How To Make It In Morocco #1
Meet Jonah Gold
“Make It” is purposefully general. Does it mean to succeed? To survive? To attain wealth? To me, “How To Make It In Morocco” is a set of guidelines for how to get most from your experience here, whether as a tourist, a student, or an expat.
Embrace Insha’allah culture. Insha’allah is one of Morroco’s most pervasive phrases. It illuminates a deep faith in God, and willingness to take life as it comes. Religious or not, it is important to be a part of the rhythm of your environment. Don’t be in a rush. People are late. Learn to relax. Sit at a Café. Drink your coffee slowly. Let the world turn.
Be secure in yourself, but accepting of others. Coming from another country, having a different worldview, following a different religion, it can be all too easy to get in an avoidable confrontation. Know who you are, don’t back down, but at all times, remember that cultural exchange is the goal, and that is a two way street.
- Experience living history. Almost every city has an ancient medina just waiting to be explored. Fez is the best place to experience a medieval city still functioning in many of the same ways it was hundreds of years ago. Witness hundreds of artisans perfecting their craft. Wander through ancient covered markets. And of course, take a look at the famous Tanneries.
- Befriend your hanooti. If you decide to stay in Morocco for an extended stay, your corner store hanoot will become more important than any 7-11. Especially if you don’t have a concierge, Your hanooti can become your best friend, someone willing to bear with your lacking darija as you vaguely describe the food you want. He can be an ally against the world, changing your gas tanks, helping with your phone, and explaining local bus routes. Take the time to know his name and where he’s from. Give him a gift for Eid.
- Discover the wonder of the public Hamam. It may not compare to your $300 rotating/pulsating shower head back in America, but it makes up for it authenticity and an amazing sense of community. Make sure to come prepared. Bring your own soap and scrub pad. Treat yourself and get a full rubdown. Dirt and skin will come off that you never knew was there. You’ll come out looking and feeling fresh as a baby.
- Remain connected. Get Wifi for your apartment and never look back. It’s more than worth it. Skype with home. Stream live sports. Watch your favorite show. At times it can be difficult to be abroad; give your self a chance to feel at home even if you are thousands of miles away. The online world is unleashed once you abandon cheap satellite internet.
- Embrace public transportation. Petite taxis are nice, and they seem cheap at first, but if you start to rely only on them, your pockets will take a real hit. Take the bus. Ride the tram if you can. Hop in a grand taxi if you need to. More public forms of transportation give you a chance to interact with the real pulse of a city.
- Abandon the grocery store. If you are looking for the freshest (and cheapest) produce, the grocery store is the wrong place to go. Explore your local medina to find a vendor you trust. Go to the souk and marvel at the variety of foods you have never seen before. Take a chance and make a new friend. The deals will soon follow. If you don’t know what something is, ask, and then buy it anyway. There’s always time to try something new.
- Take a chance exploring a non-tourist city. Avoid well worn paths to find a Morocco wholly different from Marrakech and Fez. Try out Tétouan. Spend a day in Salé. Experience Larache. In doing so, you avoid the hassle of more popular destinations, giving yourself the opportunity to wander through a city’s nooks and crannies at your own pace.
- Wander in the desert. It's a place where time stops and the sand erases your footprints. Wake up early and witness the sunrise of your life. At night, take time to marvel at the stars. You’ll feel small, yet connected to this world in ways you'd never imagine.