It was early evening when my EasyJet flight from London arrived in Fez airport. I remember the pink glow from the sky as I walked onto the tarmac, the smell of spices and exotic lands, and most of all, I remember the feeling of anticipation which sat in my stomach. Welcome to Morocco. It was my first time in Africa, and although I had travelled to almost 50 countries, and travelled solo through India, Russia and much of Asia, it was that fear of an unknown continent which left me wondering what I would find as a solo woman in Morocco.

A few weeks before, I had heard that EasyJet had started flying directly to Fez airport, and for only £25 I could be whisked away to an exotic country I had been dying to explore for years. I was instantly sold, but my decision was met with gasps of shock and questions of safety in the country. The fact that Marrakesh is a huge tourism hub, or that Morocco in general attracts over 10 million tourists per year seemed to be ignored. For I would be a woman, alone, in a country with huge differences to my own. I’d heard it before, when I decided to travel alone to India, and so instead of listening to the remarks and queries of people who had never travelled there, I trusted my gut and booked that ridiculously cheap flight to Fez.

FU8A3195

A few weeks later I was wandering through the medina of this ancient city, wandering the corridors lost in time, feasting on the delights of Northern Africa and being led to tanneries with spectacular views of the city. I loved it all from the moment I arrived, I loved the colour, the exoticness, hearing the call to prayer five times a day, and staying in a marble Riad turned hostel where I met wonderful backpackers from all over the world. I quickly saw that Morocco was much more touristy than maybe people back home expected, even outside Marrakesh, it was easy to find other backpackers from all over Europe, the USA, Japan and Korea.

FU8A1798

Everyday I wore floor length dresses, sandals and a scarf hung around my shoulders, but I never felt the need to hide my blonde hair as I often had tried to in India and more recently, Egypt. As a solo woman I received respect, space and seemingly less hassle than male travellers or those travelling in couples. In Marrakesh I spent a day with a group of backpackers, and immediately felt much more hassle than I had as a woman alone. I believe this is because as a young woman alone, I am expected to not have much money, so the carpet sellers and restaurant touts tend not to approach me as they would others. I wandered the red streets of the chaotic city feeling safe, and explored the main square at night, eating at local food stalls and having my hands adorned in henna.

One evening, when I was with a small group of backpackers I’d met in the hostel, one of the male members of the group had his iPhone stolen from his pocket. Luckily, a local shop holder saw it happen ran after the thief and got the phone back. In a city as big and touristy as Marrakesh, it is important to be vigilant and not leave your belongings in easy to access places. These are precautions you should take anywhere in the world, from London to Marrakesh to Rome to New York City, and are of course nothing to do with being a woman, for the victim in this instance was a 6-foot tall Italian man.

FU8A1671

Next I was off to Essaouira, a city full of music, French cuisine and laid back locals. Then it was North to Chefchaouen, a city in the mountains with a blue-painted old medina. I took local buses and night trains between each spot, and always found other backpackers or friendly local families to keep me feeling safe. I headed back to Fez after 10 days alone in this wonderful country, with a heart full of wonderful stories to share with those back home.

FU8A2960

I had received nothing but kindness from the Moroccan people, and had spent time with wonderful locals, hearing stories of their culture and heritage. However on my last night back in Fez, I heard from three girls who had been travelling the country together that they had received street harassment, and one was even spat at in the street. Their experience travelling the country had been very different to my own, and I couldn’t help noticing the short strappy dresses they were wearing on our Fez rooftop. Although I believe a woman should always have the right to wear whatever she wants, in a country with an Islamic culture where the woman generally cover their bodies and heads, it is important to respect the local culture in order to receive respect back from the local people.

I recommend travelling alone in Morocco to every woman, like with everywhere in the world, it is important to adapt your dress and behaviour to that of the local culture, and to always be aware of your surroundings. Morocco is a modernising county, however it is still has a strong Islamic culture, which is one of the joys of travelling there, but it also requires you to cover-up and be aware that being a woman alone might not be a common sight. The rewards of travelling in this country far outweigh any hassle you might get. It’s one of the most vibrant, colourful and interesting places in the world, and for Europeans it exists right on our doorstep. So woman of the world, get planning your trip to Morocco!

FU8A2055

 

5 Tips for Travelling in Morocco as a Woman

1. Dress with respect for the local culture– Morocco is an Islamic country, and so local woman will generally wear loose floor length dresses and a headscarf. Although the country is used to tourism, it is still important to cover-up, particularly in cities like Fez which receive much less tourism than Marrakesh. Always carry a headscarf in case you decide to visit any mosques.

2. Stay in hostels which have female only dorms– There are a huge array of great hostels and Riads in Morocco. By staying in a hostel with a female only dorm, you are likely to meet other women who are travelling Morocco alone or in a group of females. If you are nervous about heading onto the streets alone, team up and make friends with other female travellers.

3. Mix up your trip with a combination of tourist spots and off the beaten track places- Places like Marrakesh, Essaouira and the South-West Coast of Morocco receive large tourist numbers and it is easier to relax, wear what you like and feel more at home. However, if you only stick to these spots, you’d be missing out on a great deal of Moroccan culture. Adding in places like Fez or Chefchaouen will give you more of a taste of the country after you’ve had a relaxing time along the coast.

4. Carry your belongings close to your person, particularly in Marrakesh where pickpocketing is not uncommon- This is a tip to anyone, not just woman. Marrakesh is a huge city and a tourist hot spot. At night, the Jemaa el-Fnaa is packed with tourists and locals and unfortunately that attracts pickpockets. Take precautions like wearing your backpack on your front, carrying your camera around your neck or leave your valuables in your hostel locker or hotel safe.

5. Don’t be afraid of the local men who want to befriend you, it’s most likely they just want to sell you something- Wandering the medinas of any Moroccan city and you’ll receive cries of ‘Hello, Salaam’ from shop holders and walking guides. Most of these men are just looking to sell you something for a little extra income. Stop and take a look if your interested, or politely decline and continue on your way. If you approach Morocco with calmness and optimism, it will give you back the same energy.

FU8A3248

For more on Morocco, check out my 10 day guide to the country!

All photographs by Annapurna Mellor

Pin this post for later:

Solo Female Travel in Morocco: Should I Go Alone? | Travelettes.net