May 062009

They say that first impressions are important. That opinions are formed quickly, and, once formed, are very difficult to sway.

That’s as true when you’re visiting a new country as it is when you’re meeting new people. Your original experience of a place colours your perception of subsequent events. The better it is, the more you tend to enjoy your visit, and the better the impression of the country you take away when you leave.

Morocco and I had got off to a shaky start. The border crossing from Spain had been a nightmare-the worst I’ve ever experienced on this or any other continent. Then our accommodation turned out to be miles from the nearest town, in a moderate-to-advanced state of disrepair, and lacking most of the facilities listed when we’d booked it.

“Spacious, luxurious accommodation matched only by the warmth of the welcome” extolled the details on the web-page. They were right in one sense-the sullen, jaded staff matched the run-down appearance and atmosphere to a tee. “Shabby-sans-chic” was how I took to describing it as the week wore on. Continue reading »

Apr 232009

Morrocan sweet mint tea, anyone?

Morocco… what can I say? Culture shock doesn’t even come close.

After a week in Spain we were all looking forward to our stay in Morocco-something a bit different, something to challenge our preconceived notion of the world and open the children’s eyes to a completely new cultural experience.

Reading about other countries in books or seeing them on the telly is all well and good… but there’s nothing quite like visiting somewhere for yourself to highlight that, despite the steadfast march of globalisation, the world isn’t the homogenised melting-pot of western values we all too often assume.

That diversity is a good thing-but when you’re travelling with children (notice we’re “travelling” now… our “holiday” ended when we left Spain) it can be a challenge to say the least.

Our first taste of Morocco wasn’t a pleasant one. After taking a taxi from the Spanish port of Ceuta to the Moroccan border we crossed on foot. Walking through a long, desolate no-man’s-land of concrete and razor wire I started to wonder what on earth we were doing. Continue reading »