5 Things You Should Know Before Going to Morocco
Before going to Morocco I reached out to people, did some research and read articles on what visiting is like. Let’s just say, they were wrong. In my opinion of course. There is so much negative content out there about Morocco, the people, and how women have had negative experiences. Like anywhere in the world you can have a negative experience but it is all about how you carry yourself, your outlook and openness. Hopefully these tips below will help you have just as an amazing time as I did.
1. Everyone is not out to get you! – but don’t be naive.
You are more than likely going to be staying near the Medina. The Medina is the old traditional Arabic town with markets, shops etc. and can be very overwhelming and chaotic if you haven't experienced this before. Naturally people are going to try to sell you things. Being from the states or any western country for that matter, they are well aware that we are tourists with money to spend. Don’t get offended by the 2 million offers you get to come in their shop, or buy something. If you don’t want to just say no, Shukraan (thank you in Arabic) and keep it moving. For Caucasian people the hassle level may be on 10. They see you and think money, just be firm if you’re aren’t interested in what they have to offer.
If you do want to buy, you should! The stuff is GORGEOUS. I will be going back with a suitcase next time. Everything is negotiable. Cut their offer in half or even 3rds and meet in the middle where you feel comfortable from there. Build a relationship with the shop owner and then return the next day or two, you will be sure to get your moneys worth and have a new friend along the way.
Yes, you probably will get lost in the Medina, and no google maps won’t help you much. There are people (and kids) on the street offering to help you find your way for a little extra cash. They will constantly ask you firmly decline and go into a restaurant or shop and ask someone who works there. Most people are nice and will help you out. Download the app I mentioned in 10 travel apps you need to have in your phone maps.me so that you have a sense of where to go even when offline.
Don’t carry too much stuff, don’t walk around with your phone in your hand (common stupid mistake). Have a small bag close to your body and zipped, buttoned, locked down. The pickpocketers are beyond professionals. I got my local phone stolen – but it was my own fault (I was carrying 2 phones and left the other at a café because I wasn’t used to keeping up with 2 devices, not recommended). Thank God it wasn’t my iPhone but still not smart.
Do beware of beggars, there are also kids that will ask for money. Like I said, keep walking don't entertain it and continue to go about your day, they will fall back. I live in NY so to me it was another day in the park.
2. It is a Muslim country- if you don’t know what that means now is time to find out – I’m gonna need you to respect the culture.
Okay, so let me put it this way. If you are wearing booty shorts, your boobs out and flashy jewelry, you WILL be a target, you will get cat called at, and you will probably get pick pocketed. That is the reality. This country is very deep in their beliefs and women are still not able to show skin, or really be a big player in society for that matter. It is a very male dominate culture. It is the way it is, and you nor I can change that. Therefore, go with knowing this in mind.
Be sure to wear longer pants, loose fitting clothing and cover your chest, shoulders. Just practice outright respect and you should be fine. At the beach and the pool, fine do you, but in the Medina be mindful. Please. Regardless you will get called some kind of sexist or race based name, and hissed at but just keep walking, a lot of it is just ignorance and cultural upbringing.
3. Be open. – this should go without saying, but I’ve learned I must repeat this.
I am a firm believer of the energy you put in the world comes back to you. You are traveling for a reason. So be open minded, wiling to learn and understand different cultures and ways of living. You are not going to Morocco or any other African country to have the same experience you have at home or in the US. Things will be different, learn to see the beauty in that and you will really see how amazing and beautiful this place is!
Make friends, there are some truly cool people in Morocco and they are excited you are there and willing to show you around their country.
4. Solo travel is FINE! - Just be confident and cautious.
Going alone, as a black woman, is probably one of the best things I could have done. At first yes I was nervous, because of those negative reviews I heard. However, I am beyond glad I did it. It allowed me to meet locals who are now friends and truly experience the Moroccan life without worrying about my group or travel buddies (more to come on solo travel). Of course I was mindful, safe and vigilant and I have been solo traveling for 3 months now, so I will say it is not for everyone.
As a black woman specifically, I found mostly everyone to be very receptive. “This is your country” they would tell me. I have experienced this type of welcome every single time I have gone to Africa, and it is one of the reasons I love the continent so much. They are happy to host you, it is out of their norm from the typical American, Asian and European traveler (no offense). They wanted to understand my story, my heritage and my journey, as I did theirs. #alltheblackgirlmagic.
If you are a solo traveler and ready for a challenge / adventure this is a perfect place. You will be just fine. I made friends with the guys in my Riad and they showed me an amazing time. The owner of another Riad actually walked me back to mine one night after a later dinner with my grandparents (I was able to spend a few days of their vacation with them! They equally loved Morocco, if not more than I did).
Of course scope the scene, use your judgement and don’t put yourself in a dangerous or awkward position. Also as a woman, be firm, direct and confident. I think misleading behavior is one of the major causes of the uncomfortable feelings people have received.
I got the best advice ever from @biancamaxwell “Walk with the confidence of you can’t f*ck with me”. In that same breath being polite and not rude will take you far. Be humble, ask questions and truly try to understand the people and their community.
5. Patience is a virtue – it’s true!
Speaking of understanding. Moroccans move at their own pace – despite the Middle Eastern and European influence, it is still Africa. You will get lost, you will be late, you will have to wait for food, – enjoy the process don’t panic.
Invest in noise cancelation headphones or earplugs. The prayers and the noise from the Medina can be loud and alarming if you are not used to it. The Riads are also less like hotels and more like bed and breakfasts so the walls are thin and you can hear other guests. I am a heavy sleeper so it was nothing to me but if you know yourself go ahead and invest in a good quality noise cancelation technique.
Keep in mind, everyone has their own experience and I have talked to a number of women that have had negative experiences, and some who have had great ones. I can only share mine. Research and reach out to people that have gone to form your own opinion.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I could talk about my trip for days! Enjoy and be safe.
This post has been updated since my second trip to Morocco, where I spent 2 days in Tangier, and the info above pretty much applies the same there (post coming soon).
xo Jakiya – The Traveling Fro.