Figuring out what to pack for a trip to Morocco can be quite challenging. As a female traveler, respect for the Muslim culture meant dressing conservatively, but traveling in the 80-degree weather in fall meant balancing that with being comfortable walking around outside (including a trip to the Sahara Desert). So, what, as a Westerner, should one plan to wear in this country?
For all women, as a rule of thumb wear only outfits your grandmother would approve of. This means nothing too short or revealing. Muslim women typically cover up to their elbows and wear floor-length clothing. Morocco is fairly modern, so you will see some women in head scarves also wearing jeans. I wanted to err on the side of caution and attempt to blend in a bit, which for me meant long dresses past my knees (midi and maxi dresses are perfect) or a longer shirt that at least covered my chest and butt. I also tried to avoid showing my shoulders by always having a scarf or kimono (which are luckily trendy right now), although many tourists don’t go this far. On the particularly hot time of day and in more touristy areas I could take off the scarf and not feel uncomfortable.
I read all sorts of things about what Western men should avoid wearing (such as white sneakers or shorts) but we found that men can wear mostly anything. If you’d like to blend in avoid shorts when you can and try to not wear anything too loud that would scream “tourist”.
Overall, women are more at risk for getting stared at or cat-called (especially when women are traveling without a male companion).
In the Desert
Tours to the Sahara Desert cater to tourists, so you won’t need to worry too much about dressing traditionally and you can focus more on dressing for comfort (and staying cool). Both men and women will need a scarf which the Berbers will help you tie around your head in the traditional way which helps block the sand if it gets windy (but in reality it’s mostly for the cool pictures of you atop a camel). If you don’t buy one prior to your arrival your tour guide will usually bring you to a place where you can purchase a scarf for only a few dirham.
I didn’t both bringing pajamas (OK, I actually just forgot them) and just slept in my clothes since my stay was only for one night. You’ll also want to bring sandals which are better for the sand (or just go barefoot once you get to camp). Also be sure to bring as much water as you can reasonably carry with you on the camel.
What to Bring
Here are some other essentials to bring with you:
- Tissues: toilet paper is not a necessity in public bathrooms in Morocco. Bring a travel pack of tissues, especially when road tripping through the more remote areas of the country.
- Hand sanitizer: Like toilet paper, soap is also not as common as it is in U.S. bathrooms.
- Camera: Or at least a cell phone with a decent camera. You will want to photograph everything in this country.
- Water: Try to grab a water from your hotel or a local corner store. Morocco can get very hot, and you’ll get dehydrated much quicker than at home.
- Dirhams: Since only tourist-focused restaurants and hotels will take credit cards, exchange at least some cash before you leave home for the Moroccan dirham. Your bank may have to send away for dirhams since it is not a common currency, so you’ll want to give yourself a few days before you leave to get some money. You can always visit an ATM or bank within Morocco to get additional dirhams, but keep in mind the fees are quite high.
Overall, try to respect the culture and dress conservatively when possible. Dress comfortably for the hot weather and wear comfortable shoes for walking around the cities, as the best way to see everything is on foot.