Haley Bond has spent most of her life dreaming of Morocco. Her parents visited the country when she was a kid, and ever since then, she’s seen it as an exotic land promising both beauty and adventure.
Haley recently finalized her divorce and, with Acanela’s help, she finally explored Morocco for herself. She went with a travel buddy named Connie, and together, they celebrated the next phase of Haley’s life, made new friends, and (above all else) fell in love with the gorgeous North African kingdom they traversed.
Here’s what Haley had to say about her Morocco vacation.
The trip was a dream come true, and there are too many highlights to choose just one! I’ll share a few of them:
I loved wandering the streets of Chefchaouen on our first full day in the country. The blue everywhere was stunning. I love getting lost in new places, and this was a great spot to do it. Once Connie and I got the lay of the land, we started to wander into the more residential neighborhoods, and we got a real sense of what local life was like. The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming. It was a great start to our trip.
When we went to Fez, I bought a Berber rug there. I’ve wanted a Moroccan rug for a long time but always told myself I’d rather actually get one in Morocco. I went on the trip thinking I might make that big purchase. When we arrived at the rug market and learned about how they were made (and that the money went directly to the women making them), I was sold. Both Connie and I got one, and we love them.
Visiting the Sahara was another highlight because duh. I started crying when I first saw the dunes — saffron-colored mountains of sand — rising up from the horizon. I was awestruck. And riding a camel was a bucket-lister for me.
I’d also never seen an oasis before coming to Morocco — and then to see the Vallée du Ziz, which is enormous, I was wowed. It was incredibly gorgeous: all of this green concentrated in one area and surrounded by the dry, rocky landscape. I didn’t want to blink to miss any of it.
I loved all the driving. We drove the equivalent distance of crossing the USA. It was awesome. Long car trips can sometimes suck, but this gave me such a good sense of the landscape. We went from coastline, to farmland, to mountains, to desert, to city, and I feel like I have a really solid understanding of what Morocco looks like. However, I think that if we hadn’t loved our driver, Yussif, it would have been way less fun. He really knew how to break up the trips and make it interesting.
While I was in Morocco, I also learned that the country’s cuisine is amazing. I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time I was there. The tagines, the honey cakes, mint tea... oh man, it was all so good. But I’d say my favorite meals were in local, hole-in-the-wall places, particularly this one in Fez that our guide Rostom took us to. I never would have known to go in, but we did and he ordered for us. Even now, when I think about the lamb tagine we had there, I begin to salivate. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had — we were stuffed, and it only cost $5.
My favorite cultural experience happened in the Sahara (on the eve of my birthday!). This was when we overnighted in the Berber tents. After dinner, the guides provided some entertainment by playing on traditional tribal drums, and our guide, Brahim, started chanting and dancing. He pulled up Connie and me so we could dance with him. I’ve danced my whole life, so I’m never going to pass up an opportunity to learn how other cultures move, no matter how stupid I may look. He taught us so much, and we had a blast! It was by far the most cardio we had on the whole trip. We danced until we dropped. After the dancing, the guides insisted that we learn how to play their drums. All the other guests were long gone, but that’s part of what made it great. It became a bonding experience and jam session with the local dudes who couldn’t have been nicer. When it was all over, we walked outside and we were in the middle of the Sahara. It was unreal. Just like Saint-Exupery said, it was all “wind, sand and stars.”
I took my favorite photo of the trip (see above) in the courtyard of Ksar Ighnda, the hotel in Ouarzazate. Something about this area was really magical to me. It was morning, and the sky was clear with the sun shining. The gardens were really lush, and there were tons of roses all over the property. I just remember the air being clean, fresh, and full of the scent of flowers. All of the buildings were made out of this dusty red clay, and the old, hand-carved wooden doors were bleached by the sun to become the same color. All the simplicity and beauty just combined into this magical, romantic quality, and in that moment, I remember feeling blissful. I felt like the intricate doors were inviting me to go through them and explore the path they led to, which was kind of symbolic of the whole trip. Morocco was so welcoming and exotic, and to me, this photo really embodies that.
If you’re thinking about taking this trip with Acanela, I have some travel advice for you. First, don’t stress too much about packing “for a Muslim country.” I got all worked up about having appropriate clothes that covered up everything. Honestly, I all I needed was a good sweater or scarf to cover up when necessary. I didn’t have any issues with my regular clothes. Don’t be disrespectful, but don’t stress.
Also, make sure that you’re a smart traveler. Don’t follow strangers. Beware of pickpockets. Be respectful. Keep in mind that many people use tactics unfamiliar to Westerners to make or take money from them.
One thing I wasn’t expecting: Morocco is so much more European than other Muslim countries are. Think of it as a southern version of Spain, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. The people are super friendly, outgoing, and laidback. (But, with that said, it’s important to mention that the inequality of women is very real in Morocco. It can be hard to see if you haven’t been exposed to it before. The government is slowly making changes so that women get more and more rights over time, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s not ideal — but it’s also not nearly as bad as some other places.)
All in all, Morocco is a fantastic place. I’d go back in a heartbeat, particularly to see the spots I didn’t visit the first time. What I didn’t expect to love so much was the people. It was easy to connect with them. They are kind, welcoming, and inclusive. They want to share their culture, and it’s so special.
All in all, Morocco is a fantastic place. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Thanks for this beautiful review, Haley! We’re delighted to hear that your time in Morocco was so meaningful.
If you’d like to join Acanela for an adventure like Haley’s, you’re in luck! Come with us for an unforgettable Morocco vacation in Chefchaouen and Fez, then extend your trip to visit the Sahara Desert and Marrakech. We’d love to show you around this incredible country!