Marrakech, Morocco: The Solo Female Travel Guide to a Weekend in the Red City

Solo Female Travel in Marrakech, Morocco | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Solo female travel in Marrakech, Morocco might sound intimidating, but I think it’s the ideal destination for three reasons: it’s safe (violent crimes against tourists are rare in Morocco), the nightlife is either ridiculously expensive or nonexistent so you won’t feel like you’re missing something without friends to go out with, and the shopping is so fantastic, having a companion along would be a pure distraction.

It’s easy: There are direct flights from cities all over Europe, including Madrid, Barcelona, London, Frankfurt and Munich. From the US, you’ll have to make a connection on airlines like American, Air France, and Norwegian. Alternatively, you can fly directly from NYC to Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc and connect to a train to Marrakech right in the airport.

It’s not that far away: Flights from Spain are around two hours, while flights from the UK are around three. From New York, a direct flight to Casablanca lasts about six to seven hours and the following train ride, about three hours. Connecting itineraries from the US to Marrakech are typically around 14 to 15 hours total.

How long you need: I hit all of the below in three days, but I was in the country of Morocco for a total of 10 days my first trip and five my second (I took advantage of my office’s holiday closure). If you hire a guide for a medina tour, you’ll see most tourist attractions in one day. Set aside another day for relaxation and shopping. If you have vacation time to spare, I recommend an additional couple of days in the nearby Atlas Mountains.

Solo Female Travel in Marrakech, Morocco, by hagengraf on Flickr

photo: hagengraf/Flickr

In the spirit of full disclosure, the first time I went to Morocco I was not alone: I was with my family, including my sister, who lived in Casablanca working as a teacher for two years. A year later, I returned to the city of Marrakech by myself for two nights while my sister was doing a mountain trek with friends, because I wanted to check out a few things I had missed. I visited over the holidays when my office was closed, so I didn’t have to take any vacation days.

Without further ado, here’s my guide to solo female travel in Marrakech.

Preparing for Solo Female Travel in Marrakech? Expect Street Harassment and Dress Appropriately

During my solo time in Marrakech, I never felt unsafe. But I did feel uncomfortable. The street harassment here is absolutely horrendous and as a blonde, blue-eyed girl who clearly stands out from the crowd, I think I got it twofold. Men yelled things to me as I walked by, followed me asking questions despite my ignoring them and even tried to sit down at my table while I was eating lunch.

marrakech, djemaa el fna

These guys only wanted me to eat at their restaurant. They’re not all sketchy!

The upside is that most Moroccans are ridiculously friendly and welcoming to tourists, so they’ll help you out in a pinch. When I couldn’t shake one Romeo in the medina, I went into a shop and shared my dilemma with the shopkeeper. He immediately scolded the guy and threw him out – harassment isn’t good for business!

My advice in most situations, however, is to simply ignore. Do not acknowledge their attention, as unfortunately it only seems to encourage it more.

As for clothing, how you dress in Morocco matters. Stick with long sleeves and pants, make sure your shoulders are covered, wear a scarf if it’s chilly and put your hair up. Sunglasses are helpful, too, for avoiding eye contact. You’ll certainly see tourists walking around Marrakech like they’re in Miami’s South Beach, but by dressing conservatively like local women do, you’ll draw less attention. For more details on how to dress on your trip, read my post on what to pack for Morocco.

Where to Eat

This was one of my biggest concerns, because I never saw a Moroccan woman eating alone in a cafe. Most sidewalk cafes are filled with men, giving off the distinct vibe that women don’t belong. Avoid eating out in Jemaa El Fna, the most touristy square of Marrakech, if you are alone. An open seat at your table might invite an unwanted dinner guest! I found two places that were not only safe for a woman to eat alone, they were ideal.

Henna Cafe

Cafe Henna, Marrakech

Cafe Henna, Marrakech

To find this spot I asked for directions to the well known restaurant Dar Moha on Rue Dar el Glaoui. If you were exiting the restaurant, you would turn left and then make your first left. You should see signs pointing to Henna Cafe, which is on the left again. The simple and affordable cafe serves up a variety of teas along with hummus, Moroccan salads, sandwiches and falafel – all welcome changes from the typical Moroccan tagines I’d been eating constantly. Make your way up to the small rooftop, which has outlets to recharge your smart phone or camera and “tableside henna” that’s safe and reputable. The cafe also serves as a community center, providing free education such as English lessons to locals.

Kafe Fnaque Berbere

Kafe Fnaque Berbere Marrakech

This French-owned restaurant is located above a bookshop and boasts one of the coziest rooftop terraces. Enjoy wifi and affordably priced casual French and Moroccan food (panini poulet for me). Cool down with an iced espresso on a hot day – the layout makes it easy to chat with other visitors as you look down at the bustling souks.

Shopping & Tourist Attractions to Visit in Marrakech

Being alone means you can spend as little or as long as you’d like soaking up the incredible things you’ll see in Marrakech. Here are the four places you’ll want to hit.

Medersa Ben Youssef

Medersa Ben Youseff, Marrakech, Morocco | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Medersa Ben Youssef, Marrakech, by denverkid on Flickrbottom photo: denverkid/Flickr

This 16th century Islamic school (or “madrassa”) was where students memorized the Qu’ran and lived in tiny, cell-like sleeping quarters. The upper level living areas overlook a courtyard that has a pool in the center, surrounded by elaborate calligraphy that wraps around walls and columns, quoting the Qu’ran. This is a great place to see Moroccan mosaic tiling, stucco plasterwork and carved cedarwood. Every inch of the place is embellished with strikingly beautiful details, and its peek into the life of students from long ago is fascinating. You’ll probably get lost in the maze of the medina as you look for the madrassa, but don’t let that deter you – just ask a local shopkeeper to point you toward it. (Don’t ask a random person on the street as they may ask you for money to be a guide or try to follow you. Shopkeepers are anchored to their stores which is why they’re more helpful!).

La Palais de la Bahia

Palais de la Bahia, Marrakech, by insmu74 on Flickr Palais de la Bahia, Marrakech, by insmu74 on Flickr Palais de la Bahia, Marrakech, by insmu74 on Flickr

photos: insmu74/Flickr

The building of “La Bahia” began in 1860, and when Grand Vizier Abu Bou Ahmed took up residence in 1894 and used it as a harem to house his four wives and 24 (!!) concubines. But what makes this place truly special are the quarters of his favorite wife, Lalla Zineb. She spent her days enjoying a spacious living area decorated with shining marble finishes, stained-glass windows and intricately painted ceilings – almost enough to make up for the fact that he was cheating on her with 27 other women, right?  The Palais de la Bahia is located near the Mellah, or Jewish quarter, on the other side of Djemma el Fna from the madrassa.

Saadien Tombs

Saadien Tombs, Marrakech

Located near the Kasbah mosque, the 16th century Saadien Tombs are a short walk from La Bahia. Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour defied the saying “you can’t take it with you” when he decided to go out with a bang, sparing no expense on his tomb built of imported Italian marble, stalactite plasterwork, mosaic tiles and even pure gold. At busy times there’s a line to glimpse inside the most famous part of the mausoleum, where Al-Mansour and his favorite family members are buried amidst 12 impressive marble columns. Lesser beings like court servants and wives low on the totem pole are buried nearby in simple garden plots, while Al-Mansour’s mother has her own small private room. One interesting thing to note: the tombs were sealed off after the collapse of the Saadien Dynasty under Moulay Ismail’s reign. He had many beautiful sights ransacked and destroyed under his rule, but left the tombs intact, probably due to superstitions about the dead. They remained hidden until 1917, when they were spotted from the air and subsequently restored and open to the public.

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech by ninara on Flickr Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech by davidstanleytravel on Flickr

top photo: ninara; bottom: davidstanleytravel/Flickr

The Jardin Majorelle is a garden that was designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle, who spent 41 years turning it into a luxurious oasis. Years later, it was purchased and revived by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. When YSL passed away in 2008, his ashes were scattered at the Jardin Majorelle and a memorial was built there in his name.

It’s easy to see why YSL chose it as his final resting place: the garden is peaceful and colorful at the same time, with bold hues of blue and yellow popping alongside lush, leafy plants and cacti.

The fastest way to get to the Jardin Majorelle is a taxi. Taxis are easy to find in Marrakech, and should all be familiar with this popular tourist sight on Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Make sure you agree on a price before you get in, and feel free to negotiate.

Shopping in the Souks

The souks of Marrakech also offer some of the best shopping I’ve ever seen, with hand painted, hand carved home decor items that will cost you less than half of what you would pay in a boutique back home. It’s like Anthropologie but better, and 75% off. The second time I visited Marrakech, I was wise enough to leave plenty of extra space in my suitcase!

Shopping in Marrakech, Morocco

photo: Flickr

Visit a Hammam in Marrakech

Once you’ve finished shopping and sightseeing, it’s time for some relaxation. An upscale spa catering to tourists, Hammam de la Rose is beautiful and offers a full menu of treatments. I was able to book a massage for the same day.

Hammam de la Rose Marrakech

While the fancy spa was a nice treat, one Moroccan tradition you should participate in if you’re not too freaked out about being naked in front of lots of other women is the public hammam. A hammam is a bath house with a steam room where Moroccans go at least once a week to cleanse themselves and get scrubbed to the bone. It’s an important part of Moroccan culture, and many women spend hours there socializing with friends and even scrubbing each other – something you don’t see happening in the United States!

A hammam visit provides a unique peek into the lives of Moroccan women, with whom you’ll rarely interact with on the streets.  Moroccan women might be conservative in public, but in private among friends and families they let it all hang out. And plus, during your solo female travel in Marrakech, it’s nice to have some time with other women away from the pesky men!

hammam, morocco

During a hammam visit, you buy soap and start off cleaning yourself by dumping buckets of water over your head. Next, you’ll sit in a steam room until it’s your turn for scrubbing. A well-muscled woman will come get you, have you lie down on the table, and proceed to reveal a new layer of skin. It’s a little intimidating to go in and have no idea what you’re doing, but the other women and hammam workers were happy to point me in the right direction despite the obvious language barrier.

What to bring: a change of underwear (it’s very common but not required to wear underwear in the hammam, but they will get wet), flip flops, things you like to have in the shower (razor? shampoo?), and black soap, a scrubbing glove and a bucket (you can buy this all directly at the hammam in most cases).

Solo Female Travel in Marrakech: Where to Stay

I strongly advise tourists in Morocco to avoid Western-style hotels and instead opt for riads. There are tons of great riads – gorgeously decorated private homes turned into B&B’s – in Marrakech and the rates are very affordable.

Riad Les Trois Mages in Marrakech, Morocco | TheWeekendJetsetter.com

Riad Les Trois Mages, one of my favorites.

If you’re looking for solitude, it’s easy to find. If you want to mingle with other travelers, there are also some hostel-riads. Riads offer excellent service and the owners and staff will likely be the best resource when you have questions about Marrakech. Knowing that Moroccan friendliness and hospitality, you’ll likely even become friends by the end of your trip! If you want to book a guide for a medina tour or taking a cooking lesson, your riad can provide an authentic experience that you just won’t get at a big hotel.

Cooking Class Marrakech

Cooking lesson at Riad Les Trois Mages.

If you’re thick-skinned and adventurous, solo female travel in Marrakech is totally doable. While the situation with street harassment was uncomfortable at times, most of the men were harmless and I felt safer in this crazy city than I have in some more “mainstream” destinations. Remember that violent crime against tourists in Morocco is not common, be smart, and keep an open mind – you’ll be just fine!

Questions about Morocco or other travel destinations? Get your questions answered in the Weekend Jetsetters group on Facebook!

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34 Comments on "Marrakech, Morocco: The Solo Female Travel Guide to a Weekend in the Red City"

  1. Ameeta dhanjal | November 5, 2015 at 5:32 pm | Reply

    Fantastic article thank you. I will be arriving in Marakech around 10 am with friends joining me at around 6pm. I was concerned about being alone in the markets but it seems like i neednt be. I want to see as much as i can while i am waiting for my friends. I fly back the following day around 8pm. If you have any other advice that will be great!

    Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this,I’m travelling alone arriving on the 4th. This is my first time so it’s quite encouraging reading your post. I quite like the idea if a cooking class tho I’m not staying at a riad and i love the hamman visit. Thanks again for your ideas

  3. Great article, i like your part of night life ( you are not actually missing anything ). Yes, absolutely true, night life in Morocco in ridiculously expensive!

  4. Is it safe to travel as a single woman from Casablanca to Marrakech by Train?

    • theweekendjetsetter | December 15, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Reply

      Hi Jodie, yes in my opinion. Your best bet would be to get a first class ticket. In first class, you are assigned a seat in a six person compartment. Your seat is guaranteed. In second class, which is only slightly cheaper, you are not assigned a seat. If the train isn’t busy, you won’t have any trouble finding a seat but if it’s prime time, you may have to stand for some or all of your trip (no fun).

  5. Is it safe to travel from Casablanca to Marrakech by train as a single female?

  6. So glad to have found your post. It really helped put my mind at ease before going to Marrakech. I’ve just returned and cannot agree more with everything you’ve said. Thank you!

    • theweekendjetsetter | January 5, 2016 at 2:21 am | Reply

      Hi Wendy, glad you found it helpful and love hearing that you enjoyed your time in Marrakech! Thanks for reading!

  7. Thank you so much for this post. I’m considering going alone in March, and this was definitely encouraging to read 🙂

  8. Hi All,

    Is anyone planning to go on April 2016? Or know of a forum where solo females can coordinate there stays to have safety in numbers?

  9. Brilliant article thank you for sharing. I’m heading out on my own on 7th and also had the cliche comments,your going alone..is it safe.. Is it a good idea etc.
    I’m super excited for my little adventure, just need to decide on accomdation, there’s sooooo many RIads to choose from
    Thanks again
    Lou

  10. Hi guys, I’m arriving on Saturday, any solo females around? Feline B, Zara?

  11. Hey yeah I’m there 7th to 11th so be good to meet people doing a similar trip 🙂

  12. Hey Lila.
    I would have loved to meet up but I don’t arrive until the 10th 🙁

  13. Hi girls,

    Just noticed the comments that a few might be around in march.. Im traveling to marrakesh on the 14-15th march? anyone still there keen to meet up?

    • theweekendjetsetter | April 14, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Reply

      Hi Wendy! I recently created a Facebook group for “Weekend Jetsetters” – people who work full time and also love to travel. While not specifically geared toward solo female travel, I’d love to invite you to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/158166777897387/. I’ll be ramping things up and inviting more members soon 🙂

  14. Hi guys! I’ll be in Marrakech with another female friend from the 15th – 18th March and after that I’ll be solo till the 22nd March. Anyone want to catch up?

  15. Hi everyone!

    I am also traveling solo from the 3rd to the 10th of April. Let me know if you want to meet up 🙂

    • theweekendjetsetter | April 14, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Reply

      Hi Teresa! I recently created a Facebook group for “Weekend Jetsetters” – people who work full time and also love to travel. While not specifically geared toward solo female travel, I’d love to invite you to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/158166777897387/. I’ll be ramping things up and inviting more members soon 🙂

  16. Love this article, so helpful for planning my trip this fall! Do you have any tips for how to pick a riad? I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices (that all seem to have glowing reviews). Are there certain areas within the medina that you think are particularly ideal?

    • theweekendjetsetter | May 5, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Reply

      Hi Nikki, honestly if they have good reviews, you can’t go wrong! They are all amazing! In terms of location in the medina, it’s pretty dead at night so it won’t matter in terms of noise. And typically owners will come out and help you find the building in case you get lost! I would just avoid the main Jemaa el-Fnaa square. It’s VERY crowded, loud and touristy.

  17. Really helpful post – thank you – I’m going to Marrakech on my own in May as my boyfriend and I (whom I booked the holiday with) are no longer together. Really looking forward to it – I like solo travel and hope that it will be fairly straight forward. Can’t wait to check out some of the places that you’ve mentioned – and get a good scrub in one of the Hammams. Thanks again

  18. I will be in Marrakeck May 28 to 31, solo professional female if you are solo traveling also

  19. Thank you for this I am travelling their alone on Monday for three night’s. Your article has totally giving me peace of mind.

  20. Any solo female to travel morocco in sep 2016?

  21. hi, what are top 10 things to buy and shop in morocco?

  22. What a great article, thanks for writing it! I am going to Marrakech solo on the 24-26th September and friends will arrive after then.But would would like to a full day tour on the 25th, can you recommend any good tours? and / or any cooking classes with market tour?

    Also if any other solo travellers are around then it would be great to tackle the markets together.

    Thanks for any info 🙂

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