Morocco is a wonderful, intense and beautiful country. Travelling in Morocco is however a vastly unique experience to travelling in Western countries and in order to fully enjoy your Moroccan experience it is essential to understand the culture, customs and etiquette. After having heard some horror stories online and from friends, I discovered that there are a number of things you can do as a woman to help ensure your travels are safe, incident- free and enjoyable!
Having travelled quite extensively through five continents, Morocco was the first country to tick off on my sixth continent! It is chaotic, draining and polluted whilst still being beautiful, historical and charming. Before travelling to Morocco I’d read online and heard some horror stories from friends about how they were harassed by men and felt very unsafe at times! I ensured that I did as I do for every country I visit, and read up on the local customs and etiquette just to get a feel for the culture and prepare myself before I arrive.
Tip 1: Dress Modestly
I like most girls my age enjoy wearing shorts, singlets and summer dresses. As tempting as it is to dress this way especially in the middle of summer (as it was for us 49 degrees celcius in the Sahara), whilst in Morocco it is important to cover up. I wore lightweight long pants, t-shirts and long sleeved shirts, long dresses and shawls/scarves. Covering up is not just to avoid unwanted attention but to avoid making the locals uncomfortable. I saw many tourists in quite revealing clothing and was even a little offended as I believe in wearing appropriate attire and respecting the local culture.
The best and simplest tip I have is that I always made sure I always carried a scarf with me. I purchased a long, lightweight scarf in the souk and used it to cover my shoulders once I left the hotel and in the Sahara to wrap around your head to keep some of the heat away/ward off sunburn!
Tip 2: Use Common Sense
As with any new country (even your own country) it’s always essential to exercise common sense, particularly in a place like Morocco. As long as you use common sense, act safely and act like you would normally whilst travelling, you should have no issue whilst in Morocco. Also whilst alcohol is available in Morocco it can be difficult to come by (we were there during Ramadan) and it is very expensive.
Drink Mint Tea instead – it is sugary but amazing!
Tip 3: Make friends if you are travelling alone!
I was lucky enough to be travelling with my boyfriend and I felt having a male around did help a lot. We were careful to respect local customs and not kiss/hold hands etc whilst in public. The place you will most likely to be approached or harrassed is by touts in the souks and the medina. If you are with others, or have a legitimate guide then you are less likely to receive unwanted attention. Power in numbers!
I found this best also when travelling in South America, we were less likely to receive attention when there was a group of us or whilst travelling with a male. Saying that – its not a guarantee people will leave you alone. We found it best to just ignore, avoid eye contact or firmly tell them we were not interested/no thank you if they were persistent and kept pushing us to buy something/give us directions/get money from us.
If you are worried, most hotels and hostels can organise genuine guides and tours, or there is the option of joining a fully guided tour for the duration of your trip. I have had friends opt for the latter and they loved every moment of their trip! Another idea is to pre-book your accommodation, you are less likely to be harassed by touts offering to ‘help’ you find a place to stay.
Tip 4: Stay Positive
As we all know when we travel, despite our best intentions and efforts – things don’t always go to plan. We were quite lucky on our trip to Morocco having a fairly incident-free trip, however here were a number of times that I found myself getting really frustrated and annoyed with the constant touts in the Medina, women grabbing my arms to try and draw Henna on me and the constant demanding of ridiculous amounts of money for providing simple directions.
Try not to let this taint your travels though, stay positive and remember that whilst it is annoying, this is simply how most of these people make their living and it is a part of the Moroccan experience. Also – I think it’s important to note that I never once felt unsafe – only irritated. But by staying positive we had an incredible holiday whilst experiencing a whole new culture. All seasoned travellers out there know that the best way to have a good holiday is to stay positive and try to enjoy yourself, even when things don’t go to plan!
Overall I had a wonderful time in Morocco and found majority of the people to be lovely and left having fallen in love with this crazy, chaotic, magnificent country.