When I informed my parents and family that I had decided on the spur of the moment to take a solo backpacking trip around Morocco, the response was one of utter terror. As I cheerily enthused to my French neighbours in the Dordogne about how much I was looking forward to the Moroccan spice vibe and colourful Riads, their shocked faces repeatedly expressed the warning “It is not safe for a woman to travel alone in Morocco.” I couldn’t really think beyond the fact that Morocco is a very hot and sunny country. Surely this is the only thing an Irish traveler has ever considered when choosing an escape destination. And besides, I’ve been traveling all over France by myself for years. So yes, I had traveled around the most civilized country in the world and thus supposed myself ready for North Africa.
My red backpack weighed in at 6 kilos, 3 of which comprised of ‘War and Peace.’ For some reason I thought it would be a great idea to take it along for a light re-read every now and then since I’m doing my dissertation on it next term. The book just returned as a battered, sheesha-smelling version of its pristine, New York-bred original self, the bookmark barely placed past page 50. Although, I still seriously congratulated myself on the small amounts of clothes I took, and the stock of hotel shampoo I took along from a stop in Bordeaux. Traveling light makes everything easier, quicker and less stressful. A smaller bag never left me, holding my DSLR, wallet, number 50 sun spray, passport, and incredibly practical velcro iphone holder and phone.
Morocco is one of the best places to travel solo – because you never end up alone. Fellow adventurers populate the amazing hostels at the best spots in the country. During my 2 weeks time there, the only single occasion I had to travel by myself was on the way back to Marrakesh from a town called Agadir. I hopped on the wrong bus at 7pm, which should have arrived at 10pm. At 8pm, the bus stopped for the breaking of the fast, and as the other native passengers piled off the bus and into a cafe at the side of the road, I stood out a mile in my mini pink sports shorts and tried to huddle down out of sight in the back of the bus. Surprisingly, a young guy came back and absolutely insisted I ate with them, and even paid for my bread and orange juice. Himself and his friend didn’t speak any English or French, which made communication a bit difficult, although they managed to ask at one stage whether I was Muslim or married. Three hours later, the bus was jam packed, it was 12pm, during a massive rain storm, I didn’t recognize the route and was seriously doubting the whole venture until we finally rocked into the local bus station in Marrakech, the streets spilling with people in true Ramadan style. Things got a bit dangerous when a guy claiming to be a taxi driver led me to a very dark odd spot and came trundling back in a red van motioning to me wildly – I swiftly turned and ran for my life back to the station where police with heavy guns made me feel immediately at ease, before I found a legit taxi and was back in my cosy Marrakech Rouge hostel ready to retell my adventure to every familiar face there.
I lost count of days times spent in each place; I moved around quite a lot and covered most of the country. Marrakech was my base at the beginning of the trip before I moved up north. Couscous for the mind, constant hustling, souks which smelled of anything but spices, vendors shouting ”It’s all the same shit” before trying to drag you to their food stalls, and frantically offering hashish as a last resort – this place blew me out of the West, out of my comfort zone, into a place where I was many times scared, unsure, nervous, unaware; but always, and most importantly, where I was in constant sunshine, blissful heat, and surrounded by melons and orange juice.