Everyone says it’s like a movie, but it’s not. Hollywood couldn’t make this place up from scratch, this culture, this window into a different era. There’s no director. There’s no script, though you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a bit of choreography going on the way motorbikes weave through the crowds in Marrakech.
No, it’s not a movie. It’s real. The crowded streets, the donkeys, the vestiges of French colonialism — it’s all Morocco. It’s where you find the souks, narrow passageways lined with shops selling everything from art to carpets, scarves, and jewelry.
From Marrakech to Tangier, it’s a feast for the senses. The street food that’s criminally underpriced, the admittedly challenging smell of the tanneries in Fez made up only by the shared wonder of watching an 11th-century tradition continue on a millennia later. Then, Tangier comes at you like a masterpiece painting, drawing you in with its blues, yellows, and weathered whites. No wonder artists and writers have been coming here for decades, soaking in as much inspiration as they can — or settling for good.
It can all be overwhelming for the uninitiated, like getting sucked into a riptide and stranded at sea. But a breath of fresh air is never far away. Find one of the gates around the Medina and escape the cacophony. Spot the oranges around the Koutoubia Mosque of Marrakech, take in the view of Fez at Tombeaux Des Mérinides before mingling with locals at the gardens, or watch fearless kids run around the cliffs on the outskirts of Tangier.
Eventually, the initial shock wears off and soon you’re making your way through the maze without looking down at your phone. By the time you hop on the train, you’re as acclimated as you’re ever going to be. You can relax as the train sweeps through the countryside. The periphery of the desert and Atlas mountains give way to green fields, rivers, and streams, passing by villages and farmers before pulling into the next station.
If you ever truly need a break, there are the riads — old courtyard homes converted into hotels. They rarely stick out on the street, hidden behind otherwise nondescript doors. Inside, it’s a respite with rooftops overlooking the city. The sound of footsteps, motorbikes, chatter — it’s all muffled up here as you regroup and recharge.
Take a nap and wake up to the echo of the call to prayer. Even the non-religious can appreciate the melody behind the theology. Then your eye is pulled away from the mosque and toward the surrounding rooftops. You realize, if aliens are tuning into Earth, they’re listening to Morocco with its, let’s say, five satellites per rooftop minimum. From here, you catch the snapshots of local life not on the tourist trek, like the mother scolding a screaming child while trying to do the laundry.
Eventually, like all trips, it comes to an end. But if you have the option, stay grounded and take the ferry to Spain. Only then can you truly appreciate how close these two very different worlds are.
Read the complete Morocco Travel Guide here.