Frill Seeker friend and return guest blogger, Stephanie Denise Young has just returned from an exotic trip to Morocco where she experienced a tiny bit of culture shock. Steph is no travel newbie, and it’s actually really common for those of us on the Western side of the world to become a little confused in a country that’s so different than ours. But one thing you can do to ease into your trip is to pack correctly. Leave those flip flops and fanny packs at home (please!) and stuff your suitcase with practical items you’ll need when you find yourself in Fes.
Here’s are Stephanie’s tips on what to pack:
Asthma Inhaler. The pollution isn’t as bad as China, but it can be overwhelming in the major cities.
Closed-Toe Shoes. Morocco has a serious trash problem; some hotels don’t even provide trash cans and many people throw their trash in the street or in the countryside. Locals never wear sandals and you shouldn’t either. People even wear sneakers on the beach, which is usually full of trash. The trash depressed me so I rarely photographed it.
Earplugs. Only bring some if you’re worried about being woken up at 5:00 for the call to prayer, which occurs five times each day. It is also at noon, 3:30pm, 5:30pm, and 7:00pm. Each call to prayer lasts between 30 minutes and an hour. I was always able to sleep through it and sometimes I thought it was part of my dream.
A flashlight. Most hotels turn the power off for a couple hours each day to save electricity. In my experience, this was anywhere from 6am to 8pm. The desert is very hot during the day and very cold at night so this means you’ll be one or the other while the power is off. One hotel I stayed required you to put your room card in a slot on the wall in order to turn the electricity on. When you left the room, and took your card with you, the electricity was off. Of course, this meant coming home to a freezing cold room, which took hours to warm up.
Guidebook. I strongly recommend traveling with a native French speaker since you will be charged considerably less for meals and souvenirs. Some restaurants have fixed prices; others inflate the price depending on your native language. One person in my group grew up on military bases and spoke several languages. We saved so much money as a result. If you don’t speak French, bring a guidebook so you can learn basic phrases. Arabic is the official language, but locals will not expect you to speak it and will usually address you in French.
Hoodie. This is mainly to protect yourself against homeless people. If you’re white (the assumption is that all white people are rich), they’ll tap your clothes and sometimes grab your clothes or hit you with whatever they’re trying to sell. Usually it’s tissues or some type of trinket. If you’re worried about a favorite shirt getting ruined, wear a hoodie over it. Don’t worry about looking ridiculous. Women and men have to keep their shoulders covered at all times, and most people cover their elbows. If you’re not white, you’ll rarely be asked for money.
Sleeping Bag. I highly recommend this for the “flashlight” reason mentioned above. I bought this sleeping bag especially for the trip because I knew it was small enough to fit in my luggage. I’m not sure how cold it got at night, but you could always see your breath. Several of my other group members used their sleeping bags in hotels too.
Scarf. Several places require you to cover your head. It’s better to bring a scarf from home than to pay 50 dirham for once when you get there.
Tampons. This may sound kind of obvious, but these aren’t readily available in a Muslim country. My roommate didn’t bring enough and we were both on the lookout for days. Eventually, we found some in a supermarché in a small town a few hours east of Marrakech. I don’t even remember the name of the town.
Toilet Paper. You should carry toilet paper everywhere you go. Some hotels don’t even provide toilet paper. Most gave us enough for one use and then we started using our own. Moroccans often use tissues in place of toilet paper, which can be hard to find depending on where you live. I recommend bringing a pocket pack of tissues. I packed actual toilet paper with me, but found it was much easier to carry the tissues around all day than a roll of toilet paper.