A maze of winding alleyways, intricately carved wooden doors, brightly woven textiles, the smell of wood-burning stoves in the air, and the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer all awaits you in this mesmerizing country. The architecture, the desert dunes, the Atlas Mountains, the long stretches of sandy beach — there are so many reasons to visit Morocco.
Is it safe to travel in Morocco as a solo female? Of course!
But, like with any new country or culture that you are visiting, it is important to be aware and respectful of any etiquette and traditions that are different than your own. Whether you are traveling solo or with a group, here are some things to keep in mind when setting out on your Moroccan adventure.
1. Be Modest in The Way You Dress
You don't have to wear a headscarf or anything, but the majority of women in the country wear long, loose clothing and some do cover their heads. Throwing on your short shorts and spaghetti straps will not only make you a target for aggressive touts and scam artists, but is disrespectful. If you want to have meaningful interactions with the locals, make sure your knees and shoulders are covered and try not to show cleavage.
2. Avoid Tons of Makeup and Wear Your Hair Up
Yes, I know that changing your appearance drastically goes against every feminist bone in your body, but the reality is that this is a culture of machismo, where men are very much in control and don't get a chance to interact with women much before marriage, making them more attentive towards foreign women who are not bound by Islamic Law. The prettier you look, the more you are going to get shouted at and noticed when walking down the street. Especially if you are traveling alone or with only females.
3. When Walking Through The Market Don't Say "Hello" to Everyone That Speaks To You
Like in markets all over the world, every person you walk by will try and sell you something or get your attention. While it may be the norm to make eye contact, smile, and say hello to the people that you pass at home, if you engage with the street vendors in Morocco, you are going to get pulled into a transaction that you may not have wanted or have been prepared for. Just look straight ahead, and ignore the calls coming at you from all sides.
4. Avoid the Henna Tattoo Women
Common at the beach and in other tourist areas, women will come up to you and grab you by the arm and try to give you a henna tattoo. While getting a beautiful temporary design on your hand may be tempting, be wary. They will usually finish the tattoo and then try and charge you an exorbitant rate, kicking up a huge fuss if you refuse to pay it.
5. Sun Tanning 101
While the warm weather and long stretches of sand beckon, be careful where you spread your towel and lay out in your two piece. Local women are still completely covered at the beach, and there have been incidents where female tourists have been harassed or had blankets thrown over them while sun tanning. Most beaches have tourist hotels or resorts at them that have a roped off area where for around $1 a day, you can rent a chair and avoid any sort of hassle.
6. Don't Wander Alone at Night or in Isolated Areas
This may seem like common sense, but as the sun sets relatively early, getting caught in the street when the sun goes down is easier than you think. There is a local understanding that "good women" are at home once it's dark, so it's best to be safe inside to avoid any uncomfortable situations.
7. No "Fraternizing" With The Locals
Islamic law rules, which means that getting caught having sex with a Moroccan man or women that you are not married to can lead to them getting thrown in jail (or worse) and you getting thrown out of the country, never allowed to return.
8. Learn a Little of the Local Lingo
French and Arabic are both widely used throughout the country, and I found that uttering the traditional Arabic greeting "As-salāmu ʿalaykum" and the response "Waʿalaykumu s-salām", was the quickest way to make a connection with the locals, as it shows a level of respect.
9. No Smoking or Drinking
Muslim women don't smoke in public, and Islamic law does not allow drinking, though many tourist restaurants in the larger cities sell it. If you decide to indulge in either, try and do it in private or with a large group of fellow travellers at a tourist bar or hotel.
10. Try These Spots if You Need an Escape
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to get away from street harassment, or just need a break from the craziness of the market, try going somewhere that is frequented by local women. A hammam is a great male-free zone as well as the top terrace of a tea house or restaurant. Hotel and public pools tend to attract groups of local men, as does anywhere that serves alcohol, so avoid these spots.