Travel: Dos and don'ts in the cities and the souks

Women can brush off the macho hustlers in the souks by applying a few basic rules, writes Elizabeth Heathcote

CONTRARY TO popular opinion, sexual harassment is not a big problem in Morocco and I would feel safe travelling alone there. You will be approached by men, who are curious about Western women, but this will be overwhelmingly romantic rather than pushy.

Expect flowers, requests for your address, invitations to come home for cous cous and even marriage proposals. If you don't have one already, invent a jealous husband and men will quickly back off.

Dress is important. Cover up and you will be treated with more respect by everybody (this applies to men as well as women). Tourists get away with modest shorts and T-shirts but you will feel more comfortable in long skirts or trousers.

If you are harassed (it does happen) be firm and try not to get angry. If things get out of hand go into a shop or seek out someone older and ask for help. Sexual harassment is considered unacceptable and you will almost certainly be supported. Most harassment is for your money, however. If you are being harassed, here are a few survival tips.

1 Whatever happens, keep your sense of humour. Be firm but pleasant. Remember this is a male society. However much you're being hassled it is a mistake, if you are a woman, to be rude to a man. You will cause grave offence and rouse anger and it can be upsetting. Leave your sassiest self at home.

2 Develop a thick skin. However friendly someone may be, if they're trying to sell you something they're interested in your money, not you. Don't get disorientated if a conversation takes an unpleasant turn.

3 Have a stock of excuses for not buying services or goods: that you have whatever it is already; that you have no money; that you are working, not a tourist.

4 Usual city rules apply. In tourist areas pretend to know your environment, walk purposefully, avoid unnecessary eye contact.

5 Learn a little Arabic. Everyone speaks French but a few words of the native tongue will go a long way. If things get heavy, try saying "Baraka" or "Safi", which mean "enough".

6 Brush up your French. The chances are that if someone who approaches you speaks English, they are hustling.

7 Lie. If your French is good enough, pretend you work for the French government. If not, pretend you work for a development agency.

8 Act stupid. Look uncomprehending at every language tried on you. If you know a language that they don't then use it. Jane's Japanese flummoxed several would-be salesmen.

9 If things seem to be getting out of hand, threaten to call the police and mean it.

10 Don't be frightened. Morocco is a wonderful country and a safe one. The people are open, warm and protective. Remember that this is a very poor country and even hustlers are just trying to find a way to feed their families - they want your money, nothing else. If you get into trouble, seek help. You are almost certain to get it.

11 Consider hiring an official guide. They charge around Dh150 to Dh200 (pounds 10-pounds 15) for a half/full day, save wasted time and immunise you against hassle from faux guides.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot