Travelling in Morocco as an Asian Woman

Travelling in Morocco as an Asian Woman

Is Morocco a difficult country for women to travel to? This writer, a female Asian traveller from Singapore, shares her experience and encounters in Morocco.

Bruce Lee! Jackie Chan!”

Moroccan men on the streets blurt out the above to my female friend and me when we visited the North African country last year. We’d hear this at least five times a day. I felt like a walking Wheel of Fortune puzzle. Name the right country/Asian reference sir, and I’ll turn around!

I’m usually oblivious to stares, but even I was highly aware of the eyes that followed me as I walked down their streets.

Morocco is a major tourist destination in Africa with its colourful souks, beautiful Sahara desert and delicious tagines. However, its geographical proximity to Europe means that Asian travellers make up a small percentage of their visitors. So their curiosity is justified, and they don’t conceal it.

In addition, it is not secret that women have a challenging time travelling in Morocco.

Before going, I read many discouraging things from female travellers online about their experiences. More specifically, with Moroccan men who are notorious for their persistence in getting your attention. Despite being a modern nation, it is still a highly patriarchal society where many men possess a blown up sense of entitlement. Accounts of street harassment, groping and sometimes the men react violently to rejections were common.

It would explain why women were less visible than men in general. The kids playing at the beach were all boys, and cafe patrons were 99 percent men. Although women do work, most do not socialise outside and are often found in homes or at the hammam.

The money changer at Mohammed V Airport, a bubbly local lady, was relieved when I told her my friend would be joining me in Casablanca shortly. She made a face and said, “Well you know, it’s not very safe for females to travel in Morocco.”

Many well-traveled women actually advise female travellers to avoid Morocco and swore they would never return.

Thankfully, my experiences with harassment were only pesky at worst and not of the sexual variety. In fact, what we encountered more were passersby playing guessing games on where we’re from.

That is not to say we did not have our share of persistent men.

My friend and I befriended some hotel staff on our first night at the Todra Gorge. The next morning, one of them gave her a private tour of their gardens and gifted her a flower and a cheeky hug. He later added her on Facebook and continued to send love confessions until gently rejected.  

One ticket officer on the inter-city train plonked himself next to us on our cabin and asked for my chips. Fine, I can share. Afterwards, he wanted selfies together, but we weren’t in the generous mood for that.

I spent my last day in Morocco in the beautiful coastal city of Tangier, where I accidentally made eye contact with a scruffy young guy on the beach. He promptly jogged up to me and kept up with my speed walking for the longest time, asking about my evening plans and to watch him play guitar at the bar. After learning that I was Chinese, he asked enthusiastically “Do you read Japanese? I have a Japanese tattoo on my neck. Look.”

“I don’t know Japanese,” I said

“No just look,” he insisted and exposed the back of his neck to me. “Do you know what it means?”

I didn’t. And apparently, neither did he.

All our lives, us women have been told that we’re unsafe outside of the home. That men are out to get us at the first moment our defences are down (and sometimes even when they’re up). I think no matter how independent or brave you are, and even if no actual harm came your way, being in an environment like Morocco will heighten your wariness.

Another thing to understand is that the concept of personal space is not prevalent in Moroccan culture. So they might not be aware that they’re making foreigners feel uncomfortable when their unabashed curiosity pulls them towards you. In fact, among friends and families, physical touch and closeness were how they interacted with one another.

When I asked a young woman in Casablanca for directions to the bus depot, she practically glued her hip next to mine and placed her hand on my arm the whole time as we looked at the map together on my phone.

“They’re not being creepy,” our Airbnb host told us on our first day. “That’s just how they behave”.

Street harassment stood out in my Moroccan experience. But at the end of the day, my bigger concerns were pickpockets, navigating around their souks and learning to order orange juice in French (Un jus d’orange, merci). Not once did I feel that my personal safety was threatened.

If it means anything, Morocco is a place I definitely want to return. I would put up with all of the annoyances just to have a pot of Moroccan mint tea again.

About Author

Jing Wei
Jing Wei

Jing Wei is a video producer, writer and biryani lover (not in any particular order). She is intrigued by people and cultures different from hers, because diversity is the spice of life. Diagnosed with serious YOLOFOMO, she quit her job to travel the world for four months. She is torn between her love for remote areas and big cities (because ultimately that's where a supermarket otaku belongs). You can check out her vlogs on her Facebook page "Where's Jing?" and her YouTube channel of the same name.


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