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I get the question over and over again after I moved to Morocco: “Why did you move to Morocco?” Most people can only think of camels and desert here. To be honest, I didn’t know that much more about Morocco when I moved here either and now that I’ve spent some time here, I think it can be hard to generalize Morocco because it’s just so diverse. If you visit Marrakech, you find the ritzy restaurants, clubs and shops. If you go to Fes, you will see the old-world medina. If you travel to Merzouga, you will see the Sahara desert and get the traditional camel ride. But to see all the sides of Morocco takes some time and it’s the reason it’s such an interesting place to live. So here are my top reasons you should live in Morocco as a foreigner:
You want a little bit of everything
Morocco has the ocean and beaches, mountains and waterfalls and dunes and desert, all within a 400 mile radius. The temperate climate in most of Morocco means you get plenty of sun and warm weather all year round, with only the occasional thunderstorm or rain. In the winter you can find both snow on the mountains for skiing and then within a few hours of driving, find sun on the beach with opportunities to swim and surf (the Atlantic can be cold this time of year so pack a wetsuit). In the summer, some areas do get really warm so my suggestion would be to stay on the coast and cool off in the ocean or head north. The diversity of the climate and outdoors means it is prime for an adventurist like me, who wants to be able to mountain bike, hike, ski and surf all in the same country.
You want to eat out everyday
Morocco is pretty darn cheap in terms of living expenses and since I really love to eat out, this is a huge plus for me. Especially with the American currency at such a great conversion into dirhams, your dollar will stretch far in Morocco. You can easily find breakfasts for 20 dirhams or less (around $2) and lunches and dinners from 20 to 50 dirhams ($2 to $6). A fancy meal, as I call it now, costs 70 to 120 dirhams ($7 to $13), still way below American or European standards. If you choose to cook your meals, then the prices are even lower. Rent prices for a nice studio apartment in the better neighborhoods of Rabat (the capital city) are around $400 to $600 a month. You can find much cheaper if you either want to live in not so nice neighborhood (but you may need to look at some safety issues) or have a Moroccan who can help you negotiate. There are also nice perks here, like massages at fancy spas for $40, the traditional hammam for $20 or less and pedicures for $10. And you can always try to find a bargain in the medina; I’ve bought some beautiful rugs for less than $30.
You want to travel cheaply
Whether you choose to take a train, car, bus or plane, the options for travel, both within Morocco and internationally, are pretty exciting here. Within the cities, tram systems run so you don’t need a car. One-way tickets are between 6 and 7 dirhams (60 or 70 cents) or hail a taxi (be careful in more touristy areas as some taxis try to charge a lot for foreigners). The Moroccan train system, ONCF, runs at all times of the day and night and can get you to almost all parts of Morocco. On longer trips I usually take first class, which is never more than 300 dirhams one-way. There are some areas where you need to take both the train and the bus to get to and from your destination and there are lots of different bus travel options as well. If you want to travel internationally, there are a couple good options. You can take a 30 minute ferry ride from Tangier, Morocco to Spain for less than $40 one-way. From there, you can travel through the beautiful Andalusia area and find some great beaches. There are also great flight options from all of the major cities in Morocco. I’ve found roundtrip ticket prices to Madrid for as low as $50, Rome for $60, London for $45 and Paris for $100.
You value safety
You must always exercise caution when traveling abroad but with all the talk of turmoil in the Middle East, Morocco is really very stable. In fact, many people call Morocco the safest country in Africa due to the low crime rate in cities like Marrakech and a stable government. There are protests and crime just like all countries, but as a single female foreigner who travels by herself much of the time, I feel safe walking around and taking public transportation. I know the places and times I should exercise extra caution but this is something I would do regardless of my location. If you are a savvy traveler and love adventure, Morocco is a great place to travel alone or with a group.
You want to learn a language
Want to learn French? Morocco may not be the first place you think of but it’s actually a great place to learn French. Moroccans start learning French in middle school so most are fluent and it’s usually the first language I’m greeted with at restaurants and cafes. Moroccans are also extremely patient about helping you learn French words (it’s how I learned how to pronounce my drink of choice thé à la menthe correctly). There are plenty of opportunities to take French classes (like the French Institute, which I’ve heard is extremely affordable) and tutors who would be willing to give you one-on-one classes. Darija, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, is the first language spoken here. I’ve heard it’s not the most desirable Arabic dialect to learn for foreigners just because it’s not universal in the Middle East (Moroccans say they can understand all other Arabic dialects but the other Arabic dialects don’t understand Darija when it’s spoken). However, it’s still fun to pick up some Arabic phrases here and useful as you travel to different parts of Morocco.
You want to be immersed in a different culture
This is one of the highlights, in my opinion, of living in Morocco. Everyday, you see a mix of the European, Middle Eastern and African influences. Walking the streets, you’ll see people wearing the traditional pointed hoods of the Moroccan djellaba mixed in with fancy European clothes and colorful African fabrics. There are a number of traditional Moroccan dishes like tajine, couscous and harira served alongside European delicacies like croissants, pastries and pizzas. You start to learn that certain regions are famous for certain foods and these areas also produce products like rose water and argan oil. Couscous is traditionally served on Fridays but you can always find the sweet Moroccan tea served with a sprig of fresh mint leaf everywhere you go. As you go into the more remote mountainous areas of Morocco, you can hear the traditional language of Berber spoken and see a stark contrast of how people live compared to the urban areas. And it’s easy to feel like you’re stepping back in time when you enter the medinas. Medinas are the old cities surrounded by stone walls that are bustling marketplaces of Moroccan towns. In addition to the beautiful rugs, jewelry, lights and pottery, you can find pretty much anything you need, from kitchen supplies to pet turtles to underwear. And many other surprises. Cobras? Camel burgers anyone?
So whether you want to work abroad or just find a nice place to chill (tourist visas allow you to stay here for up to three months), I would recommend a stop in Morocco, even if it’s just to sip the Moroccan tea. Yallah!