Tips for women planning an adventure in Morocco.

food, Marrakesh, Morocco, Africa

 

Drunkenly booking myself a one-way ticket to Marrakesh, age 20, was undoubtedly one of the most impulsive decisions I've ever made. I had some idea of what Morocco might be like, but the more I researched solo-female travel there, the more I began to wonder if I had made a giant mistake. As the weeks before my departure flew by, I got increasingly nervous and tried to arm myself with as much information as possible.

 

In hindsight I had no reason to worry, but these are the tips I wish I'd read before I left...

Souks, Marrakesh, Morocco, Africa
Hostel Marrakesh Rouge, smoke bubble, Marrakesh, Morocco, Africa

 

There is no need to feel threatened, but if you are a relatively inexperienced traveller, there are certain ways to make your time a little easier.

 

Plan your first night's accommodation in advance and research thoroughly how to get there.

 

Maps aren't always useful in Marrakesh with it's teeming souks and distinct lack of road names. Take a compass too so you are at least aware of your direction. Hostel Marrakesh Rouge, one of the friendliest hostels I've ever stayed in, has extensive instructions and even a video of the route to walk. It's obviously possible to get a taxi, but I personally feel safer and less annoyed at the cost of the bus. 

Make friends.

 

Maybe you think it defeats the point of solo-travel, but I had the most fun in Morocco with other travellers I met along the way. A temporary

companion can make long bus rides, eating out and simply wandering around a whole lot less hassle. The best thing about travelling independently is that you have the freedom break off on your own whenever you like. 

 


Use your languages.

 

With Arabic and Berber, I didn't stand a chance, but brushing up on any smattering of French you might have learnt in school can be useful. Revise the phrases for pleasantries, directions and numbers at the very least. Trying to communicate in English is understandably difficult and has the potential to be a offensive too.

Dress appropriately!!!

 

Morocco is primarily a conservative, Muslim country. As a woman travelling alone you will attract plenty of attention, but don't be disrespectful or allow what you wear to give local people the wrong impression. Here are some suggestions...

Looking suave...
Looking suave...
  • Loose trousers or long skirt.
  • Cotton shirts, blouses or other tops with a high neckline that cover your upper arms.
  • A light scarf or shawl to cover your hair in places you need to be especially respectful or if you feel you are attracting too much attention.
  • If you have long hair, especially those who are blonde or have red hair, consider tying it up in a bun.
  • In Marrakesh try sunglasses to avoid making accidental and misleading eye contact while you're walking around.
  • Light, neutral colours will keep you cool and help you blend in too.
  • Consider covering any tattoos if possible as some people may find them offensive.

 

 

The points are only suggestions, many foreign girls wear whatever they like, but I felt more comfortable covering up in the cities. 

Communication and body language...

 

There is often an expectation for foreign women to be a bit "loose". To avoid fuelling this stereotype and getting into awkward situations, it is important not to do anything that might be misinterpreted as flirting.

  • To avoid collecting a trail of propositioning men, try not to make too much eye contact while you are walking around.
  • Be firm. If somebody is trying to hard sell you something you don't want or take your back to their house, say "no thankyou" and walk away with purpose. If you are being followed, don't be afraid to tell the person to stop. It's them not you who is being rude.
  • Walk as if you have somewhere to be. If you need to check the map, try and do it subtly. Ask directions from women or men who can't leave their shop/stall, but as a rule don't trust people who offer to come along and show you the way (in Marrakesh) as you may end up buying a carpet.

 

Marrakesh, Morocco, Africa

Difficult situations...

  • If someone touches you in a way which makes you feel uncomfortable, don't be afraid to exclaim loudly. It wouldn't be acceptable behaviour with a Moroccan woman and he will most likely be embarrassed. Leave the situation quickly.
  • On buses try and sit with a woman or un-intimidating looking character. It's easier to choose your travel companion yourself rather than risk leaving an empty seat beside you.
  • Try not to become trapped in small shops where nobody can see you.
  • If you need to, invent a husband who you are on your way to meet. I didn't but you could try wearing a fake wedding ring.
  • Be careful with alcohol- it's frowned upon generally and might lead to certain assumptions about you. Only drink with people you trust and never take alcohol out onto the street.
Beach near Al Hosema, Morocco, Africa

Common sense!

  • Try and avoid walking anywhere alone at night, especially if it is badly lit.
  • Don't flash your money or valuables about. I don't really use them, but a money belt could be useful if you want to sleep on a bus.
  • Carry small change to give you more bargaining power. You can break up large notes at a supermarket, bank or at your hostel.
  • Don't tell anyone you don't trust where you are staying or that you are alone.





As always, this article is supposed to help you travel in Morocco- not scare you off entirely! 


Over five weeks travelling, from Marrakesh up to Al Hoceima on the North Coast, I experienced nothing worse than pestering and one occasion where a young man tried to steal my bag at the crowded Festival Gnaoua d'Essaouira- I tugged it away from him and he sloped back into the throng. 


Coffee, Fez, Morocco, Africa


Write a comment

Comments: 11
  • #1

    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) (Wednesday, 03 June 2015 23:33)

    So many useful tips here that I wish I'd known before going to Marrakech a few months ago and I wasn't even going as a solo female traveller. I didn't know about tying up your hair for example but I can definitely relate to having uninvited people constantly trying to offer directions - we quickly learned to assertively say no thank you!

  • #2

    Katie Featherstone (Thursday, 04 June 2015 08:10)

    Tying my hair up was just something I found helped me personally, but I do think it made a difference.

    Thank-you for stopping by Shikha!

  • #3

    Becky Padmore (Tuesday, 09 June 2015 17:41)

    Really great advice, I have to admit I did feel a little intimidated there and I was travelling with a male friend too!

  • #4

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 09 June 2015 17:47)

    Yeah, it can be a little more difficult being a women in certain places. There is nearly always a way to do it safely though. :)

  • #5

    zoe (Saturday, 13 June 2015 11:23)

    I've always been curious about visiting Morocco, but maybe I've read too much scare-mongering "advice" because I'd started to think it was somewhere I'd have to find someone to go with... your experiences make it sound much more like it's just a place where you have to be sensible.

    (With the tying hair in a bun thing: I used to have long hair and even in my home city in Australia I'd find people would treat me differently (better?) when I had my hair in a bun, which is terrible but I guess it goes to show that peoples' dumb assumptions about women aren't just cultural :()

  • #6

    Katie Featherstone (Sunday, 14 June 2015 01:21)

    I'm glad I didn't put you off Zoe. :)

    That's a very depressing comment on society generally, but interesting that you recognised it. It's amazing how differently your appearance can make other perceive you and it's not always in the way we, as women, are taught to expect.

  • #7

    Agness (Sunday, 22 May 2016 17:21)

    Making friends is very important, indeed! Whenever I travel to, I try to meet & talk to locals. Building this relationship with them matters to me a lot! Great tips for Morocco. I may be going there soon! <3

  • #8

    Shing (Monday, 30 May 2016 09:24)

    Good advice Katie, and much needed for Morocco. I hate saying this, but I found Marrakech really difficult as a woman - and I was there with my boyfriend at the time! However, it's important to talk about these things, and even better to provide useful tips. It's definitely a country whose customs you need to read and understand before going to avoid unwanted attention or misunderstandings. Saying this, I would really like to go back and see the rest of the country.

  • #9

    Katie Featherstone (Monday, 30 May 2016 18:43)

    Thank-you lovely people for commenting. I hope you do get back Shing, it is a lot more relaxed away from the big cities. :)

  • #10

    Michelle (Monday, 18 July 2016 21:28)

    Great post! I was in Morocco a few months back, and while I loved it there, walking around in the cities can be a bit overwhelming with all the people trying to talk to you, sometimes bordering on harassing. I was there with my bf so I felt quite safe but it made walking around the cities a bit unpleasant!

  • #11

    Katie Featherstone (Tuesday, 19 July 2016 00:01)

    Thanks Michelle, yeah I know what you mean. :)

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