Morocco as a single female traveller?
May 8, 2013 5:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm a confident solo traveller in Europe (Eastern and Western) and am pondering a trip to Morocco in the near future. I've seen this thread and the numerous ones suggesting that Marrakech and Fez are better choices than Casablanca, but I'm wondering if anyone has specific advice for a solo female traveller in Morocco?

Assume that I mostly keep myself to myself, know to ignore verbal harassment, and speak acceptable French. Alternative destination suggestions in Morocco or elsewhere in North Africa would also be acceptable, if you think Marrakech/Fez as a single western woman is a really bad idea (but please say why if so)!
posted by SymphonyNumberNine to Travel & Transportation around Morocco (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I travelled in Morocco with a friend about ten years ago, so things may have changed. We were both 20-year-old white women. She spoke decent French, I spoke very little. It was great!

We seemed to get less intense (although still constant) harassment/offers from guides when wearing jeans vs. long skirts. Few people spoke German, so saying a few phrases in German was a good way to get particularly persistent folks to quit tailing you.

Few women spoke French, and we didn't see many women out on the streets anyhow, don't count on being able to find a mother/grandmotherly type to ask for directions.
posted by momus_window at 5:37 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I (white, young, female) was in Morocco a few months ago with some (white, young, female) friends - we went to Essaouira and Marrakech. I went out by myself a few times and felt fine.

The comments and catcalls were fairly continuous, especially in marketplaces like the J'maa El Fna in Marrakech, but no one ever physically touched me and I never felt unsafe (just annoyed). I never wore anything revealing of my cleavage (all high-necked, long-sleeved shirts) but I did wear some fairly tight jeans and didn't notice any huge increase in comments.

I think the most important factors are that you are able to ignore verbal harassment and are fairly self-confident in order to refuse e.g. unwanted offers for tour guides - your level of French will help with this. Obviously all the normal tourist safety advice still applies - don't go out by yourself late at night, don't get too drunk/high etc.

I would definitely recommend going, I think you will have a great time! Send me a message if you want any recommendations of stuff to do.
posted by fresh bouquets every day at 5:49 AM on May 8, 2013

A friend and I (both white females around 30) went to Marrakech in February and we had no problems. We either wore maxi skirts or jeans/capris, nothing particularly revealing or sexy but nothing particularly conservative either. Everyone in the souk speaks enough English to try to sell you something or to offer to be your guide. Taxi drivers typically spoke only French or some very broken English. Scams are everywhere, whether it's unofficial guides, or taxi drivers being dicks, or the women offering henna tattoos (I fell for that one despite doing all sorts of research beforehand), but fortunately the scams are on the order of 200-300 dh, which is only $25-35, so not really vacation-ruining at all. The most annoying thing was if we ever dared to pull out a map, we were immediately inundated with men offering to "help." I decided to just eat the expense of international data roaming and did all my navigating on my phone to be less obvious.

I also lived in Mexico for 5 months during a semester abroad in college, and that's the most similar experience I've had -- largely unthreatening yet persistent street harassment, first world trash in a second (and sometimes third) world sanitary system, donkeys and carts on the road next to flashy modern cars, water you shouldn't drink, visibly sticking out in large crowds as Not From Here. So I was familiar with the level of discomfort but knew I could still have fun despite it. And I did! I loved it!

I'd also note that while the souk is full of women in fairly traditional clothes (though my ill-fated henna tattoo was given to me by a Berber girl in a leopard print djellabah), if you walk 10 minutes out of the old Medina toward the modern shopping area, you'll see tons of young women in their teens, 20s, and 30s out and about in skinny jeans, boots, tunics, and occasionally (but not always) a head scarf. They're riding bikes and Vespas and going about their business no differently than any Western woman in her own city would. So while you'll still stick out as Not From There, no religious police are going to come after you or anything.

One of the best things about our trip was that our small hotel -- which was actually in a village about 25 minutes out of the city, so not walkable into the main part of Marrakech -- assigned us a taxi driver for our entire stay. We had his card, and his card had the hotel's name and number on it in both French and Arabic. If we were at a restaurant in town, we just handed it to our waiter at the end of the meal, and our driver was waiting for us by the time we'd paid. One night he even personally walked us to one restaurant in the souk that wasn't accessible by car to make sure we didn't get lost or harassed. He had a set fee in and out of the city so we always knew what we were paying, and we got to be friendly with him, trusted him to take us where we were going without going in circles to jack up the meter, and were happy to have reliable, safe transportation home each evening no matter how much we'd been drinking. (And there is some very good wine there!) I'm not sure how common this arrangement is with other hotels, but while it wasn't something I would have though to arrange for myself, I ended up really pleased that the hotel did it for us and it made the trip that much more enjoyable and easy.

An interesting and surprisingly convenient part of the trip was leaving... at security at the airport, they have separate lines for men and women, and the women's line had no one in it while the men's line had a good 5-10 minute wait. It's like using the restroom at an engineering conference!

I had a blast and I bet you will too. Enjoy! Have fun! Drink lots of mint tea!
posted by olinerd at 6:04 AM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

US Department of State:
Women walking alone in certain areas of cities and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to assault by men. Women are advised to travel with a companion or in a group when possible and to ignore any harassment. Responding to verbal harassment can escalate the situation. The best course of action is generally not to respond or make eye contact with the harasser. Travelers should avoid soccer stadiums and environs on days of scheduled matches as large groups of team supporters have been known to become unruly and harass and even assault bystanders.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:30 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do not watch The Sheltering Sky.
posted by goethean at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2013

The only thing about Fez is that the old city is really tiny, cramped, and confusing. Its a maze. I felt unsafe there, because it is so easy to get lost.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:51 AM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went to Marrakech with two other white women in our forties. I have mixed feelings about our trip overall, but I hated being groped in J'maa El Fna, and I hate having to explain what I was wearing (maxi skirt, long sleeve shirt, headscarf) when a group of men assaulted us.

I wouldn't go back.
posted by mgrrl at 3:03 PM on May 8, 2013

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