A Girl’s Guide to Morocco

Originally posted on The Girl Abroad
Africa is closer than you think, my friends. If you take an hour drive from Marbella, Spain to the port town of Tarifa, there you can buy a ferry ticket (and get your passport stamped! woo!) to Africa. Morocco, Africa is so close to Europe that on a clear day you can look out across the Strait of Gibraltar from Spain and see the buildings of the African port city of Tangier, Morocco.When it comes to travel, I am pretty adventurous. Fear is not an outstanding vocab word in my personal travel dictionary. But I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t nervous about spending a day in Morocco. Known for its captivating but very obvious religious diversity, Morocco is a beautiful place to get your feet wet if you plan on further adventuring deeper into the country or want to go to places such as Turkey and Dubai. Sadly, it often gets a bad rap for simply having a prominent Muslim community and a travel advisory warning tourists to exercise a high degree caution when visiting Morocco, which is also in close proximity to countries with reported cases of Ebola.I get it. These things sound unappealing. Frightening, even. But I am about to tell you why Morocco is one of the best places I have ever been (and yes, I most definitely plan on making another trip) and how you should prepare if you plan on making your way to one of the most northern countries of Africa.Conservative Clothing 
Nobody here is telling you to wear a hijab if you are going to Morocco. Most native Moroccan women don’t even wear burkahs. Yes, you will see them. Yes, it is simply a religious and cultural practice like some Catholics carry a rosary and some Jewish men wear a yamaka. There is nothingto feel alarmed about when seeing a woman in a hijab or burkah. All it is a religious practice, people! Instead, try one on. I even wore a Moroccan shesh and yes, it was awesome.


Recognize that girl? That’s me in a Moroccan shesh! I’ll have you know they are totally in right now. 
Ladies, keep it covered. I went in the middle of summer when it was reaching temperatures over 90F and I was wearing pants. Linen pants, maxi skirts, sandals, covered shoulders are truly the safest bet. Remember, the women of Morocco wear this everyday and both native men and women are not used to seeing cleavage and 3 inch seam shorts so please refrain.I am blonde. Almost platinum, really. Moroccans rarely see blonde hair so all they really do is stare and sometime they will come up to you and touch it, with or without warning. You know when you cant stop staring at girl with green hair or a guy with a mohawk? That is what its like for Moroccans with blondes and redheads. If you are feeling uneasy about all the looks and (often times unwelcomed) attention, put your hair up in a ponytail, a braid, or a bun to divert the attention.What it all comes down to is how you behave and present yourself. Remember, these people have an extremely conservative culture. Tourists dress how they please (white tennis shoes be damned), but travelers respect the culture of their host city and embrace the diversity.Interaction with Locals and Men
Moroccans love people coming to their country. The first time you are invited into a home or a store (yes, they will ask you in for tea), it may seem off putting. But don’t blow your stranger danger whistle just yet. Buddy system or groups of people are always your best bet. Even better, go with somebody who knows the proper etiquette of Moroccan homes and shops, which includes taking off your shoes at the door before entering the host’s home. Do your research and most importantly, listen to your gut. If you aren’t feeling comfortable, no need to sit through it.

Okay girls, here is where you need to keep your guard up. In Moroccan culture, as well as many other Muslim countries, looking at somebody is a very powerful thing.

If you smile at a man, they may think that is an invitation to approach you in a way you may not think is appropriate or remotely even asked for. 

As an American, smiling is a habit. I dont do it because I am constantly happy, I smile at literally everything. We love to smile. We have been taught that it is rude to not at least give a friendly wave of hello to people in passing. That is not the case here.

Be cautious. I am not telling you to be stone faced throughout your trip to Morocco, but if you find yourself flashing a smile at a man who starts to approach you, put your poker face on and never ever be afraid to confront them back and tell them off.

But fear not! Many Moroccan men are lovely lovely people and yes, you can smile at them if the situation allows it! I had many amazing encounters with men who were truly great people. My family hired a private guide (if you are able to do this, I highly recommend it) named Haziz who is one of the most kind hearted, intelligent (fluent in five languages!), and passionate people I have met to date. And Amir, a silk vendor, jokingly proposed to me as I haggled my way through his store. Put your game face on and a strong guard up with a solid sense of humor and there is no way you won’t have a good time. Trust your gut, it really does know best.


Amir, post proposal, giving my dad a SWEET deal on his oldest daughter. Everything in the store and four cows for my hand in marriage! As you can probably imagine, my dad declined. All about a good sense of humor, people. 
I have said this time and time again, but keeping your guard up and having a good sense of humor is so vital to your time in Morocco. Whether you try to or not, you will stand out like a sore thumb and that is okay. Never be afraid to stick up for yourself and say when enough is enough. In a country like this, you have to be sure of yourself and your surroundings so if you are not comfortable, slow your roll a bit. Be polite, be kind, take the famous Moroccan hospitality given to you with graciousness, and always respect the culture.Happy travels!

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