20 hours in Morocco

Approximately 20 hours into this holiday to Morocco, I’ve gotta say; so far it is a little disappointing. Admittedly, I have spent all of one day here in Marrakech, so perhaps it’s a little early to be passing judgement on a whole entire country. However, I’ve been to enough places to be able to recognise somewhere interesting / exciting / awesome when I see it, and this – so far -is not it.

I’ve noticed that when travelling on your own that the place, and of course the people, have a much greater influence on your experience than if you are travelling in a group. When travelling with others almost anywhere can be fun – even 20 hour train journeys in the stifling heat or days spent stranded in a one horse town waiting for the next bus. Games, conversation and yes even vast quantities of alcohol can be enough to turn the most dire and dull of places into the backdrop for some of the greatest adventure stories of your entire trip.

Travelling alone, you are more reliant on your surroundings to fulfil your trip’s potential. Sometimes this makes for greatness – stumbling upon new activities, making unexpected friendships, meandering at your own slow pace exploring the new, weird and wonderful.

However, for some reason, Marrakech is not delivering. There are some environmental reasons for this. For a start, it is raining. Now technically this is not Marrakech’s fault, but it does make a difference. For years I hated Paris because every time I visited it was constantly damp.

However, the bigger point is that there isn’t really that much to see. Everyone I have asked tells me I must go to the souks or to Jardin Majorelle. I have done both and while they were charming, neither set my world alight.  I thought at least the souks would be exciting; everyone had told me that, as a girl travelling alone, I would be hassled within an inch of my life and find myself crawling out on my hands and knees sobbing and shouting ‘make it stop!’.  The reality? Not one person spoke to me. I was left to my own devices, browsing through scarves and getting lost in laneways without so much as a ‘bonjour’.

Possibly I was overly prepared. After all, I had my darkest sunglasses at the ready, had donned a headscarf and had my earphones in – just as my guidebook had advised. Perhaps my strategy worked too well, creating an impenetrable wall between me and the market folk? Or perhaps the ‘hassle-levels’ aren’t nearly as bad as most people make out? Both are probably true.

What I know for sure though is that, travelling alone, the last thing you want to do is start building barriers between you and the place you’re in. Be careful, yes. But don’t ignore. Don’t be so quick to say ‘no’, or worse ‘go away’ – one of the few phases my guidebook has translated into Arabic, Berber AND French, just in case people don’t get the message.  

So perhaps the reason Marrakech isn’t delivering is because I’m not letting it in? Intriguing. I think it’s time to take off my dark glasses…