Is Morocco Safe to Visit?

Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience

Hey Owlets.

2019 was the year that I finally set foot outside of Europe (I know, it’s taken me a while!). Cruise and Maritime Voyages are known among cruise nerds for their weird and wonderful port calls -their choice of itineraries really bother some people but when I saw a Canary Islands cruise also heading for Morocco I was incredibly excited and pretty much instantly decided to book. Morocco is one of those beautiful places that you see all over Instagram as a backdrop to a stereotypically stunning blonde girl’s travel photos that makes you instantly feel as though you’ve been missing out for your entire life. Pretty much everyone knows that what you see on Instagram is never the full story but I have to admit that I couldn’t help but get sucked in. Having experienced Morocco for myself I wanted to give you a little Instagram VS reality debrief so that you can make your own mind up.
Before I start I wanted to note a couple of things that could have affected my trip as it may not necessarily be an issue for you. First of all we visited on a cruise ship, meaning that locals were expecting a lot of tourists in the area which may have affected the number of people and their behaviour towards us. As far as I know CMV are the only major cruise line to make port calls in Morocco so it might be a case of “make hay while the sun shines”. Secondly I think it’s important to note that all of my experiences come from Agadir which is a fairly small and mostly residential city within Morocco that was mainly used as a port call for a 3 hour coach into Marrakesh, which again could’ve affected my experience because it’s a less touristy area. With that said, let’s get into it.

Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience

The night before we arrived there was a sense of uneasiness going around the ship - concerns over safety in the area and thoughts of what to expect in port were the chosen conversation topics at most dinner tables. We’d heard that many of the crew weren’t allowed to disembark due to both visa issues and fears over their nationalities sparking safety issues, which led me to wonder why we were visiting at all if the captain was so concerned about personal safety. We’d all eagerly anticipated the evening delivery of the next day’s programme, expecting a long list of advice on how to not offend locals and how to stay safe and considering the amount of concern that was going around the ship, the advice offered was surprisingly lacking. I have to admit that, having spoken to a few passengers that had visited before, I was also feeling a little nervous but I dismissed it as I felt a little uneasy going to Romania and had an incredible trip. I tried to replace the other passengers’ concerns at the forefront of my mind with the images of the palatial backdrops I’d seen on Instagram - using content from an app known for it’s altered vision of reality to reassure myself really should’ve been the first red flag.

Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience

When we moored early the next morning the sense of uneasiness continued to build, as at first light we were greeted by an imposing grain silo with the Moroccan flag proudly painted all over it -  I don’t know why this felt so threatening but when you’re nervous I guess every little thing can trigger you. Another thing I found that ramped up the tightness of the knots in my stomach was when the first sight as you disembarked were armed guards at the end of the gangway rather than  the usual uber-keen photographers (who, coincidentally were some of those crew not allowed on Moroccan soil). A few weeks earlier the reality of visiting Morocco had started to set in so we pre-booked a CMV tour rather than exploring the city alone, and were very pleased to see the comforting sight of the tour bus waiting for us. In reality it still wasn’t that comforting. Never-the-less we boarded the bus and braced ourselves, fearing the worst but hoping for the best.

We drove out of the heavily-guarded industrial port and past what can only be described as derelict shacks in the suburbs. The first stop on the tour was really weird - it was to the top of a mountain to visit a Kasbah (are you singing now too?) as well as to enjoy the viewpoint down onto the afore-mentioned decaying buildings. As we drove into the car park the real reason we were there suddenly became clear - there were about 20 men with camels, bracelets and other typical tourist trinkets who hounded you the second you stepped off of the coach. Dad and I braved it and went to take some photos of the view (and me - the life of an Instagram Dad) and were barely able to take any pictures for the amount of men and camels that wouldn’t leave us alone. Within about 5 minutes we got back on the coach and at that point I’d pretty much decided that Morocco wasn’t for me, although I was determined to give it a fair shot despite the ever-tightening anxiety knots in my stomach. After enduring almost half an hour of harassment we were driven to the next stop - the city’s central mosque. While I appreciated the beauty of the building I don’t actually have a single photo because we all felt too uncomfortable to do anything. Our tour guide gave us some free time and reiterated this several times before realising that the reason no one had moved is because we didn’t feel safe to explore alone. The second we got off the coach we felt like everyone was staring at us and we were well aware of the armed police that appeared to be following our group. In the end the tour guide gave up and sent us back to the coach to visit the next destination, which was just as strange as the others had been but for a different reason.

Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience

Stop number 3 on the tour was to “The New Medina”. The Medina was designed by architect Coco Polizzi as a replica medina - to translate that it was built to be everything that Polizzi thought tourists expected to see when visiting Morocco, and he was spot on. The medina was beautiful, bright and airy with curved architecture, palm trees and metal lamps hanging from multicoloured ceilings. Having been feeling increasingly uneasy ever since stepping off of the ship this was a moment to breathe and relax. You have to pay to get in but only authorised traders are given a stall in the Medina so there’s not as much competition and the sellers aren’t as pushy. The thing that felt weird to me was that this medina, built as an exact copy of Morocco in the minds of foreigners, was basically everything that I’d seen and imagined when I thought of visiting Morocco. I know that Instagram tends to only show the best of things but how could you post images of stunning medinas and beautiful infinity pools at 5 star hotels, knowing that just outside the gates are litter-covered streets with people constantly hounding you, just for being foreign? I think this was my moment to come back to reality, remembering how many lies are told online.


Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience

After what felt like not nearly enough time we were bundled back into the coach and driven through streets of perfectly manicured gardens outside 5-star hotels - clearly the only part of Morocco that tourists were meant to see. We were dropped off in a car park and told we had an hour’s free time and like everyone else on the trip our response was “to do what?”. We followed everyone else walking in a bewildered state and came across a stunning beach, absolutely worthy of Instagram. We still didn’t feel entirely safe but it was a lot better - we found a cafe with an incredibly friendly waiter who served us the local drink of choice (Nos Nos - basically a latte with a double shot of espresso, but it was great) and when we came to pay it was the one place that didn’t try to take advantage of us for being tourists. The man did say he didn’t have European change so we told him not to worry, but as you’re not allowed to take Moroccan money out of the country and I wanted to see what it looked like the waiter pulled out every single denomination of coin and note, even calling his colleague over to give him one that he didn’t have, so that I could take a look. He took the time to explain what was on each note and point out each unique detail, and it’s at this point that I honestly felt the knot undo a little. This man taking time out of his job to be kind to me was the first kindness I’d experienced in the city and it’s the overwhelming memory that I have from Morocco. While there were still people hounding us, this man made us feel welcome for the first time. After our coffee we took some photos on the beach and went back to the ship.

I know that reading this I most likely come across as closed minded and insensitive, and I can totally see why but I promise that’s not the reality. I understand that a lot of ports are perfectly manicured for tourists and when you step outside of that you actually see the realities of that country. The average worker in Morocco earns the equivalent of just 5 euros, so if you can convince just a couple of tourists to part with pocket change then you’ve doubled your money and you can look after your family to a high standard. I also understand that it’s a culture clash to some extent - they need the money so they’re really pushy to get a sale, but that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable rather than having a nice experience and wanting to give them something. Even though I understand the reasons I can’t help but feel how I did. I’m also well aware that I’m quite a nervous traveller but I spoke to Dad as well as a lot of other people who visited the city that day and they all felt the same. When we boarded we actually heard stories of people being stranded in the city because guests were getting the shuttle bus in but refusing to get off because they didn’t feel safe, so there were no seats for anyone to come back if you did get off the bus. 


Agadir Morocco Safety Solo Female Traveller Experience


The other thing I feel I have to mention is that a lot of how you’re treated depends on your gender, which again is another clash of cultures but something I didn’t expect when dealing with people who are specifically there for tourists. I’m one of those people that wants to learn when they’re travelling so I like to ask questions, but every time I asked I was ignored or even scoffed at. Okay, they may have seemed like stupid questions but if it was me I’d rather someone who didn’t know a lot about my country or culture took the time to learn. The thing that most annoyed me is that when I asked Dad to pose the same questions he was treated with a lot more respect, given detailed answers and at one point was even thanked for asking a question about the country and it’s culture. I know I haven’t travelled as widely as other people but I’ve never been anywhere where I’ve felt like dirt on someone’s shoe just for being a woman. If you’re not a man, or not travelling with a man then I really wouldn’t recommend visiting because the experience you have entirely depends on your gender.

I know this article may seem like I’m being incredibly harsh but I just want to be totally honest and give you all the facts, rather than the typical sugar-coated and heavily edited content you typically see online. In all honesty if you’re there alone and not as a port call on a cruise ship you’ll probably have a much easier time of things. I personally wouldn’t want to go back and wouldn’t recommend you visit, but you have all the facts so if you’re adventurous then go for it but make sure you stick to the touristy areas for your own safety. If you’re the kind of person who just wants to soak up some sun on a hotel resort then it would also be great for you, but be aware that the second you step out of the hotel entrance you will be hounded so it might feel like you’re a prisoner in your own hotel.

Sorry if this is a really negative post or like I’m attacking Moroccan culture - it’s not intended but as a nervous and not so well-travelled tourist it’s not a place that I felt comfortable, and if I’d had all the facts before I visited or went to a bigger city then maybe I would’ve felt differently too. Have you been to Morocco? If so I’d love to hear your experiences and maybe one day I’ll get up the courage to go back and explore another city, but for now it’s crossed off the list and I’ll be moving onto somewhere else where I feel safe and welcome.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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1 comment:

  1. Have you ever considered going to New York City? New York has something for everyone, and is amazing!

    ReplyDelete

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