I have wanted to visit Morocco for a long time, but the one thing putting me off was the danger people suggested it would pose to a solo female traveller. When the opportunity arose to explore Marrakech for a few days by myself, I jumped at the chance but was also apprehensive.
Thankfully my worries were completely, 100% unfounded. Staying in both the city and old town, I met some of the kindest people ever. Arriving at midnight, my host welcomed me whilst a taxi driver charged me much less than I was warned they could. Walking through the streets, I wasn't harassed anywhere near as much as I was warned I could be. I was told by a pair of expats that it has considerably changed in recent years, thanks to stricter policing of souk owners. I also made a large effort to cover up with long culottes and short sleeve shirts to avoid the staring that girls in hot pants and strap tops attracted.
It was also amazing how the place was exactly what I thought it would be but also surprised me on ever corner. The dark terracotta walls lined the street alleyways, only to open up to a bustling street market of straw bags and coloured tagines and spices. Haggling was too much fun, getting most items for at least less than half the price after coming away with a number of straw bags. Knowing when to keep a head down or say "non merci" was enough to be able to walk through the souks without attention. Once, after being lost, despite stories of men leading you down the wrong way and charging you money, a man stopped his bike, directed my in the direction and with a wave sped off again. Hardly the tales I had been told.
The contrast between silent breaks on the rooftop with a sizzling tagine were the perfect place to be when suddenly the prayers roar out from the towers a few times a day. Before you know it, they're over and the market furore floods back into the room.
One of the best experiences was driving into the desert for a hot air balloon at sunrise. Getting up at the crack of dawn and jumping into a jeep, we were met by a Berber breakfast in a tent in the middle of nowhere, before jumping into the balloon as the sun was creeping over the mountains. Seconds later, the guide and the roar of the fire went into nothing and the silence as the pink sky and orange desert lit up. The silence as we floated through the air and all watched in awe is how Morocco was meant to be seen.
I've avoided riding horses for most of my life but a camel ride back to the camp site certainly tested my fear. Thankfully, despite the height and the wobble, surviving it was rather exciting even if they seem nonplussed.
The rest of Morocco was spent taking a break from the 40 degree heat, yet still drinking the hot bubbly tea. What was amazing was the secluded gardens, such as Le Jardin that were just inches from the main road but you step thought the door and the sound melts away, as tile-work and green plants greet you.