When I heard that a small group of my girlfriends were heading to Morocco together for the weekend– I immediately knew I wanted to tag along! Sure, the usually dirt cheap tickets from Madrid to Tangier had risen a bit, but I thought to myself, “When else in my life will I be able to take a weekend trip to Morocco if I felt like it?” That’s an eye opener.
However, as most of you probably know, there are a few concerns to be aware of when traveling to Morocco as a woman. I felt completely prepared. I had been to Morocco beforeand I knew to be ready to ignore hounding shop keepers, keep an eye on our belongings, and avoid certain types of people. Our entire group spoke Spanish well and half even spoke a decent amount of French. I was confident.
A Spanish friend recently asked me if I thought she could travel to Morocco. I was shocked that she hadn’t because of its proximity to Spain. She explained that she just didn’t feel comfortable with the culture’s view of women, so I talked with her about my experiences and came away wondering why Morocco was my favorite place to visit.
It’s true– Moroccan women are treated differently than I’m treated in the United States. I didn’t like seeing it. We were stared at. Obviously because we’re tourists, our hair, our clothes, but also because some of my friends smoke cigarettes. You’ll only see men smoking in Morocco. You’ll only see men sitting in outdoor cafes drinking tea and people-watching.
I didn’t like when we’re talking to one male taxi driver and three more joined in and crowded around us trying to convince us on a price. I didn’t like that more men approached me than when I was with Jay.
But the “Ohh, beautiful” or “sexy ladies” comments don’t get to me. I think the funniest comment of the weekend came when we were lost after our arrival. We were walking back and forth (some of us dragging suitcases on the cobblestone) and started discussing who each of us would be if we were the Spice Girls. Deep conversation, I know. A few boys passed and called out, “If you’re the Spice Girls then we’ll be your Backstreet Boys!” They didn’t stop and talk to us, it was just said in passing with a laugh.
I feel that a lot of the nuances of tourism in Morocco don’t depend on your gender. Life is different there, period. Sometimes you come across desperate families just trying to get by. I’ve already written about that here and it was still apparent on my second time back. A tourist is labeled as rich and there will be people trying to get your business.
Throughout the weekend we had a few run-ins with pushy salesmen. Especially in Tangier. Although I liked it because everyone spoke Spanish and I could easily communicate, I hated that shopkeepers kept making references to euros. Yes, we are close to Spain, but Morocco’s currency is worth far less than a euro. It’s impossible to get a good deal there.
Some of our occasional mix ups were simply due to us being a group of girlfriends. There were five of us and sometimes we just couldn’t be decisive. We had different ideas of what we wanted to do, what we wanted to spend, which alley we wanted to walk down… you name it. After that weekend and after five days traveling in London with my boyfriend and our mutual guy friend, I know that there is a major difference in traveling with girls and traveling with guys. Girlfriends are sensitive to each others’ feelings and want to include everyone and make everyone happy. Guy companions are just about communication. If you want to do something, they probably won’t care!
You can’t expect everyone in the world to hold the same views as you. As a traveler, I feel that you must respect the country that you’re in as what it is. It won’t change for you.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in a country where I have the rights and opportunities that I do. Yet I enjoy traveling to countries that practice a different way of life. I love a challenge.