Differences in culture (the immediate ones)
Well we're in an Islamic country, so I'd say those are the obvious differences. Women dress modestly and mostly in dresses, though some teenagers like to wear skinny jeans and flowy shirts or short dresses over them. Hair is usually covered, and rarely more of the face will be too. Older women are more likely to cover up more of their face and about 5% of the time, maybe even less, did I see full hajibs covering every inch except a thin slit for the eyes. Though I must say, after a month of being here, I was definitely looking to adorn a hajib of my own and can see how women feel so much more comfortable covering much of themselves up. The men here aren't even that bad, but with so many eyes on you, some days I definitely wanted to slink away and hide under a mountain of clothes.
What I expected vs. The reality of Morocco as a whole
Morocco surprised me. Jake too. We definitely did not expect to like it as much as we did and it grew on us pretty quickly, though almost immediately we obtained a love/hate relationship with the country. I expected a lot more gawking being white and especially American. I think there were a lot of things I thought would be different, but now that we've been here a little while, it's hard to remember what I thought I'd encounter. Maybe things not being so modern and European looking as they did. I didn't expect to come across as many English speaking people as we did, but our time in hostels allowed that.
Probably what surprised us the most is the food! We both thought we'd be overwhelmed with spices and flavor, but the food here is actually quite bland and all the seasonings seem to be as well. It says there's cumin... But it tastes like it's been in a cupboard for 10 years...
-These are the things we noticed everywhere that describes Morocco:
1. Stray cats - apparently they had a rat problem at some point and you can guess how that turned out..
2. Sugar is a primary sustenance - We like to think of Morocco having a sweets pyramid rather than a food pyramid. Maybe it was the dawning of Ramadan, but Moroccans seriously love their sugar way too much. All sugar packets are twice the size of normal, and sugar is added to every drink (including sweet orange juice!) and just about every meal, too. Want something savory? You will get it with sugar sprinkled on top.
3. Hashish? - Apparently though it is forbidden in Islamic religion(s) to consume intoxicants such as the ganja, Moroccans have been smoking it way before Islam came to town and they henceforth refused to give it up because Mohammed said to.
4. Three words to know in English to be a tout: "Best price" and "Maximum" - Our favorite in bartering with the locals is hearing "400 dirhams, maximum price!" And as we walk hear "Ok ok, 300 dirhams MAXIMUM price!" And every time "best price."
5. Cops here are awesome!! - They have the best humor and are super nice when you ask them for anything. Even when they don't know English (and most don't) they would be very visual in gestures and get their point across beautifully. I always felt safe around them once we kept having good experience after good experience in asking for help.
6. Doors and entryways are elaborate and gorgeous - Even the poorest homes have entryways to die for. They are a hospitable nation and they love to make a good impression on guests, so what better way than the best decorated doorway and tiled entry?
7. Bread is delicious and super cheap. 1dh is pretty standard for a loaf of bread, which translates to about 10-12 cents. The standard loaves look like they'd be dry and crumby and maybe even stale, but even at the end of the day they are soft and scrumptious in the middle and ridiculously filling. We made the mistake too many times ordering a small to medium sized meal we thought would never be enough, and because bread is served with everything, end up walking away with stomach pains because we ate way too much.
- Also, the locals rarely eat the delicious centers and rip them out to discard them on the table or floor since they use the harder crust as scoopers for the sauces, meats, and veggies (right-handed of course).
8. Their favorite music which I heard everywhere is Cheb Mami! I later read in our lonely planet guide that the music genre he is classified is called "rai" and it started in Algeria. I discovered Mami while living in Hawaii and still obsessing over my recent Renaissance Faire gypsy life. So cool that it's relevant here hah. They also love country music, the twangier the better. I told them it was shit.
9. No trash cans. Anywhere. Parks, buildings, even hotel rooms, you're hard-pressed to find one. Most of the time people just throw it on the ground and someone comes later to collect it. Kind of sucks, but I also hardly see people throw much away. A family of four or five will throw as much trash away in a week as the smallest canister you'll find in somebody's bathroom. Talk about efficiency!
Other tourists here?
Mostly European, and all pretty awesome. Generally Morocco likes the tourism and treats foreigners well, and they treat her well in return. I've enjoyed everyone I've encountered for the most part with the only odd characters the ones who seemed to be there only for the hash while we were in Essaouira (our hostel was well-known since the 60's for it).
Overall Rating: 7.0/10 would bang
Personally, I liked it here a lot more than I thought, but that's not to say Morocco is without its stresses. What I hate is the desperation of the touts and shop-owners in some cities. What I love is the genuine hospitality you CAN find if you have the right connections or are just outside tourist spots. It also would have been better with a group of people or if Jake and I fit better traveling, personality wise. We're great at home and putzing around Denver, Hawaii, or wherever we happen to be at together, because we have friends to see and things to do. But having an open-ended travel agenda and both of us being extremely nonchalant and laid back, it's made me want to throw bricks through windows after playing the "No, what do YOU want to do?!" game nonstop. Note to self: plan a fucking trip before you go.