Is Morocco Safe to Travel? From Sexual Harassment to Scams

Is Morocco Safe to Travel? Would you ever come back to a place where you had the worst experiences of your life? I would and here’s how you can avoid them.

I won’t lie to you, the original title of this article was “The reason I will never come back to Morocco”. You see, after spending three weeks in this amazingly beautiful country I’ve seen things that have shattered my faith in the kindness of people.

From countless travel scams to sexual harassment, my time in Morocco really got me questioning why do some specific individuals hate and de-humanize foreigners (and specially foreign women) with such an intense rage.

In the last three weeks I’ve seen men groping clueless women in the street against their will, I’ve heard a man saying hurtful homophobic words to a pair of LGTB travelers.

I’ve seen a kind teenager flip out completely when I refused to give him some money for directing me to an address (yes, he actually tried to break into my hotel in order to beat me up afterwards).

I’ve seen double-hidden menus in restaurants meant to scam foreigners that don’t know neither Arabic, Spanish or French.

I’ve heard a man shout crude sexual innuendos at my friend for wearing shorts instead of trousers, I’ve heard a man calling me “Mexicano de mierda” after I refused to buy drugs from him.

I’ve seen a man throwing a stone to a couple that made the mistake of holding hands in the street, I’ve seen a man angrily masturbating while following a pair of blonde women down the bus station at night.

The straw that broke the camel’s back (no, not literally, the camels are fine)?

Yesterday I went to an extremely local restaurant to order a bowl of soup and two pastries.

Everything was going perfectly until it was time to pay the bill.

The waitress, who I shall point out was actually a 5-year old kid, told her mother that I had eaten the 10DH pastries instead of the 2DH ones that I had actually ordered.

Camila the Camel at the Sahara Desert

Camila the Camel at the Sahara Desert

Of course, I tried to explain the situation to her mother, who was the only adult at the place, and she just couldn’t hear it since she chose to believe the word of her 5-year-old.

In the end, I ended up paying 16DH more (yes, less than 2 euros) and as I was preparing to leave, the 5-year-old kid ran in front of me and laughed at my face.

It wasn’t an innocent laugh. It was a laugh filled with contempt and hate, like the sort of laugh that you hear in those movies when the villain has the hero defeated.

The worst part? Her mother soon joined with her own distinct laughter as she shouted some words in Arabic at me.

You see, this was a well-planned scam and I just got played for a fool.

The Henna Scam of Morocco

The Henna Scam of Morocco

Will I Ever Come Back to Morocco? Is Morocco Safe?

But you know what? I will not let dozens of bad experiences in Morocco stop me from coming back to this incredibly beautiful country.

Despite everything, I still had an awesome time riding camels at the Sahara Desert, I played with monkeys at the Ouzoud Waterfalls, I explored the Blue City of Chefchaouen, I went off the beaten path in Rabat  and I saw the World Oldest’ University at Fez.

I also got the chance to relax at the beaches of Essaouria, I saw the place where Gladiator was filmed at Ait Benhaddou and also visited many of the wonderful Game of Thrones’ filming locations as well.

Plus, did I mention that I ended up sleeping in some of the Best Luxury Riads of Marrakesh?

Yes, I know of travelers that have sworn off certain countries and cities because of the many scams, thefts and sexual harassment that they’ve witnessed and suffered but it’s not fair to condemn an entire country for the actions of some of its worst citizens.

After all, scam artists and criminals have the ability of de-humanizing their targets and to treat them as objects.

In the eyes of the characters I’ve described above, we foreigners were never human beings, we were, at most, walking money sign that deserved to be scammed in order to balance a wrongly perceived scale of social justice.

To be honest, it actually does makes sense once you try to empathize with the mentality of the scammer:

Scam artists are, most of the time, uneducated lower class people who have seen wealthy travelers come and go to their country while they are in fact unable of even traveling to neighboring countries due to lack of money and sometimes visa restrictions.

And no, I’m in no way justifying their actions.

I’m just trying to understand them.

Panoramic view of the Ouzoud Waterfalls

Panoramic view of the Ouzoud Waterfalls

After all, my family comes from a lower-class area of Mexico. My mother has experienced the extreme poverty of being raised in a rural town by a single mother with 8 brothers and sisters.

And you know what? My grandma taught her an important life lesson:

“Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to get something from anyone. Some poor people believe that it is right to rob from the rich. It is not. Be an honest person and life will provide. It is better to be poor in terms of wealth than being poor in terms of values”.

My mother raised me with the same mentality and that’s why I cannot stand scam artists who take the easy way out and believe it is their moral right to steal the hard-earned money of travelers regardless of the perceived wealth of said travelers.

Stealing is always bad regardless if it is 2 euros or 2 million euros. It’s not about the money, it’s about the morality of the act of stealing.

So…will I come back to Morocco? Yes. Hell Yes.

For every bad person I encountered I also met tons of friendly locals who taught me important life lessons about personal sacrifice, tolerance and friendship.

Is Morocco Safe? It can be. And it can be dangerous. It all comes down to who you’re “lucky” to meet.

In the end, I would go as far as saying that only 0.0001% of the people here in Morocco are dishonest persons.

Sadly, those are the people who most travelers will most likely encounter during their journey to this country.

Travel Scams of Morocco

Honorable men like him work for 8 hours in the scorching heat of Morocco for only 70DH per day. It is better to be honest than to be rich

What Can We Do to Change the World?

And in the end, can the 5-year-old kid be truly blamed for being raised as such by her mother? No, not really. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a grandma like mine to teach her about the rights and wrongs of life.

In fact, it is useless to place a blame and instead, we should talk about what can be done in order to bring education and values to the people of the entire world in order to decrease the number of dishonest people.

The world doesn’t need more jails, it needs more schools.

Yes, my statement about how out of the 42 countries I’ve traveled, Morocco has been the worst so far in terms of dishonest people might have come as an arrogant one.

Actually, I’m pretty sure it was an arrogant comment.

I even lost a good Moroccan friend of mine because of that.

Yes, I made that comment in a moment of anger and sadness and I realize now that I didn’t specify enough that even though Morocco has some of the worst human beings I’ve encountered so far during travels, it also has some of the best ones.

The Best Things to Do and See in Chefchaouen

The Blue City of Chefchaouen

I didn’t specify that not all Moroccans are the same (although I wrongly assumed that this was obvious in my original message).

I didn’t specify that not all lower class people share the family values of this specific mother-daughter duo that scammed me (after all, I come from a lower-class family myself).

I didn’t specify that Morocco is a country filled with contrasts but that in the end the good will always overcome the bad (just like in my dear homeland of Mexico).

I didn’t specify that this is only my personal experience based on what I’ve seen here and that yes, you SHOULD visit Morocco.

You definitely should.

There is good and evil in all places in the world and yes, at least for me, Morocco was the place where I’ve encountered dozens of evil people but you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Maybe it was just plain bad luck.

Riding camels at the beaches of Essaouira

Riding camels at the beaches of Essaouira

After all, I’m sure that somewhere across the world someone is encountering the same type of dishonest people in South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, North America and other parts of Africa too.

Travel is a personal journey and in some cases you will end up having the bad luck of encountering people who will do their best to ruin your day.

And no, you shouldn’t let them ruin your day.

After all, to you this is just another experience more that you’ll have to endure.

To them? To them this is their daily life.

And it truly depresses me to think that some humans have their moral compass so twisted that the only way they can make a living  is to commit crimes against people who are different from them.

And that’s really sad.


Is Morocco Safe to Travel? Would you ever come back to a place where you had the worst experiences of your life? I would and here's how you can avoid them. #Morocco #TravelTips #Safety #NorthAfrica

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27 Responses

  1. Sharon

    Wow, I am sorry that you had to endure that. I have actually been to Morocco and had no dramas at all, so most people are certainly not like that. I have, however, been to two countries that I could not stand because the scamming and touting did not stop and I have no interest in going back to them. And another where the sexual harassment means I would never return as a solo woman. I definitely understand how a hard place to travel can make you feel. I know I stop getting any enjoyment at all from a destination once all the hassle becomes the majority of my day.

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren

      Yes, I specially feel bad for the solo women travelers (and even women traveling in group) since there are certain men that actively choose to target them because the laws of their country make it impossible to report rape and sex crimes without having the victim being incarcerated as well.

      • frances

        I have lived in Morocco for 16 years, I rarely go out of the house. These people are despicable! Moroccan hospitality exists only as a lure, they are almost always after something in return and will happily play a waiting game (could even be as long as 10 years!). Believe me, when I come across Moroccans on my travels through Europe, they are not interested in talking to me, and yet, I don’t get a minute’s peace here! They want visas and money and they will do anything to get one or both! They frown upon homosexuality because of their religion but there are SO many cases of young Moroccan men taking-up with an older gay foreigner in the hope that he will leave everything to them when he dies (the sooner, the better!) and often enough, death will be brought on by poison or even, as in my village….a machete! This applies to the older women who come here looking for “love” Forget it! They have a manual on how to get a “gowrie” they even all use the same words and methods to get one. It is less dangerous for foreign women than gay men because taking from, or killing a gay man is acceptable because his actions are anti-islam (the moroccan probably goes to Mecca with the money he acquired and gets himself a complete pardon!)
        I could go on, I have a million stories of general bad behaviour, corruption, selfishness, dirtiness, stupidity, complete illogicality (applied in legal circumstances too), racism, greed, etc. Look at the rubbish everywhere, this beautiful country is being ruined. Would you throw your babies’ used pampers in front of your neighbours house? They are all paranoid about the spread of ebola but they are still squeezing EVERY loaf of bread in the shop (having spent most of the day with their fingers scratching their crotch and picking their nose).
        Their reaction to swine flu epidemic was VERY entertaining, we had to be interviewed by a doctor on our arrival from Spain – and yet they carried on spitting and picking their noses
        I realise that all these things exist in other countries but I am sure not
        as concentrated as in Morocco
        I wouldn’t say Morocco is particularly dangerous if you are not mixing with the wrong crowd, just infuriating! Beautiful country, shame about the majority of the people. I suppose we can blame brain-washing and lack of education

        I have 2 friends in this country who I trust implicitly, not a great result!

  2. Kristin

    I wonder how com,on your experience is (I’ve never been). My beautiful Ecuadorian friend recently went to Morroco and didn’t have a single problem (she’s darker skinned but doesn’t look Moroccan at all). She loved bargaining in the markets and was never bothered by touts or men (but she also didn’t wear shorts).

  3. Carlo Cretaro

    Hi Raphael,

    This is my first time visiting your blog. Congrats on a very informative and insightful article. I personally never thought or even heard of Morocco as being as potentially scary as that.

    However, I have been to neighbouring Egypt and that wasn’t too far from this article either.

    It’s unfortunate that this goes on in certain countries but as you said, it shouldn’t make you or anyone else afraid to travel there, it should just make us more alert and ready.


  4. Marysia

    It is nice to see how people change when they travel and how experience make you see different sides of the problem.

    I have travelled as a solo woman in Morocco for 4 weeks and not even once I had any problems there. I have met very nice people and really enjoyed this beautiful country bad had bad experiences in other countries, and it is understandable that bad experience will shadow your opinion about the country somehow.

    I always thought that the point is to weight good and bad and form the opinion, but that comes from me and I hardly have any bad experiences when I travel. Maybe I can think of 3 in past 9 years. So maybe I’m not the person to talk with about such issues. Lucky me!

  5. Travelling Penster

    So sorry that you had some bad experiences, but so glad you’re able to see the lessons in it all :) In the end, it’s things like these that not only help you learn and grow in life, but make you appreciate the good things around you, and ultimately make you a better person! It’s great that you can still remain so positive, and that you’re not letting it all get to you. Good for you. I think most people would have been more than a little worn down.

  6. SJ

    My word, remind me to never travel with you. Bad luck follows you around. Glad you’re not bitter about your many bad experiences. Happy travels.

  7. Samantha

    Yikes, luckily I’ve never encountered a scam but I haven’t been a lot of countries or the ones that are more known for scams. Luckily I’m Asian so they probably think I’ll come back around and try to scam them… ha ha just kidding. It is really sad that people are brought up thinking the only way to survive in life is to cheat or steal. Like Aladdin said “I steal only what I can’t afford- gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat” cause he had no parents to teach him any better. You’re lucky to have an adult figure to teach you about honesty!

  8. Lauren

    Wow, what terrible experiences! I’m glad that you are able to reflect on this and not let it totally ruin your time there. There will be scam artists unfortunately everywhere…and I’m glad you can see that we can’t let a few bad people ruin our perception of an entire nation. I’d hate to think that I would be judged upon how some criminals choose to behave here in Canada! Insightful article.

  9. Megan Claire

    So sorry to hear you had to go through that. But thankyou for writing such a balanced article in spite of your experiences. You’re 100% correct – we shouldn’t let the bad experiences affect our travels because there are always going to be bad experiences. I never regret a destination, always try to take it for what it is and move on as a learning experience. Thanks for your insights.

  10. Shirine

    I too felt this as I traveled through India. I was harassed on a daily basis because I am a female, I saw first hand how harmful the caste system is for all walks of lives, and I felt objectified and used more than I felt like a human. But I also experienced some of the most amazing homestays I have had on my trip cycling around the world, and those good memories are the ones I hope will outlive all the hassles and difficulties I experienced.

  11. antonette - we12travel

    There recently was a tv show about the scams going on in Morocco. Eventually, things like these will only drive the tourists away, they will find other places to travel to. For me personally. I avoid such places because I don’t feel like starting another argument or negotiating again. I’m more of an easy traveler when it comes to that …

  12. Tam Gamble

    What a shame – I can honestly say that throughout our travels in Morocco we never felt scammed or threatened by anyone. At times we felt overwhelmed by their generosity and friendly nature to help simply because in comparison, when looking at what we have, they have relatively little. I suppose the problem of scams can arise anywhere in the world and unsavoury people can be found wherever we choose to live or travel. Unfortunately for yourself you seem to have bumped into many of them during this trip. I do hope that it doesn’t put your readers off from exploring this wonderful country though.

  13. Alli

    Thanks for your honesty with this post, Raphael. Sounds like you sure had a whirlwind experience in Morocco. It seemed like there were many unhappy with your previous initial feelings on your troubles in this country . . . but you have taken the time here to explain yourself honestly, and that I appreciate. It also takes huge guts to admit that some things you had stated were “arrogant,” stemming from your personal emotions at the time. Experiences like your time in Morocco make for good storytelling, and I’m glad to see you taking the time to express all your feelings, both negative AND positive included in the mix. Thanks for sharing this again. :)

  14. Fly Me To The Earth

    Even though I have and I want to have your perspective and idea on the matter, I’m not sure i would’ve managed under those specific circumstances, so well done! :)

  15. Chris Boothman

    We all have experience negative aspects when we travel around the world but the reality is that we have to overlook those and think about all the positives that generally outweigh those disadvantages. Any situation that makes you uncomfortable, in hindsight you just have to forgive and forget and realize that you are the bigger and better person than the issue you were confronted with.

    I have yet to visit Morocco but of course have heard contrasting reviews – from the amazing beautiful scenery etc in Marrakech to the experiences you have clearly experienced which are not all that positive in some instances. But just like yourself, I still want to go there to experience the country and see for myself exactly what culturally diversity lives there!

  16. Jeff McAllister

    I’m very sorry to hear about your bad experience, Raphael.

    I had a similar bad taste in my mouth when I left Egypt back in 2010. Of course, time and reflection changes everything. You’re right about empathy being key to understanding, perhaps even forgiving.

    I used to say I’d never return to Egypt. Now, I’m anxious to go back just to give it another try!

  17. Serena @ BlackCatSouvenirs

    I’m really sorry for all these bad experiences.
    But I think your article has been very interesting to read and very honest.
    I’m not sure if it’s been actually bad luck, because these have been too many things all together to be considered “just” bad luck: I guess this is one of the faces of the country which cannot be denied. Surely it doesn’t mean that all Moroccan people are like that – actually luckily, everywhere in the world you can always find more kind people than dishonest ones, and I guess this what keeps my faith in humanity on good levels anyway.
    But these aspects cannot be denied. They root in poverty and in social conditions of the country, and, as you’ve said, no, it doesn’t justify them – but it’s an explanation.
    I think it’s quite brave of you willing to return to Morocco, because, honestly, I don’t know if I’d be willing to, even if I agree that such bad episodes shouldn’t deprive one of enjoying the beauty of this country.

  18. Nikita

    I love your empathic view on the matter! It’s horrible that you had to go through all that, but I’m glad that you still kept an overall positive view. You’re lucky to have had the grandmother that you did… Wise words.

  19. Julius

    Thanks for this interesting read. I’ve never been in morocco but planned to get there. After all scam and dragging and everything you find in many other countries too: Egypt, India etc. They are still worth to be visited.


  20. Lina @ Divergent Travelers

    I can understand your perspective here. It can be very difficult sometimes to see past a negative experience, ESPECIALLY when you are traveling full time and they start to occur often. It is easy as someone who is only traveling for a couple weeks to shove off a bad experience and then just go home and forget about it, focusing only on the good things. But that is one of the beauties of travel, taking both the good AND the bad and processing them, what they mean and how they make you feel. We have had a mounting of things like this happen to us since we became nomadic in Feb 2014 and some of those negative experiences just stick with us. Unfortunately, that sometimes means it changes the way we feel about the places that we visit as well. But like you, we’re still traveling and we would still return to some of those places. It’s just the joys of being a traveler, if you will. Morocco is a beautiful country and people that are more adventurous and curious in other cultures should definitely pay it a visit, but fair on you for pointing out some of the things they will likely encounter. We just finished spending 2 weeks traveling through the country and we had all that happen to us…. including the public masturbation.

  21. simrin

    I’ve just read this.

    I’m on holiday with my wife in Marrakech. We’re a “young” couple. I’m brown, she’s white. I You’ve posted an interesting blog and make some great points. This whole trip, walking through the streets has been stressful because the whole time I’ve been in “protect my wife” mode. She’s suffered many of the same instances you may have read online about harassment that some female tourists endure on a daily basis (yes, including groping. But would punching a 9 year old in the face really make me the better human?) We’ve done our research, she covered up as well as possible etc but we’ve still had a bad experience. It’s put a nasty scar on what was supposed to be a nice trip.

    Women here aren’t treated the same. A lot of instances, like a piece of meat. It’s deep rooted and needs to change. I’m not saying every male here is like that. We have met some genuinely nice people but there is something seriously wrong here and it needs to change. It’s disgusting and I feel sick.

    We fly home tomorrow. Good riddance.

  22. Lou

    I have to say you had a LOT of bad experiences over there. Ive been several times and never had anything so extreme happen. In any case its a shame. Glad you are able to put it in perspective, although its sad you lost your friend. You only need to google “bad experiences in mexico” and similar if not worse experiences come up. Mexicos reputation is one of crime, rape and murder, forget about being scammed or pushiness. Hope you will see things clearer once the dust settles.

  23. go-indochine

    Great Information. I’m a travel blogger and I’d love to discovery every landscape in the world. Tks for wrote this article, it’s very useful for me. Looking for more great post from you in the future.