It seemed like just moments after booking my flights to Morocco the bad news started to flood in about female travel in Morocco.
“You’re not going alone, are you?” “Will your boyfriend be there? Or any other guys?” “You’ll be traveling with another woman? Oh.”
Now, usually I don’t fall for the whole “female travel is really difficult there” thing – I’ve fallen in love with enough countries that people had warned me about visiting to know better – but this time I did start to worry. So I asked everyone I knew who had been how they thought traveling through Morocco as two women would be, and everyone had bad news for me.
Even well-traveled male bloggers were saying that women should only visit Morocco as part of a tour. Seriously?
Danielle tried to assure me that as experienced travelers we’d been fine, but I kind of didn’t believe her. Or I thought that would make it even worse?
Like, I was worried that in my tired old I’ve already done North Africa and the Middle East way I just wouldn’t have the patience to put up with all the attention I’d receive traveling through Morocco as a woman. It wouldn’t be new and different enough to be worth it.
Uh, maybe tired and old is right, because I didn’t get hassled at all in Morocco.
At least not that I really noticed?
Cue me searching back through all those blog posts I had read about Morocco to see if any of them were written by women over the age of 26.
Lol kidding. I think my positive experience in Morocco mostly had to do with a combination of luck and experience, and okay, maybe a tiny bit age.
And just to be clear: this post is not a how to guide for avoiding being hassled in Morocco as a female traveler. I spent two weeks in the country – I am no expert at all. However, when I was reading through blog posts about Morocco I so wanted to see just one positive experience where hassling wasn’t a problem at all, just to give me hope that maybe it wouldn’t be an issue for me either.
But more importantly, from the stories I had heard about female travelers getting harassed by people in Morocco, I was starting to worry that something about tourism there was broken. I mean, if locals were treating tourists so disrespectfully, maybe they really just didn’t want them there.
I’ve traveled through places where locals hate tourists (I actually live in one of those places) and it often just makes me feel really bad about visiting. I didn’t want that for my time Morocco.
But that’s not what I found in Morocco at all. Most everyone I interacted with was incredibly kind, going out of their way to help me and make me feel welcomed. And hassling wasn’t a problem. Sure there was some extra attention in places like Marrakech and Chefchaouen, but I never heard any of the rude comments I had been warned about, and no one pursued things.
I do think somehow I just got lucky. One of the Peace Corps girls Danielle and I visited told me that she goes to the medina in Fes nearly every weekend and loves it, but a few weeks ago she went with a friend and all the attention and rude remarks were almost unbearable.
She said it had never been a real problem for her in the year she had been living in Morocco, but on that day it was horrible, and she couldn’t think why. But on her next visit it was totally fine again! So random.
So yes, there’s definitely a chance that I might have problems on my next trip to Morocco (because duh I’m going back!).
But also, and I kind of hate writing this because it sounds annoying, my previous travel experience probably helped me in Morocco.
First of all, Morocco felt very familiar to me. I think somehow I had been expecting it to be more different from other North African and Muslim countries I had visited before, but when I got there I instantly felt comfortable.
I’ve also visited a lot of countries where hassling tourists is a thing and I think I’ve gotten weirdly good at blocking out comments I don’t want to hear, never making eye contact with men, and quickly turning down offers from people while trying not to come off as rude or aggressive.
In fact, in Marrakech Danielle and I walked to Jemaa el Fnaa with a couple a bit older than us and the woman said that she had never heard so many comments as she did walking with us. And I was just like… what comments? Haha
If I were to guess, I would actually say that the hassling in Morocco won’t be so bad for totally inexperienced travelers and very experienced travelers. I think it’s the worst for people who have traveled enough that they’re over the honeymoon phase of traveling (is that a thing?) but not enough to already be used to places like Morocco.
Does that make sense? Basically what I’m saying is, I wish I had just listened to Danielle when she told me I’d be totally fine in Morocco, because I ended up worrying a lot about nothing.
But if you’re worried, you could always sign up for a private day tour in Marrakech so that you have the comfort of a guide in the place you’ll be most likely to be hassled, without having to tie yourself down to a whole week long tour.
What to Wear in Morocco
I will add, though, that while I don’t think this will guarantee a good experience, dressing appropriately is really, really important in Morocco. I saw a lot of tourists wearing shorts, tank tops, and even crop tops, and they always had everyone’s attention.
I mean, maybe they didn’t mind the extra attention, but since I did I stuck with long trousers and high cut tops. I had actually almost packed a skirt that hits just below my knees but was glad I skipped it because I think it would still have been too short. Don’t want to show any calf!
And when Danielle and I found ourselves out in Fes after dark I also put a scarf on my head and immediately felt more comfortable. Seriously, head scarves are magical that way.
Here are some ideas for what to wear in Morocco:
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I think it’s wise to go somewhere like that being aware of the possibility of getting extra attention and knowing what you can do to try and minimise it. I’ve been to Tunisia twice, once when I was about nine and I think I was about 14 the second time. The first time I went, I didn’t understand the attention and I found it very uncomfortable. The second time I went, I was much more aware of why female tourists got extra attention and made sure I dressed respectfully and I didn’t feel like we got any more attention than any other tourist; just the old “look at what I’ve got to sell”. It wouldn’t put me off going to somewhere like that again at all.
Oh interesting, my first country like that was also Tunisia! And you’re right, just being ready for it probably minimizes the comfort a great deal.
I think how you dress has a lot to do with it, but also your demeanor. A lot of Americans are very open and don’t mind talking to strangers. I think people can sense this and try to exploit it. I’ve never been to Morocco, but I’ve built a might resting bitch face after dealing with harassment in Mexico and Los Angeles, so maybe I’d be more like you. (I hope!)
Yes, that’s so true! It’s like how it’s totally normal for American women to make eye contact with men without it meaning anything at all, whereas in some places that’s basically like an invitation. Weirdly I think it was while living in Japan that I pretty much stopped ever making eye contact with strange men, haha.
Christine melder says
I am the woman from the couple Silvia mentioned. Thank you Silvia for shaving a few years from our age, that made my day. 🙂
I may have heard more comments in the souk while walking with her and Danielle because I was more attuned to it that day.
Silvia is right in that dressing appropriately really helps. A confident demeanor, a smile and a “non, merci”, also go a long way into turning a worried mind into an actual enjoyable experience. I walk alone in the souk several times a week, I am here on a long vacation with my husband but we sometimes do different things, and I feel safe. Whatever safe practices you use at home in big cities like NY or LA, is as relevant here, especially if you mind the short skirts and tops.
This too is my first visit to Morocco, I had read the same kinds of scary reviews and heard the same: “are you going alone?” questions, but as Silvia said, it is a beautiful country and I will come back.
I love your advice for a “confident demeanor, a smile and a ‘non, merci'” – I think that’s exactly the right approach! I’m glad we both ended up seeing past all those scary reviews, ha. I almost felt like I was in a different Morocco than the one I had read about online.
Kate - Travel for Difference says
It’s great that you had a positive experience! One of my close relatives visited Morocco with a bit of an opposite experience. She was followed and harassed every time she left the hotel. But it’s great that you’re sending a positive message to women. It’s so important to be empowering! X
Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s really reassured me! Morocco is top of my list but I’ve been put off going solo because of scare stories. That being said, I thought I was experienced enough to handle Cairo, and the hassle myself and my female travel buddy endured there left me absolutely seething. I lived in the Middle East and have travelled a fair bit so thought I’d get it, but it just angered me so much. I also struggle with covering my hair – I feel that it’s not always a matter of respecting a culture, but of covering up to avoid harassment, which just doesn’t sit well with me!
Glad to see you had a positive experience in Morocco, I hope I do too!
I’ve really been enjoying your posts on Morocco. I can really see what you mean about the people who get annoyed with the comments/rudeness are ones who are over the “honeymoon” phase in travel–I often feel that way in South Korea where I still get many stares and comments despite being here for three years (and it’s great when they think you don’t know you’re being talked about in Korean, but you do). However, on a recent trip to India with a Korean friend, she was shocked by how much attention she got, while for me it just felt like a common annoyance. I agree with traveling smart and avoiding wearing clothing that will set you apart.
This is really good to hear Silvia! I think after traveling for a while I go both ways. Sometimes I’m SOOOOO over the comments and I want to punch something and other times I’m like, huh? What comments? I didn’t even notice or hear anything. haha. I think being in the right mind and having some experience def helps. Glad you were able to enjoy sans the unwanted attention!
Love this! I had a very similar experience in Morocco to you. I didn’t get any nasty comments or jeers. I got a few looks and smiles and even a ‘hello Shakira’ but that was about it. I’m also a bit older (I was 35 when I went) and was also travelling with a female friend a little bit older than me. I kept pretty covered up too.
I think all my previous travels in Asia and Africa have helped me perfect the ‘don’t even think about it’ look and I always try to look like I know where I’m going. Maybe being from Liverpool also helps – we’re tough as old boots! 😉
Loving your posts and photos from Morocco!
Victoria @The British Berliner says
‘Love this post Silvia.
I haven’t yet been to Morocco, but I’ve been to Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt loads of times (in the old days). The only place where I got stared at was in Tunisia, and I was with my (blond) German boyfriend at the time, but we made sure to tell them we were married! Egypt was great though. The locals were very respectful, and kept their distance, especially when they soon realised that the purse strings didn’t open unless I gave my husband the command!
I also got hassled when I made my first solo trip to Bali. I was in my 20’s at the time and once people knew I was British, the amount of local men following me around, and asking for money, was awful. I even had my waiter hit on me, and I had to get the security guard to get rid of 2 guys (Australians no less), who didn’t understand the words “No. I’m not interested!”
A few years ago, I went back to Bali with German husband and child in tow, and the attitude was totally different. The locals just couldn’t do enough to make sure that I was happy, running around to call me taxis, hold and carry my bag, looking after us, as my husband was ill, so we went out on trips pretty much solo, and under my beck n’ call lol!
Oh wow, crazy what a difference it was when you returned to Bali! I do love how travel seems to get easier as I get older – I pretend that it’s just because of my experience, but pretty sure there are other reasons too! lol
I went to Morocco with my husband a couple of years ago and we never felt unsafe, but it was still exhausting. Obviously I wasn’t dealing with any solo female comments, but the demands for money every time we went by a street performer or took a photo of anything got old really quickly.
I’m sure it’s normally better outside Marrakech, but in Essaouira my husband followed someone who offered a restaurant recommendation even though it wasn’t lunch time, and when we didn’t go in or pay him he got angry and ended up screaming at us on 3 separate occasions around town. We met some nice locals as well, but altogether we left feeling like nearly everyone was trying to get money out of us.
Hello there, first time reader of your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences all of your posts are very interesting I’m enjoying it very much.
I’m extremely pleased that you had a great time in Morocco. as a Moroccan citizen it always makes me happy when people have positive experiences visiting here.
With that said though, when it comes to stories of people having less than stellar (sometimes awful) experiences in Morocco where there is smoke there is fire as they say. people who come here have bad stories to tell sometimes on the other hand though most of those negative experiences
are gonna be usually in the range of mildly to outright annoying other more serious things like groping or mugging in my opinion are extremely rare.
Now one thing I noticed is that a big percentage of those negative stories had one thing in common they all take place in Marrakesh.
I live in Rabat the capital city like many locals I find myself going to Marrakesh for the international air show that takes place there, or rarely for holidays with my parents over all it’s usually nice but you’d think that as a local I wouldn’t have a hard time but in reality there was not one time where I went on a trip there that didn’t involve some kind of negative experience.
I recently traveled with a Japanese friend there, and she wanted to visit jamaa el fna when she told me that my heart sank because even going there by myself I’m not immune to all the harassment by show people food stall people physically blocking your path shoving a menu to your face, people selling tours, and the professional beggars as I call them. it is certainly exhausting.
And with my foreign friend that was amplified several times.
Now overall my friend said she had a good time regardless but then again I was there to act as a buffer so I can only Imagine what she would’ve gone through alone.
To future travelers I have this piece of advice if you want to enjoy Morocco skip Marrakesh unless you are interested in the history of the city as an imperial city and an important ancient capital of the Islamic world with it’s religious schools and mosques and historic monuments then by all means go visit those a but skip jamaa el fnaa and all the touristy places. those places sell an Image of Morocco that most locals despise.
Sorry for the long comment again love your posts you’ve got yourself a new loyal reader.
I agree, I was the least excited to see Marrakech, and it ended up being my least favorite place I visited in Morocco. Thanks for the insider’s perspective!
Tours of Morocco says
It’s Amzing to see a female travelling the world, keep it up and thanks for sharing your great experience with us 🙂
Hi! Did you hire a tourist guide or you just explore it by yourself?
I just explored on my own!
Love all your outfits! A real example to wear dress in Morocco as a female traveler.
You have written an important post. Your tips are very helpful for foreigners who are not sure about what’s appropriate and what’s not… Thank you !
.. Takad Dream ist eine sehr einfache Unterkunft in einer sehr netten, aufgeschlossenen, hilfsbereiten Familie, etwa 25 km suedlich von Agadir.
Morocco ML Tours says
I think its always better to dress according to country (in which you are traveling) cause every country has its own religion and values. I really enjoyed your post Its very informative.
Mark smith says
‘Love it! I’m really looking forward to visiting Morocco. I’ve already been to Egypt (3 times) and Tunisia and going to Morocco would be the icing on the cake. Oh yes!
Mike T says
I remember being in uniform, serving with the UN forces in Lebanon and all the attention we caused when we were out and about on the streets in Lebanon or Israel. People, in general, were very curious and the local girls were all giggly and not shying away from asking us if they could look at our eyes and hair. Being a 19 years old blonde guy from Sweden, I was shy and thought it was a bit uncomfortable but realized quickly that they were just smitten by the strangers who were there. We left with memories of fantastic people and some of the memories I carry to this day.
I am glad you have had the opportunity to see more than your home country and please do keep on sharing with the world your thoughts and experiences.
Elmo Desert says
This is very knowledgeable blog section, I like your blog section…
Thanks for sharing us
Morocco family holidays says
Wow, wonderful read thank you for sharing.
As a 57 year old potential solo traveller to Morocco. Do you think my age would provide protection from male harassment?
I think it would definitely help.
Peter Andrew says
Hi Silvia nice article on morocco travel experience on female perspective, it will inspire more female travellers to explore morocco .Recently morocco safety status was updated to level 1 which means it’s safe to travel with normal level of caution.
Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Traveling to Morocco or anyplace for that matter requires some common cautions, but knowing your thoughts and actual experience in there is definitely helpful!.
beautiful I would like to visit Morocco as soon as possible.
Thank you for your posts. I have yet to travel beyond Canada. I am hopeful that will change in the nearer future! However, your more conservative dressing tips are how I frequently dress, and I appreciate more style and packing ideas I will use.
Morocco Tours says
Such an amazing article with very helpful tips ! Thanks for sharing your experience in Morocco
Albert Brown says
Keep travelling and inspiring women to travel. It’s good to know your positive experience through Morocco. It surely will encourage another backpackers.
Thank you for the kind and lovely experience you shared with us, I am as a Moroccan Girl, is ashamed of the way Moroccan Men harass women Travellers because most of our dreams are to have the courage to travel alone as well.
I have great respect for the ladies that travel alone, as I have met many women, and asked about if they had any problem through their journey, most of them have positive experiences. I hope if you are planning to visit Morocco, don’t hesitate, the country is worth it, and if you heard any comments or anything just ignore it, Moroccan girls go though that too and not just tourists.
Morocco was on my holiday list, the post was really helpful to get an idea things to do. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and tips
Marrakech Tripper says
Don’t stop traveling and inspiring women to travel. Your positive experience through Morocco is worth reading. It surely will encourage all desert lovers.
Super travel says
Don’t stop traveling and inspiring women to travel. Your positive experience through Morocco is worth reading. It surely will encourage all desert lovers.keep going
Tha’ts amazing you really tried alot
I just need some guide from you also although am a male but just want to know about their securities like police around the city
Nice post thank you so much
Nikola Webster says
If my plans hold true and are not canceled due to Covid I will be there in Feb. It’s not looking promising. This said I am glad I read this. I had not given any thought to what to expect and I’ve been to Tunisia and Egypt and was hassled and then some. I guess it’s easy to forget. Also, a really good reminder of the clothing. I don’t do shorts and t-shirts anywhere but no short dresses for me if we get to go. Thanks for sharing such an honest portrayal Nikki
Morocco is on my bucket list. Just waiting for this pandemic to get over. Will plan my vacation soon. Thanks for the useful tips
You are amzing
Dress simple, don’t go to personal, Learn to say no,if you’re with a group accept the invitation from family, if you’re alone I don’t recommend you to do it, enjoy your vacation,void the empty places and Small ways only if you’re with official Guide, bargain about prices 😉👍