“It looks you peed your pants”, said my husband Nate to me when we arrived at the gates of Majorelle Garden - Yves Saint-Laurent’s sanctuary in the hustling city of Marrakesh, Morocco. The fashion designer’s house in the Red City, which I dreamed to visit since I was a child, was within a few steps from where I was standing. The property was transformed into a museum, filled with beautiful objects from Islamic culture, surrounded by incredible electric-blue architecture and the tranquility of gardens. I couldn’t wait to get beyond the walls and inside the garden to find peace and finally some shade. As I stood in the sizzling sun facing the gated entrance sweat was pouring down my body. Getting to the museum on a hot day through the dusty streets of Marrakesh was anything but tranquil. It was at this moment I realized I made a big packing mistake…
What you need to know before you visit Morocco
It started way before I arrived in this foreign country, in our home in Los Angeles, with a simple question: “What to wear in Morocco?”
I did what other millennials do and I asked Google for help. Quickly my search was filled with wisdom from bloggers and YouTubers wearing boho clothes.
Even though there is no official dress code for tourists traveling to Morocco, females especially, face a daunting task when packing. It seems that there is a collective voice on the internet of what is appropriate to wear in Morocco. And what is appropriate according to the Internet? Apparently, every blog is sponsored by a boho store because that’s what they recommend. After having been to Morocco I now know this isn’t the case.
So what can you wear in Morocco, and do you have to fully cover up? Men and women can find answers to these questions in this honest guide about what to wear in Morocco.
What do the locals wear in Morocco?
Moroccan culture and fashion
Before we jump into explaining what to pack in your suitcase, you should know a little more about this country and its culture before you visit.
Morocco is a Muslim country and in many ways depicted as conservative. If you have never been to a Muslim country before you probably imagine women covered up from head to toe, wearing a burqa (a long garment covering the whole body and face). Moroccan women wear clothes that to many western women might be considered conservative, like a niqab (a type of face and head covering but it leaves eyes visible), but very few women in Morocco wear a burqa, which is common in more conservative countries like Pakistan or Afghanistan. In fact in, 2017 the Moroccan government banned the import, production and sale of burqas. Although this measure was received with mixed reactions towards the ban, and many protested saying that nobody should dictate what women should wear. I am not going to debate this topic since I am not an expert on Muslim culture, and I feel it would be very disrespectful to argue either side.
The bottom line is women in Morocco are not forced to fully cover up. Women also aren’t required to cover their heads, but the ones that do make it a fashion statement. Wearing a Hijab (head covering) is a way of showing they are proud of their culture.
For centuries Europeans have been traveling to Morocco for inspiration in fashion. The famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent chose to spend his life there. His influence can be seen on the streets of Morocco.
The street-fashion in Morocco is diverse and exciting. Many Moroccans wear western clothes, but traditional Moroccan attire is especially popular amongst the older folks. The young generation, with access to the Internet, is making bold choices of mixing tradition with influence from western cultures. Once neutral-toned traditional clothes are now available in a wide range of colors and patterns. Young people wear sneakers with traditional dresses like djellaba (a long dress).
In general, big cities like Marrakesh or Casablanca are more fashion forward. In the modern parts of these big cities near shopping malls, cafes and clubs, you will see young Moroccan women wearing western clothes. Around the medina quarter, and old parts of town young ladies wear more traditional clothes, to keep the neighbors from gossiping. Rural areas are a bit more conservative and traditional clothes are more predominant.
I encourage you to do some shopping while you visit. Moroccan clothes are not only beautiful but practical as well. See some traditional Moroccan clothes below.
When you are planning your trip to Morocco make sure to plan according to the season. Morocco is located in the Northern part of Africa, and it’s hot most of the time but winters in the desert or high in the mountains can be very cold!
Spring & Autumn (November-April) are the most popular times to visit because the temperatures are cooler (chilly and rainy in the northern parts).
Summers (May-September) are very hot, with an average temperature of 50 Celsius in Marrakesh and in the south of Morocco.
Winters (December-February) are very chilly at night, especially in northern Morocco.
What to wear in Morocco as a woman?
Do you remember in the beginning of this story I told you about the mistake I made? It was because I listened to and believed every blog I read to cover my body, otherwise I would offend people. I decided to pack some “conservative” options that I could fit into my 50L backpack. I wasn’t just going to Morocco so my backpack couldn’t be filled entirely with boho clothes.
So there I was, standing in front of the Majorelle Museum, in my conservative blue jeans and a shawl draped over my shoulders. The heat was unbearable and although I lived in California for many years, I was not ready for this type of heat. My body was overheating and sweating from places I never knew it could. My crotch was sweating and it left a stain on my jeans looking like I peed myself. As I stood there, in the 50 C dry desert heat, in my conservatively stained pants there came the Instagram queens in crop tops and tiny white summer dresses. I was shocked to see western women wearing clothes I was discouraged to bring to Morocco by the boho experts. The Instagrammers were there to do a photoshoot. I wanted to see YSL’s home. The museum was closed. We all left defeated, with no photos, and I left with a stain on my pants. I never wore those pants again when I was in Morocco. Don’t be like me and don’t bring jeans to Morocco in the summer.
Is Morocco safe?
I have to admit that reading quotes like “if you are a woman you should cover yourself up because you won’t be harassed by men” is infuriating. The problem with men harassing women in any culture is men, not women. I can’t stress this enough, women should not blame themselves for being harassed or assaulted because of their clothes. Ever!
There were some recent tragic stories from Morocco. One involved the rape of a young woman on the bus by a gang of teenagers. I couldn’t believe that some people were shaming the girl for wearing a tank top.
If a culture allows men to harass or assault women without any punishment, we should be focusing on that, rather than on the length of a shirt. These stories are of course extreme examples, and Morocco in general is a safe country.
Catcalling is pretty common in Morocco, and men are not shy to flirt with women, even with married women. I was traveling to Morocco with my husband and I was still catcalled all the time. This type of attention happens everywhere in the world, and Morocco is no different. Catcalling is annoying but not dangerous. From my experience women in the company of men, are less likely to be catcalled, but that should not stop you from traveling solo to Morocco. If a man ever crosses the line and touches you, don’t be afraid to raise your voice and shame him.
The truth is that you can pretty much wear the same clothes you would wear at home. It all comes down to you and your personality. I am not going to tell you that wearing a short summer dress is right for you, because you might feel uncomfortable. I was totally fine wearing dresses, and shorts on my trip, and I saw many other female tourists wearing similar clothes. Although, I would say that wearing very skimpy shorts that show your buttocks is probably pushing it. I can’t guarantee you won’t have attention from men, but I know for a fact that wearing a long dress won’t stop men from catcalling or staring at you. I’ve tested it!
Packing List for Women traveling to Morocco
After you’ve determined what type of clothes are right for you and the time of the year you are traveling, you need to decide what type of a trip you will be doing. Is it a visit to Marrakesh and other big cities, or perhaps a trip to the beach? These questions combined with the examples below should help you decide the perfect balance of clothes for every activity and weather.
1. What to wear in big cities in Morocco?
I was totally comfortable wearing dresses and shorts in the cities. I visited Morocco during the hot summer and wearing long pants was the worst idea. Loose clothing, either a short or long dress is the best to wear in the heat, but you absolutely don’t need to be fully covered up.
Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit with you even if you are only staying in the city. Many hotels in Morocco have indoor pools, where you can lounge or cool off during hot summers. Morocco is very sunny even in the winter so bring a pair of sunglasses.
2. What to wear to the beach in Morocco?
If you will be spending time on the beach in places like Essaouira, a popular beach town in Morocco, bring beach clothes: swimsuit, hat, shorts ect.
I travel with a sarong wrap pretty much everywhere I go. It’s perfect for a trip to the beach, and you can also use it to cover up or protect yourself from sun.
3. What to wear on a hiking trip to Morocco?
Depending on the level hiking you want to do, you will of course need appropriate shoes. Wearing running shoes on an easy trail is perfectly fine. Yoga pants are comfortable and practical to wear on hikes. If you are hiking in the summer remember to bring a scarf, or a hat for sun protection and plenty of water!
It gets cold in the mountains at night even during summer, so bring some warm layers either a sweater or a light jacket.
4. What to wear in the winter in Morocco?
You might need a pair of long pants like jeans if you are going to Morocco during the winter since it gets cold. Bring some layers and a jacket with you to wear at night.
5. What to wear on a desert tour in Morocco?
If you are joining a desert tour in Morocco, and you definitely should, bring comfortable clothes. You will be sitting on a dromedary (like a camel but with one hump) for hours and it can get a bit uncomfortable. Leggings or loose pants are the best. Bring a scarf with you to protect your head, face, and shoulders from sun and wind! Also sunglasses are a must! In the winter you might need extra layers at night!
If you are bringing any camera equipment make sure to secure it properly from sand. It can ruin your lenses and other gear in just a few minutes! If you are not using your camera put it away in a bag.
6. What Shoes to wear in Morocco
Comfortable shoes are necessary in Morocco. If you are staying in cities you should bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes like sandals, or sneakers. High heals are very uncomfortable to wear on uneven streets. Flip-flops are great for pools, and you might need them if you are staying in a budget place where the cleanliness of the shower is questionable.
Packing List for Men traveling to Morocco
Men have more freedom when it comes to clothes in Morocco. It is less about what is appropriate, and more about the comfort. Although some say that shorts or undershirts are not ok in public, I have seen plenty of tourists wearing this exact outfit and nobody cared. The only time you will need to consider being more covered up is when going inside a mosque, and there are only a few you can actually visit as a non-Muslim in Morocco.
1. What to wear in cities in Morocco?
Many locals wear jeans even during summer time, but if you are not used to the heat you might find it extremely uncomfortable. Shorts and t-shirts are totally acceptable, but if you want to look more elegant you can bring a light fabric button up shirt. Linen clothes are a great choice for men to wear in big cities like Marrakesh. Linen clothing will keep you cool even in the extreme heat.
Don’t forget to bring swim trunks with you when traveling to the cities in Morocco. Many hotels have a pool that you can use.
If you have room in your suitcase bring something to cover your head to protect it from sun.
2. What to wear to the beach in Morocco.
Many people don’t realize that there are very nice beach areas in Morocco. Essaouira is a trendy surfing destination for locals and tourists.
Bring a pair of swim trunks with you to Morocco, and don’t forget sunglasses and a hat!
3. What to wear on a hiking trip to Morocco.
If you are planning on doing any hikes in Morocco, bring appropriate clothes with you and make sure you plan accordingly to the weather. Winters are cold in the mountains and summers are extremely hot. If you are doing a day trek, you will be fine hiking in your running shoes, but if you plan to spend weeks in the mountains make sure you have comfortable shoes, and perhaps a tent to sleep in.
4. What to wear in the winter in Morocco
Make sure you bring long pants and some layers with you, since winters in the northern parts of Morocco are cold. Many tourists like spending winter in the south of Morocco, where the temperatures are a bit warmer.
5. What shoes to wear in Morocco?
Although many guides discourage you from wearing open toe shoes, sandals are the most practical to wear on city walks in the summer. It is true that the unpaved streets are dusty and you feet will get dirty, so just be ready to scrub them when you get to your hotel room. For that same reason many locals wear closed toe shoes, like the traditional babouche slippers. Nevertheless, it is better to wear sandals in the heat than having your feet sweat in sneakers. If you bring sneakers choose a dark color, otherwise one trip to the city and they will get filthy. Flip-flops are great too, especially around the pool area!
6. What to wear on a desert tour in Morocco
Even if you are only spending one night on the desert you want to make sure you are comfortable. Bring a backpack where you can pack extra layers in case you get chilly at night. Loose fitting pants are the most comfortable while you sit on a dromedary for hours. A headscarf to protect you from the strong sun (plus sunscreen of course) and sunglasses are a must! You can wear flip-flops to protect your feet from hot sand, but they are uncomfortable to walk in the desert. Ankle-high shoes, like Convers, are better for walking and they will keep the sand from getting inside.
We hope this guide helped you decide what to pack for Morocco on your next trip. Remember to wear whatever makes you comfortable. If you are a woman who is more modest, bring clothes that are less revealing. It doesn’t mean you need to be covered from head to toe. Instead of a short dress simply wear a maxi dress with a scarf over your shoulders. Some western women traveling to Morocco, in order to blend in with the local Moroccan women, wear a scarf on their head. You absolutely don’t need to do this, but it can be fun and fashionable.
Remember to save a bit of space in your suitcase to bring some souvenirs home with you. Morocco is known for high quality art and handcrafts.
Have a great time on your holidays in Morocco!
To all the ladies out there, don't be afraid to travel to Morocco. It's a wonderful place and you can safely wear your favorite shorts and dresses. If you're traveling alone, just use the same common sense you would in any other country. I hope this post helps you all!