I was so scared to come here. Before I bought my plane ticket, I had read so many travel blogs about how Morocco was dangerous and horrible for solo female travelers, and that the harassment was intense and never-ending. To be fair, the harassment was intense. There were a lot of things that bothered me about Marrakesh. But it was one of the coolest places I’ve ever visited, and I’m so glad I decided to leave the comfort and familiarity of western Europe to experience Morocco for myself.
I think Marrakesh was a good place to start, because it’s literally a crash-course in Moroccan culture. It’s completely overwhelming – loud, hot, colorful, and absolutely swarming with people trying to sell you shit. I thought it was a beautiful city – it’s full of gorgeous architecture, delicious fruit, a million different spices, and contagious energy.
But at the same time, I hated that it was so hectic. I hated feeling like both an object and a walking wallet everywhere I went. I’m tall with light hair, very pale skin, and blue eyes, so I had absolutely no hope of blending in. Men would constantly shout things at me ranging from, “Hello, where you from?” to “You, me, sex, now?” and it was seriously exhausting to keep pretending I didn’t hear them. I started wearing sunglasses all the time to avoid accidental eye contact with people. Even that didn’t always work – once, when I was really lost, some guy wouldn’t leave me alone no matter what I said, and he ended up grabbing my arm and trying to drag me down a dark alleyway. He told me he would only let me go if I gave him money or a kiss. That was super upsetting – but I managed to get away from him, and I spent the rest of my afternoon exploring some lovely palaces with an incredibly kind local woman who bought me a pastry and spoke to me about how much men suck. I felt so fortunate to have met her, and even more fortunate that I was able to speak French, as the Moroccan women I met rarely spoke much English. How peculiar, I thought, to have met both the best and worst of strangers in the same afternoon.
That’s the thing about Morocco – probably my least favorite thing about the whole country – you meet so many people who want to take advantage of you, and you meet so many people who are genuinely kind and don’t want anything from you, but it’s so hard to tell the difference sometimes. Trusting everyone you meet is not a great idea, so it becomes much easier not to trust anyone. Spending time in Marrakesh can be pretty draining when it feels like every single person you meet just wants money from you, even if they’re just telling you how to get to your hostel. I get it, okay – I’m a privileged white person from a rich country, so of course I have a lot of money in comparison to what people have in Morocco. But it still feels shitty to know you’re being taken advantage of because of how you look and where you come from. Every tourist gets majorly ripped off in Marrakesh at least once. It gets easier to bargain prices once you start to figure out how much things should cost, but you’ll pretty much always be paying more than the locals. So it goes, I guess.
After a while, I just became desensitized to people bothering me in Marrakesh. Despite all the harassment that goes on, it really is an incredible city and I’m glad I got to experience all of it, the good and the bad. Getting lost in the endless labyrinth of the medina eventually became fun instead of scary, and I learned to have a sense of humor with some of the shopkeepers who kept pestering me to come buy their stuff. Marrakesh really does have some of the most beautiful gardens and palaces I’ve ever seen, and if you know where to look, you’ll find peace and tranquility just as easily as you’ll find chaos. Rooftop terraces were my favorite sanctuaries after stressful days of navigating through the medina. There’s nothing like sipping on sweet Moroccan tea while gazing out at the sprawling city below you and knowing you’re safe from all the craziness, at least for a little while.
So, my advice to people who are hesitant about going to Morocco alone – just go! It may be stressful and scary at times, but the experience will be so rewarding and so worth it. Don’t miss out on this amazing country.