I'm in Morocco b*tch?

The struggle to find an authentic experience in Tangiers

Morocco has been at the top of my list of places to visit while abroad from the beginning. Its proximity to Spain, 340 miles, and the enchantment of going to a country with camels, potent spices, and ocean views made it a must see spot for me. All of this, coupled with the fact that I’d heard stories from my Mom who spent six years in Egypt in her 20s, had me raring to visit northern Africa.

I’m certain her six months in northern Africa were far more authentic than my three days this past weekend. I certainly enjoyed my stay and was glad I experienced a different part of the world, but my introduction to it was overwhelmingly American.

The tour group consisted of 90 students, age 19-25. We spent three days and two nights in Tangiers, Morocco. Tangiers is the sixth largest city in the country known for its seaside views and tourism. It’s made up of narrow winding streets, surrounding hills, breathtaking beach views, and natural caves.

The company that arranged the trip specializes in parties and excursions catered to Americans. Because of this, it was a safe trip but there was no hiding the fact that we were tourists, American college tourists at that.

It was embarrassing, at times, to be with a group of people so concerned with finding alcohol in a highly Muslim country where alcohol is discouraged, or “haram,” which means not allowed. Still, people would ask locals and our local tour guide where they could buy liquor and toast to locals with their open wine bottles as they roamed through the streets. Catering to this American need to party, we went to a hookah bar and discotec Saturday night. I thought the hookah bar would be a calming experience but instead a DJ blasted house music, including the song “I’m in Miami Bitch,” but it was dubbed over to “I’m in Morocco bitch.”

The camel ride was, in my opinion, animal cruelty, and not at all what any of us expected. Ninety tourists rode the camel around a sandy lot off of the highway for about 30 seconds each. The camels started having trouble standing up at which point their owner would whack their hind legs with a stick to speed things up. It wasn’t the enchanting walk along the beach I’d envisioned.

Let me end by saying that despite all of my problems with the trip, I am very glad I went to Morocco. The funny thing about traveling is you search for these super authentic experiences but for reasons of safety (Morocco’s not a place a young girl wants to go alone), and convenience (it was a cheap package that got us to all the sights), we often wind up getting a narrow, specialized slice of what a country is actually like.

I couldn’t get enough of the food and even bought some Moroccan allspice. The bazaars were prime haggling territory, and I walked away with what I thought were some good deals. I loved communicating with the few locals who spoke enough Spanish or English to understand what I was saying.

I Skyped with my mom when I returned home and said that someday I want to go to Egypt with her and stay in the small village where she lived to get a more authentic experience.

“I looked it up last week,” she told me, “Apparently it’s been over-run with tourists.”

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