As much as I love to tell my own stories here I also want to share other people’s experiences in Morocco so that you get a varied look at different experiences. Today’s story is from Dane of Holiday from Where. Lesson to learn? Sometimes you just have to go with the flow for the best travel experiences!
We arrived in Morocco from Spain. Neither of us had ever been here before and we had no idea what to expect. We were taking a taxi from the ferry port to a hotel somewhere in the city. We had not booked anything and just trusted our driver.
We checked in and left our hotel. We were just looking for food and we sat down in a small restaurant next to a young woman and a small girl. They started talking to us in broken English before they left. Before we had finished eating they returned with an older American man and he asked us if we would like to come back to their place and have some tea. We didn’t know what to think, we just kind of talked it over quickly and I suggested we go despite that we had no idea where we were or where we were going. It was hands down the best decision we made the whole time we were in Morocco.
They took us back to their place and there was a large extended family there that all greeted us and with smiles and tea and snacks. After talking for a while they offered to show us around a few different areas in the country. They said they wanted us to meet their family in the country side and show us the parts of their area that they thought were beautiful.
The next day we checked out of our hotel and went and met the family back at their apartment building. We all piled in the car and headed south out of the city. The drive lasted for a few hours. I could honestly never tell you where we went or where we ended up. The area was so small and I only ever saw signs in Arabic. It was a beautiful region with a handful of scattered houses spread out through the area. There was a lake running through the town that seemed to irrigate the surrounding crops and supply people with an area to clean their clothes and wash.
That night was a culture shock for us. It was the first time we had been in a Muslim household that was this traditional. We were given our places at the table. Then the ‘head’ of the family and his wife took their seats and then their parents sat down. After that the people that we were travelling with followed. The rest of the room was about 15 more family members all sitting around on the floor watching us eat listening to us talk, asking for translations of what was going on every 30 seconds or so. We kept trying to offer them food but they said they would eat later. We felt bad about this but did not understand the system that they had in these more traditional areas.
There was a language barrier that was a little hard to get past at times. One thing in particular that was extremely hard for us to explain was the fact that we didn’t eat meat. Neither of us had eaten meat for years and we could not get them to understand this. There was a lot of confusion around this issue and they tried so hard to accommodate us with this.
The next day we were taken to this festival or ceremony a 30 minute drive or so from where we were staying. It mostly consisted of food stalls. There was a large open area in the middle of all this though where there was 10-20 plus men mounted on horses in traditional gear. They would all line up and then someone would scream and they would all charge as fast as they could in one direction with their old rifles pointed to the sky and when they got to a certain point they would all fire in unison. It was a unique spectacle that I had never seen before or since.
That afternoon they took us on a tour of this super lush farm land filled with different types of fruit. Different types of apples and stone fruits all hanging around us in abundance. We took what we wanted and ate on the way home while talking. We were still trying to figure out what we had seen exactly that day.
Dinner again that night followed the same pattern as the night before. Same setting and extended family sitting around listening. They had cooked different food for us but still could not quite understand the meat thing. I have had this problem before. People in certain countries not understanding why you don’t eat meat. But this was the first time I had felt so bad about saying no to it. Especially because they were trying so hard with the cooking. We spoke about it the next day to one another saying we wanted to eat it but neither of us could bring ourselves to do it.
There were so many things we noticed about this family that filled us with so much happiness. If you had just come from any western country it could look like these people were living in the western concept of poverty. That could not have been further from the truth. They did not have a television and there were no paved roads anywhere. The living settings were basic and there were no windows or doors on the house and bedding was limited. But it was beautiful and they had all they needed to be happy. And happy they were. Everyone was constantly smiling, joking, laughing and they did everything in their power to make sure we had everything we wanted or needed.
We spent a few more days there with them showing us around and just exploring their area. We decided it was time to move on but they begged us to stay for one more night. They had not managed to make a meal we had been able to fully eat yet and wanted to make us something special. So we said we would stay. It was the least we could do after their hospitality. What actually transpired that night didn’t really dawn on me until sometime later. I was a bit younger and more ignorant than I am now especially on topics like religion.
When I think about this I still feel really bad but they made us our special meal. They explained to us that it was not meat. We kind of looked at it and looked at one another and I tried a piece and realised instantly that it was pork. I said this to my friend who I could see was really worried about this.
If it had have dawned on me at the time like it did later I would have just eaten it despite how it would have made me feel.
What I realised later was that this family, devout Muslim as they were had gone out and found pork for us somewhere thinking that we would enjoy that or like that. It did not even cross my mind at the time that this was completely against their religion and beliefs. They did it anyway to try and make us feel comfortable or more at home.
This incident still brings up mixed emotions in me. I wish so badly that they had not have done it. Their religion is something they believe strongly in and I feel so bad that they compromised that to accommodate us. At the same time it genuinely warms my heart knowing they were so genuinely concerned about what we ate or what they thought we wanted that they were willing to do this.
I still feel like a complete asshole for not eating and this is still after a few years.
Our time with this family in their tiny village left us with such love for the people of Morocco and their culture and it was something that I still hold dear as a very special experience.
When we left them they looked so sad that we felt so bad. That is what happens when you travel though. I am not sure of the impression we left on them but they gave us one we could never forget.
We were so happy we allowed ourselves to let go of our western conceptions of what might be considered safe to do in countries like Morocco and left ourselves in the arms of the Moroccan people. There was nothing we could have planned that would have ever come close to that experience for us.
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