You guys remember Gecko’s, the travel company that offers amazing, affordable tours throughout the world? Well my friend Stephanie just returned from their 10 day Moroccan tour. Here’s her take on how she afforded the tour as well as some inside dish on the exotic country.
The tour cost $1460, which included all hotels, transportation (train, bus, taxi, private car) throughout the country, guided tours, breakfast and a few lunches and dinners. I had Gecko’s arrange my airfare, but Royal Air Maroc (the national airline) is one of only a few airlines that fly from the U.S. to Morocco, so prices aren’t that cheap. Airfare is about $900 roundtrip. The average restaurant meal is between 60 and 100 dirham ($1 equals about 8 Moroccan dirhams). The average street vendor/food stall meal is between 10 and 40 dirham. Quality-wise, they’re both the same so go for the street vendors. There are no taxes or tips for dining out, so if a meal costs 60 dirham, you only pay 60 dirham.
Gecko’s took us to most of the major cities: Casablanca, Marrakesh, Meknes, Fes, Essaouira and camping in the Sahara. All hotel accommodations are very basic, but that’s mostly because of the country itself. There really isn’t much to “see” in Morocco so we just went to different cities and walked around. Most tourists go to mosques, but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The transportation was a combination of the local train, taxi, and chartered bus. All of the transportation is good, but the driving there is atrocious so each time you get in a car, you see at least one accident (sometimes deadly).
The food left a lot to be desired. Breakfast was always pieces of white bread. If we were staying at a fancy place, we got hard boiled eggs with the bread. Lunch and dinner is always tajine (beef, chicken, or lamb) or couscous (beef, chicken, or lamb). Dessert was always oranges; it was expected that each person eats between 3-5 oranges during dessert. Sometimes, but not often, you can find bananas and strawberries, but they’re expensive because they’re imported from elsewhere. It made me realize how much we take supermarkets for granted. For drinks, they only have bottled water (which tastes disgusting compared to ours), tea (which they drink between 10 and 12 times per day), orange juice (obviously), and Fanta. The mint tea was pretty good though, as they put actual mint leaves in it for extra flavor. And they LOVE sugar. The more sugar cubes someone gives you, the more welcome you are in their home. They call tea ‘Berber Whiskey’ so when someone asks, “Do you want to have a drink?” they mean, “Do you want to have some tea?”
One of the most fascinating things about Morocco is their perception of race. I traveled there within a group of eight; I was the only American and the only person of color. Everyone else in my group was white; six were from Great Britain and one from Australia. Ironically, Moroccans assumed they were American and I was, well, something else. I noticed that Moroccans never use racial categories like we use here i.e. African-American, Hispanic, etc. It’s either white or brown. If you’re black, you’re brown because your skin is brown. I think their lack of labels was the most refreshing thing about their culture. About 90% of people I encountered assumed I was Moroccan because of my skin complexion. There were countless times where people addressed me in Arabic or French, the two national languages of the country. I tried to explain to them, in English, that I didn’t speak either. Usually I was met with a baffled stare. I suppose the best thing about being mistaken for a local is that I was rarely harassed for money.
Ah, sounds awesome (minus the less than stellar food and traffic accidents). What’s the last great trip you guys took?