Our next crash course on expat life comes from the wife of a diplomat and fellow blogger Emily who is stationed in Morocco. Morocco has often been on our list of cool places to live and this guest post by Emily just solidifies its place on our list. Emily and her husband have actually lived other places on our dream list like Madrid and New York in addition to Yemen and Jerusalem. Soon they will be off to Algiers! O, the life of diplo-families. Currently they are soaking up life in Rabat, Morocco and here are her Salient 7 for expat life in Morocco. To live vicariously through Emily please visit her blog The Next Dinner Party or peep her pics on Instagram @Nextdinnerparty.
Sip Mint Tea with a View: Morocco's mint tea is the best. It's jam-packed with fresh mint and never bitter. Basically it tastes like a stick of Wrigley's Double Mint gum. Sip a tea - or as the locals jokingly call it "Moroccan whiskey" - whilst taking any any number of incredible views. There's a great tea place in Rabat's Kasbah de Oudayas that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. In Tangier, I like to climb to the top of the chic Salon Bleu and sip my tea perched atop the eclectic rooftops of the old city and far above the shimmer of the Mediterranean Sea. In Marrakech, Le Petite Dejeuner has a great medina view and excellent tea. In beachy towns, like Agadir, tea vendors stroll the sand and sell you a fresh cuppa. You might think you don't want hot tea on a hot beach, but trust me, you do!
Rug Shopping: Morocco's rug game is ON POINT. From traditional kilims to boho-tastic Beni Orain and vintage boujaad rugs, there is something for everyone. For the best value, Rabat's the winner. For most selection: Marrakech (but you'll pay much more). Every town in Morocco has at least a few rug vendors. It was in the small northern town of Azrou that I scored the best deal ever on a large rug. Buying rugs in Morocco is my absolute favorite thing to do here. I love meeting the shop vendors and seeing beautiful handmade works of art unfurled before me! Haggling can be pretty fun too. For a real cultural experience, go to the every Tuesday rug market in Khemmiset, which is where vendors go to stock their shops.
Tour Magical Fez: Fez is a rabbit warren of dark stone alleyways that pass for streets and doorways that look like nothing but you peek in and - bam - there's a whole palace/gorgeous hotel/interesting shop inside. It's a magical place but it doesn't reveal it's magic right away - you have to dig a bit and walk a whole lot. It can feel inaccessible at first, so it's best to hire a guide on your first trip to Fez. Fez is an epic old city - one of the largest in all of Africa - and it contains lots of history and countless treasures.
Take Photos in the Blue City: Chefchaouen is a fairy tale-esque city nestled below Morocco's Rif mountains. It's almost entire blue and hilly which makes for photos so pretty, that this place is attracting visitors from all over the world who go pretty much just to take photos. If you're into photography, Chefchaouen is a must, from taking the panoramic city views from hilltop in front of the Spanish mosque to snapping flowerpots adorned to the bluer-than-blue wall of a perfect little side street. Just remember this is an actual city where Moroccans live and work, so be aware of blocking off peoples' doorways and routes in order to get that perfect Instagram shot. For the non photographers: There's not a lot to do in Chefchaouen, but the feel of the place is just so cool. That clean mountain air, wood burning stoves, and footsteps on the slippery cobblestones.
Master Marrakech: No city in Morocco is as overwhelming as Marrakech. It is in this city's medina where you'll face the most scams, the most haggling, the most hassle, the most exhaust fumes from incessant motorbikes, and where you'll sweat the most. But it's also where you'll experience the most excitement, the best dinnertime entertainment, the most fun shopping, the biggest selection of restaurants, the most creative inspiration, and ultimately the most satisfaction for having the fortitude to overcome all that other bullshit to see the incredible things about Morocco's most buzzy city. There is something sooo satisfying about walking through the door to your peaceful riad (old home turned hotel) at the end of a day spent soaking it all in, having a glass of wine on the rooftop, and watching the sun dip below the gorgeous pink hues of the Rose City.
Don't Skip Rabat: Rabat is Morocco's capital city, which contributes to it feeling very put-together, professional, and well-functioning. Some people find this boring, or at least compared to the craziness of Marrakech, or the Instagram perfection of the blue city, Chefchaouen. But Rabat offers a lot, including a pretty and chill medina filled with treasures that will cost you a fraction of what they would in Marrakech or Fez. I think it's a great day to walk the old city, the Kasbah, the promenade along the ocean, then take a cab across the river to Oulja Artisan Village, located in the city of Salé and shop some more. Also excellent: Rabat's modern art museum, the shi-shi El Tropic and its upstairs boutique Bee on Sixth, Le Petit Beure for Moroccan food and live oud music, Sa Caleta for excellent Spanish food in a trendy (and smokey) atmosphere, and Le Georges or Le Pietri for French food and live music.
This one is tricky because Moroccan food just is not my jam. I'm a vegetarian, and Moroccan food tends to focus on meat and/or fish. Aside from that, Moroccan food doesn't have much spice or variety. I can't in good faith recommend a tagine, a pastilla, or cous cous, which come on, is just little unflavored specks of pasta. But Morocco does have...
Top-notch Produce: From road side produce stands to fancy grocery stores like Carrefour Gourmet, Morocco does produce right. You can get everything here - luscious herbs, plump citrus, melons, and squash, firm eggplants, and more. Oddly orange sweet potatoes are only found in Tangier and Chefchaouen. When I go, I stock up. Also, produce costs next to nothing.
Mint Tea: see above
Wine: Moroccan wine has really exceeded my expectations, which were low, because this is, after all, a Muslim country. But there's a lot of good wine, and it's all reasonable priced. My favorites are Médaillon for white and Volubilia for red.
Bread: If you're into bread, you'll like it here. In addition to always being able to find a good French baguette, there is an abundance of freshly baked Moroccan breads, including a fluffy pita-like one, a flaky flatbread, and a pock-marked pancake served for breakfast with honey. (Also: local honey is great!).
Chinese food in Chefchaouen: There are a lot of Chinese tourist in Morocco's most photogenic city, and now, there are a handful of very authentic Chinese restaurants. Rabat, where I live, doesn't have many ethnic food choices, so finding delicious Chinese food in Chefchaouen felt like a revelation.
What did I bring with me that I couldn't live without? Well, everything! I am very into interior design and I like to set up an apartment that feels homey and is great for entertaining. So my husband and I bring an entire apartment of furniture, artwork, rugs, and more with us on each move. I'd say the most important four creature comforts are:
Our big beautiful blue sofa: We bought it in Tel Aviv and while it's always nail-biting to see if it'll fit in our apartments. It hasn't failed us yet. When we see this chic and comfy stunner unwrapped in our new digs, it starts to feel like "our" apartment. And then we take a nap on the sofa.
Kitchen everything: I love to cook and entertain so I feel like I can't do without our big serving platters, pitchers, a few different food processors, my pasta maker, and a nice selection of sharp knives.
Our tchotchkes: or to be classier, our objets d'art. From my husband's Newburyport, Massachusetts whale made of driftwood, a carved wooden elephant head we bought on our honeymoon in Laos, to a beautiful painting we splurged on last year in Cadaqués, Spain. Being a minimalist in this line of work might make more sense, but what can I say, I really like our stuff. I love the memories each piece holds, and I love how they make our place look lived-in, fun, and interesting.
Our cats: Gus and Boj. They are our literal creature comforts. They're enormous, fuzzy, and we're obsessed with them. We hate to load them into cages and put them on long flights but it feels like they forgive us about two seconds after we arrive to our new home. Once they're exploring the place, we know we're home.
Don't be scared to drive: The roads might seem intimidating, but I've actually found them to be somewhat orderly and very well-maintained. Having a car in Morocco gives you a whole other level of freedom to see all the corners of this stunning country.
Don't be afraid of haggling and making relationships with shop owners. Shopping can at first feel overwhelming, but I'd say approach all the vendors as people who are trying to make a living, who often have fascinating stories. A smile, eye contact, and a few questions goes a long way!
Make a plan to see all the areas of Morocco: It's a big country. For instance, driving from Rabat to the desert would take at least 8 or 9 hours.
The Drivers: People like to complain about the drivers, but this is all relative. It really depends on where you were driving before coming here! But, sure, the drivers don't stay in their lanes and while there are a million roundabouts there are only a dozen drivers who know what to do at said roundabouts.
The Lack of Bars: I like a good cocktail or glass of wine more than anybody, so it's been a little adjustment that the concept of a "bar" doesn't seem to exists. Sometimes places look like bars and they only serve tea and and juice. Other "bars" are really restaurants where it's expected you order a full meal if you want a drink. Drinking is never done out in the open here, so don't expect to enjoy a cold beer on a terrazza in the perfect Morocco weather. You can find a beer, you'll just be drinking in a dark and possibly smokey room not near an open window.
One of the best things about Morocco is how varied this country is - each city has a different feel so it lends itself to years of exploring! Sadly, we only had nine months! But I'd be a liar if I didn't just come out and say it: The best thing about Morocco is the shopping. Stunning rugs, woven baskets, colorful fabrics, funky pottery. It's all so, so good.
Emily, it was super fun to tour Morocco with you and best of luck on your next post!
In Love & Travel
Guest Posts From Diplo-families Worldwide
What is life like all over the globe? This area is a window into the lives of diplomats and their families. These interviews serve as mini crash courses in expat living worldwide. 7 salient notes about expat life in a given location. Enjoy!