People will tell you about the poverty, the religion, the dirty streets, the people who want to sell you a carpet, the people who will rip you off, the corruption of the police, the lack of education.
No one mentions the kindness of people. That was what overwhelmed me every single day. The people who would offer you directions, a ride, a tea, a meal inside their home, stories of their past.
A week into my stay in Taghazout, I met Senna. She smiled so much that she glowed. She was so genuinely happy and radiated such good vibes that I later told everyone who was worried for us hitchhiking on our own that no one would possibly want to harm Senna and I therefore felt very safe to be anywhere near her.
Senna has had the single biggest impact on my life of anyone I've met on my travels. For weeks she made silent observations of my behaviour and then when I finally had some realisations, she stood quietly as I poured out things that by then seemed so obvious and I watched her eyes smile ever so slightly and I knew she'd been waiting for me to learn these things on my own. So many conclusions I had drawn in my life- many opinions set in stone- she made me question every one. She shook up my brain and cleared the dust that had long settled on countless subjects.
She made me laugh every day, with stories often beginning with "My friend who lives in a yurt and makes essential oils..." or "One time when I was 13 we snuck out of a homeschool trip and hitchhiked to the city..."
One night when we had got rides in four different vehicles and it was late and we were overtired we were giggling like baboons in the back of a car hoping we wouldn't annoy the couple so much that they would leave us on the side of the road.
I learnt first hand how different an interaction you can have with the same people and a different attitude. She'd have a conversation with anyone- no- everyone.
When she left, I missed her dearly but I knew I was better for having met her. She left me so capable that just hours after we'd said goodbye, I had secured a job at a riad and was eating a home cooked tagine with five Moroccan people. She taught me things that I can't even name.
I was so much more open to interactions and because of this I met Moroccan people who had travelled and people who had never been to the cities of their own country. Acrobats, musicians, lawyers, accountants, architects, and people who spoke six languages. Many educated people who worked in restaurants or shops because there are no jobs.
I spent most of my time in Taghazout, a little surf town nearest to Agadir in the South and from there Senna and I travelled to Mirleft and Lagzira before she left back to France. After working for a week in Essaouira and meeting two fantastic German sisters who had planned to hike the Atlas Mountains, I knew my time was coming to an end and headed for Marrakech. There I met some fantastic people and found some old friends too.
I rode a camel through the desert and slept at a traditional Berber camp, I dipped my toes in North Africa's biggest waterfall, I ate Cous Cous on Fridays (and tagine every other night) and drank mint tea every morning, I walked under the arches at Lagzira, I learnt to surf (kind of), a wild monkey jumped on my head, and we hitchhiked 600km.
Morocco was the 20th country I've visited and I can say without a doubt, it is in the top three on the Most Friendly list. I didn't feel unsafe or scared or disrespected. I would even go so far as to say it's my favourite country so far. I didn't make it to Fez or Casablanca or Chefchouen like I wanted to but I hope this will only encourage my return.
People will tell you that the men will take advantage of you, that they will get the wrong idea and you'll be in danger if you engage anyone. The Australian government travel websites warn against terrorism and kidnapping of Westerners. People will tell you to be fierce, to walk with purpose, to not make eye contact.
Smile. Accept tea from shop owners, have a conversation. Be kind. Be overwhelmingly kind. Be so kind that the kindness oozes out of your soul and covers the earth in a thick mucus of kindness. Chances are Moroccan people will still be kinder.