Morocco – a dream for many, especially solo traveling women who are longing for the colours, tastes and sounds of Northern Africa. But is it safe to travel here as woman? As this is one of the most frequent questions we are being asked by our readers, we thought, why not ask an expert? We invited Amanda Mouttaki, an American expat based in Marrakech to share with us (and you) her top tips for staying safe in Morocco.
There is a lot of information (and misinformation) circulating about the treatment of women traveling in Morocco. Some of it is good but more often than not it’s bad. I’ve talked with many women who are nervous and scared before they even land. I have lived here for three years and visited for 10 years before that. Over time I have had interactions and heard first-hand experiences from others that have led me to share these five tips that will help you have a positive and safe time in Morocco.
1) Take normal precautions
Traveling in Morocco is not entirely unlike traveling anywhere else in the world. There is petty crime. There is street harassment. There is even some major crime. Keep your valuables close especially in crowds. Don’t be too trusting of strangers you’ve just met, especially if you’re alone. Tell a friend or family member at home where you are and where you’re staying, especially if you are alone. Keep your wits about you and have a plan in place in case something does go wrong.
2) Expect verbal harassment and be prepared
The truth is you’re probably going to be cat called at some point and potentially more often during your time visiting. Know that this has nothing to do with your hair color or clothing choices. Women that live here and are completely covered face the same issues. Ignoring it usually works. If you feel confident and safe to confront the person making comments do so. Be loud, strong and forceful. If you feel threatened, alert the police. They do not take kindly to tourists being harassed. This may be more helpful if you are staying in one area for a longer period of time or experience anything beyond verbal harassment.
3) Food and water safety
I’ve read so many bits of advice saying not to eat fruit or vegetables that aren’t peeled, don’t eat street food, avoid milk and dairy etc. Personally I find it a bit much. Can you get sick on food in Morocco? Yes. But you also can at home. If you are worried, stick to cooked vegetables and well done meat (though few Moroccans serve meat in any other way). Bring medications from home that you know work for you just in case you do develop an upset stomach. If you face some illness there are many pharmacies in Morocco. You can walk in and describe your symptoms and get something from the pharmacist to help. While the water in some cities is safe to drink it’s best to use bottled water. Brushing your teeth or getting water in your mouth when showering is typically not a problem.
4) Rural vs Urban Morocco
There is a huge difference between rural and urban Morocco. If you plan to go into more rural environments do your research to know the situation. Many rural locations have very basic, if any medical care. The closest doctor could be very far away over difficult terrain. If you plan to hike or do other adventure sports do so only with a guide. It is never advisable to go off alone. Morocco does not have the advanced search and rescue capabilities as European or North American countries. The natural environment in Morocco is no joke. We have intense heat, weather that changes rapidly, riptides in the ocean, and freezing cold temperatures in the mountain regions. Always be prepared.
5) Be Respectful
I’m not going to say you should or shouldn’t dress a certain way. What I will say is dress respectfully. Your clothing choices are your own to make but know that in a more conservative country you will face more attention and harassment the more skin you show. Being respectful also means respecting the religious beliefs of a place. If you choose to wear short shorts and a tank top don’t drape a scarf on your head under the auspice of respect. It’s the exact opposite. While women dress in all manners in urban Morocco, rural Morocco is much more conservative. The same goes for alcohol and drug use. Morocco is not dry. There are bars and clubs. Keep your wits and don’t overdo it. While alcohol is available public drunkenness is highly frowned on. Like wise recreational drug use is illegal but tolerated. If you must engage in these activities do so wisely.
6) LGBT Rights
Homosexuality is officially illegal in Morocco however this typically only applies to citizens. LGBT visitors are not uncommon and rarely face issues, especially in bigger cities. Females will face much less scrutiny than men. However, be aware that when an interaction involves a Moroccan citizen it is more risky and can lead to imprisonment, fines, and/or deportation. Homosexual and heterosexual couples should exercise restraint when it comes to things like public displays of affection, as this is frowned upon in Morocco.
Finally, everyone will have a different experience. Some women have no problems at all while others will cite having issues constantly. It’s important to keep this in mind when you are looking at information about your visit. Your story will be your own. Write it!
This is a guest post by Amanda Mouttaki.Tweet