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Here I go, this is it. Seven of us inside a tourist bus with our own cameras.

I left the city of Marrakesh at 7 am waited for someone, wondering if what is Ouarzazate is all about. I did a quick research on Google, browsed some stunning photos on Instagram, read great articles about the film center of the country, and those pros and cons of it.

Ouarzazate

This is my inside story to Ouarzazate, Morocco.

I seated in front of the bus, beside a Moroccan driver who thought that I was a Japanese. I can’t help but laugh.  He has this strange look, bald, and smiling face. I began sharing about my first impression about Morocco, the food, and the people.  He was nice, Hicham became our friend throughout the journey, and we felt sad when we separated our ways.

After a two hour drive, we had a stopover, in a lush, verdant mountains to rest, and eat while we need to travel for another 3 hours. There were small valleys where the indigenous people of Amazigh or Berbers live, and survive the way they do for years. I saw children ran down the hills, helped the elders to do farming, and sold fake stone gems.  While traveling to this country had provided me the sense of learning the culture, I can’t ignore the fact that I need to be a responsible traveler. While traveling to this country means giving jobs, and opportunities to the people, and shaping the community in tourism, I can’t ignore the fact that still a lot of people from this country has suffered inequality especially the ingenious.

Ouarzazate

The Edge: Ksar Ait ben Haddou

It was freaking hot, but the excitement to see the place where at least 26 films chose this location including Gladiator, Pirates of the Carribean, Lawrence of Arabia, and Game of Thrones to name a few. We passed a small town of Tinghir before arriving in Ouarzazate which I believe to be an authentic destination bursting with myriad wonders that took my breath away.

We were met by a local guide that toured us inside the Kasbah where the center of the trip is all about.  We walked in a village where a lot of souvenirs including scarves, and carpets are being sold along the way.  I started to feel happy and excited as well because at last, the place where I can only watch on television has become a reality.

There’s a river bank before we reached the Kasbah, I can literally imagine the medieval place where people from old civilization used to travel from different places of Africa.

Ouarzazate

The Gateway to the desert

The East of Morocco represents the country’s cultural diversity. And I bear witness to the most deeply seated traditions, but contemporary creations are also honored with nods to some of the cinema’s finest hours. Film buffs like me will recognize the landscapes. Remember Davis Lean’s ‘Lawrence of Arabia” was shot? and how about “Gladiator” and Kingdom of Heaven”?

Ouarzazate is the land of contrasts! I remember staring on the beautiful landscapes that I couldn’t even close my eyes. Those places that I couldn’t find in the Middle East, there is something on there that left me amazed.

Ouarzazate

The Masjid

I am a Muslim traveler, so Masjid or a Mosque is one of the landmarks I would look wherever I go for prayer. When we were roaming inside Ait Ben Haddou, these walls that built a village overseeing the magnificent view from the top amazed me most. Walls are made of thick clay, that holds the structure of houses including a Mosque.

 

Ouarzazate

 

Ouarzazate

 

 

 

Morocco is an open Islamic country in North Africa- and this is my survival.

The sound of Morocco can be exhilarating and the smell is just overwhelming. While being white (foreign) is a sign of wealth, the hierarchy of foreignness is definite starting from American and English, Dutch and German, French, and the rest will follow- again.

Speaking English is an advantage when you are an English man that doesn’t speak French- if you don’t then whisper and gestures will be your option.

Survival Morocco

While Morocco is an open city to explore, I believe the government has done a tremendous policy in making sure that tourists are given priority since tourism is the major contributor to its economy. I was in Medina trying to explore the city of Marrakech, looked every corner of the market in the African continent. I saw crowded and happy tourists waited for the night to arrive while the market is getting bright through lights and busy food stalls. While you will see dog poo, dirty streets, and everything else. So everything you wear will get dirty- no joke. I am lucky to travel this country without serious issues, but it doesn’t mean I need to feel safe.

You will see the snake charmers in Medina that will grab your camera while people will surround you and boom! You can’t say “No”. Unless you are ready to pay, and have a money to pay for it. If not, then you will be harassed, or followed. This is a survival from touts.

Sale, Rabat. Morocco fronting Atlantic Ocean

It was a charge to experience, and I admit- I fell into that trap!

You will not need a guide unless you are shopping for novelty items. In the alleyways, you will not need a guide- I promise. Google map is built for us to use whenever we need to locate a restaurant or streets.

In my first week, my travel has been intense, I started to travel by train going North from Marrakech. Bought a second class seat of the train, confused by the train section with French beautiful Moroccan girl who wanted to exchange seat with me. The travel took 5 hours, got bored, abused the replay button of my smartphone. It says” Gare De Fes”. Welcome to the city of Fes, where another unique place to discover.

I found two Moroccans who were standing outside an old building while their heights made me feel that I am about to meet this giant Moroccan AWESOMENESS. They don’t speak English, uffff…so I prepared to use my hidden Arabic language skills, and they were confused and so I am. Damn, it was crazy!

My Middle Eastern Arabic did not work, so Spanish saved me from chaos. I would suggest to learn basic French or at least Spanish when going to Morocco. But I met young generations who are good in English. I was in total confusion and asked myself in the balcony of a simple hotel in the city, ” what will I do?”

I saw a lot of chaos in the city of Medina when it comes to animal brutality. Starving dogs, and cats everywhere. I was awake most of the night listening to cats fighting and dogs barking. This is the reality of travel, it is not all about luxury.
I don’t want to stay a blind eye to it, yes, I saw a lot of big pictures in the country.

The next day, I had a dinner with a friend in Rabat city. He shared how his mother is struggling to raise her four children, but he was smiling. I felt the love and unity in the family over the disadvantage that is often highlighted by us, the outsiders. But they are happy. Moroccans are happy, maybe they don’t see what I see so far.

Moroccans are happy, maybe they don’t see what I see so far.
I travel because I need to. “Travel is made up of distances and differences which are the pillars of creativity.

 

I want to hear your experiences too! Please don’t hesitate to share your survival tips.

I am brave enough to travel ever since when I first hit the road from backpacking to luxurious travel of my life. Living in the most conservative country in the world, traveling to Africa is something I wanted to do two years ago.

You would always hear about security issues of Morocco, feedbacks about how is it safe to travel for a female or even us. Planning my second trip to North Africa is something different. This time, I wanted to live with a Moroccan family I had arranged with Homestay

I stopped. ” Am I sure to do this plan?” A plan will not always be going to happen. At least, now I am going to prove- it will happen.

 

I arrived in the city of Marrakesh with a 5-hour travel from the city of Casablanca by train. I can barely sleep in a long hour flight from Jeddah to Cairo but I started to like the city. The Gare De Marrakesh (Marrakesh train station) is a modern type station of the city, police officers were everywhere with their patrol cars, travelers waited for their next train to arrive.

“God, my phone is dead. This is the reality of travel”. I asked the policeman but I can’t understand their Arabic. Again, a barrier. My Middle East Arabic was useless.

Thanks for the little French I had. ”

Bonjour!, Comment est-ce  que je vas au Derb Il Imam?” (“How do I get to Derb Il Imam ?’.) Derb Il Imam is the home address I was told to stay. The police officer told me to ride a taxi cab with his amazing French language. Alright, I got it. I looked down the right, while three drivers came to me, offered the most excellent service to ride in their taxis.

Derb Il Imam is the home address I was told to stay. The police officer told me to ride a taxi cab with his amazing French language. Alright, I got it. I saw a man standing outside the entrance, and approached him. Surprisingly,  he is an Indian waiting for someone to pick him up. Few minutes, his fellow arrived and it was the right time for me to borrow a phone so I could call my Moroccan host.

Assalamu Alaykum“. ‘The first greeting I heard. I began speaking in English telling him that I finally arrived in Marrakesh. I was full of excitement but at the same time- a little bit of anxiety.

His English is limited. I wish I could do a hand gesture over the phone. I was forced to speak Arabic(Saudi Arabian), told him that I was on the train, borrowed a mobile, and so if he could go to the place where I was. He finally understood what I wanted to say.

After 15 minutes, a man smiled while going to my direction, pointed his finger unsure if I was the one who called him. He seems nice and a happy guy.

That was just the beginning.

 

READ :  iStory: I am a Millennial Traveler

 

Tournez à droite et c’est la première rue à votre gauche”. He said in French again. He provided me a direction to turn right, and it’s the first street on the left to get home. I felt a different world that I was about to live.

It was a simple, clean, and the room was on the rooftop. Without any idea of how is it to live with a Moroccan family, I never felt different and outcasted.  Abdou Saddiq, the youngest son of the family with three sisters and two brothers lived with his mother whom I met. They offered me a traditional tea, introduced myself and so they were, and while the Arabic language was my savior!

Moroccan Family

Understanding A Moroccan Family

 

I felt a little bit of intrusive during my first two days. Living in Saudi Arabia helps me to understand and respect the culture and family values. However, living with a Moroccan family gave me a very straight to the point, no bullshit words to describe. A girl member of the family would cover a scarf around their neck whenever I was visible in a guest room. As soon as she saw you, she would cover their head, neck or even mouth when talking.

I would even limit to talk with a girl member of the family except for their mother who is very friendly and encouraged me to feel at home.

 

Cleanliness and Cooking

 

Aisha, Abdou’s mother was in charge of cooking and laundry. The house is more organized and everything is in place. When I needed a food, they asked me what food I wanted to eat, offered Moroccan cuisine and the best of it all- hospitality.  Cleaning is a big factor for them.

The interaction in the house always took during the dinner, where everyone was present, around to share their family stories with me. I started to amazed on how they value their families and country.

Women control the house and men will do most of the hardest jobs for their family. In Abdou’s case, he was jobless for 2 years when his brother left Morocco for France. He was asked to manage the house and so the entire family member.

 

Moroccan Men in the Public Place

 

I walked down the streets of Rabat and Marrakesh when these three words came to my mind: Aggressive, loud, and attitude. I saw men were aggressively talking in the middle of the street for a traffic fight, no physical fight but just mouth. My Moroccan friends shared one thing: If you don’t agree, everything will be a mess.

On the other side, Moroccan men as the head of the family and as a father is a caring one. Hassan is the eldest brother of Abdou. He was 52 years old, works in a farm and a lovely father and brother to all.

My Morrocan homestay is one of the best experiences I had. I built a relationship with Saddiq family and it was hard to say goodbye but I will definitely come back.

 

Have you tried to stay with a family? Share your experience below.

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t have any idea where my travel to Morocco from Saudi Arabia can lead me, but what I am sure is I am delighted to cherish my solitude. I have heard about Morocco’s best places to visit and off the beaten path from my fellow travelers across the globe but what makes me curious enough to travel this country is the true meaning of Moroccan’s culture and my extinct has just gotten strong and strong every day and that I said YES.

Morocco

I have friends who disagree everything I have thought about Morocco. But now, I can definitely tell them that they are wrong, totally wrong and I just don’t give a care now.

I walked down from a near perfect architectural designs of the buildings that were built in the city of Rabat, got confused of which tram to ride, an understandable shower conversation that I had with the locals and the experience of being left at the bus station in Ifrane from a 9 degree celsius temperature and those loving care from Moroccans to help me when I just don’t know where to go. Those are priceless yet I am convinced to the reality that this country has a lot more to offer. Sticking to the original plan and I chose Marrakesh to be my home temporarily during my stay, It was a stand point that opened my eyes to love this country more and more.

 

What You need to Know about Marrakesh

Marrakesh is not the capital city of Morocco but it is popular than Rabat. I came from Casablanca airport and the first city that I received recommendations from digital nomads Facebook group is Marrakesh.I want to know why I received a lot of recommendations for other places in Morocco as a traveler.I took nearly 4 hour travel time from Casablanca’s Gare de Oasis train station to finally arrived at Gare de Marrakesh.It is a highly populated city that lies at the heart of the country and connects major cities and towns that are accessible to tourists with the cheap cost of living. I was impressed how business was put to make a lot easier for tourist to get access from ATM, restaurants, hotels, transportation, and even sim card activation.

Souq Medina and Jemaa el Fna are the most common tourist attractions in the city. But are these places worth? Absolutely.To give a little bit of explanation, Souqs are the traditional marketplaces and often divided into various markets from spice sellers, tanners or food stalls. But those dark streets and the haggling shopkeepers can be daunting but always remember to be vigilant and use your common sense.

Speak Moroccan Arabic or French

 

A middle eastern Arabic, huh? I want to clear it out that the most well-used languages in Morocco are Berber, Arabic, and French. Well, here is the catch, for those travelers who speaks Arabic, there will be no issue in speaking but there will be an instance that you don’t understand the response. Middle eastern Arabic is quite different from Moroccan Arabic. Sounds weird right? Alright, if you don’t speak any of them aside from English and your own mother tongue, here is what I can tell you. Young Moroccans or I may say the educated ones can speak English fluently. But expect that when talking to the locals will definitely give you a headache. I am sure you can find a lot of people that can understand you. So asking questions when you are not sure will definitely give you answer.

What about Spanish, huh? Okay, I met some locals who can talk and understand Spanish but rare. Most of them do live in northern parts of the country like Tanger, Tetouan, or Chefchoean. So when it was hard to me to speak French, I literally introduced myself that I speak Spanish. Spanish and French are common because they are based in Latin. You can take a chance to speak, if that works then you will have a good day ahead.

Explore Nearby Places First

 

While excursions and tour agents were aggressive in taking you to different places in Morocco, you can start a DIY tour around the city where you stay. I stayed in Marrakesh, so an excursion around the city was easy for me. Souks, Jemaa el Fna, and mouth watering foods that you can try are some of the things that you can do. Save time and money as well!

To add on, I would recommend visiting Ouarzazate where a lot of films chose this location. It is more than just a location that you fell in love with these movies, but an awareness about Moroccans history and how Berbers lived in those days. It brought me a lot of realization, deep knowledge about how they survived through those times, spending their lives in the deserts while keeping their cultures up to this day.

Next, you will fall in love with Essoiuera, where the famous Argan oil is produced and sold. More than a hundred kilometers travel from Marrakesh, you can choose an excursion for less than 30 EU on a day trip with comfortable tourist bus together with other tourists. However, you need to be careful in paying a fee to these agents because some people may ask you a lot more than the price. Essaouira is another place where Game of Thrones Astapor filmed its location. Along the corridor of the scala is the cannon row where more than a dozen Portuguese canons remain pointed out to the sea.

I am telling you, chances are if you pay a visit to either of these two cities, you will feel that you are also part of these movies.

All About Beach in Agadir

 

While old Kasbahs and souqs are dominants in Morocco, Agadir

will take you to a place where the beach and a slow pacing life can be challenging. For me, Agadir is all about the beach. Morocco’s prime resort and Europeans holidaymakers flock here every year particularly during winter when there is still blue skies and sunshine. Taghazout is getting popular among digital nomads and travelers who loves surfing and work remote at the same time.

You can take a flight and bus to Agadir if you don’t have a car with you. You can take a public bus from Marrakesh as low as 10 EU for one way.

 

 

Morocco

Photo by Abdul Hafiz Ali

Morocco, a country that I am in love with. While writing this article, I am still with this country that made me amazed, appreciated the fact that this is my first time to engaged with local Moroccans, met some of my friends that I have known for years and acquaintances that leads me to understand how perfectly it is to live here.

I know some of you will not agree with me but Morocco is far way from other Arab nations and African regions I have visited. Mythbusting, I will tell you these misconceptions about Morocco, If you’re planning to visit Morocco soon, there are chances that you will search for this country on Google. You may end up reading “warning” you not to visit Morocco or safety concerns, and horrible experience and stories from travelers. I need to tell you this, as a traveler, and to be honest with you, there is no perfect country in general. I am here to set these misconceptions straight, these myths I had before traveling to Morocco or even I became yet a travel blogger. I am giving you the hard facts:

2. Moroccans are Muslim Arabs

The majority of its population identifies as Berber or Arab and yes, the official language languages are Arabic and Amazigh ( Berber). Not only that, French is widely spoken and understood. There are times that I was asking for a direction in Arabic (Saudi) but I can’t understand the response of a guy which is Moroccan Arabic. They can understand me but it was awful for me to understand the type of Arabic they were using.

This is due to the fact that Morocco has a multicultural history. Morocco has been called ” home” by many people, from Indigenous Amazigh (Berbers), and hosted a lot of cultures from the East (Arabs), from North (Romans and Spanish Andalusian) and Sub-Saharan (Africans).

 

 

2. Morroco is a Deserted Country

I am guilty of this when I heard about this country I literally remember the Sahara desert. I was wrong! During my first two days, I’d to booked a 1-day tour from the magnificent Marrakesh to Ouarzazate. I don’t have any idea what was it look like to be a long road trip to Ouarzazate. What I know was I am going to a deserted area. When traveling by a comfortable car with my friends from Bucharest and London, I was amazed by beautiful houses and terrains. I started to see the Atlas mountains, which are dotted with Berber villages.

To add on, Ifrane is one of the best places I visited. This literally the second cleanest city in the world and the first city I visited that amazes me until now.

3. The Cost of Living is Expensive

Believe me, another myth I’ve been thinking of before my journey. I worked and lived in Saudi Arabia and Asia so  I am considering the cost of living of countries that I am visiting. I am a minimalist, so simplicity in form and adding my cost on time is important. When I arrived in Casablanca, I booked a hotel which cost me 90 Euros a night and stayed for a day with full of amenities. I stayed in Marrakesh with reasonable expenses to food and transportation. Although, I was adjusting to foods especially I live in a homestay for a week now. So if you’re staying here for a short term, I would suggest booking your hotel in advance through Booking.com to get reasonable rate before heading to Morocco.

4. Never to Barter in Morocco, it’s a Developing Country

Okay, so you shall pay the asking price? Let’s be honest, we tend to pay what the vendor ask because of generosity that we have sometimes. Unless you are not really good to barter same with me ( LOL). Come on, Moroccans do expect their customers to barter. Based on my experience, I visited most of the souqs or markets in Morocco and here’s what I can say. In any part of the world, vendors are business savvy, so they would know the value of their goods in the United States of America and Europe. So they would ask you for it. Off course, your yours truly has to experience the way how to be a good in barter.

In general, Morocco is a country with rich history. To understand the culture is the most important thing you should do.

 

 

Rabat, the capital city of the amazing Morocco is often overlooked by travelers. For five hours touring the city through its tram from Rabat Seville to Tour Hassan, from narrowed street of tranquil Rabat Medina, and the old fortress and walls around the city to protect the place from Spain in 12th century. But I am not going to discuss much of its history because it does show how the city was formed from its rich culture and stunning infrastructures. My goal is to let the world know about the city’s hidden spots and the things you can do when in Rabat. Rabat is a UNESCO Heritage Site, that means a worth place to visit.

A view from @B&B hotel. #hotels #rabati #instagram

A post shared by Travel with Hafiz (@travelwithhafiz) on

Old walls like those of  Intramuros in Manila can be seen when I walked and got lost from Place du Novembre tram station. I met a friend of mine in Cafe dream to discuss some collaborations when I need to use a Google map (Thanks Google). It was not hard to find hotels and restaurants since you can just walk and choose which one you would like to check in for hostels and refreshments.

While walking to get a hotel check-in, I saw stalls for the barbecue of Sausages and chicken. It is being put in buns to make it as a sandwich-like or shawarma style. It cost 10 Dirhams per order.

Rabat Morocco

I can sense the strong influence of the French during 20th century. Rabat has a unique European layout and I was like in country France, however, a little collection of North African plants. The gardens and buildings built are just some of French most ambitious of this country.

I chose to stay, booked a hotel to experience the magnificent city. I filmed some of the city’s landmarks and it will be uploaded on Youtube soon.

Do you have plans to visit Rabat in Morocco? Feel free to put comments below!