Morocco had always been on my mind as a place to explore. I love visiting Africa and this was another unique place I wanted to see, explore and experience. Its culture sets it apart from other parts of the world. With vibrant colors, delicious food and the close proximity to Europe it is an easy hop across the water. As soon as you land in this country or cross the border, you will be brought into a completely exciting new world. As a woman and especially a woman of color, my travel experiences are influenced by who I am and how I move through the world. In Morocco in particular being a female traveler presents amazing opportunities but also a unique set of challenges. This country has a reputaton for being challenging and sometimes harsh for female travelers. Some of this is warranted and true, but most of it is based in fears and myths that are either untrue or just misunderstood. Just like any place in the world, with a few considerations and an open mind you can have an amazing experience here. Here are a few things that helped my trip be wonderful. Like any place you travel at home or abroad it is important to follow some basic rules to help your experience be even better.
Learn some of The Language
Moroccan Arabic is the official language of Morocco, but you will find French and Spanish in large numbers due to its close proximity to the Mediterranean European countries. In addition Morocco has many local languages that represent the amazing diversity of ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Berber is one of the larger local languages spoken mostly in the desert. For most of us who speak English, learning Arabic might be pretty difficult, so I would recommend brushing up on your Spanish or French to help your time in Morocco be more pleasant and easier to navigate. With some base proficiency in either of those you can get by and even find unique opportunities for connections. As a woman especially, if you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing, are confident, and can move efficiently it will go a long way to making your experience much more comfortable.
Exploring Around The Cities
My first few days in Morocco were spent in Marrakech, a fun city with a dizzying web of alley ways, beautiful Riads, towering Mosques and bustling markets. At times the cities can be overwhelming so make sure and pack your patience and understand that it’s OK to feel a bit overwhelmed at first. One of the things I learned here fast is to make sure I have my bearings and now to navigate around, especially when finding your Raid. I would make sure and have this as prepared as possible before you go. Being a woman in this city it is important to project an air of confidence and that you know where you are going and what you are doing. This will go a long way to deterring any unwanted attention or offers of help. The last thing you want is to be wandering around in the evening alone feeling lost or confused, or having to rely on unknown and unsubstantiated directions or offers of rides or accompaniment. I also picked up the trick of wearing sunglasses when I was exploring the markets, this cut back on feeling hassled and allowed me to enjoy my time a lot more.
What You Wear Matters
I am the first person to encourage freedom of dress and feel women should be able to dress how they choose and in what makes them feel comfortable and themselves. That being said, what you wear can go a long way in making your experience in Morocco more enjoyable. Culturally and socially, Morocco is a conservative place that does value modesty and respect in the way people dress, especially travelers. Just as with any visit to a new place, it is always important to do your research and dress appropriately. When heading to Morocco choosing suitable clothing is key and will help your trip be 100% more enjoyable. Something as simple as wearing a knee-length skirt could offend local customs and bring unwanted attention. Body parts such as your legs and shoulders are considered private and should be covered in public. My tip to avoid uncomfortable experiences and unwanted looks by packing some light, flowing trousers made from linen or cotton, as well as longer skirts and dresses. When wearing tighter jeans/ trousers, pair them with a longer, looser top that covers the shoulders and butt. Those cute low-cut tops should stay at home as well, as cleavage is especially controversial. I’d recommend keeping your shoulders covered too – either wearing t-shirts under your sleeveless dresses, or bringing a light silky scarf to cover your shoulders with. Remember that all of these things can be bought without breaking your piggy bank at Moroccan shops! Just don’t forget to haggle 🙂
It’s Ok To Say No
In Morocco being able to say no goes along way. When I travel, I love getting to know the locals, sharing a friendly smile and chatting, but in Morocco sometimes this can be misunderstood. It is best to be friendly but make sure and take care of you. If you don’t do this, you can have strangers approach you on the streets and ask you where we’re from, where we’re staying, telling you that they can show us a quicker way. I am not saying that everyone has bad intentions, but because the cities in Morocco are heavily touristed there are people who want to take advantage of that for their own gain, so it is best to keep a close guard. Similarly, in the souks, everyone will try and get you to come into their shop and get upset if you don’t want to buy anything. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy something but it needs to be when you are feeling comfortable and want to buy something. These are just tips to handle some of the way that people operate there, not to say there aren’t amazing people and opportunity for connection. It is good to just be prepared to handle yourself in these scenarios.
Hire A Local Guide
One of the ways that helps me really understand a place and have a unique experience is having a local so me their home. One of my favorite parts of my trip in Morocco was our caravan in the dessert with our guide Hicham. His family comes from a line of drommador, or camel herders, whose roots go back centuries tracing the sand and living a nomadic life. We got in touch with ancient practices of navigation, how to cook and live in the desert, and the myths and history passed down over generations. We were taken to places we would never have found on our own and connected with people we would never have met. It was a beautiful experience learning, hearing his stories and participating in activities with him.
These are some basic tips to make your experience in Morocco more enjoyable. Especially as a woman it was important for me to be conscious of my actions, my surroundings, and how I interacted with the people I met. I know that this place can be intimidating for women travelers, but I am here to tell you to go. It was an amazing experience that I will cherish forever and I want you to have that too.