Tuesday, 11 August 2015

What to wear when visiting Marrakech

One thing I keep getting asked since visiting Marrakech is what to wear. As a western woman visiting an Islamic/Arab country, I found there were confusing and conflicting messages out there about what is/isn't acceptable in terms of clothing. I thought I'd write about my experience and what I found worked for me, just to shed some light for anyone thinking of travelling there.

I'll start by saying that Morocco is a very different place to the UK! While at home you might think it ridiculous that women are expected to dress modestly, in destinations such as this it is something deeply ingrained in the local culture. I would never deliberately cover up in this country, but I do think it's important to respect local norms when abroad so as not to offend or encroach on another way of life. 

When out there we saw a real mixture of dress among both tourists and locals. While many Muslim women donned head scarves, veils etc, some, including most tourists, did not. While locals were mostly quite covered with long skirts, trousers, scarves etc, some were quite happy in t-shirts, cropped trousers and even vests. Don't be scared to wear normal Western attire so long as it doesn't bare all. It's also important to remember that hotel staff are quite used to holiday makers and that walking around the pool in a bikini is perfectly fine!

As a young woman I was worried about going out into the city and souks as I had heard stories about people being harassed or even groped, however I experienced no such thing. On one evening I wore a fairly fitted dress which came down to the mid-calf so left me quite covered, and this was the only time I ever experienced anything remotely 'dodgy'. Even that was just a market stall holder saying he'd have a girl like me back any time - I hardly batted an eyelid. On one occasion I saw one African-American woman being whistled and jeered at a bit by a group of excitable young men (she wasn't alone and was quite safe) as she had on a tight, busty zebra-print dress - something the locals would not have been used to and would associate with promiscuity - but after a couple of minutes they left her well alone.

With this in mind, I've put together a few tips for planning a Marrakech wardrobe:

Ditch the short shorts - When out and about in Marrakech you won't see many tourists rockin' the booty shorts. Opt for  knee-length shorts or cropped trousers in a light material so that your legs aren't too obviously on-show. Personally I lived in patterned harem-style trousers all week long - so lightweight and comfy. New Look have a fab selection.

The maxi and midi are your friend - Look no further than the humble maxi-dress and midi skirt for all your modest but stylish needs. This pleated number from ASOS came with me, as did the camel version which might be sold out at the mo (sorry!).

Go for loose and comfy in the top department - I found some lovely loose-fitting t-shirts in the H&M range, which offer more coverage than spaghetti strap vests. They also saved me from the dreaded burnt shoulders! This one and this one from H&M would be great tucked into shorts or a skirt.

Take a light scarf - You'll find more traditional dress around the various religious sites than you will outside the old city walls out in the new town. I carried a lightweight Primark scarf with me and wrapped it around my shoulders whenever I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb. While nobody batted an eyelid anyway it made me feel less self-conscious!

I hope this post helps ease any worries you might have about travelling to Marrakech - get building that perfect holiday wardrobe!

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