Ramadan in Morocco

Trip Start Jan 17, 2013
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Trip End Aug 12, 2013


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Flag of Morocco  , Fès-Boulemane,
Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Of course I had to leave Bolivia with a decently delayed flight again (as usual), so I missed my connecting flight in Madrid. After a lot of talking to various employees of the airline and other airlines in the alliance, I did a small trick and thus managed to get myself a VIP ticket to Amsterdam with KLM. I could sit in the VIP lounge drinking free beer and unlimited food while waiting for the replacing flight a few hours later. Coming back in The Netherlands with a fresh new mind, I soon realized again why so many people love to come to our country:   

  • The view of The Netherlands from above, especially when you are flying into Schiphol during a low hanging sun, is one of the most beautiful things I could think of. My country is ultra flat and dangerously low laying behind big dikes, it is very organised in small patches of land with loads of small canals and there is not a single piece of land untouched. 
  • Schiphol is one of the best airports in the world. It embodies the Dutch desire for perfection and efficiency. 
  • Our infrastructure is superior to any country I believe. Our road- and train network, combined with the rivers and sea make it that we are experts in logistics and getting anywhere in The Netherlands is extremely easy and fast. I always thought Schiphol is not that close to my parents house, but it is just a 30 minute drive. 
  • We have some of the fastest internet in the world. Uploading my pictures here is a matter of minutes, not hours. 
After less than 17 busy hours spent at my parents' house, while leaving my winter clothes behind, I set off to Eindhoven to catch a flight to Morocco. Many people asked me why I did such a strange route. It is simple: I wanted to include Africa in my trip but I ran out of time to go to Kenya, Ethiopia or Uganda. I choose for Morocco in the end because that was the cheapest option; and the best way to travel from South America was to pass through The Netherlands.

RAMADAN
Morocco had been in state of Ramadan for several weeks when I arrived in Marrakech. During this period, Muslims don't eat and don't drink between about 3:30 at night and 19:30 (it changes every day by 5 minutes or so because of the moon). Considering the fact that it gets well over 40 degrees every day, most people choose to hang it low during the day and sleep away most of it. Those that have to work during the day, for example the fake guides that work in the old town centre to harass the tourists, become extremely annoying. I always ignore anyone that tries to rip me off or someone who is after my money, resulting in many occasions where I have been shouted at with things like 'motherfucker', 'fuck you', 'fuck your mother' and accusations of being a racist because I choose not to communicate with scammers. Also I witnessed several rages on the street where people just want to kill each other. I had a host in Marrakech and he told me he sees several conflicts on the street every day during Ramadan. 

 

Many tourists complained about the awful attitude of the people on the street during Ramadan. I can tell they really turn into bastards, ten times worse than India. For a fact actually, the people in India are actually really nice, even when they try to rip you off or so. In India in some way they still have a sense of respect or shyness and they will back off when things are not working. In Morocco on the other hand they are extremely rude, impolite and they have no respect, only for your wallet. Saying NO (or 'Laah' in Arabic) does not work, not even after 10 times as they will follow you everywhere. During the time of Ramadan, which is a time to reflect on life and show respect for many things, the behavior of the street vendors is exactly the opposite. It makes you wonder if they really are Muslims. I know not all people in Morocco are Muslim, but there are far more than I expected. The whole country completely switched to Ramadan mode and getting anything done during the day was almost impossible since everything was closed. 



Experiencing Ramadan in Morocco is impressive though. There are nice people of course, and seeing how they have to deal with not eating and drinking during the whole day in this extreme heat for a whole month is impressive. I don't think many Dutch people will have the persistence to ever do something like that. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, the mosques hold extra prayers in the middle of the night (from 1:00 to 2:30!) so life really switches around from day to night. For this reason, even the clock is adjusted by one hour for Ramadan. The thing is, the people that are really busy with Ramadan will go to the mosque several times a day and don't have the energy to be annoying to tourists. 

MARRAKECH
Marrakech is a city with a famous square called Jemaa El-Fna. It is the main spot for tourists but it is quite a shit hole to be honest. It is terrorized by scammers, especially snake men that never perform any show but only sit and wait for tourists to take pictures and then forcing them to pay. The whole atmosphere on the square could be a lot better since the setting is quite nice, but all the people do there is deceive tourists and sell lies and negativity (all for the sake of money). I can best describe Marrakech as a rough diamond, I only hope people will start to treat tourists better at some point. 
 
Marrakech was very hot during my stay, more than 40 degrees and rumor had it that at times it topped at 49 degrees. I just came from the cold heights of Bolivia so getting acclimatized to the heat was a challenge. I slept quite a lot and tried to do most things during the evening, just like the locals. I rented a small room with a comfortable bed for €10 at a family after we got in contact through Couchsurfing. Real Couchsurfing in Morocco does NOT exist because Couchsurfing's concept is based on free accommodation and anything service for free in Morocco does not exist. However, it was a good experience because I met some good people there. Too bad the atmosphere got destroyed when two disrespectful German girls arrived for their holidays and thought they knew it all and I was just a weird guy traveling alone because I don't have any friends. One of them was extremely obese and had serious issues with food. When she was with other people, she always pretended there is no problem but anyone could see such a person does not get so fat without any kind of disorder. She would not eat anything local or from the street but I could see she was obsessed with eating. When my host finally convinced her to eat a local soup, she did and put an extra couple of spoons of salt in it; 'Oh I love salt so much,' she said. Yes, I can see that. People often say about fat people: 'But she has beautiful eyes?' Could be, but that is only because the eyes are the only thing on their body that can impossibly get fat. My strategy was to stay away from the two girls as much as I can so I did, unfortunately I could not socialize with my host that much after that. 



Anyway, I escaped the heat for a day while taking a rented scooter to some nearby waterfalls at 65 kilometres distance (of course where they try to scam you too). In the evening I drove around the old town centre (medina) through its very busy and narrow alleys, which was the best thing I had done in that city. No one ever bothers you when you are driving around. After another hot day in Marrakech, it was time to leave so I left for a nearby port city at the coast called Essaouira. The temperature was a bit lower there but due to Ramadan again it was almost dead during the day. I took some pictures in the harbor because the fishermen are still going out to sea, so it was the only place with some life to it (even though many there were sleeping too). On the nearby beach I only stayed a short while, vendors were harassing me the whole time trying to sell me hash. I left and chilled out in a hostel with some other travelers and left the day after. 

 

CAMELS AND SAND
Via Couchsurfing I got in contact with some guys hosting people in a far-away little town called Merzouga, where some nearby dunes create an opportunity to experience the desert for a night. I went there and spent a night out in the open under the stars together with a bunch of camels and 5 Spanish tourists. It was a pleasant experience even though sitting on a camel really sucks and getting to Merzouga was a 14-hour pain in the ass too. I had to take multiple local buses, shared taxis and hitchhiking, all in 45 degrees Celsius. The town of Merzouga was absolutely dead during the day, the only thing I could do there was sit with other Couchsurfers during the day as my hosts were sleeping too. It was nice to hear other stories about the country to get different perspectives, but one thing was for sure: I was not the only one who thought there were very annoying people on the streets of Moroccan cities....

 

FAMILY IN FES 
I rounded up my time staying with my cousin and her Moroccan husband in Fes to 'celebrate' the end of Ramadan (called 'Eid Mubarak'). Unfortunately, due to the position of the moon, it was prolonged by one day, unlike what most people expected. To support the people around me for another day of fasting, I joined them on the last day and I gained immediately respect. When the end was finally there, I went to see almost all of the family by visiting many houses and eating and drinking lots. There is no such thing as a party at the end of Ramadan with dancing and such, it is more like what we do on New Year's day. Finally I could see Moroccan people can also be extremely friendly, like in Iran. Maybe the Ramadan really had its effect on the people's mood, but of course I cannot see if that was the reason. The food was amazing and I really found some rest in the beautiful house of my Moroccan mother. 

I also went for a night in a blue town called Chefchaouen, famous amongst tourists so not a place to hang out for too long. I went back to Fes for one more night at my cousin to finally go home for good after 7 enjoyable months.

  

THE END
So this is the end. I am home at the moment, reflecting back on my last 7 months. I learned so so much, I realize more every day. Today I heard I got a room in Eindhoven again, the biggest one I have ever had and at the prime location of the Kerkstraat again. I am excited to start my studies, see my friends again and to start studying. I am full of motivation, the plan worked out and I will post some more about my final conclusion about my entire trip, what I learned, what I will do for the future, my future travel trips, what you should do, etc. Stay tuned!
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