What challenges might single female travellers encounter in Morocco?
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Everyone, male or female, will experience some form of harassment in Morocco at some point, usually in the form of persistent faux guides or overeager carpet sellers. But female travellers, particularly single women, do attract further interest, from simple curiosity (why are you alone? where is your husband?) to open and relentless sexual harassment.
Some of this stems from cultural misunderstandings. Traditionally, Moroccan women are coy and aloof, and so a “friendlier” attitude to the opposite sex can be misconstrued. Likewise, some Moroccan men still seem to think that smoking in public means you must be a prostitute. Clearly, no form of sexual harassment should be tolerated, and if you feel things are getting out of hand, shouting “Shooma!” (“Shame on you!”) is likely to result in bystanders intervening.
Dress modestly (long sleeves, long skirts, even a headscarf), appear confident when walking around a city, be polite but formal when talking to men, and you’ll go a long way towards avoiding any trouble.
I travelled to Marrakesh a few years ago in my early twenties with another young female friend, and my experience was very much as Keith describes.
Just like every other foreigner, we got a lot of hassle from persistent salesman in the souks and a few curious questions, but nothing that made me feel uncomfortable. That said, we certainly followed his advice, kept covered up and tried to be polite but not over-friendly.
Going out at night, we felt pretty safe taking cabs between the Medina and the Ville Nouvelle. This seemed a little daring to the owner of our traditional riad, however, who incredibly kindly stayed up until 2am to make sure we got home safely. It’s worth being aware that attitudes can vary a lot. While there’s might be a thriving international bar-scene (full of girls partying in tiny dresses) in the modern part of the city, this certainly isn’t understood or condoned by all. We felt much more comfortable and respectful dressing modestly all the time and sticking to the odd civilised cocktail in high-end bars.
If you’re travelling solo and will be out late at night, I’d also suggest trying to find a hotel that’s on a road with car access. The only time we felt a little wary was wandering unnamed alleys trying to find our way home in the dark.
We had a brilliant time though, and I’m thinking of going back solo myself.
Hope that helps.
Hi, the reality is you will have very few problems to be honest as long as basic common sense is followed. It is right to be sensibly cautious about your safety and security, but I would not go overboard into paranoia to the extent it stops you from doing anything.
As Keith said there is a little cultural curiosity (in terms of a woman travelling alone without a husband/boyfriend/male partner) and some general sexual interest/occasionally harassment, but no more than you would get in many other places. The majority of the time it is a nuisance rather than a problem. If it does get out of hand (ie men being more forward than they should) then do not be afraid to assert yourself very loudly, shame them and find a crowd of women. The tip above about respectful dress is the best one, it is all about respecting the local culture and traditions and not standing out. The polar opposite example to that is those young women who come straight off the cruise ships in Egypt (still a mostly Muslim country) wearing short shorts and bikini tops, and then complain when they get hassled/comments!
In terms of general safety you should have no more problems than any male whilst travelling alone through Morocco, again as long as basic common sense precautions are followed (just as you would do at home). I have an article about it here http://bemusedbackpacker.com/travel-tips/travel-safety/solo-female-backpacker/ Also read the other articles on safety. The general jist is that common sense precautions will see you fine.
It is advisable to wear long skirts and tops that cover everything. Do NOT wear shorts OR anything remotely flimsy or see-through. I went to Morocco on honeymoon and even my husband felt
uneasy walking hand-in-hand walking together. Men would often walk in groups and walking towards us, they would try to separate us. There may be some harasment from Moroccan women too as they are more modest and shy, so do NOT like seeing westerner’s appearing to be more “Outgoing” and wearing “unusual western clothing”
I did NOT go out alone as I felt very uncomfortable.
Be wary even when men appear to be polite and courteous, but it could also be a scam!
I would say that I would NOT go to Morocco on my own unless you are very confident.
Although if you always stay sensible and go to safe areas, never go in unknown areas.
I’ll be doing Morocco mostly solo in a few months and was wondering if anyone had any tips for women traveling on cheap public transportation, particularly buses between cities. Also if anyone has advice on harassment in cities vs. in small towns. And does the color of clothing matter, or is it just the amount of skin? I’m coming from West Africa and pretty much the only things I own are really really brightly colored. I don’t want to attract too much attention, but as a Peace Corps Volunteer I also can’t afford to buy new clothes if it isn’t going to make a huge difference. Thanks for all the tips, everyone!
The intrepid lois lane ( http://www.virtualtourist.com/m/1bd8b/edc/8/ ) writes:
“Ladies, if you go to Fes on your own, bring a whole ton of tolerance. After being yelled at for 3 days, it was all that I could do not to get into a fight. If traveling solo, I’d recomend skipping Fes, or to bring a guy along. As women we never got offered drugs, but as soon as we were in the company of males it happened often. For those of you wanting to be that silly, does North African jail mean nothing to you. We all see it on the news, travelers in some country caught with drugs and in bad jails. Not my cup of tea thanks all the same.
As women we were teased, put down, given the hard sell, and verbally harassed, but never harmed in any way. We always had to have our senses of humour with us. I really do believe that the harassment was all talk and other than Fes, never felt concerned for my safety. If you play it safe you’ll be fine.”
Also check out http://www.subsidezine.de/morocco1.htm and take note of the way their 14-year old daughter was pestered with “offers for the gazelle” – maybe there’s room for concern?