Morocco is an amazing country, extremely beautiful. Most Moroccans are nice and generous, landscapes are beautiful and it is one of the few opportunities that this planet offers for time travel. Go to the Medina in Fes and you will be transported to the Middle Ages among other things because it is the largest city without cars in the world. But Morocco has some drawbacks: the main three being polluted landscapes, police crime and tourist harassment (begging or offering services that you don’t need or want). Let me start with the caveats and then move on to the pluses.

Moroccans don’t seem to mind littering which sometimes makes the tourist experience somewhat disgusting. I personally saw many Moroccans opening packaged goods and then simply throwing the packaging on the floor. There are vast areas full of plastic bags and other plastic garbage and that is sad. Secondly, and even worse, are the police. The Moroccan police are the only danger we encountered traveling around Morocco in our car brought from Spain. They are criminals in uniform. They stop you and demand bribes for no reasons and they go even further. In the case of a friend of ours, they planted drugs in his car and demanded 100 euros with the other choice being jail. Our friend was petrified and swore never to go back to Morocco. Other friends were asked for bribes four times in the journey from Tangier to Marrakesh. Now, to be fair, in our drive from Marrakesh to Fes, we were not asked for any bribes but that seems to be the exception more than the rule. Lastly there’s the issue of aggressive begging or the infamous tourist guide that shows up every time you walk around. While many complain about these characters I found that just saying no worked.

Having read this, I can understand that criminal police, pollution and tourist harassment maybe enough to stop you from visiting Morocco. I instead chose it to celebrate my 50th birthday because I do believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. For the positives you can cite remarkable restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, scenery, culture and some shopping. In order to make my point for the positives, here are some videos and pictures:

Pictures from the whole celebration

Tannerie de Fes

The Ouzoud Falls

Ouzoud from Martin Varsavsky on Vimeo.

Walk around Fes

Fes from Martin Varsavsky on Vimeo.

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Peter Rogerson on April 30, 2010  · 

Morocco is a beautiful and unique country, undoutedly. However, from my experiences it can be tough for female travellers, as some Moroccan men can be somewhat sleazy and aggressive with females unaccompanied by males. It’s not something, in my view that should prevent females travelling there, when considering the “cons” of Morocco, it is – I think – an important one.

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Mariano Marcos on April 30, 2010  · 

When travelling around Morocco, we have always rented a car from an international rent-a-car company. Which means that you can travel without being noticed to the police and other people trying to get something from you. And, as Peter #1 said, it’s good for women to travel with some company.
Another thing we did was hiring a young local man (not an official guide, but a kid from the neighborhood) and explain that we just wanted to walk around. This way, you have somebody who lives there and tells you something about how they see life, politics, culture… and, at the same time, you have a shield to protect from the “aggresive begging from the tourist guide” you mention.
On the other hand, you didn’t mention anything about the smell, the aroma of the different parts of the country (including the tannerie, zouk, oasis by the atlas…) Don’t you think that’s also something special?
Wellcome back to the civilized world !!

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Arynoso on April 30, 2010  · 

Etuvimos con mi mujer hace 2 años. No la pasamos mal, pero habiendo viajado por otros paises “no tradicionales” para el turismo occidental no encontre ninguna razon para volver. Hacer migraciones en el aeropuerto de Marrakesh fue de terror. Una experiencia violenta y desagradable.
Cordiales saludos,

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Eric on May 2, 2010  · 

I see people throw trash on the street in Madrid all the time, ALL THE TIME (and I have seen Germans and other Europeans throw trash out the window of their cars in Mallorca) mainly empty cigarette packs, plastic wrappings etc. But Spain has come a long way in the past 30 years, especially because it was given a chance by the EU. Let’s hope Morocco will follow a similar model. For the time being, Morocco is very similar to Mexico, with its very rich northern neighbor.

By the way, in smaller cities, like Rabat or Meknes, especially if you aren’t in a big group, you are pretty much left alone. And if someone is hassling you too much, just go into a store and complain and usually the store owner will yell at the annoyee for you.

And to Peter, try being a female tourist alone in Italy 😉

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Federico on May 4, 2010  · 

Hi Martin, one question.

Imagine that you are a poor man living in the medina of Fes, how would you start up on businesses from this position in order to get back to the position you are right now?

I saw you in the video walking between those people in the medina and the first thing that came to my mind was the difference between your position and those people (In terms of personal wealth ).

I ve been in Fes before and I was asking this question to myself, how I would start up from this position with no cash and in such a poor place.

Very good videos! thanks for this ..

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