Morocco’s colorful culture, bustling markets, and scenic beauty have made it famous across the globe. Its expat population is relatively small but continues to grow at a steady pace. This is at least partly because the country is a lot more liberal than many of the other neighboring Islamic nations. In general, Moroccans are quite open-minded and accepting of people of other cultures. Nevertheless, safety for women continues to be a concern among expats.While there is no particularly major threat to their safety, many women from the western countries experience a significant culture shock (and some amount of harassment) when they travel to or move to Morocco.
We asked Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki from Journey Beyond Travel about the main safety concerns expat women have in Morocco.
“Overall, Morocco is a very safe country. There is little to no violent crime. The biggest concern for people in general is pick pocketing and being taken advantage of. For women there also is an issue with verbal harassment. It’s very rare for women to be touched physically by men, but there is always an issue of catcalling and commenting. It isn’t just expat women that face this, Moroccan women also do.”
So what can women do to stay as safe as possible in Morocco? Amanda’s advice:
“Really look at your surroundings. You don’t have to “become Moroccan” but watch what Moroccan women are wearing and how they’re acting. This will give you a good indication of what the local norms are. Morocco is a big country with very distinct regions that have been geographically separated for a long time. If you are living in rural southern Morocco the norms of that community will be very different than someone living in Rabat. By paying attention to how the locals do things you’ll be able to adjust and adapt better.”
Below are a few other tips you might want to follow if you’re living in Morocco as an expat.
There are no restrictions on what you can wear in Morocco, regardless of your gender. Yet, skimpy clothes like shorts and tank tops are never worn by the locals. Women dressed in revealing clothes tend to attract a lot of unwanted male attention. It is therefore best to dress modestly in full-length pants, long skirts, and loose tops. Many expat women also carry a scarf to drape over their shoulders or cover their head whenever required.
Many Moroccan men view western women as ‘easy’ and follow them around trying to start a conversation. They often try to talk to women, and may also yell to get their attention. This can be quite intimidating, not to mention annoying. The best way to deal with this problem is by ignoring them. Never make eye contact or initiate or encourage a conversation with strangers in the street. A smile is a strict no-no as people view it as an invitation or encouragement. Don’t even respond to a stranger’s “hello”. Keep communication with people you do not know to a minimum and wear dark sunglasses so that people cannot easily make eye contact with you.
Choose your location wisely
Most of the foreigners residing in Morocco live in Rabat (the capital), Casablanca, or Marrakesh, as these cities are more developed and liberal. People living in the rural areas are a lot more conservative, especially when it comes to their interactions with women.
Avoid venturing out alone at night
While crimes against tourists are rare in Morocco, the local men tend to target women who are alone. Women therefore tend to stay indoors at night or find a male escort if they have to go out.
Wear a “wedding” ring
One of the most effective ways of warding off unwanted male attention is by letting the men know that you are married, even if you aren’t. Several female expats who are single wear a ring on their wedding finger, just to discourage suitors. Most Moroccan men leave married women alone, but of course this doesn’t necessarily work all the time.
If a woman is subject to groping, profanity, or any other kind of aggression, she should show her disgust and seek help from others. The local women often come to the aid of foreigners. Troublemakers often back down quickly when confronted.
Hammams or traditional baths (local spas) are a great way to meet other women and get an insight into the local way of life. Most hotels have a hammam or can at least guide you to the closest one.
Alternately, it is quite safe to hang out with students in Morocco. Many locals, tourists, and foreign exchange students gather at cafes each week to play music, critique art, and exchange experiences.
Be careful with alcohol
Like in any other country, you should never accept a drink from a stranger, and keep an eye on your drink at all times.
Consider whom you want to “share” your cab with
It is very common for people traveling by public transport to share a taxi with three other passengers. Being in a car with three unknown men (and the driver) can be very risky. It is therefore advisable to wait till you find a cab with three other female passengers. Alternatively, when available, taking the bus may be a better option.
Beware of men professing their “love”
Many Moroccan men are looking for a way out of the country and try to prey on female visitors. All potential romantic advances should therefore be treated with caution.
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