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The Top 5 Things To See & Do In Morocco

Venture beyond popular Casablanca to have a diverse experience for the books.

Travel

Morocco is quickly becoming a must-see destination for many travelers. With its growing film and TV industries, the country is seeing a lot more tourism. Situated on the north-western coast of Africa, Morocco is home to one of the most unique and dynamic landscapes on the continent. It's mostly Arab but its people have a very diverse culture. Many people recognize Casablanca, which is the most populated city, but Marrakech, Fez, and Rabat should also be on your list of destinations to visit.

Long story short, Morocco checks every box for a destination that leaves you feeling vibrant and fulfilled. Here are a few of my suggestions on what to do while visiting:

1. Shop In Marrakech And Fez

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

I'm not really a big shopper when I go on vacation, but I do love picking up small trinkets or things that remind me of the place that I am visiting. You can cure your shopping needs at the souks inside the medinas of Marrakech and Fez.

Let's start with the basics: What is a souk? It's an Arab marketplace also known as a bazaar. You can find lots of unique gifts there made by local merchants. And who doesn't like handcrafted one of a kind souvenirs? They have everything from rugs, incense, oils, jewelry, clothes, toys, lamps, and more. The shops go on and on for miles through complex maze-like streets, so be careful to either stick to a few streets you recognize or get a guide. It is very easy to get lost.

Pro tip: Take photos of where you are staying or the path you are following so it is easier to retrace your steps to where you started. It is also good to have photos to show if you get lost so someone local can point you in the right direction.

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

Something unique to the Fez souks are the tanneries which are located on the interior of the maze-like streets. You may not be able to see them right away but you can for sure smell them. The tanneries are where camel skins are processed into leather goods. The process of tanning animal skins is one that's been around since the 11th century, and the smell is very strong the closer you get, so the shop owners give you a handful of mint to offset the pungent odor. If there is anywhere I would buy leather goods, it would be here.

Something important to note about the souks, you must learn to haggle. It is an offense to the shop owners if you do not go back and forth with them over price. So choose an item and tell the shop owner how much you will pay.

Allow him to tell you how much he will take for the item. Begin to haggle here, going back and forth on the price. Stay firm, and if the shop owner does not like it, walk away. More times than not, the shop owner will concede and give you what you want. Keep an open mind when haggling and have fun---it is all apart of the experience.

2. Visit 'The Blue Pearl,' Chefchaouen

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

One of the most iconic places and probably the most photographed places in Morocco is Chefchaouen. The city is also known as the "blue city" because all the buildings are painted in the hue. There is a bit of speculation as to why the whole city is blue, but before we get there, here's a little history lesson: Chefchauoen is nestled in the hills of the mountains and means "look at the horns" referring to the two peaks that are high above the city.

There is more to this city than just the blue buildings. As in many of the other cities in Morocco, Chefchaouen has some of the best shopping. I highly recommend purchasing the handmade Berber rugs here. The Berber peoples are the native peoples to Morocco. Outside of shopping, Chefchaouen has some historical landmarks to visit such as Ras El Ma (waterfall), Grand Mosque, and the Place Outa el Hammam.

In recent years, the affinity for blue in this area has been called into question by many. Some say it is to reflect the blue sky and others say it is to attract tourists to come to the city to buy goods. Either way, the blue winding streets against the mountain backdrop is enough reason to add this city to your itinerary.

3. Go Glamping in the Desert

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

Whether traveling with a group or on my own itinerary, I like to do unique things to further the experience. For this particular trip, I decided to go glamping in the desert with my friends. This activity fell right in the middle of our trip and was perfectly timed because it was a planned stop on our way from Marrakech to Fez. I wasn't sure what to expect when we pulled up to our stop in Merzouga. We were greeted by the camping site staff, and after they loaded our bags into cars, they escorted us to our transportation to the campsite: Camels.

In all honesty, the camel ride was not an easy one, but it was through the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert at sunset. Breathtaking would be a gross understatement.

Once we reached the camp, we were escorted to a village of beautifully colored tents equipped with beds and our own personal washrooms. The campsite staff treated us to a traditional Moroccan dinner and then to a live music concert under the stars. The best part was meeting our campsite neighbors who were from France. They spoke no English and we spoke no French, but we drank and danced the night away together---small perks of traveling that make for great stories. Some other fun activities to add to your desert excursion are dune buggy or ATV riding and sand surfing. Desert glamping is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city and unlike any other experience.

4. Enjoy a Tranquil Hammam

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

This was not an experience that I was able to have on my trip, but it is a noteworthy experience nonetheless. One of my itinerary tips is to include a spa day or some time to treat yourself. It can be just the cure for jet lag or fatigue from an active vacation before going home.

So, what is a hammam exactly? It's a Turkish bath in which you go through a series of steam rooms and receive a rubdown or massage and a cold shower. The first element in the hammam is heat and increases as you travel through the rooms. The heat helps increase and activate blood circulation, and the colder rooms facilitate respiration by helping to release the sinus and nasal cavities. The baths can also help soothe muscle pain, and as you go through the hammam, it is recommended that you take showers regularly to stimulate your immune system. There are so many added health benefits that it is a worthwhile experience. Before you go, be sure to research the rules and understand what will happen during your time there.

5. Get Authentic 'Liquid Gold': Argan Oil

Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods

At this point, argan oil is literally in every beauty product these days. Even more common is the claim that most beauty products have the real thing. Luckily in Morocco, real argan oil is everywhere in its most pure form. This is one souvenir I absolutely recommend purchasing. Argan oil is made from nuts that are harvested from argan trees. The oil is extracted from the seeds and yield different amounts depending on the extraction method.

There are two traditional ways to harvest the nuts: by collecting those that drop from trees or those that have been deposited by tree-climbing goats. The latter is done by digging through goat poop to find the seeds for extraction. As awful as this sounds, the goats are an important part of the process because the nut shells are very hard to crack. Goats can chew away that shell, making it easier to get to the seed. Despite the gross poop-digging, Moroccan argan oil is worth the purchase simply for all its beauty benefits.

Take On A Few Bonuses!

There are a few honorable mentions that should also be considered for your trip. Take a tour of the many film studios in Morocco. There are several that have produced recent films and TV series including Men in Black III and Game of Thrones.

If I could do the Morocco trip again, I would split my time between a standard hotel and a riad, a traditional Moroccan house that has an interior garden and courtyard. They're really beautiful and the staff is typically incredibly helpful.

One hotel I suggest visiting is the La Mamounia in Marrakech which features a courtyard pool and green-and-white tile decor. It is a little pricey per night but worth a visit to walk around and pause for a fresh cocktail at one of the bars on the property.

This wraps up Morocco but as always there is a lot to see and do, take your time, plan in advance, and have the time of your life!

Did you know that xoNecole has a new podcast? Join founder Necole Kane, and co-hosts Sheriden Chanel and Amer Woods, for conversations over cocktails each and every week by subscribing to xoNecole Happy Hour podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Featured Image Courtesy of Amer-Marie Woods.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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