Volunteer Phuong in Marrakesh wearing crew neck t-shirt.Perfect!
Travelling to Morocco soon? Female? Not sure what to wear to fit in with the culture? Is there a strict dress code?
There is a lot of advice on what and what not to wear.
Encountering unwanted attention from Moroccan men is unfortunately a possibility for female travellers. The relative lack of social interaction between the sexes in Morocco can results in men having little exposure to women other than their immediate family. They often see Western women as not being bound by Morocco’s social restrictions, and perhaps have a not-so-respectful assumption of them. Dressing modestly by wearing a long skirt and loose, long-sleeve shirt can help. For more
Here’s a case study for you to consider
Sally has just arrived in Marrakech to volunteer. She wears shorts and a strappy vest for a few days when she’s out and about or volunteering and gets no attention from men. Sally wonders if what she’s heard about the clothes issue is exaggerated, as she sees lots of tourists wearing summer holiday gear and also Moroccan women in varying degrees of dress. Four days into her visit, Sally pops out to the corner shop to buy a crepe for breakfast when some older men shout to her in Arabic (“cover your modesty!”) and young men whistle. She returns to the volunteer house a bit shaken and takes time to reflect on what might have caused that reaction. Was she wearing anything different to what she had worn the previous days? What could have gone wrong? Perhaps it was just those men at that particular time or because she was on her own. Sally decides to continue wearing the same clothes but doesn’t go out alone again. As she receives no attention for the rest of her trip, Sally concludes that girls can wear what they like in Morocco but shouldn’t go out on their own.
Typical Moroccan cover-all called a Djellaba.
The importance of a male guide or chaperone
What Sally was not aware of was that throughout her stay before her trip to the shop for breakfast, she was always accompanied by either a male volunteer or a male coordinator was leading the volunteer group.
Male company is a strong deterrent for local men, who will generally not make advances to women who are chaperoned. If Sally had gone out again in shorts and a strappy vest either on her own or just in female company, the same situation could have come up.
You’ll no doubt see many female tourists wearing unsuitable clothing, perhaps female volunteers too, but unless they’re in male company they will receive attention if not dressed appropriately. From our own experience of talking to volunteers over the years, when asked “do you get any hassle from local men?” many female volunteers who dress in their normal holiday wear will tend to respond “yes all the time and even got my bum pinched the other day”. Women who cover their legs and arms and tend to walk around with other girls who are modestly dressed tend to respond to the same question with “no nothing, a bit of staring but I haven’t noticed anything”.
Volunteers out and about in local market.
Travelling safely in Morocco
Females out on their own will get male attention but this can be minimised.
When walking during the day if you’re on your own, dress more modestly (wear a crew neck t-shirt or if you only have a little summer top, borrow or buy a shawl for your shoulders and wear trousers/jeans or a long skirt). Also, try to avoid eye contact with men unless unless you are purchasing something. Giggling and smiling at local shopkeepers as you wander through the souks (markets) will send a message that you’re available and flirting with the men.
When you’re out and about in female company, encourage the others to dress conservatively as it will be hard not to attract male attention. Even Moroccan women who are together in modern dress and not wearing a djellaba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Djellaba ) may receive unwanted attention and can often be heard shouting something firmly back in Arabic!
Perfect! Volunteers at rural village project south of Marrakesh.
Our top tips for female visitors to Marrakech
Whatever your opinion of the conservative culture of Morocco, we all want to have the best experience we can so here are our top tips:
- Keep your shoulders covered – wear t-shirts with trousers/jeans or a long skirt. (Consider your body as a Moroccan man may – that he’ll view your bare shoulders as if you were completely topless)
- Discourage other girls you’re going out with from wearing shorts and strappy vests. Make sure you all try to dress modestly.
- Avoid loud giggly behaviour when in a female-only group – it could be misinterpreted by local men as flirtatious.
- If the above does not appear to be working – grab a male volunteer as an escort! Local men will mostly assume you are married or with a male relative or if in a group and should give you a wide berth!