Traveling in Morocco is like traveling back in time. The horse and buggy are still popular modes of transport even within the cities, and I don't think they will go out of style either as they are effective, and non polluting, compared to the thousands of scooters that rip in around the medina of Marrakech.
Traveling in Morocco has not been easy as women, or cheap. It actually has been more expensive then both Spain and Portugal, and this is staying in low budget riads and hostels and eating vegetarian food. There are prices for tourists and prices for locals, and if anyone is going to make some money it is the Moroccan. The women here tend to do all the backbreaking work, mind their children and husband. While the men sip tea and try to hustle tourists once in awhile and are often considered lazy by the modern arab women. To be an arab man in a arab world. What a different place to grow up where men learn as children that women (including their moms,sisters, aunts, friends) are second class citizens, dogs, or even prostitutes when this could be farther from the truth. The Koran is full of contradictions (as are most religious doctrines), but it often says to honor your wife and your female children, and if you are lucky enough to have three female children you will go to heaven..guaranteed!
You have to be on guard all the time sadly. A Moroccan won't steal from your pocket (they will gladly take your items if you drop it though), but they will lie through their teeth to get you to buy something that is almost all the time not genuine materials at prices that you could easily scoff at. I had a juice seller try and take 30 durham extra (3$ euros) and wouldn't give me my change and held up a whole different sign with different prices on it even though every single person in the square has the exact same prices. I had to yell at him to get my money back. Who likes yelling for anything, but he was hoping I would just give up and walk away. Not very zen I know, but its the principal, and its not right, and I am will not be taken advantage of.
Bargaining is part of the 'game' which is tough when you don't know where to start and people have been swindled into buying all sort of 'stuff', mainly rugs. The markets in Morocco here are full of 'stuff' or I would like to call crap. Even the many kind hosts I have stayed with think it's insane how much tourist items there are here overflowing at every corner. It is really hard to get a decent price and most items can be found cheaper at home and are probably better quality.
One nice thing was that Morocco seems to be a family destination with many people traveling with children of all ages. This isn't something that I would have imagined but why not I say, even though if they were looking for a bargain it isn't going to happen. Riads (Morrocan designed home with the open courtyard and terrace that keeps the heat out) range in price and often work well with families. They tend to be taken over by Europeans and managed by Morrocans. All our experiences with our hosts have been lovely. Most of the time they would meet us out of taxi and escort us to the Riad, sometimes they would drive us 10+km out of the Todra Gorge (from Auberge de Festival = amazing place), and most of the time they gave us the best and most honest advice which is a contrast what you find outside the Riad in the streets where people want 2 Euros for pointing the way back to the square.
As a women who loves to travel and loves to intermingle with other cultures, Morroco is a tough one, and is sadly not my favorite place even though in my last 24 hours I am feeling slightly nostalgic. I like to travel to places where at least you can make friends and not be considered a prostitute. Life is to short to be on guard that much, and it has really made me grateful for my home. I have always wanted to come to Morocco and I am glad I got to see it but my experience isn't something that should push you away from traveling here, but the reality of it was much less romantic and more emotionally challenging then I envisioned.
Everyone I have met when I told them from Vancouver would almost automatically say "Oh I love Vancouver", and I would ask "Oh have you been?" Most people would say yes, but many would say No, but I really want to go, I hear it is beautiful. I have never in my life had so many people tell me how much they love Vancouver (they don't know about the overpriced condo market ;)). In Vancouver you have fresh air, space, cleanliness, efficiency, and people that care, and some really nice people. I didn't realize how respected Canadians were till I went on this trip (and I have been all over the world). It makes me proud that we are so nice, and I look forward to the easiness that comes with being home in a few weeks.
Much love from Africa. xo