If you are familiar with this blog, know me personally or just enjoy an Instagram stalk every now and then, you will be fully aware that I am not your typical camera-loving, bikini body traveller. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a body and I own a few bikinis, but it is also apparent that I’m partial to the odd kebab (
on a weekly basis).
That said, before travelling to Morocco, it had never occurred to me that the shape of my body may attract unwanted attention if I followed all the dress and etiquette rules. So what is the current advice out there for women when it comes to dress code in Muslim countries?
- Cover your shoulders and knees
- Don’t bother with high heels
- Cleavage should not be on display
- Avoid tank tops
- Never sunbathe topless
So why these dress rules?
Morocco is a Muslim country and therefore, both women and men are expected to dress modestly. Due to the importance placed on marriage, it is also uncommon for Moroccan men to meet many women outside of their own family. This is one reason that there is such a curiosity surrounding foreign female visitors. As western countries are generally less strict when it comes to traditional family values and perceptions of modesty, some Moroccan men assume that western women are ‘available’ which can lead to unwanted attention.
What I did…
Having researched beforehand about what to wear in Morocco I felt confident with my choices of attire. Here are some clothing items that I would recommend packing if you are making a trip to Morocco:
Literally, what is not to love about these pants?! They are baggy, comfortable and most importantly cool; great for those scorching hot desert treks!
A standard choice but one you can’t go wrong with. Avoid anything low-cut and keep at least your shoulders hidden. Whilst nothing I’ve read explicitly mentions keeping your back covered, showing this part of your body is considered a bit risqué and it’s probably best avoided.
Skinnies are my jeans of choice, though if like me you’re sporting a solid set of buns, I would recommend a long top or jacket which covers them up.
Whilst you are not expected to cover your head in Morocco, a scarf can be used in a whole manner of ways and rescue the most inappropriate of outfits. Drape a scarf around your shoulders to protect your modesty in a strapless maxi or fashion into a long skirt for walking in the Medina.
Top tip: to ensure your ‘skirt’ stays in place, tuck it into your underwear.
My shoes of choice were some lightweight converse sneakers. When it comes to trainers, these are some of the cooler ones you could pick and if like me you worry you’ll get bitten by some deadly insect as you meander through the desert, they offer more protection than sandals or flip flops.
What I wish I’d known…
I had done my research and packed wisely. Though what I hadn’t bargained for was that the acceptability of my clothing choices was largely determined by my size and body shape. As you’ve probably noticed, I am pretty curvy. So, in light of this realisation, let me give you an often neglected, extremely important, piece of advice:
Avoid figure hugging maxi dresses!
In my head, I had been wearing skinny jeans and t-shirts all week with no issue so I couldn’t see any reason why my maxi dress would be a problem. I had already spent an hour that morning flitting around the Riad in said dress (which stops mid calf) and had attracted no strange looks at all, including from the Moroccan male staff that worked there. However, upon leaving the Riad and wandering down towards Jemaa El Fnr, the stares and whispers began.
To start with, I thought I was being paranoid but as I continued to walk down the winding pink streets, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case. Women looked me up and down disapprovingly whilst men craned their necks as they scooted past on mopeds. My choice of dress was definitely causing a stir.
‘I don’t know what they’re all looking at,’ I hissed at Tim, my cheeks burning red. ‘It’s not like I’m not covered up!’
‘It could be that is a bit on the tighter side…’ he suggested.
It took a grand total of five minutes before I decided I couldn’t possibly handle a day walking around in an outfit that was getting this much attention. We headed back to the Riad, where I put on a pair of black tights and also threw on the jacket that I had been wearing for much of the week already, which mercifully covered by behind.
The difference on the street was incredible. Whereas before men were gawping and leering at me, I now thankfully melted into the crowd.
At the time, I was mortified by this misjudgement and deeply ashamed for flouting such apparently obvious cultural norms, however, as the days went by, I realised I hadn’t messed up quite as much as I thought.
It was clear from seeing other women around, some of whom were, in fact, Moroccan, that my main faux pas was not poor clothing choice at all but simply being too curvy. I saw at least a handful of girls in similar dresses to myself who didn’t seem to get any of the attention that I did, the only difference being that they had athletic figures.
So, when it comes to deciding what to wear in Morocco, of course, follow the advice given by those much wiser than I; both Rough Guides and The Lonely Planet offer solid advice for female travellers, but also consider your body shape and how alluring it potentially is to men.
If you too are blessed with fruitful child bearing hips, never forget the importance of layering your outfits and remember to favour baggy clothes over tight fitting ones.
Moral of the story: Think less J-Lo on the beach and more J-Lo getting her groceries.
How do you handle the dress code in Morocco?