Morocco by Miguel Michán
Hanging off the cliff of the African continent, Morocco has been the touchstone for Europeans wishing to travel to the continent for centuries. Only about an hour away from Spain by boat and a few hours from the UK by plane, touch down onto the sun-kissed soil and you’ll be presented with a veritable feast for the senses. So geographically close to Europe, yet so very far from anything you had envisaged, this is the Middle East at its reputably very best. The people are warm and friendly, chatter abounds along the streets of Marrakesh, Essaouira, Rabat and Casablanca; trek into the Sahara desert and you will seldom find established communities, rubbing shoulders with Berber nomads and looking to the sand dunes for peace of mind. Developed in some parts and very much left to its archaic devices in others, Morocco ticks visitors’ wishlists for the right reasons: the food, the banter, the bartering and the beauty of the place are only a few of its attributes. Arabic and French remain the main languages spoken here, yet you will undoubtedly come across near-native English speakers (e.g. voracious orations of ‘lovely jubbly’ and ‘fish and chips’), making the place slightly more cosmopolitan (and humourous) a country to spend a year abroad in...Why should I choose Morocco for my year abroad?
With a booming tourist industry in its major cities, just like the most remote parts of the country, if you’re seeking employment, you’re bound to come across brilliant internship offers here. Tourism and hospitality are big trades here, yet you can also practise your English or French skills by giving out language lessons, through the British Council or through an independent school. If you’re studying French or Arabic, you can opt to study at one of the many prestigious universities here, all the while making the most of the culture and improving (or starting!) another language course whilst out on the continent.
Morocco is, on the whole, quite a tranquil country compared to other Middle Eastern territories. As such, you will enjoy your time here on a relatively cheap budget; though Marrakesh and Casablanca can prove to be quite expensive, you will still be able to treat yourself regularly to clothes, food and the occasional drink (alcohol is sold in the top hotel bars). The way of living here may seem relaxed and carefree, but pick beneath the surface and you will meet some incredibly caring and hard-working people. If history is your bag, the country has its fair share of historical facts and figures; from its Spanish and French colonisation, to its importance in trade and civilization across Africa, to its current state of independence, you will get a lot more from spending a year abroad here than any history class could supply.
With its vibrant markets, succulent food, spectacular scenery and its electrifying displays of colour (both architectural and natural), your imagination and vision of the Middle East will change, for the better. Take a seat at a local café and you’ll have to turn down the offers of courteous mint tea, walk through the souks of Marrakesh and your senses will all be tapped into, order a meal and your mind will travel as far as your palate, to lands unbeknown. A genuinely mystifying country, for a holiday or better still, a year abroad!