A week after leaving Morroco I feel like I’ve had enough time to think over my recent trip to the country and organize my thoughts. I’m no longer tied up in the emotions of how I felt in the country and feel that I am now able to describe accurately how things went down and give my best advice on travelling in Morocco as a female traveller.
How I travelled through Morocco
I think it’s important to first be clear on how I travelled through Morocco. It was a country I was eager to see as pictures showed its beauty through colourful tiles and yellow sand dunes and many travellers raved of its cheap prices and unique experiences such as visiting the Sahara.
I had heard stories of harassment and I’m not going to lie, it definitely made me a bit hesitant but didn’t scare me away. I opted to travel with a friend, the first place I’ve ever felt like I didn’t want to travel solo and ended up going with my good friend and fellow blogger, Hannah, who too had had Morocco on her bucket list for quite some time and also wanted to travel with a friend.
We found a seat sale to Casablanca from Canada and hopped on the chance to go, booking the flight months in advance which is quite unusual for both of us! It meant that we had plenty of time to plan.
At first we thought that we should spend a month in Morocco to experience as much as possible but after plenty of research we decided 16 days would allow us to hit up all of the must-see spots on our lists. All I can say is that I’m really glad that we decided to stay for a shorter period of time.
We are both backpackers and so that’s how we travelled through the majority of the country, staying in hostels, taking buses and occasionally splurging on an affordable private room. We once took the train and purposely choose first class which is still very affordable because we had both heard stories of women being followed on trains and that it is much safer for your bags.
We also took one tour, a 3-day tour into the Sahara desert which was easier for both of us instead of driving ourselves.
Where I went in Morocco
I went to five different cities in Morocco: Casablanca, Fez, Chefchaouen, Marrakesh and Essaouira, along with the Sahara tour that I mentioned over 16 days.
I believe that the places that we went were a good mix to be able to judge how overall Morocco is for visitors, as these are the most popular spots to visit in the country and that we gave each spot ample time to explore (a few places I think we even stayed too long!).
The worst part about travelling in Morocco: Sexual Harassment
Before I really dive in, I’d like to be clear on a few things: I am not writing this article to discourage people to travel to Morocco, I am merely writing it as a differing perspective as to what I found when doing my own research for Morocco. I am not saying that I hate Morocco, or that Morocco is terrible. I am simply sharing my own opinion based on my experiences and if you disagree you have every right to, but it doesn’t mean that I’m wrong or that you have the right to be rude to me. So please keep that in mind.
Straight up the worst part of travelling in Morocco was the constant harassment. Myself and my friend Hannah never left our accommodation by ourselves so we were always together and the fact that there was two of us (or even more when we opted to hang out with other girls) didn’t seem to deter any of the men from shouting rude and/or sexual comments.
The comments were anything from a simple “oh my god” that was said with such a sexual tone that there was no doubt that the men were staring at your body even though we both depressed appropriately. There was nothing innocent about those oh my god comments and they happened quite often.
Other men called out asking if we wanted to marry them, commenting on our “big ass” or Hannah even received comments from men asking if they wanted to see their “big one,” referring to their dick.
At some points even young boys, around 12-15 would call out the same type of sexual comments that the adult men said. It was at these points that it became obviously clear that these comments are apart of the culture.
The comments were totally uncalled for, we always minded out business and typically had dark sunglasses on to avoid eye contact and purposely chose not to talk to the men first.
If this happened once or twice I would have been able to brush it off. I’ve had a much worse sexual harassment experience in Bali and it didn’t deter me from loving the island (it’s my second home). It’s the fact that every time we walked out of our accommodation it happened that drove me crazy and made me want to hide.
The constant stares that were far from innocent, the yelling of sexual comments and overall just how we as women were treated walking in the streets despite being covered up left me not wanting to leave our accommodation in fear of more comments or something worse.
I will admit that I am sensitive to these types of comments but regardless, I don’t think there are many women out there who want this type of attention.
Luckily, the worse that did happen was Hannah being touched on the shoulder by a man. I hated the fact that the man felt he had the right to touch Hannah, or that any of the other men felt that could say to us whatever they felt like.
It was obvious, especially in Fez that the men were enjoying making us uncomfortable. Marrakesh was not as bad, but it still happened even though the men seemed to be much more playful about it and not so creepy.
Why Morocco is the most difficult place I’ve ever travelled to
Physical travel in Morocco is not difficult. The trains are better than the trains in Canada and the stations are straight forward so it’s easy to get a ticket.
The buses could be booked online (but only up to three days in advance), the buses were clean (though tight!) and were on time.
The hardest part about travel in Morocco was constantly being exhausted. Travelling in itself it an exhausting activity, figuring out where to go, exploring all day in the heat and being constantly stimulated by new experiences is tiring anywhere. But add into the mix the almost constant sexual harassment and then how aggressive people are and it personally pushed me over the edge.
The locals who worked in the places where we stayed often warned us to be careful. Don’t follow anyone offers to help, always watching your bag and overall just tales of caution.
I had never been in a country before where I was warned so many times to not trust people. If I got lost (which is pretty much evident in the Medina’s since Google Maps doesn’t work in them) there was no one to ask for help. Most people would just lead you in some random direction and then ask for money. Others would actually lead you to where you wanted to go and then ask for money too.
Locals claimed they had big hearts and were doing it out of kindness but money was always the end target. I understand that I am privileged as a traveller and as a citizen of Canada and that sometimes these people really just need money, but never in all of my travels have I been to a country where no one seemed to want to help without getting something out of it.
Perhaps others can see the charm in Morocco’s Medina’s, but all I felt was stressed, like I was in tight quarters and like I couldn’t stop without the threat of being hit by a moving vehicle (this includes donkey’s), vendors jumping right on you to try and sell you something or to help you get somewhere. Forget looking at a map, there will be someone yelling in your direction offering to lead you to where you need to go.
There was never a moment to just breathe, get your bearings or even look at one of the cute shops, there was always someone there instantly.
Vendors were obviously trying to sell stuff so we were always called out at or yelled after whether we looked in the vendor’s direction or not. I don’t consider this harassment, this is typical for travel in a lot of countries and I was not surprised about it at all, but I was surprised by how much more intense it was.
Yes, the streets are filled with beautiful and colourful souvenirs for you to buy that pile into the streets from out of the shops, and yes the Medina is a maze that could lead you around a corner that has the perfect lighting for a photograph. There is beauty in the Medina’s but overall I found them too stressful because of constant aggressiveness and harassment.
The good things about Morocco
Morocco as a country is absolutely breathtaking outside of the cities. The scenery is beyond what I had expected with nature in the north that includes rolling hills and green fields as far as the eye can see. In the east, you have the Sahara desert which is obviously beautiful on its own and completely worth the lengthy drive out to spend a night there. Then there are the Atlas Mountains that are topped with snow that make for extremely scenic driving routes and don’t forget about the coast, where beaches are white sand and the ocean breeze is just perfect.
Morocco is beautiful and it is a lovely country to drive around or take the train (it was seriously one of my favourite parts, just watching the scenery go by). The cities, however, are not the most charming. The Medina’s are bustling, far busier than any Old Town I’ve visited in Europe with street vendors trying to sell to you every 10 steps, donkeys making delivers while pulling carts piled high with just about anything and in Marrakesh, it’s a challenge to walk without a motorbike coming too close for comfort.
Despite that, the attractions to visit in the Medina’s are like a serene space to breathe off of the streets and where you can find those oh so gorgeous tiles and majestic buildings you’ve seen pictures of. Just remember you’ll be sharing the space with lots of tourists!
There were definitely times where we met locals who were so, so kind, very welcoming and overall just lovely people. These people were people worked at the places we were staying and our guide for our Sahara tour, so obviously these people are catering to tourists.
Should You Go to Morocco?
The big question I’d like to answer is should you go to Morocco? Not can you go to Morocco? Yes, you absolutely can, it is safe enough to go, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll always feel comfortable.
My answer if you should or not depends on you as a person. If you are travelling solo or with a girlfriend or even a group of girlfriends, I would recommend doing Morocco as a tour if you wish to avoid harassment. Tour Radar offers a ton of Morocco tours for any age, length and budget.
If you are going with a boyfriend you will have men back off but it’s not guaranteed.
If you are a man going then you’ll mostly be left alone but that’s not always the case. Some men said they too felt uncomfortable or were told to “get out of my country” by locals. Was that a single isolated incident? As told by the guy it happened to, no, it actually happened twice.
I feel as if I have just gone on hating on Morocco the entire time so I want to make it clear that not everything in Morocco was bad. I really enjoyed my short time in Essaouira, a coastal city that’s very laid back and lovely to visit, and I will never forget the scenery and my time in the Sahara desert (despite almost falling off of a camel!).
Chefchaouen, otherwise known as the blue city, was also more chilled and really fun to walk through and take pictures of.
Marrakesh and Fez were simply too much for me and Casablanca doesn’t really have anything other than the Hassan II mosque which was really beautiful.
The Morocco you see on Instagram exists with the patterned tiles, magnificent doors and colourful carpets hanging out of shop doors. Those pictures are a small fraction of Morocco, and while they are no doubt beautiful, it can be an absolute hassle to get to those oh so pretty spots.
I have no regrets of going to Morocco, it was truly a unique experience and one that I will certainly never forget. However, I have no desire to return to Morocco and consider it my least favourite country out of the 40 countries I have visited. I felt like I saw and experienced enough and there is nothing that I loved enough to pull me back.
I encourage you to ask people who have been to Morocco who loved it to ask them where exactly they went and how they travelled through the country. People who seemed to have stayed in the south such as Marrakesh and Essaouira had very different outlooks and typically really liked Morocco compared to people who travelled the north.
People who travel through Morocco by tours typically like the country a lot more than people who travelled through on their own.
Morocco, in my opinion, is a love or hate country and it is a very different experience depending on how you travel through the country and who with, whether it be solo, by tour, with a boyfriend or a group.
I wrote this article to offer a different perspective on a country that is currently booming because I felt like there was a lack of information shared on how Morocco really can be. I don’t think Morocco is for everyone so please don’t force yourself to go just because you like the Instagram pictures or because everyone is going. And don’t not go because you read this article. Do a ton of research, read what multiple people have to say and then make a decision based on what you feel is right for you.
I hope this helped opened your eyes to how travel is not always fabulous, that countries are definitely not the same for everyone and that Morocco can be great or it can be bad.
My overall thoughts on Morocco
While I was in the country I had people tell me via Instagram that I was negative or that they didn’t understand why I didn’t like it. Can you imagine having someone yell at you every time you left your accommodation? How would you feel if men were commenting about how large their dicks are and asking if you wanted to see it, yelling out that they liked your big fat ass, giving you “sex eyes” and were constantly stared at no matter what you wore?
That is why I felt negative about Morocco while I was in Morocco despite trying to see the positives.
I am hesitant to say that it was the people in Morocco that really turned it into a negative experience because we did meet many very lovely people. These people all worked in tourism and were typically running the accommodation we were staying at. Our tour guide for the Sahara desert was so kind and some of the street vendors were funny and easy to talk to, even if you didn’t buy something. Overall though, the negatives outweighed the positives.
It was between the sexual comments and being told by the friendly locals we met to always watch our stuff, to not go out at certain times or to certain areas that left me on high alert all the time. It was absolutely exhausting to walk out of the door because I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone (and we were told to not trust anyone).
Research before I had gotten to Morocco left my memory filled with stories of girls who were pushed up against walls by young boys, tales of locals promising to help lead women to a certain attraction only to be led to a dead end and then asked for money, and many other forms of warnings for women to be careful.
It’s no wonder I went to the country thinking it was going to be scary and I did everything I could to find the light and be positive but when we were hit again and again with warnings to be careful, constant stares and fear of more sexual comments can you blame me for not really enjoying my time?
I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to me saying that they felt the same about Morocco – that it is just truly exhausting. You made me feel like I wasn’t going crazy.
I think these people, who felt the same as me perhaps didn’t write about their experiences and that’s why I didn’t see any articles like this in my research. Instead, I came across articles encouraging solo female travel, but with precautions or other girls saying that the harassment is no different than elsewhere. (?!?) I found it vastly different than anywhere I’ve travelled to.
While it is not my purpose in writing this article to encourage people to not go to Morocco, it is my purpose to give, females especially, a different perspective, a word of caution and perhaps to have them rethink how they travel through Morocco.