Rabat – A Westerner traveling to Morocco may be disappointed by the lack of sufficient information on what to wear in Morocco.
Travel guides tend to be rather vague in their descriptions of appropriate dress, and fashion authorities, such as The Zoe Report, tend to present dramatic editorials that offer little practical guidance.
Understanding what to wear will greatly impact your experience in Morocco because it affects how Moroccans may treat you. This guide will help a traveler decide what to wear and how to dress during his or her time in Morocco.
Morocco is a conservative nation with 99% of its population identifying as Muslims. Therefore, the first rule to dressing in Morocco is to respect Islam’s emphasis on modesty. Clothes and accessories are not meant to attract attention or excessively reveal the body. Women should ensure that their clothes do not expose the décolletage, shoulders, or thighs. This same principal applies to menswear.
Furthermore, because of Islam’s emphasis on modesty, brand names are not often seen on Moroccan streets. Most households tend to live prudently, and value giving to the community over materialism. So unless you want to attract attention, it’s best to limit the display of ostentatious jewelry, luxury handbags, and high-end electronics.
A woman traveling to Morocco should wear long skirts and dresses, jeans or pants that cover the knees, draping tunics, polo shirts, and camisoles that can be worn under sweaters and cardigans. Women generally wear sandals or loafers; rarely do they wear heels. I’ve noticed that in Rabat, women who wear jeans tend to wear a top that is long enough to cover their rear.
In general, men should wear long pants with a shirt, ideally a collared one. Men can wear sandals, loafers, or sneakers – whatever is appropriate for the context of the visit. While some boys and young men wear shorts in public, it is less common, particularly among adult men.
Morocco is sweltering in the summer months; however, it’s still necessary to cover the shoulders and legs. For women, a loose maxi dress with a light sweater or scarf over the shoulders is a brilliant way to stay cool and blend in with women who wear jabadors and kaftans.
It’s not necessary for non-Muslim women to wear a hijab, or a veil that conceals a woman’s hair. Moroccan women choose for themselves whether or not they wish to cover, and this decision is largely based on religious motivations.
Some Western women do attract attention, particularly women with light or dyed hair. A blond expatriate friend of mine says that, rather than covering her hair and face, she wears a faux engagement ring, which works as an effective deterrent from unsolicited attention.
As an American expatriate, I find it important to strike a balance between what is authentic for my own Western heritage and what is appropriate for Moroccan society. As such, I feel most comfortable in classic American attire: crisp dark blue jeans, a cotton long-sleeve blouse rolled up to the elbows, and a pair of comfortable sandals or flats. This ensemble allows me to express who I am while following cultural mores.
For any woman staying in Morocco for more than a month, I do recommend that you purchase a jilaba in your favorite fabric and color. It’s quite comfortable, can be worn virtually anywhere that is casual, and allows you to blend in with the culture.