When the idea of visiting Morocco was first brought up during my study abroad trip to Spain, scenes from Casablanca and visions of men riding camels in the desert came to mind. I soon realized that, other than the media portrayal of the country, I knew very little about Morocco.
Here are some tips that every woman should keep in mind when visiting Morocco:
1. The Men: 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, yet when visiting 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!
2. The Toilets: Most of the toilets are of the “squat and go” variety, although an increasing number of hotels and restaurants have western toilets. The main trouble will lie in toilet paper, as in there is none. Most Moroccans use their left hand for bathroom hygiene, so bring a roll of toilet paper wherever you go! It is a must!
3. The Left Hand: As mentioned in the toilet talk, one’s left hand is used for wiping so avoid using your left hand to eat, to touch things, and to shake someone’s hand.
4. The Tampons: 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.
5. The Dress Code: 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. That being said, in order to be respectful to the local people as well as to protect oneself from unwanted attention, try to dress conservatively. No need to cover up completely, but simple t-shirts and pants are best. Also, avoid wearing jewelry that may attract thieves.
6. The Social Scene: 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.
7. The Hammams: 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.