Morocco is a beautiful and vibrant country that every woman should visit at least once in their lives. From the Sahara Desert to the blue city of Chefchaouen, we love it so much that we run a women’s tour to Morocco every year!
But it can be an intimidating place for women to visit, especially for women traveling alone. From the dress code to bartering your way through the markets, there are a few things you should know about Morocco before you get there.
Here’s what women should know about traveling to Morocco.
1. You should consider dressing modestly
This is a Muslim country and the women and men are almost completely covered at all times. As a foreigner, no one expects you to wear a hijab, but you can show a heightened respect for the culture by avoiding spaghetti straps and shorts. If you can keep your shoulders covered with a scarf, you’ll reduce the amount of attention you’re bound to receive.
The one exception is really the night you spend in the Sahara Desert, if you decide to do so. You are removed largely from the eyes of the public while in the Saharan Desert, and so you can relax a bit more.
2. You will gather attention either way
You can and should dress modestly as a sign of respect, but don’t expect it to make you invisible.
When I told my Spanish friends of my pending visit to Morocco, they took one look at my fair skin and natural bright blond hair and told me to be careful. I pictured an onslaught of whistles from strange men like I experienced in Spain and stares similar to those I had experienced in Japan, but I experienced very little of either.
The men and boys were respectful and gave a look that exuded a sense of curiosity more than any disrespect. In the tourist town of Chefchaouen, I did experience catcalls but nothing that one wouldn’t encounter in a western country. In fact, a group of teenage boys even welcomed me to join their pick up game of soccer!
3. Carry toilet paper on you
A small pack of Kleenex goes a long way. Many toilets in Morocco are squat toilets, though your riads and tourist destinations will also have western toilets. Expect to pay a small fee to use these toilets, and expect that they may or may not have toilet paper in them. You can prepare ahead of time by traveling with small travel-size packs of tissues.
4. Don’t shake with your left hand
One’s left hand is used for hygiene and bathroom wiping so avoid using your left hand to eat, to touch things, and to shake someone’s hand.
5. Bring your own sanitary products
Given the lack of toilet paper, it is best to bring your own tampons. Western-designed tampons are usually more effective and will save you the trouble and awkwardness of having to buy them in a store. You might also want to consider traveling with a Flex cup, which is a more environmentally friendly choice anyhow.
6. You will eat a lot of meat and bread
When you’re traveling through Morocco, you will be eating Moroccan food (I know, shocker, right?). These typical Moroccan dishes are delicious. You can expect lots and lots of couscous, tagine, and chicken or lamb. You’ll often have hummus and pita. These meals are delicious and exciting at first, but 8 days in you’ll likely be tired of having the same thing over and over. Be patient, and understand that there are not a variety of international food options throughout the country. When in Morocco, expect to eat Moroccan food. If you think you might get tired of this, bring some snacks for in between meals.
7. Life is not equal for all Moroccan women
Morocco is an Islamic nation, so women behave in a conservative fashion. During my visit I had the opportunity to speak to two young women who opened my eyes to their religion and their everyday life. They dressed conservatively by choice, yet were empowered by their education and ability to provide ideas and things that men do not.
Still yet, life for women in Moroccan cities like Marrakesh is much easier than life for women in the countryside, who are expected to care for the home and the kids. These women are often artisans, and sell their wares to collectives. Not all collectives are equal however, and many places claiming to be artisan collectives are not. To know the difference you really need to join a tour or ask a local friend.
8. Women are rarely seen drinking in public
As said above, women behave much more conservatively and thereby you will not typically find them out and about in restaurants, etc. I went to a hookah bar during my trip and my friend and I were the only females in the entire place. Take into account that there may not be a lot of women around when choosing where to spend free time. Coffee shops are almost always full of men.
When you arrive to the airport, you will likely be greeted by a crowd of men who are doing airport pickups. Don’t be afraid — you are largely safe.
9. You should tip
Your money goes far in this country, and a little bit can make a difference for those who help you on your trip. Expect to tip 10-20% on meals, tip your taxi driver, leave a small tip in your hotel room. If you’re traveling with a tour group, you should expect to tip your driver and your guide. In general, we recommend $10/day for the guide and $5-10/day for the driver.
10. Be sure to visit a hammam
A cultural must, hammams, or Turkish baths, are plentiful and popular in Morocco. There are separate women and men baths where you can enjoy a thorough cleaning. While there I went to a local hammam as opposed to a tourist hammam, where they scrub every last speck of dirt from your pores. At the hammam, it is best to strip down to what you feel comfortable and to observe the level of nudity around you as to not offend anyone by walking around in just your birthday suit.