So on October 30th, I decided on a whim to make the most of my Thanksgiving break and after a little perusing through flights on Skyscanner (destination: everywhere!) I made my pick: Morocco.
It was strange how little information was out there for Americans. And what was there was vague or a little hyperbolic. So I resolved to throw together my own little helpful list tip once I came back, for the curious travelers trying to make a solo sojourn to the Sahara.
Some people speak English. Primarily, people working in hotels, restaurants(-ish), and market stalls. Spanish is everywhere, especially in the North, French more so in the South, and Berber and Arabic all across. English on the bottom of everyone’s list… but you should still get around just fine in bigger cities.
Private transportation is pricey! No matter the distance I wanted to go the price was always over $200. You can negotiate, even if they say they don’t do it, and shopping around is a must. Message me for my favorite driver’s number and e-mail (I had 3). He gave me the best deal and was a total speed demon. I don’t think I could recommend a bus or train to an English speaker who didn’t also have some sort of support in Morocco. Your hotel may be able to hook you up.
Almost everyone is trying to rip you off. The cute kid that says he can show you the way to the tanneries, the nice old man who helps you get the name of a perfume, even the manager at your hotel. A day didn’t go by where someone wasn’t try something. The typical gambit is to be pretty sweet and helpful, and then stick to you like glue! Be firm that you don’t want any more help… and if that just isn’t working, I found that giving them 10 dirham and walking away works as well.
Hamamas are totally worth doing, even if you’re shy! It’s an incredibly cultural experience, the women are so friendly and helpful. Just remember to wear some panties you don’t mind everyone seeing!
Morocco is very male-dominated. I was surprised when I first arrived! When you’re out and about nearly 80% of all people on the street are men. I asked once where the women were and was told they were inside, cooking! The male-female dynamic is also strange. One of my drivers and two hotel receptionists were patronizing to me on multiple occasions, albeit in subtle ways. Men also had no problem grabbing at my things (in this case my phone when I was recording a street fight), following me, and even jump into my cab and invite himself to join me in my breakfast! I have a suspicion that maybe a male traveller wouldn’t have had as much trouble.
The Sahara is far. My jump point was Fes and it was still an 8 – 9 hour drive. So be prepared to leave very early and definitely have a car come pick you up. I’d also recommend joining a “luxury camp”, of which there were several. The best bang for your buck, in my opinion, is Bivoac Azawad. They’re fairly new but the price is much lower than their competitors. The accommodations were pretty fantastic, you can go sand boarding, and the Bivoac team was very responsive to my e-mails, which is A+ when you’re trying to plan a solo trip.
Hope it was helpful! Comment or message me if you’d like to see my itinerary or if you have any questions. Happy trails!