It was summer of 2017. I was moving from Los Angeles to San Diego.
In between my move, I had a big international trip planned. On the list was Prague, London, Stockholm, and Croatia. I had good friends at each place waiting for me, thanks to a solid travel squad I’ve formed over the years.
Everything was booked – except for one country.
There was one destination I wanted to visit, but I was hesitant. I had no friends waiting for me there. I had no friends able to join me. I had no idea what it would be like for a solo female traveler. That country was Morocco.
I was determined to go there because I wanted to hit my sixth continent. Then, I’d only have Antarctica left. I chose Morocco because it’s the tip of Africa, the gateway to the magnificent continent. But I was nervous to go alone, so I decided to join a tour group. I did hours of research online and finally found the best deal and dates: Intrepid’s South Morocco Discovery tour. It was a 10-day trip that hit Marrakech, Aroumd, Ait Benhaddou, Zagora, Sahara Camp, Taroudannt, and Essaouira. It included lodging, transportation, and most meals.
I only had three concerns: my safety, my potential roommate, and Ramadan. I called Intrepid to discuss my worries. A friendly Intrepid agent assured me I would be safe and in good hands with one of their many well-trained local guides.
The tour already had four paired people attending, so the chances of me getting a roommate would be slim. The agent also informed me that if I were to get a roommate, she would be another solo female traveler. And, if I wished, I could always pay extra for my own room.
And in terms of Ramadan, the knowledgeable travel agent informed me that though a lot of things would be closed, it’s still a great time to visit. I started looking forward to experiencing the culture and spirituality of Morocco during Ramadan. And just like that, all three of my concerns were solved.
BOOM! BOOKED! The weeks went by so fast, I blinked, and it was time for Morocco. As I said goodbye to my close friends, I boarded the plane alone. I was hesitant, scared of the unknown. But I knew I had to experience it for myself.
I landed the next morning. I DID IT! I grabbed a cab that whisked me away to my hotel in Marrakech and I met my other travel mates and our guide, Aziz. I quickly befriended the girl closest to my age, Nadia. She was traveling with her mother, Nazmeen.
Our tour guide, Aziz, was well-spoken and very knowledgeable. He gave us great insight into his Moroccan heritage and the rituals of Ramadan. Aziz introduced us to his side-kick and our driver, Mohammed. Though he barely spoke English, he was always smiling. He was a superb driver and knew the streets of Morocco very well. His driving was so smooth that oftentimes I’d fall asleep on drives between places.
Since our group was small, we quickly became close. We watched out for each other. Aziz was able to focus his attention on each of us. I felt very safe with my Intrepid guide, driver, and fellow travelers.
We started out in the mountains of Aroumd. We did lots of hikes on challenging and fun terrain. The tour took us through elaborate shops and marketplaces. We rode camels through the Sahara Camp. Nadia and I took surf lessons in Essaouira, a cool, hippie beach town. We ended our tour in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech.
I got intricate henna tattoos on my shoulder and leg. The Moroccan host families cooked us delicious, flavorful tajines. I love enjoying new foods when I travel and Moroccan food is incredible with its many lamb, beef, okra, veggie, and couscous dishes. Every meal is paired with hot Moroccan mint tea.
It was sometimes difficult to find open restaurants because it was Ramadan. But the locals are understanding to visitors and in the big cities, restaurants and stores sell tourists both wine and hookah. And it really was special to experience Ramadan culture and its rituals. To see everyone break fast and kneel in prayer. It truly makes you appreciate the essentials of life.
Even though I had my hesitations, I was so happy and proud that I traveled to Morocco. It’s a magnificent country with hot deserts and cool beaches; of amazing culture and warm people.
The trip confirmed what I always believed: despite the evils in the world, there are more beautiful souls that shine brighter than all the darkness.
Though I flew to Morocco alone, I left with many friends.
I came back from my travels feeling fresh and ready to start my new life in San Diego. Months went by, then my travel adventures once again came full circle. My best friend from the trip, Nadia, was doing a US adventure trip for her birthday. On her list was Los Angeles. I drove up from San Diego to be reunited with my travel soul sista.
We reminisced on our past Moroccan travels, and we spoke of new adventures to come. I’ve now hit 33 countries and 6 continents. Up next? More of Africa! Maybe Egypt with Nadia and her mom, Nazmeen.
One day I will hit the seventh continent, Antarctica. I’m sure of it. In fact, Intrepid offers an enticing Antarctica tour… Stay tuned: I might just venture there with trusted Intrepid once again…
Ready to have the adventure of a lifetime in Morocco? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group trips there.
(Marrakech image courtesy of Intrepid Travel. All other images taken by Teny Chen on Intrepid’s South Morocco Discovery trip.)