Traveling Morocco for women

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This is a Muslim country. Let’s get that out of the way.

All that means is that people have a religion that may be a bit different from yours. Depending on where you’re from, people are probably a bit more conservative too.

That conservatism means there is a certain distance to maintain when you are with men – and men might well try to take advantage of your openness or friendliness by getting a bit too close. Beware of someone grasping your hand for a 'prolonged' handshake or squeezing your shoulder or elbow. Where you’re from that might be the norm, but here, it’s out of line. And if a Moroccan man asks you to go somewhere alone, again, beware, because although not unknown, this level of familiarity isn’t usual.

If you’re young and blonde – well, you’ll be attracting a lot more attention than if you are not. Again, stereotypes about Western women abound, so keep that in mind.

Most well-traveled areas are pretty safe. You’ll find Moroccans are extremely hospitable and an invitation to a family home should be treasured. In fact if you meet people who do invite you over, run, don’t walk. I have memories of family meals that will stay with me forever.

That said, harassment and attacks do happen, as do sexually explicit comments and lewd hissing. You'll need a thick skin; ignore the comments and keep walking, and if you find avoiding eye contact difficult, slide on a pair of sunglasses, at least during the day.

A good measure of your welcome is the presence of other women. In Tangier I was starving one night and walked through the old crooked streets desperate for a meal – every restaurant had only men so I went on my way and eventually found a pastry shop – filled with women and children, as well as men, but perfectly comfortable. I wouldn’t normally walk around the medina solo at night, but in truth I have felt more threatened by wild mopeds in Marrakesh than from excessive male attention.

One thing Moroccan women don’t often do is drink alcohol in public so if you want a drink, best to grab it indoors, where you’re staying, or behind the walls of a restaurant. Downing a beer in street café on your own might get you more attention than you want.

Women in Morocco are making great social and economic strides but this is still a male-dominated society. Morocco is also a relatively poor country and there is high unemployment, which does affect attitudes. That said, don’t expect Morocco to be a rock-bottom budget destination – it’s not.

Your Morocco travel wardrobe as a woman

It truly is a feast for the eyes. Even store shutters are decorative.
The good news is that in Morocco clothing is pretty much whatever you want it to be.

In the more urban or touristy cities or resorts, you can dress like you would at home. I’d warn against overly suggestive clothing because accustomed as Moroccans are to tourists, the conservative attitudes most grew up with are still close to the surface.

In the countryside or in small villages, especially isolated ones, mores are more traditional. You won’t go wrong anywhere if you cover your knees and shoulders, even in the most conservative areas.

I think the right word would be ‘appropriateness’: be comfortable but don’t push social boundaries too far. I’ve been to Morocco a number of times and I haven’t had to watch what I wore if I followed that rule, anywhere. If you want specifics, think loose skirts or pants and a top that isn’t skin-tight and not too revealing. That should get you by everywhere.

As for local fashion, you can’t generalize. Many young women are indistinguishable from their Western counterparts – this isn’t Saudi Arabia. Women who work look like women in Europe or elsewhere, wearing dresses or suits that reflect the jobs they do. Some women do wear the traditional headscarf or hijab as well as a flowing djellaba, but these tend to be the more traditional. Again, there is no rule, only tendencies.

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