MOROCCO

Morocco is certainly one of the more 'controversial' countries that I visited.  I meet quite a lot of travelers on the road, and upon mentioning my upcoming visit to Morocco, I got a full gamut of responses.  Some said with wonder in their eyes that it was one of their favorite countries in the world, some said it was horribly overrun with scams and swindlers, and nearly everyone said that they had stomach issues of some sort when visiting (it's famous for it).  After spending a few weeks exploring a handful of very different regions of Morocco, I can say for myself that all of the above was pretty true.  Morocco was definitely not an easy country to visit: in places like Marrakech especially, they view travelers and bags of money just waiting to be coerced, so I had to keep on my toes.  I was threatened a few times (once by the self-proclaimed 'mafia'), and it was nearly impossible to take photos of anything or anyone without someone running up and demanding money in recompense.   The touts were harmless enough after a while, and after a few days of getting accustomed to the culture I was able to see the country for what it truly is: a vibrant mix of ancient traditions and new influences, and a treasure trove of the exotic.  

Top experiences: navigating the maze-like insanity of Marrakech and Fes' markets, surfing off the coast after a storm, taking a camel caravan through the Sahara desert, sleeping on the red dunes beneath the stars, and becoming a seasoned haggler by the end of the trip.