I’ve said it once. I’ve said it twice. I’ll say it again – I love Marrakech!
Before I went on my trip a lot of friends and acquaintances expressed concern for me traveling to this developing nation with just one other female friend. Being this was my first time in Morocco or anywhere in Africa, I was a little wary when I first arrived in the city.
However, I quickly discovered that this is indeed a beautiful country with warm people and a fascinating culture.
There’s no denying that Marrakech is another world though, and there are some things to keep in mind when travelling that aren’t relevant when traveling in Europe or the United States, especially for female travelers.
I had a hugely positive experience in Morocco and I want you to as well. Here are my five tips for women traveling to Marrakech:
Tips for Women Traveling to Marrakech
1. Don’t dress like an idiot
In the center of a busy crossroads she stood out like a sore thumb: a pale brunette tourist in way too short shorts and a bright yellow halter top, arms and shoulders completely bare under the soft sun. Did anyone say anything to her? No. Did anyone approach her? No. Did anyone threaten her? No.
But she got a lot of stares. From the cab drivers, from the women crossing the street with their children, from me. If you were there you would have stared too, only just because she was dressed unlike anyone else in the scene and jarringly contrasted with her surroundings.
Truth be told, you could wear whatever you want in Marrakech. There’s no dress code and women aren’t required to wear scarves. But if you do dress like you are going to a beach in the French Riviera you will stick out and attract attention.
Respect the culture around you by dressing conservatively in long, loose pants or a skirt and cover your shoulders.
At night while walking around I brought a scarf to cover my head. This made me feel way more comfortable and I felt I attracted less attention.
2. Explore the medina with a guide first
I fell deeply in love with the red walls, winding souks and tangled streets that define Marrakech. By the end of my stay I was more than comfortable exploring the city with just my friend Emily and even found joy in thrill of haggling prices with cab drivers and warding off unwanted solicitations.
During my first moments in the old section of the city, however, I felt anything but comfortable as I walked down a dark, dusty street under the cover of darkness past groups of men dressed much differently than me.
This was my first time in Morocco or in Africa, and the city was like anything I’d ever seen before. At first I felt a little unsafe because of how jarring the difference is between Marrakech and Europe or the United States.
I think because the country is so different from the Western World, it can take you a while to feel comfortable, especially if you are a female traveling alone or in a small group.
Marrakech is actually quite a safe city and the majority of the people are lovely and warm. To ease into the culture and get your bearings, explore with a trusted guide first.
My personal recommendation is Mohamed Daif. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. When in doubt take a cab
You’re going to get lost in Marrakech. Unless you have some serious top notch navigational skills or have been there before, plan on it. The streets of the medina of Marrakech are a winding maze. There are no street sign and most buildings are unmarked.
Luckily, cabs in Marrakech are plentiful in cheap. (Like really cheap). If you aren’t quite sure where to go or get lost, just take a cab to save you stress and time.
If you do find yourself lost, try to locate a hotel or café and they can call a trusted cab for you. Cabs also queue in front of the main tourist attractions and transportation hubs.
4. Choose centrally located accommodation
Centrally located accommodation is desirable in most destinations you visit, but in the medina of Marrakech it’s a must. As I said earlier, the medina is maze unlike I’ve seen before, and if you want to have any hope of locating any points of interest you will need to stay in the center.
When booking accommodations be wary of Riads or hostel that claim to be centrally located as this is a vague term. Do a Google map search to see if it is indeed centrally located near Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square.
The most centrally located Riad I discovered is Riad Joya, which is a short walk from the main square and highly luxurious.
5. Know what to expect in Jemaa el-Fnaa
Jemaa el-Fnaa is the main square of Marrakech. With vendors selling fresh orange juice and crafts, snake charmers, live music and belly dancers, it’s an exciting swirl of entertainment.
Being the center meeting point for tourists, it’s also the most likely place to be pick pocketed, followed by strangers and taken advantage of for being a tourist.
In the center of the main square are four rows of food stalls that claim to have some of the best food in the city. As the sun sets, these narrow rows become packed with people, and a walk through this area will include being jostled around the crowd and followed at an extremely close distance by aggressive salesman trying to get you to stop at their food stall. You may even get grabbed at, groped or otherwise touched in a way you don’t want to.
If you don’t want to have this experience, don’t go to this area. Otherwise, be prepared that your time in this section of town will be uncomfortable. Don’t let your experiences here define your perception of Marrakech or Morocco. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people, and Jemaa el-Fnaa is such a small part of the city.
And there you have my top tips for women traveling to Marrakech. For those who have been, what would you add?