I have been in Africa several times and this time I went to Morocco. Sometimes it really is an inconvenient feeling to be a female in Arabic countries.
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These countries have amazing history and culture, but unfortunately, local men tend to handle women in a really strange way. I saw how they handle their women, wives, girlfriends and it was amazing and totally enviable to see how these guys protect them, but this is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how they handle a woman who is not important for them. And it’s true for female travellers too.
I have a really bad experience that happened in Egypt. I was just a child, around 12-13 years old. We went on a bus tour and I got a fever during our trip, so while others were visiting the papyrus museum I was staying on the bus. Once a local man, who was actually with us as a guide, came up to me and told me something – I didn’t understand – and suddenly put his hand into my panties. Luckily a Russian couple from our group got back earlier and saved me before the worst thing could have happened and told the story to my parents. I was shocked. I still don’t know what happened to that man, but to be honest I even don’t care.
I know it was a highly extreme situation and I would like to highlight that most of the people there were kind and polite. But unfortunately, idiots are everywhere in the world. And again: most of the men are normal there. I mean, it is normal for them to handle women in a way that could be strange or inconvenient for women from other cultures.
We also struggled with some go-getter pals, who couldn’t understand “no”, but most of them just wanted to chat a bit and that was all, but this could also be annoying. At first, it is kind of cute and funny that you get 101 marriage offers in 5 minutes, but then it’s just annoying and the only thing you wish is peace to enjoy your travel.
I collected these tips in two stages. First, before my visit to Marrakech, relying only upon my experiences in Agadir, and then after Marrakech. So here are 9 tips and tricks to avoid harassment and how to handle it.
Learn from the local women
You can learn a lot from the local women. No worries, you don’t have to wear hijab, but remember to cover your body. You should do this because on the one hand, you should respect their culture and on the other hand in order to protect yourself from harassment (and also from getting sunburnt). Just wear long skirts or not tight trousers and shirts that hide your shoulders and decolletage. You should bring some extra large scarves. Use it to cover your back and arms or use it like the locals: wrap it around your head.
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It was a really hard challenge for me. I like smiling, but here is not always a good idea. I’m extrovert enough to make new friends in a minute, but here it’s quite difficult for local men to keep distance and not to cross that not so thin line between friendship and harassment. So don’t smile!
Ignore them and speak in your own language
If you are as lucky as I am and your mother tongue is not a popular language, just use it! It works. I told them ‘nem köszönöm’ (no, thank you) for everything. They can’t deal with you if they don’t understand you.
Speak in THEIR language
It is even better if you learn how they say ‘no, thank you’ in Arabic. It’s more difficult because you should say it without an accent, just as a local, but if you do it successfully, you’ll have enough time to go away before they pull themselves together after the surprise. Level up, Babes!
Polite, but direct
If you can’t escape the contact, forget the “don’t smile” tip. In this case, you should smile and while you are smiling use your firmest voice. It is very important to be polite. But you should also be direct and obvious. Say ‘no thank you’ and turn away. Maybe they will shout at you – ok I’m sure they will – but try to ignore them. You just say what you say and that’s all.
You should wear a ring on your ring finger even if you are not engaged or married.
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Also be careful with tourists
On the way back from Marrakech to Agadir, I noticed that one of the guys from our group had some pictures of me on his phone… Weird XD
Just get over it
Sometimes it is really hard to get over the harassment and rough words and maybe you just decide that not to go there again. Don’t do it, Babe! It’s an amazing country with amazing culture and there are lots of things worth taking a closer look at. You should see and explore the whole country and you shouldn’t let them scare you off. Don’t forget: they won’t hurt you physically so there is actually nothing to be afraid of. Just go and explore 😉