I’m often asked by people on my other blog about traveling to Morocco, is it safe? is usually the first question especially by non Muslims.
There are a few things I have learnt from the 5 years of living in Morocco I will touch on a few topics that I’m generally asked about and a few extra things that most wont ever encounter just as a regular tourist but are issues that have been brought to my attention by locals or from my experiences.
Is Morocco Safe?
This is usually the first question most people ask me, I wont lie it usually makes me giggle a little or roll my eyes. Yes, Morocco is perfectly safe and free of terrorism and such things. Every country has the news scares of “potential terrorist” getting arrested and so forth but tourists are safe and although there is some kind of warning about traveling here, ignore that, you are fine.
So is Morocco crime free? no, its not. There is a lot of knife crime, drugs and unfortunately gangs, robbery and mugging occur too. Keep your phone in your pocket or out of sight. Don’t walk around on the phone people snatch them. Also people will take them out of your back pocket in crowded areas or on a bus.
Most heavy crime is Moroccan on Moroccan or others who have sought refuge in Morocco
Most real crime is only in particular parts of cities and at night time. You can ask your hotel or a trustworthy local tour guide about places to avoid and what times they close their doors.
Most hotels and Riads offer a pick up service ( a man who will walk to a meeting point and walk you back to your hotel at a certain time or when you call) so that you wont be walking the winding roads of the Medina alone at night.
The key to being a tourist in any country is to respect the people and to be on your best behavior, just because you are on holiday its not a free pass to become a drunkard disrespectful person as there are locals and everyday people including young kids who are living in those same streets you are walking down.
Do I have to dress Muslamic?
No, you don’t have to dress ‘Islamic’ but there is an understanding and respect that also comes to within reason of where you are traveling. Most cities women walk around in jeans and shirts or tops like any western country. Having said that women who show bra straps and stomach are usually looked at like, well, a piece of meat. Its not your white skin or blue eyes, its just that its not normal here except for the few women who would be considered ‘easy’.
Remember Morocco is a Muslim country and although a lot of Moroccans will respect a woman even if she doesn’t respect herself, its not a country of crazed men who have no self control but there is a norm and this is the standard in Morocco of decency and indecent… Generally.
Its not the place you would want to be filing a police report for indecent behaviour or God forbid something worse especially with a langauge barrier and broken down system.
It doesn’t mean if you do flaunt your belly button your in danger of being raped but you will offend other locals too especially the elderly. Beaches are a different story but some beaches are more family orientated where women will have mostly their clothes on and men wearing shorts and sometimes shirts. If you look around and see that then maybe consider respecting that environment for them and don’t swim about in your panties ( men and women) or move onto a more central beach which you may feel more at home with.
Does hallal food make me a muslim?
No, this makes me laugh too. Hallal food is simply food that is sacrificed in a decent humane way so the animal is edible for Muslims. This means an animal must be of good health and cared for before and during its slaughter.
A man or woman will cut the throat of the animal ‘with the name of Allah’ this is because as Muslims we only supplicate, pray to, live and die for Allah (God) and this is pure monotheism. It is an act of worship for Muslims and obligatory on them as well as jews (yes there are jews in morocco too) Once the blood is drained the animal is butchered and sold or prepared to eat.
What if I get sick?
Medicine, Dr’s and clinics are expensive in Morocco I know well from my own experience. Most people wont have a premature baby or a severe issue to deal with but a case of food poisoning or drinking the wrong water can be an expensive lesson to learn.
Don’t go to the Government Hospital but go to a private clinic, all clinics have the same costs so it doesn’t matter which one but you will have to pay for a specialist, blood tests etc nothing is free.
Most water is drinkable and treated especially in the cities you will have that oh too familiar chlorine taste. Food poisoning is mostly food stalls selling food, its not so much that the meat is old or that the meat and place is dirty (could be a little of both) but generally its the ‘weak stomach’ of foreigners. Don’t deprive yourself from trying the local foods and dabbling into a world or change.
Just remember bring some electrolyte powder and diarrhea medicine. If you have children bring paracetamol or whatever equivalent as well as a good nappy cream.
Dr’s and pharmacies hand out antibiotics like its sweeties so don’t become freaked out thinking your dying because they haven’t done any tests or asked any background questions they just heard you say 2 symptoms and pulled out the Amoxilin. You can refuse and its perfectly fine to do so, you can also ask to google the name of the medicine on your phone (google the main ingredient not the french name on the packet) this will give you the generic brand in your language on your phone. For example Amoxil is the name written on the package of an antibiotic that is an Amoxilin.
What can we do as a family?
Well this depends on the size of your family and where you are visiting in Morocco. Every city has its own things to offer. You can ride horses on the beach or in the mountains, you can take road trips along the coast line and end up in the desert. There are water parks and mini golf, archery, go carts, skiing and many other things. This all just comes down to what your family is into and what city you are in. Of course shopping is on the top of the list which can be done in every city.
Is Morocco cheap?
NO! morocco is not cheap at all, the cost of living in morocco has been compared to Europe. People come to morocco thinking its going to be so cheap because its old fashioned and donkeys still get used as a mode of transport but getting around with taxis, buying food and probably water as its so hot, giving the odd tip here and there which is actually a compulsory charity, things all add up. OK, maybe it wont cost the same as a 1 week holiday in France or Holland but it will cost you more then you think, but most holidays usually do.
Remember the average wage in morocco is like peanuts and that small tip you give or that little extra change you can spare for a beggar can make a huge difference.
Shopping and Negotiations!
No holiday is complete without bargaining a Moroccan carpet seller or craftsman. They are professionals in their trade from every angle including negotiating. If you really want it and can afford it just play around with the price that suits your budget within reason but don’t become disrespectful and offer a ridiculous price that offends the man selling.
You may feel its over priced but your a tourist buying an item from another country as a gift or a memory to hold onto that really isn’t a necessity in your life, but that salesman or craftsman may and often times is just waiting on that one sale because that’s how he makes his living. Remain respectful and if the price is too high just keep it moving.
I hear from Moroccans who tell me stories about rude tourists and I have seen this myself. its very sad because they most likely wouldn’t be acting that way ‘back home’
Beggars and who can I give charity to? Street Kids!
This question is one close to my heart since I work with the poor and have connections with orphanages, hospitals etc. Yes some beggars are legit and usually they are just sitting down waiting for enough money to buy some food or get enough for their rent.
If they are following you down the street and begging you to give them something, its because your a foreigner. No need to shout or get rude just ignore them and keep walking away. Usually another Moroccan will chase them away or you will walk far enough away from their ‘zone’ they will turn around and leave you alone.
The part most people struggle with is the street kids, this hurts me a lot. These kids, not all of them but majority of them buy glue and sniff it. If they ask for money, buy them a meal if you really want to. Often times money isn’t going to be a good thing for them.
There are also children who are sent out until they come home with a certain amount of money, these children usually get into ‘working’ the streets for tourists. If you see a tourist taking too much interest in a child tell a local or walk up to them yourself and interject. I do this very often and I’m disgusted at the freedom some people think they have here as many of them don’t realise I’m English. Likewise be-careful if you are taking interest in a child someone like myself may see and come interject so if you are sincere and want to help do so and be on your way.
There is a prison sentence and a ‘Special Treatment’ in the prisons for people of this natural here.
Traveling with Children
If you are traveling with children please hold their hands Moroccans drive on the roads and foot paths, they cross without looking (pure art) and they drive without looking too! beeps and honks are all over every city so its hard to know when its a real danger.
Moroccans love kids, they will pat your kids on the head, kiss their hands or cheeks and smile at them alot! don’t be alarmed its their nature and very normal here. It was very weird to me but I have now become a Moroccan in this regard too.
Obviously don’t leave your child alone with anyone you don’t know because you can never be too sure what someones intentions are.
When you enter shops and see a little glimpse of back home and then realise someone just walked in front of you for no reason and stopped you in your path and has now left you walking around them, please remember this is a 3rd world country and not everyone goes to the supermarket every week.
This lovely picture is compliments to my local Carrefour which is a french supermarket here in Morocco. I don’t know about France but this just screams at me. Like I said, hold your kids hands! bleach is also on a bottom shelf as well as other products that have no child proof lids.
This is a sensitive topic, I understand you are on a holiday and a tourist in another country, you want to take pictures and remember your journey. Please remember like I said earlier, people live here day in and day out they are going about their lives. They don’t want to be in your picture and find it disrespectful that you aim your camera up the street of the souk or walk around just videoing everyone.
I have gotten into arguments myself for people taking pictures of me and my children as we are shopping or walking somewhere and they have refused to delete the pictures. Best believe I’m not letting anyone walk away with a picture of one of my children!
It makes me extremely angry with most peoples response especially thinking that because they are on holiday we are basically the ‘Zoo” for them to just take pictures of. You wouldn’t just walk up to a random person you don’t know and take a picture of them back ‘home’ so why do it here?
I have witnessed people smack tourists phones out of their hands for not deleting pictures of their families. It can become a very heated thing, even helmet cameras or shoulder cameras not just phones, the more concealed the camera usually the more concerned someone becomes.
If you want a picture of the spice seller with his spices, just ask him holding your camera up with a smile. Most of them will accept and have no problem, they like that you respected them and didn’t look at them with the same rights as the fox locked up in a cage at the zoo.
Morocco is a beautiful open country which spans from modernised cities to Bedouin ridden deserts, mountain tops you can ski and oceans you can surf, the people will help you even if they don’t know what you need or the answer to your question, they will stand about and stay with you until at least someone else does.
With all the good, bad and otherwise, Morocco should be one on the top of the list of places to travel and I can guarantee you wont find any place like it.