Travel

A Black Woman in Morocco: Being Real

I just wanted to preface this post by stating in no way, shape or form am I trying to discourage anyone from traveling to Morocco. I was asked and want to share my perspective and experience as a black woman and only about situations that were in direct relation to that. The goal of TJ Was Here is to share my experiences and be as open and honest as possible. Morocco is a beautiful country with very warm people and the hospitality is amazing.

Morocco has become a very popular travel destination because of it’s intricate, “instagrammable” architecture, and vast deserts. Even though there were so many reasons to go, I was very apprehensive about going to Morocco when my friend presented the idea to me.

Over the past decade, I have become very conscious of my blackness and how I am received in the world and I’ve come to realize it is not always with open arms. With this in mind, I like to protect myself and my mental health at all costs and avoid situations or environments that may carry prejudices about me because of the color of my skin. I follow a few travel bloggers that have traveled to Morocco, and a lot of them expressed how their experience was negatively affected because of the fact that they were black.

However, my travel buddy insisted that we go.

After sleeping on it for a while, I realized that no-one ever achieved anything amazing by staying comfortable. Life is about conquering fears and getting out of your comfort zone, and I decided that it was time to get out of mine.

To prepare for Morocco, I wanted to make sure I respected the culture and was as inconspicuous as possible. Anyone who knows me knows I am very comfortable showing skin, but I made an effort to buy things that were more modest than my usual style. Being that I read Morocco is a more relaxed Muslim country in regards to modesty, I felt especially ready for my trip. I was going to go into this with a positive outlook and an open mind and I did not want to let my fears get in the way of my experience.

Stares and Catcalling

We attracted attention everywhere we went regardless of clothing. Some positive some negative, but I just knew that when I left the riad each day, there would be so much curiosity about who I was, where I came from, etc. I’m used to being catcalled, but catcalling in Morocco is…different. We got called chocolate, Nicki Minaj, Serena, Obama’s sister, and Lady Gaga (this had us confused as well) everywhere we went. To the point that it would get overwhelming some days especially when you want to go about your day in peace.

When we met new people we felt comfortable with, we would talk to them about this and ask if this was something they partook in. All of them said yes. I came to realize that catcalling (to this extent) is a cultural difference that has become a regular part of everyday life amongst Moroccan men. Moroccan people seem to be very social people and this is one of the ways they are accustomed to meeting and socializing with tourists. There aren’t that many black tourists in Morocco, so we stick out like a sore thumb. It is what it is!

Inappropriately Touched

We asked the only worker at our riad to set up a taxi for us to go to the club. A man who worked at a riad next door, who was friends with the riad worker, would escort us to the taxi. On the way to the taxi, he wanted to show us the riad at which he works; it was beautiful. When we were about to exit, he asked to take a picture with us. I am usually very hesitant about taking pictures with strangers because I don’t really know what they plan on doing with those pictures. I hesitantly obliged. As we posed for a picture taken on my phone, he whispered “chocolate” and his hand slid down my side and he touched my buttocks. I moved his hand and proceeded to take the picture anyway. I was trying to figure out what I did to make him feel like he could do that to me, but I knew I did nothing. I just tried to put it in the back of my head because I did not want my night to be ruined.

The Nightclub

Going out in Marrakesh, I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to wear, how to dance, I just knew that I wanted to have a good time. There was great music and everyone was dancing. I observed the way they danced to understand what was acceptable because I did not want to attract any more unwanted attention to myself. I noticed that the way they dance in the club is more modest than the normal wining and twerking that I’m accustomed to. Men and women mostly danced with the friends they came with and when the opposite sex did dance with each other, it was with minimal body contact. I looked at the few other black girls I saw, and I could tell they were on the same page as me. They wanted to have a good time without being disrespected or disrespectful. A man took my hand to dance with me and I did my best to keep things cute. He would take my hand and spin me around a couple of times, and the last time he spun me, he tried to get me to dance on him with my buttocks on his pelvis. At this moment I was done dancing. If no one else in this club is dancing like this, why was he trying to get me to dance that way with him?

It was time to leave the club. The lights have come on and my friend and I are smiling and laughing on our way out because it was a good time overall. A man approaches us and puts his arm around my friend, looks at me and begins to rap “My nigga my nigga, my nigga my nigga, my m*therf*cking nigga”; lyrics to a song by the rapper YG. This song was not playing. The music had been turned off, yet he chose to approach us by rapping this song acapella. I asked him why he was saying that word and he proceeded to quickly apologize as I walked away with my friend.

As I was walking up the stairs to exit the club, a man that I did not see bumped into me. He then proceeded to push me on the staircase. I pushed him back and he proceeded to lie and say I pushed him first. I stood up for myself, but the events of the night had me feeling pretty defeated and by this time I just wanted get out of there.

The Fine Line between Sexism and Racial Prejudice

Overall, I realized that the lines can be very blurred when it comes to sexism and racial prejudice. When you grow up thinking about black people and women in a certain way, and your culture supports those views, it is hard to shake especially when you see nothing wrong with it and it is not challenged.

Even though I did take offense to a lot of the events that occurred in Morocco, I learned that when you travel to a different country with a different set of beliefs from yours, you have to have the understanding to accept things for what it is. You didn’t go to the country to be a social activist, you went there to learn about the culture and how people live. Always take it as a learning experience and try not to let emotions cloud your actions in the moment. Do your best to enjoy the experience.

1 thought on “A Black Woman in Morocco: Being Real”

  1. I’m sorry you have had to endure this kind of behavior. I have been there many a time an yes my wife is a black woman. And yes she too felt that way. We felt it stemmed from the Moroccan caste system where black people come from the Berber tribe and were never given the same status or respect others received. Shame because it’s a beautiful country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *