September 8, 2007

Moroccan Arabic sounds very different from MSA and Egyptian Arabic (e.g. I don't know that an Egyptian could understand a Moroccan.) Knowing French might actually be more helpful.

And that is all I know about Morocco, except that it's probably beautiful. :-)
posted by lullabyofbirdland at 5:37 AM on September 9, 2007

It is beautiful, but in a more desolate way than you probably think.

Many parts of Morrocco are very touristy since it is a cheap and easy destination for Europeans, especially the French. If you do decide to go, do a good bit of reading first and decide whether you want the crowds or some more off the beaten path kinds of experiences. In the cities, there is no end to the people willing to take your money (not always in exchange for something useful) and it can be a bit wearying.

The only concrete advice I can give is to explore the markets all the way, past where the rest of the Europeans go. The front of the market will have some interesting things, like jewelry and pots and tapestries, but if you continue farther back you can get hawks and deer and dried lizards and magic potions and all sorts of other good things. Also socks and as many unmatched shoes as you could want. The markets are bigger than they look in the big cities, and sometimes you come out the other end into a totally different neighborhood than the one you started in.

I never made it to the beaches, but I've heard those are lovely.
posted by ohio at 6:32 AM on September 9, 2007

Response by poster: FYI, I have done extensive travel through Egypt & Turkey already so I'm not unfamiliar with travel in Mediterranean muslim countries. There are things I know I'll be in for. (And probably some things I might not foresee too.)

Re the language, Egypt is actually the media center of the Arabic world so Arabic speakers actually understand Egyptian easier than any other dialect -- they hear it on tv and in movies all the time. My friends definitely won't understand the Moroccan dialect as well though. I don't expect to be able to communicate well myself, but I'll be ahead of where I would've been without a year of MSA under my belt. I know that a Moroccan phrasebook will be much easier for me to memorize & pronunciate now than it would've been before.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:30 AM on September 9, 2007

Not sure why you wouldn't want to go to Morocco. I've heard it's beautiful; I've never been. Basically I have never experienced regret over a decision to travel someplace, no matter how lonely or ridiculously desolate it might have been. If you feel a tug, follow it.

Again, no geographically specific advice, but I do seem to recall that there's a free guide somewhere (although quite old) issued by the State Department (or some other government firm) specifically geared towards introducing Moroccan Arabic to MSA Arabic speakers...ah, here we go (hugely massive PDF) [from the blue, of course].
posted by Deathalicious at 12:02 PM on September 9, 2007

I have lived there for a year, but that was 30 years ago, so everything I know might be out of date.

First, I would not advise for a woman to travel alone (having read what you said about traveling in other Arabic countries). Even if it shouldn't be really dangerous, you would put yourself in an awkward position in all areas of public life - outside of the tourists enclaves and westernized parts of big cities. A woman alone is (culturally) perceived by men as an available woman. The only advantage is with Moroccan women: you could enter the women's world, which is out of reach of any man. Women friends of mine did it several times and loved it.

Morocco is the most Berber and the less Arabic of the North-African countries. They generally don't like Westerners to point this out (it's an insider matter) but, as far as as remember, less than half of the population is from Arabic descent or strictly Islamic. Spoken language is also different: written Arabic is the same everywhere (Classical Arabic); the local language (Dialectal Arabic) is mostly original. But with what you already know, you should be able to learn numbers and basic "supermarket language" very fast, which is very important. As soon as you know how to say "Good morning, please, thank you" and know your numbers, you'll be treated as a guest of honor and you'll be offered mint tea in small shops of the medinas (a "medina" is the non-westernized part of any city). Price tags will also immediately been cut in half. They really appreciate the effort.

It is a splendid country with a very rich and original culture. Welcoming strangers is a part of it. If you have the opportunity, you should absolutely go. As in every country, the really interesting stuff begins when you can go beyond looking from the outside and when locals invite you in. Inch Allah, it will happen to you.
posted by bru at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can travel alone, and I did, many times. I'm not trying to tromp on Bru's comment or anything, but from what I've read of your posts/comments, you're very grounded, have a sense of humor, and seem to have a good dose of common sense. Any Western woman is seen as available - it doesn't matter who you're with. OK, it matters if you have a mean looking Moroccan husband striding along beside you, but even then, they try to sneak little glances/comments.

Girls who shouldn't travel alone are the sort that:

1. Wear inappropriate clothing
2. Think that the comments that Moroccan guys make actually mean something
3. Get themselves into dangerous situations
4. Take offense at everything/can't bargain/get flustered

Good morning/evening/hello are the same in MSA and Moroccan Arabic. A lot of other things are similar (Ismi vs. Smeeti "My name"), and many people have at least a basic grasp of MSA because of education/newspapers/TV. I think you'll do fine. We watch Egyptian movies and serials all the time, so that dialect is understood too. Kif halek etc...!

Also, being an in-law of a very proud Amazigh family, we're glad when people mention that they know we're not Arabs. In fact, if you can pick up a couple of Tamazight phrases, they'll appreciate it - particularly in the South.

To better answer your question, though, what kinds of things are you interested in?
posted by Liosliath at 4:05 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


One great experience: I met a Moroccan ex-pat who had been living in Canada before moving back home to Marrakech to be with his family. He overheard me speaking English in Place Djeema el-Fna one night and started to talk to me. I ended up hanging out at his sister's house with their family and went to the hammam with his brother-in-law. It was amazing to be hanging out with all non-English-speaking Moroccans having a hammam and enjoying life without a word of English. Place Djeema el-Fna at night was (back in 1997) amazing, by the way.

Terrible experience: being chased through the medina in Fez by relentless teenage thugs intent on harassing my wife and I into hiring them as "guides" or paying them off. When they started to make anti-Semetic comments I knew the day was ruined.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by scblackman at 6:21 PM on September 9, 2007

scblackman - I'm really sorry about the touts in Fez. They've really cracked down on that (tourism police, etc...) so it's better than it was.
posted by Liosliath at 6:44 PM on September 9, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, I'm just interested in cultures and travel in general. No particulars. I'm an artist & musician so I just like soaking everything up, really. It all influences me. I love everything, the food, music, culture in general. You name it.

I did have a Turkish bath in Istanbul so I've been in a hammam & that was an amazing experience. (Fortunately the one I went to was totally segregated by sex & my bather was a very sweet, matronly lady. That wasn't the case for a few of my friends who got male bathers, which would've made me very uncomfortable.)
posted by miss lynnster at 8:22 PM on September 9, 2007

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