I’ll be honest. I always travel solo, and I have in over seventy countries. But when it came to Morocco, I was always waiting for someone else, or at least an organized tour because of all of the bad things I had heard.
I listened to the horror stories, and I thought for sure I was going to get harassed, spit at, and/or assaulted.
Because that’s what people say will happen.
But then I realized that there were only a couple people who were saying these things who had actually gone to Morocco. The rest were just repeating the negative news because let’s face it, that’s what people do.
The problem is that us humans (and yes, I’m admitting my own fault here as well) are more prone to listen and repeat horror stories, than pleasant ones. It’s why we become addicted to the news and tabloids, and why you’ll see mostly bad news and reviews spread on social media rather than good news.
For example; how many more people do you think would have clicked on this article and shared it if something bad happened to me? But nothing bad happened to me (besides slamming my head on a low doorway and thinking my riad was haunted). I actually had a f*cking phenomenal time!
I know it won’t get me as many views and shares to write about my positive experience, and will likely get me a few hater comments, but hopefully this will at least help those of you considering traveling to Morocco but worried about safety.
So how about we start with the stereotypes of Morocco:
Some of the most popular negative things I heard about Morocco were; “it’s not safe, especially to go alone”, “they don’t respect women”, “they’ll harass you”, and “they’ll try to sell you for a camel”.
Since I absolutely do not stand for female harassment in any country, this particularly bothered me, and also worried my mother because she thinks I’ll end up in jail one day for snapping back at someone trying to mess with me.
But anyway, let’s stick to the obvious: the main negative stereotype about Morocco is that it’s dangerous. The main positive one is that it’s beautiful. I’ll let you think about which one you hear more.
Next Let’s Consider the Circumstances I Was In:
I’m only going to mention what I look like, because according to those same people saying bad things about Morocco, I am a “prime target” for the harassment. I’ve also already gotten a lot of questions from women saying they want to go to Morocco but are afraid of standing out too much because of the way they look…
So, a little about me: I’m a young, blonde-hair, blue-eyed, Cuban-American female, and I was completely on my own in Morocco. I arrived in Casablanca alone, and I took buses to Meknes, Fes, Cefchaouen, Tanger, and around Marrakech alone. I also took taxis alone, walked alone, and ate alone.
I never once felt unsafe. Well…aside from that time when I thought my AirBnB palace was haunted and a ghost was trying to break into my room. Not joking.
Yes, I Got Holla’ed At
Didn’t see that one coming considering that’s what male brains are programmed to do. Yes, it’s annoying and gross-feeling to walk by and feel a man oogling your body and making comments. But I have to be completely honest with you…the majority of the “harassment” I got was getting called “beautiful”.
I also got asked where I’m from, and where I’m going, but all I had to do was be smart and ignore the conversation attempt, and nothing happened. Some guys were more persistent than others, but I used my solo travel ninja strategies like pretending to be on the phone or filming something and they immediately went away.
For the crazy medinas like the photo above, I hired a private guide (for like $20) who doubled as a body guard and a photography assistant. Talk about a game changer! But, I also ran into another solo female traveler from the US in the medina who didn’t have a guide, and she said she was having 0 problems as well.
No one touched me, grabbed at me, kidnapped me, or tried to “sell me for a camel”. I’m not marriage material for anyone in Morocco anyway since I’m not Muslim, and American’s are way more valuable as tourists.
The Mistake Travelers Make
I think a major mistake that many travelers make, is not taking the time to learn about and understand the culture in the place that they’re traveling to. You’ve probably already heard that you need to “dress appropriately” in Morocco since it’s a predominately Muslim country, and that’s 100% right. Yet some people still don’t do it...
Don’t expect to go somewhere where you know people cover up and wear whatever you normally wear at home. That sort of freedom is a privilege in the U.S. that is taken for granted and ignored, then people wonder why locals stare at them and make comments when they’re abroad.
I’m not saying you need to go get a hijab (head covering) and wear the traditional djellabas (cloak-like outer wear) that some women still wear. You aren’t Muslim, or Moroccan so it would be weird if you did unless it were for a photo (and then you’d still have to be careful with “appropriation” because...the internet).
I’m saying that you should pay attention to how much skin your showing, and try to keep it to a minimum.
Every day, despite how hot it was, I wore either jeans or loose high-waisted slacks, with a top that had at least short-sleeves, and a wide scarf around my neck and shoulders. I covered up what I didn’t want people staring at. To me that just makes sense.
Yes, I 100% brought flowy dresses with me for photos (the Instagram struggle is real), but I only put them on in the confinement of my riads, or at highly touristy locations. By the way, to everyone who hates on flowy dresses, or girls that wear them: you have no idea how much effort some of us go through just to wear them in a photo! I changed in a public bathroom!
Anyway, I also took it upon myself to learn basic phrases in Arabic, which was taken as a great sign of respect. In Morocco, most people also speak French (and a little English), but since Arabic is the traditional language, I went with that first.
I’m sure some people will find a way to argue that having to cover up is a violation of their rights or something, or complain about people not speaking English, but please remember that you are in their country, not yours. If you don’t want to respect the country’s culture, then don’t go!
I Took All Safety Precautions and Measures
I didn’t just show up in Morocco like “I’m heerreee!” I was in full stealth mode at all times, from what I wore, to how I planned my itinerary.
I figured out what types of transportation was safe (I’d highly recommend the CTM bus which you can read more about here), and I only stayed at AirBnB’s so that I could communicate with the hosts before hand. I had the hosts help me arrange transportation, local guides, and they also gave me a lot of insight about the country, culture, and stereotypes of Morocco.
I also made sure I was connected the entire time, either with an international data plan or a wifi hotspot, and I sent my detailed itinerary to my mom and some friends. To get my mom off my back, I also enrolled in the U.S. Government’s STEP program, which is always a good safety precaution for any trip you go on.
When walking around I made sure to pre-map exactly where I was going, and I walked fast, confidently, and with a resting bitch face. I avoided eye contact and smiling, which can sometimes be a hint that you’re easy to sell something to, and I politely said “laa shukran” (no thank you in Arabic) to anyone who tried anyway.
I didn’t walk alone at night, or drink alcohol in public (alcohol is illegal in some areas, and many Muslim countries). And as I mentioned before, I even hired local guides to double as my “body guard slash photography assistant” in the busy medinas (markets), and may have paid a few kids to watch my bags while I took photos.
It may or may not also have helped that I walk around with a very heavy camera gimbal, and I’m constantly filming everything…
I Had an Amazing, Eye-Opening Experience
Morocco really is as beautiful and magical as the positive people say it is. Just take a look at my Instagram feed (shameless promo) and you’ll be convinced.
But what I thought enhanced the experience was making the extra effort to talk to the locals who were hosting me, guiding me, or contacting me on social media. Getting an inside understanding about a place that unfairly gets a bad rep was one of the most rewarding feelings ever, and seeing Morocco with that hindsight made the experience so much more incredible.
I also felt like a total badass conquering solo travel in a country that many people dub one of the most dangerous in the world....and also felt slightly dumb for listening to stereotypes for so long instead of experiencing it for myself.
So far this is one of four “dangerous countries” I’ve traveled solo in (others include Egypt, India, and Jordan), not to mention one of six countries in Africa I’ve traveled in, and I always find the same exact outcome: You are as safe as you make yourself, and you learn a lot from locals.
What Local Women Said About Harassment and Stereotypes
There was no way I was going to write this, or any of my blog posts unless I both experienced traveling solo for myself, and also got some insight from local women. I know that just because I had a positive experience, that it doesn’t mean nothing will ever go wrong for anyone (especially since I’m like a jedi ninja solo traveler).
That’s why I made it a point to meet up with local Moroccan women to see what the deal is with this male harassment, and any safety issues they thought I should be aware of.
Surprisingly, they informed me that the men do it more to the local women than the foreigners. They said certain areas are worse due to the lack of education, religious extremity, and fact that many of the people come from the mountains (AKA aren’t up to speed on modern day practices). They also mentioned that most of the younger men are very respectful, especially when it comes to tourists, and that everyone is always eager to chat with foreigners simply out of curiosity and awe.
They admitted that it sucks, and that it gives Morocco a bad name, but also said it’s all talk, and that no one would ever actually touch someone (yes I blurted, “Even the talk is not Ok!”). They also said in big touristy cities like Casablanca and Marrakech you can get away with wearing whatever, but would highly advise to cover up in smaller, more local cities (like Meknes and Fes).
They told me it was safe to use the bus and taxis alone, and that they do it all the time (which I found to be true), and mentioned to maybe avoid soccer stadiums after games. Especially if Morocco’s team loses.
Lastly they spoke about how they try to travel as much as possible, and how Muslim women in Morocco are really taking charge of their lives and rights these days, which was awesome to hear. It made me look into some volunteer opportunities that would help empower women, which I actually found a program for in Rabat!
So yeah! In conclusion, I found Morocco safe to travel solo in, as long as you take your own safety measures, and be smart when you travel. If you’re interested in going, I have tons of blog post with safety tips, itineraries, and resources on my website, MyLifesAMovie.com!