Women traveling alone in Marrakech

Tips for Women traveling alone in Marrakech

The majority of women traveling alone in Morocco and in Marrakech have fun and have no problem apart the normal hassle “buy this – buy that”, “come and drink tea with me” – but still traveling with your eyes opened and alert to some dangerous issues is always good.

Moroccan people in general are very welcoming and friendly to foreigners. Either they just want to sell you a carpet or genuinely want to exchange some conversation, Moroccan people are probably one of the friendliest you’ll ever meet around the world.

Dress respectfully knowing that you are in a Muslim country. No need for being all covered but better to cover shoulders, cleavage and legs to ankles. Many Moroccan women wear western dress. Bring lots of thin layers so that it is easier to cover up when you are around others and then peel off in the privacy of your riad/ hotel.

Women traveling alone can have a wonderful time in Marrakech but they are well advised to be a little cautious in order to enjoy their stay in this beautiful and exotic country. Below I have a list of recommended do’s and don’ts for women traveling alone in Marrakech and in Morocco more generally.

Moroccan men are not all the same. However, many men will be extremely attentive to a foreigner for a wide variety of reasons and so it is important for the more naive amongst us to realise that their motives are not always snow white pure ones! They have heard and seen through the media that morality within the western culture is very different from their own and they may be very keen to take advantage of this proposing friendship (and more), marriage. Men in the souks will frequently invite you to have a cup of mint tea with them.

You may be lulled into a false sense of security when they offer for you to meet their family and friends, go on a guided tour of the city and even have a meal with them -all of which they say they want no payment for! Occasionally this is genuine but sadly quite often the flurry of generous offers and friendly meetings turns out to be rather more complicated (and costly) than the tourist had originally envisaged. At the end of the hour or day or week the friendly Moroccan becomes not so friendly when he inevitable reveals his plan which in some way involves you ‘paying’ for his generous ‘gifts’ and efforts and you refuse to pay up. I hate to mention this because there are some lovely Moroccan men who are genuine and this article will tar everyone with the same brush. Just be suspicious-if something looks too good to be true then it probably is. If someone is insisting that there is nothing to pay then remember what your mother said ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’

Understand that the majority of Moroccan men are not allowed to invite a Moroccan girl out, and that in the Moroccan culture there is nothing like our Western concept of boyfriend / girlfriend relationships.

Women traveling alone Marrakech – Do’s & Don’ts

  • Personally I love to Medina in the day and the night time and I do not feel afraid even in the dark areas when it is very quiet. Having said that you shouldprobably behave with more caution at night time especially after 10 pm because in Moroccan society all ‘good’ people should be at home by 10 pm at the latest.
  • The Medina at night can be very dark as light bulbs are often not replaced in the many narrow derbs. These streets are often a lot safer than they look and the biggest danger is twisting you ankle in an unseen pothole! If you do feel afraid then go to a kiosk (many are open late) or tell a Moroccan woman passing (if you speak french) or any older man passing near you. Unlike in the UK, older men tend to be quite protective of women and are capable of frightening off younger men with a lot of authority.
  • If you want to do couchsurfing or airbandb then chose a female host. It would not generally be safe to stay with an unknown man even if you have seen a picture of his pad and it looks nice. This is common sense.
  • Don’t accept private house invitations from men.Its not allowed inside Moroccan culture to a woman visit a man inside his house, this might be considered tantamount to prostitution even though you have no such intentions.
  • If you go to a club or bar then it is always good practice to keep an eye on your own drink to make sure that it is not spiked with alcohol or any drugs. Remember again that there is no such thing as a free lunch. If you allow someone to pay for drinks for you then many men consider that you then ‘owe’ them something. I think it is better to buy your own drinks with a stranger so that you can see what is going into the drink and so that you are making it clear that you are an equal and not being ‘bought’. Sorry if this doesnt sound romantic but it does avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Do not reveal the name or address of the place where you are staying. Do not give any clues about the location either as they can work this out by asking friends who may have seen which door you have entered in their neighbourhood.Some men can be very very persistent and find it hard to take no for an answer.
  • If you have any problems, Marrakech is full of undercover police. Asking for help is not that hard. If anything happens that you feel uncomfortable about then ask for help. Go to a shop and ask a mature man for help if you cannot see someone who looks like a police officer.
  • Shop owners and employees will definitely try to get your attention for you to enter their shop and eventually buy something.
  • Avoid drunk or stoned men and boys. You can usually tell them a mile off as they tend to swagger from one side of the street to the other or close up (to be avoided) their eyes look glazed and ‘out of it’
  • While in Marrakech Medina and the markets, watch of purse, put it in the front part of your body and one hand on top. J’ma elf’na is one of the most tricky places for purse snatching or other tricks involving stealing money from tourists. If someone asks you for change for a 100 or 200 note then say that you do not have any money or ignore the person. When you take out your purse they will grab the money and run off.
  • While in Jemaa el Fna square at night it can get crowded and some men/ boys may try to touch you with their hands or their body. Bottom pinching is especially popular here. The best advice is to be aware of your body in relation to all others at all times and do not send off the wrong signals ie smiling and laughing or touching them. Be calm and walk away.
  • Don’t accept a ride from a stranger, this is the way prostitutes get clients in Marrakech especially in the new town. The new town is not a great place for a woman to walk after about 10 pm if she is on her own. She is likely to get a lot of unwanted attention.

In Morocco, a woman that practices sex before marriage is seen as a “prostitute”. Virginity is a big issue in Muslim countries, but although the religion states that it should apply for both genders, in practice only the majority of women do it. Men don’t. This creates a huge social problem as hidden prostitution is huge in all Moroccan cities.  - or just an opportunity to get visa to go outside Morocco.

While meeting men occasionally you shouldn’t hand shake not greeting kiss. You should just stay put and don’t do anything. It is not normal within Moroccan society. If you enter any handicraft shop, it is OK if the owner shakes your hand, this is a sign of respect and that himself already adapted to this matter.

What to do in case of emergency?

  • Stay calm. If you stay calm, you can think clearly even in extreme situations.
  • Scream out loud and ask for help. Even in English people will definitely understand you need help and that you are under some emergency situation. The french word for help is ‘au secours’ (Oh Succooor!)
  • If you’re being followed, don’t go directly to your hotel, go to any shop and ask people to help you, or ask them to call the police if the situation is dangerous. Don’t go out of that shop until police arrives and you are protected.

Marrakech Medina Morocco

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