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10 Tips for Women Traveling Safe, Savvy and Smart in Morocco

Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna square at sunset. Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

1. Dress more formally than you would at home

In Morocco, as in most North African countries, the locals are accustomed to a more conservative style of dress. For women, I recommend dressing with your shoulders and knees covered, high neckline, and no transparent or tight clothing. You’ll be showing more respect. And in turn get more respect. Women travelers do not need to cover their hair in Morocco (unless visiting a mosque). This is a perfect trip for those loose-fitting yoga pants, long skirts, relaxed jeans and knee-length capris. To blend in more with locals, visit popular shops, boutiques and markets in-country to see what local women are wearing and purchase a few pieces. Buying a few articles of clothing will help you blend in more and make for wonderful mementos from your trip.

2. Travel like a local

In Morocco, locals tend to act more conservative in public, particularly when interacting with the opposite sex. I recommend acting more socially reserved. Think the 1950s. Try not to smile at men on the street. Also, hold off from hugging new people and only shake hands with men if they initiate it. Generally, take a more formal approach in social situations and you’ll fit in well in Morocco. I’m not saying don’t be you, rather be the more reserved version of you. This will show more respect to locals, as well you better blend into the culture.

3. Try all the food

At the crossroads with North Africa, Europe and central Africa; Moroccan cuisine draws on many cultures and styles. It’s a wonderful mix of Arabic, French, North African, Berber, Spain, and central African tribes passing through trading spices and gold. Rich savory flavors blend with sweet and spicy forming an adventure of taste and smell. Food preparation and cleanliness standards are quite high. You’re more likely to get sick in the tourist restaurant than in any local restaurant. So let you nose and tastebuds guide you through wonderful meals of pastille, couscous, tajines, hearty stews, savory sweets, and even wonderful Moroccan wine.

Marrakech's chefs whipping up a taste meal every night in the Djemaa el-Fna. Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Marrakech’s chefs whipping up a taste meal every night in the Djemaa el-Fna. Marrakech, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

4. Visiting a mosque: Rock that head scarf

In Morocco, there is only one mosque non-Muslims can enter – Hassan II Mosque. It’s well worth the visit if you’re in Casablanca. When visiting the mosque, you will be required to cover your hair, shoulders, knees and to remove your shoes. (Guys too, minus the head covering) Outside of mosques, headscarves are not required for women. As a non-muslim, Moroccans would find it strange for you to in fact wear a headscarf; so unlike Iran and Saudia Arabia, no need to cover your hair when traveling in Morocco.

5. Don’t forget those photos of family and friends

Moroccans, like many cultures in the Middle East and North Africa, put a large emphasis on family. This is part of the reason they find solo travelers perplexing – why would you want to travel by yourself when you can travel with your friends and family? Even if it’s just to the grocery store and back. An excellent way to connect with local Moroccans is to share with them photos of your family and friends. Our love for our families and friends is a common theme across all cultures. Moroccans love talking about family – you may quickly find yourself setting down to tea or coffee with a local shopkeeper or random person you met on the street sharing your life’s story and hearing all about their friends and family.

6. Grab that hotel business card

When traveling in a new city or town, addresses and locations can sometimes be hard to remember nd convey – especially give language differences. Grab a business card from your hotel or have them write down the name, address and phone number. In Morocco, most addresses are written in Arabic, and possibly French or Spanish. This can add an extra challenge to reading and remember your address. A business card for your lodging, in the local language, can be handy in case a taxi driver gets lost and can’t find your hotel or you need directions on how to get back to your accommodations. Also jot down if you are staying near any famous landmarks or recognizable buildings, these can be great points of reference.

7. Toilet paper: traveler’s gold

There are many types of “gold” in the world. Oil is often referred to as black gold. Then there is the gold mined from the earth. For travelers in Morocco, oil may be gold, but toilet paper will. While toilet paper is becoming more common in hotels and nice restaurants, don’t expect to find it everywhere (such as public bathrooms – always bring your own). Most places tourists frequent have TP, though whether it’s stocked is another matter. Always pack a small roll with you. Toilet paper is easily found in all grocery stores, or swipe a little from you hotel bathroom to last you for the day.

8. Learn a few words of Arabic

In Morocco, the languages Arabic, French, Spanish and Berber are spoken. Depending on where in the country you are traveling will determine whether French or Spanish is the primary language used with foreigners. Instead of speaking French or Spanish while traveling in Morocco, learn a few words of Arabic. Arabic is the primary local language. Learning simple phrases, such as hello, goodbye and thank you in Arabic, can help you build a connection with locals, smooth interactions, and help drive down the price when bargaining. It’s also a great way to stand out (in a positive way) from the others travelers who are speaking French, Spanish and English. Even with just a few words of Arabic, you will earn serious traveler street cred and gain respect from locals.

Moroccans are some of the friendly people are the planet. Make time during your travels to get to know these warm, welcoming people. Rabat, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.
Moroccans are some of the friendly people are the planet. Make time during your travels to get to know these warm, welcoming people. Rabat, Morocco. Photo: Genevieve Hathaway Photography.

9. Get outside of Marrakech

Most travelers only visit Marrakech, followed closely by Merzouga in the Sahara – to truly experience Morocco get “off the beaten” path and outside of these typical tourist locations.  Morocco has a wonderfully efficient train, bus and bullet train system making it easy, and a good value, to crisscross your way across the country. Spend time exploring the charm, culture and excitement of Fez, Casablanca, Essouira, Chefchouen, or even Morocco’s capital city of Rabat. You will gain insight into Moroccan culture, history and the people; as well as enjoy many unique travel experiences.

10. Pack your sense of adventure – and a big smile

Experiencing Morocco is an adventure, like traveling to any new place. Be sure to pack your sense of adventure. Good humor, willingness to be flexible, and a thoughtfully used smile will help make your time more enjoyable while in Morocco. Most people genuinely want you to have a great time in their country and will be very helpful (except that tout in the Marrakech medina, he just wants you to spend money in his shop). Travel with the mindset that you will meet good people and have wonderful experiences, and you will.

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