When you think of Morocco you might think of deserts, camels and sensational souks – and you’d be right. Morocco is a riot of colour and craziness. One minute you are strolling through the blue city of Chefchaouen and the next minute you are gazing into the twinkling stars of the Sahara Desert. It is surreal. But despite all of these incredible touristic experiences, things can be pretty different if you actually choose to work in Morocco.
I’ll start with my experiences — the good and the bad — and will then go into a guide for working in Morocco in general.
In 2014 I travelled in Europe for nine months. The backpacking adventure I had always dreamed of. At least that was the plan.
However, just before I arrived I realised that the Schengen Zone existed (damn it). The Schengen Zone means that only three months out of every six can be spent in Europe. So if you want to spend a long time in Europe, you have to tap out for a while and then you can re-enter. I decided to wait out my time in Morocco until I could return to the EU. This ended up being for two months (as I had already spent a month in non-Schengen Croatia).
Read More: How To Legally Overstay Your Time In Europe
And then there was problem number 2. I had basically no money left (Europe why are you so expensive?). Spending two months just hanging out was not an option. I needed to work. Or at the very least find a way to exist for two months without spending anything.
After searching the Internet for jobs, I eventually found one on Workaway in the city of Berrechid teaching English, only about 40 minutes from the major hub of Casablanca. Stupidly I never actually looked up anything about the city but if I had looked it up I would’ve found out… well not much. The Internet does not have a lot to say about Berrechid except that it has the largest mental hospital in North Africa (explains the pantless guy I saw wandering around). I went into this experience pretty blind and hoping that the positive job reviews were accurate.
Flying into Casablanca at midnight with a 13 hour layover inside Barcelona airport was stressful to say the least. What was more stressful was getting there and having the host not actually rock up to pick me up after the flight. After promising that he would come, and I didn’t have a phone on me, it turned into a panicked 2 hours wandering around Casablanca airport having no idea what to do. Eventually it was 2am and it seemed as though everything was heading south. What do I do if this was a scam and the job doesn’t exist? Two months in Morocco with nothing to do? The curious eyes of robed men sitting on the floor of the Arrivals Hall seemed to follow me pacing the hall with my huge backpack and worried eyes. I decided to check into an airport hotel and collect myself.
The hotel had availability. Good. But after I had paid a ridiculous amount I realised I had been overcharged. I was too tired and too stressed to care by this stage, I just needed sleep.
With the help of my parents back home we managed to repeatedly call the boss of the school and figure out what had happened. It wasn’t until 3pm the following day that he came and picked me up apologising. Not really the good start I had hoped for.
Berrechid was an odd sort of place. Every time I got off the train in Berrechid policemen would ask “are you sure you meant to get off here?” which didn’t exactly put my mind at ease. Red and yellow concrete apartment blocks filled the streets. Donkeys pulling carts created an eternal clip-clopping in the background of daily life. Cafés pouring sweet Moroccan mint tea from ornate pots seemed to be a male-only affair. It was the real Morocco. Nobody spoke English and any time a foreign worker from the English school walked down the street it would draw a lot of attention. Some good, some bad.
The people of Berrechid were either inquisitive about us English tutors being in their town and loved to ask questions, detested the idea of it, or saw us as ‘rich’ easy targets. It was a mix. Each time I walked to the supermarket I didn’t know whether to expect to make a friend or have stones thrown at me (this seriously happened). It was a feeling I had never experienced at home.
The weeks slipped by slowly in Berrechid. My room was in the bottom of the school. A bare mattress, questionable toilet and more cockroaches than I have ever seen in my life. But hey, that’s the experience. The wonder was in the people. Students were of all different ages and all had unique reasons for wanting to learn English. One was needing help with it for school, another was a successful lawyer considering working overseas, and some were just there to learn. I made lifelong friends with many of the other workers and the students alike. We shared jokes, food and life-changing trips around the country. I even managed to make friends with the guy sitting out the front of the supermarket every day; neither of us spoke each other’s language but it never mattered. And the hours I spent frequenting the incredibly well-priced cafés will never be forgotten.
The tutoring was a few hours each day and workers were granted long weekends each week to explore the country. This experience allowed me to save enough money to visit other places in Morocco whenever I had the time. Wandering around Chefchaouen, sleeping on rooftops in random Moroccan towns awaking to the sound of donkeys, and sand boarding on dunes in the Sahara Desert were all highlights. But smaller moments also mattered. When students would bring a ginormous home-cooked feasts to the school just so the workers could try authentic Moroccan food, or seeing the smile on this awesome kid’s face when we bought him his first ever birthday cake — these were the best bits. And I feel as though this is the stuff you don’t see if you don’t work.
After two months living in Berrechid and exploring the country, I learned that Morocco really is a magical place. But things do easily go wrong here and the police can be laissez-faire (thanks for not helping at all when my travel buddy was mugged) so if you do decide to work in smaller towns you need to have your wits about you. Although the working life in Morocco is not as glamourous as staying in hotels and glamping in the Sahara, it is real. You meet the real people, eat the non-Westernised foods and learn about what really makes a place tick. And despite the inevitable rough patches, the good moments hugely outweigh them.
I will be back for you one day Morocco. Thanks for all the life lessons in hospitality, generosity in the face of adversity, and learning to live life outside of my bubble. Many of these I would never have learned without you.
So, on to the practical stuff…
I mean where do you even start to look for jobs in a foreign country? I had never worked abroad before, did not speak Arabic (and my French leaves a lot to be desired) and I was pretty nervous about it. After trawling through loads of websites I had ruled out the volunteering websites, it makes no sense to pay thousands of dollars to volunteer. And then someone told me about WorkAway.
WorkAway is a website which connects travellers with businesses. Although you aren’t actually earning money, you aren’t spending it either. In the mind of a traveller any money saved is money earned. I connected with a business located in a town outside of Casablanca which taught English to students of all ages. With free accommodation, free Internet and some meals provided, it seemed like a great experience.
Once the application was accepted then everything was underway.
There were plenty of opportunities for working in Morocco. Options included: hostel work, bed and breakfasts, travel agencies, schools, renovations, etc. And if you weren’t so keen on the idea of WorkAway, you can do volunteer working holidays through companies such as IVHQ.
If you are working in Morocco and actually earning money, you will need a visa. If you are volunteering, you will also need a visa. WorkAway however seems to fall into this weird in between spot where you can just get your 90-day free travel visa on arrival.
Obviously check this information out before going. This is entirely based on my experience back in 2014 for an Australian. Always check with the Moroccan government prior to trying the enter the country.
There are plenty of amazing places to base yourself when working in Morocco. The train and bus network in Morocco is pretty good, so if you’re near a station you can travel around the country. I was based near Casablanca which was centrally located however not the nicest area of Morocco.
Marrakech is the tourist hub so if you feel safest around other travellers, I would recommend Marrakech. Surfing towns such as Taghazout and Essaouira are great if you like the sea. Chefchaouen is a relaxing and surreal city near some great hikes and waterfalls, this is also quite touristy. Rabat is the capital and is clean and easy to get around but perhaps not as interesting. Tangier is a lovely city and very close to Spain — some of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen. Working anywhere in the desert areas would be amazing but it is obviously very remote so travel is not easy and if you don’t like it, it’s harder to get away.
Where I was, and generally with WorkAway jobs, you do a couple of hours of work each day for around 5 days a week. You generally get weekends off and if your boss if nice (like mine was) you can have long weekends every weekend to go and explore the country.
Aside from sign up fees and flights, when you arrive at a WorkAway (or a job) things are incredibly cheap. Living in a city away from the touristy areas, like Berrechid, makes things much more affordable. Sometimes I was eating croissants and coffee breakfasts, big local lunches and having a home-cooked dinner all for less than $4AUD a day. The tours and hotels will obviously set you back more than this but it is all well-priced. Stick to local things and you’ll be more than alright.
Including three trips to Marrakech, a trip to Chefchoeun, a trip to Fès and a 3-night trip to the Sahara Desert, I ended up spending around $13AUD per day on average over the two months. It can cost you more or less than this depending on your travel style. But no matter how you swing it, it is not expensive.
This question gets asked a lot. In Morocco there is a lot of harassment and catcalling that occurs towards women. This happens in the touristy cities and the non-touristy cities. This is annoying. In my time there, I never heard of anything going beyond this.
I did this experience with a male travel partner so I felt safer but a lot of the other workers were solo female travellers. If you aren’t as confident travelling I would recommend staying in cities such as Marrakech where there are more tourist facilities around.
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