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South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

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Manchester, United...
posts: 51
reviews: 14
South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Hi Everyone,

Before you all get annoyed with me (why do people in these forums do that? Not all of us are confident experienced travellers!), I have read around this forum for hours!

I've taken the plunge (for the first time) to go group travelling with Intrepid. I'm going in late June, on the South Morocco Tour. I will be spending 2 days in Marrakech by myself first. Itinerary as follows:

Day 1 Marrakech

Marvel in the spectacle of Marrakech, mingle with the performers and fortune-tellers at Djemaa el-Fna or sample Moroccan fares alfresco at the night stalls. Relax while sipping mint tea with locals and pick up last-minute supplies for the South Morocco adventure. (Hotel le Caspian)

Day 2 Aroumd

Stay in a mountain gite with incredible views while exploring the High Atlas Mountains. Hike to the burial place of a medieval saint.

Day 3

Ait BenhaddouExplore the grand Ait Benhaddou kasbah, Morocco's internationally acclaimed film set, as featured in Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator.

Day 4 Zagora

Embark on a journey towards the mighty Sahara Desert, through the lush Draa Valley and on to Zagora - a small oasis town on the Sahara fringe that is perfect for an overnight stop.

Day 5 Sahara Camp

Travel along rugged mountain ranges, through seas of sand and past the occasional desert oasis of date palms. Investigate an ancient library filled with manuscripts and discover the green-glazed pottery of Tamegroute. Enjoy a camel expedition across the Sahara at dusk and spend the night under the stars.

Day 6

TaroudanntClimb aboard a 4x4 for an epic trip out to the Erg Chigaga sand dunes. Look out for the incredible sight of goats climbing argan trees on the way to the bustling market town of Taroudannt. Take to the souqs and haggle with local traders for silver jewellery or colourful Moroccan ceramics and mosaics.

Days 7-8 Essaouira

Travel to the seaside gem of Essaouira and discover a variety of active or relaxing things to do. Essaouira's old medina is a fascinating place to explore with a local guide, or perhaps take the opportunity to relax by the beach or browse the bubbly markets.

Days 9-10 Marrakech

Farewell the beach and head from Essaouira to Marrakech. Once again, get lost in the mayhem of the souqs or seek out Majorelle Gardens to relax in a tropical oasis.

------------

I've read the forums, and have decided to use a pre-paid card for ATMs and purchases (Caxton FX), and I've been reading a lot about the culture and weather and attitudes to women etc.

I feel there are a few conflicting messages, or just that people have different experiences?

1) The weather seems very changeable throughout the different areas of this trip? Will I need extra warm clothing and sleeping bags etc for desert camp and Essouria? That's a lot to pack in a backpack!

2) I plan on spending time by myself - and i've read all kinds of stories here, from women being harassed, to women feeling very comfortable. To add to the equation, I'm a muslim women (who will be deemed extremely westernised). I'm not married, I don't wear a head scarf etc. Will I be viewed much more negatively than the standard woman who visits the country? Do I need to worry?

Should I wear a pretend wedding band (I ended up doing so In Egypt)? Should I take a head scarf? Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. I wouldn't want to aggravate anyone and would rather not draw attention to myself.

3) Again, I've read very conflicting responses on here, I plan to dress modestly, of course and respect the culture. Linen trousers - no leg! Are capped / short sleeves allowed? Some say yes, some say no. I'm going to struggle in heat and full sleeves!

Has anybody been on this tour previously? I'd love specific reviews - I've not spotted one yet! Any further tips are greatly appreciated. And apologies to anyone this is going to annoy - not intended to do so.

Thanks,

Reyhana

York, United Kingdom
posts: 597
reviews: 3
1. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

I think the conflicts in the advise and experiences you have read usually stem from the vastly differing “personalities” that are giving the advise. A good example was a thread on this forum a while ago where a discussion started about a women getting upset about her personal space being intruded and a gent pinching her bum/arm grabbed (can’t remember which). Now I personally don’t give a damn about having my bum pinched/arm held in a country where concepts of personal space and touching are vastly differing to my own country, and where touching or grabbing an arm while attempting a sale is the norm, but some westerners are upset by this difference in attitudes and deem the behaviour unacceptable or rude.

So, managing expectations and understanding the difference between your own perceptions of risk (or acceptable behaviour) and actual risk are very important. For example, some folk get real upset about people pestering them for a sale, especially when the seller pretends to get aggressive or be insulted to get that sale, and the tourist feels at risk or threatened. This is the tourist perceiving risk because they don’t understand that this behaviour is a normal part of Moroccan life and is in no way dangerous or to be taken personally (as you have noticed from the other posts you’ve read). I personally feel a 1000 times more safe in Marrakesh on my own than in London, as London’s real life crime rate is shocking compared to Morocco and if you went by the stats alone London should be a no go zone for lone women! Morocco on the other hand has a near negligible violent crime rate and the chances of getting in to strife in Morocco is vastly lower than London/UK.

Don’t worry about the westernised Muslim thing, they won’t give a hoot if your a Muslim, a Jew or Jedi night! The fact that you’re a westerner with a potentially full wallet will be the most important thing they profile you for when walking around the souks, and the head scarf thing is also not to be worried about, and you’ll see what I mean when you see the mind bogglingly divers array of styles of dress the Moroccan women choose to wear, which includes everything from skin tight jeans, short sleeved t-shirts and bikinis on the beach to the full on covered up and everything in between, so nothing to worry about at all. Only place a head scarf would be useful is if you don’t want to mess your hair up in an open top car or you’re visiting a mosque, which will be free and easy for you as us non-Muslim westerners are band from entering mosques in Morocco apart from the big one in Casa’ and 1 or 2 other derelict/non used ones.

Basically, you can wear what you want in Morocco, but the less respectful you are of local norms, the less respect you’ll get from the locals, so the shorter the sleeves, the less respectful it is to some. Normal t-shirts seem to be the norm in Marrakesh, but vest tops may get you unwanted attention from some in the form of offers of love rather than aggression or nasty comments. There is a general attitude amongst many Moroccan men that western girls are easy and WILL have sex outside of marriage (which is true in some ways), so they do what ever any red blooded male will do when they think sex is on offer….make a play for you!

Finally, don’t bother with the fake ring, if the local lover boys are getting too much for you then just say you are married if you must, but this in it’s self can cause a further tidal wave of questions from the boys as they often find it astonishing that a married woman would travel on holiday without the husband, so depending on how deep you want the lie to go I recommend just telling the truth and having an honest conversation.

Try not to worry about safety as I can assure you that the stats tell the true story and most freaked out westerners are just misunderstanding the situation they get in or just don’t recognise the differences in concepts of personal space between home and Morocco. My best tip is to adopt the look of a tourist that’s been to Morocco a 100 times before and is supremely confident in Morocco, look folk in the eye when saying “La Shukran” and they’ll think you’re a hard nut to crack and head straight for the next green horn looking tourist that they think is a push over.

Have a great trip and let us know how it goes.

Kate x

York, United Kingdom
posts: 597
reviews: 3
2. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Just noticed you’re from Manchester…….Morocco’s gunna be a piece of cake compared to Manchester on a Saturday night!

London, United...
Destination Expert
for Morocco
posts: 4,781
reviews: 35
3. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

It's only your second post on the Morocco forum, nobody's got annoyed with you... yet.

Day 2 will be the tomb of Sidi Chamrousse, non muslims not allowed access.

Manchester, United...
posts: 51
reviews: 14
4. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Bless you Kate, that's really helped me and put some of my fears to rest! Thank you so much for your informative response.

Yes, I'm a gal that likes to get stuck in, and be part of the culture. Having been to places like Turkey and Egypt, I can haggle with the best of them and be firm, but polite, when I need to be. I love the hustle bustle! "La'a" and "Shukran" I'm sure I will use a lot! I've been brushing up on my phrases too!

I guess you're right, with the different experiences depending on personalities. I would never expect to go abroad and assume that I have any sort of elevated status because I'm from a "rich" country, or that other people should behave like I expect at home. I always try and be polite and do my homework.

My concerns stem from their perceptions of being a "modern" Muslim in a Muslim Country. Some places expect more from you for that reason? More than other women. I've had it all from "how dare my parents let me go away by myself, an unmarried woman" to being offered camel dowries for my hand in marriage. I was serenaded 4 days in a row over breakfast once and it was tedious! It was with a weary heart I had to post to ask about Morocco.

I'm so glad you said t-shirts are ok! Phew! I'll also take some kind of shawl / light cardigan in day bag to cover up more of the arms when needed.

I guess there are some advantages too - thanks to you and Tim for that! I can get into a place which is restricted to non- muslims? Wow. Shawl can serve as headscarf so that's handy.

I feel much better about that. Thanks Kate. Am getting very excited - it's a milestone. 30th Biirthday present to myself! :D x

Tim - why do people get annoyed at all?! It seems to me people get annoyed far too easily when there are genuine questions being asked?

In that itinerary - nearly everyday there will be time to myself. I've certainly booked more time in Marrakech to explore and there's not much planned in Essaouira.

If there's one thing I can't miss, what would it be? I like quirky things, culture, history, ruins, natural beauty, getting to know local way of life.. and not necessarily the things which are tourist hotspots. Any secret nuggets appreciated!

Rey :)

Marrakech, Morocco
posts: 4,324
reviews: 55
5. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

A superb post from Kate and one which will address many concerns previously queried. Thank you very much for that.

My only addition is to seek out local cuisines - whether it is regional specialities of tajines or couscous and perhaps the signature dishes of Marrakech such as tanjia, meshwi or trid, or the fabulous seafoods of Essaouira. Reyhana, you will enjoy your time in Morocco without doubt.

marrakech
Destination Expert
for Morocco
posts: 6,902
reviews: 60
6. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Another extremely insightful and informed post from Kate88Uk which will help not only the OP but any woman (and indeed anyone) visiting Morocco. I've added it as a link to the safety/female travellers and what to wear posts in the Top Questions box on the Morocco and Marrakech forums because this post will obviously slip backwards as new posts appear and Kate's advice deserves to be readily accessible.

Thanks.

Edited: 7:48 pm, April 05, 2012
Sydney, Australia
posts: 2,772
reviews: 2
7. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

I have done this tour, it's good.

Marrakesh is quite confronting.

The trip notes glam it up.

The treck in the Hight Atlas Mountains is interesting, make sure that you wear appropriate footwear and take a raincoat.

The night in the Sahara desert is long, you are literally in the middle of the desert with no facilities.

Take plenty of water everywhere, it is dry and hot.

The food on the tour is good.

I wouldn't worry about being Muslim or wearing a wedding ring.

Hope that you enjoy your tour.

London, United...
posts: 108
8. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Rey can tell me how much will you pay for the tour sounds nice.

London, United...
posts: 4
reviews: 12
9. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

Hi Kate88Uk,

Thank you for your detailed analysis of the Moroccan concepts towards women. I enjoyed reading it and found it very useful.

wwgodd

idaho
Destination Expert
for Sun Valley, Ketchum, Beach Vacations, Idaho
posts: 8,703
reviews: 291
10. Re: South Morocco Discovery - Muslim Woman alone?

kate, i really enjoyed your post, as well..thanks.