I recently came back from a rather difficult month in Morocco. I saw some amazing things, things I had wanted to see for a very long time: the Sahara; the medinas; the art and culture; the Blue town of Chefchaouen; the amazing architecture; and Casablanca, the scene of the greatest love film of all time!
But in all honesty, I wouldn’t be very keen to go back to Morocco and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
First though, I want to touch on some issues of solo female travel safety in general and why it usually annoys me to be asked questions like “Was it safe for you there?” or “Weren’t you scared?”
- I like to live life with the assumption that most people are fundamentally good and will try their best to help you.
- I also like to think that I, along with any other enterprising female who wants to travel alone, am probably a)culturally sensitive enough to avoid unnecessary bother, and b)capable enough to deal with most logistical day-to-day problems as they arrive (even in a foreign country and language) without being in too much of a flap.
Given the above two assumptions I think that travel as a solo female is mostly pretty safe. It bothers me *a lot* that the question of my safety should ever need to be discussed in the context of my gender. But sadly, there are clearly enough worries out there, enough questions being asked of writers and solo female travellers, that there are a HUGE number of articles and blog posts entirely dedicated to telling women how they can stay safe whilst travelling. Which destinations are the best to go to alone. What you should do and how you should act when you get there. What lone females should pack. The best ways to rebuff unwanted advances. How you should wear a wedding ring even though you’re not married or carry a photo of you *cough* significant other to whip out during any uncomfortable interraction.
But here are my honest thoughts on Morocco. I was safe. Yes I really think I was safe at all times but I didn’t feel that safe and, quite frankly that is the important thing!
Now, this wasn’t a constant fear or worry but more of a pervasive niggle of doubt, of concern that everything didn’t seem to be going that well or smoothly. Morocco is intense – really intense actually and that is something that travellers have to get used to. Making your way through Medinas in particular can be quite difficult if alone. I don’t think this is exclusively difficult for women though – I think it has more to do with not quite fitting in. If you’re obviously not Moroccan then you will experience this to some extent. A little hassle to buy and fairly aggressive haggling is par for the course and to some extent I’ve always quite enjoyed a bit of verbal sparring over the price of a necklace or a freshly caught fish! If you want a guide on what you’re really being told in the souks, have a look at these phrases often heard in Morocco…
What I didn’t enjoy, and sadly this did happen to me more than my male compatriots, was being followed by gangs (yes, whole gangs) of young men. They will hassle you when you get off a bus, leave a shop or step out of your hostel. Being whistled at and looked firmly up and down. Being talked about, being sworn at for not engaging with them, being, for the lack of another word, creeped on!
The architecture that makes Moroccan medinas so interesting is exactly what makes them nerve-wracking for solo travellers. The alleyways are tiny, twisty and often have dead-ends. So, if you are followed, or feel that you are being followed by anyone, your sense of fight or flight (always the one in my case) is ramped up significantly. You’re like a rabbit in the headlights not knowing which way to turn!
All of those things were not nice.
Not nice at all!
I don’t want to tell you how to feel or whether you should or shouldn’t go to Morocco alone. I just want to explain my feelings about it.
I was in Morocco for a whole month and I think I would only go back with a group in the future but I do think dealing with Morocco has made me a more competent traveller! I definitely learned something! I had to be a little more on my guard which, for someone who prefers to believe in everyone’s good intentions, is probably not the worst thing to work on.
Morocco was culturally rich, visually stunning and utterly delicious! There are so many beautiful places to see and things to do – it is definitely worth your time to visit this fascinating country. Just bear in mind, that if you want to do it totally solo – no tours or organised trips – maybe just take a few pals! Or make some friends in a hostel! That way you can laugh off the creepy teenagers gesturing obscenely and shouting about how much they like your eyes/bum and you can embrace being compared to the Spice Girls with the kind of laugh-out-loud mockery that sort of comment deserves!
To Spice Up Your Life just visit Morocco.
If you’ve had an experience like mine or want to share your thoughts – leave me a comment!