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Travelling as a Muslim woman in a Muslim country

Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakesh, Morocco

When I booked my Contiki to Morocco, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect while travelling as a Muslim woman in a Muslim country. I had been to Turkey before, and being Muslim myself I of course had some ideas of what it might be like, but still, my curiosity ran wild and I was so excited to get there and just see for myself. 

In the end, I was surprised in the best way and my trip was a deep dive into Moroccan culture, customs, and history, which taught me so much. I travelled with Contiki on a social holiday, and my experience in Morocco turned out to be one of the most positive experiences of my life. I felt right at home. 

Travelling in a Group

One of the best things about my trip to Morocco was seeing how many people were open to and interested in both Moroccan and Islamic culture and history.

Our Trip Manager Brahim was able to encapsulate Morocco’s history and culture so well. He was so knowledgeable – at every stop he had a fun fact to give – and you could tell he really cared about his country as well. His passion was infectious and we couldn’t help but be excited alongside him.

Actually, Brahim was kind of like a local celebrity in Morocco! People knew who he was and what he did for a living, and it seemed like people really had respect for that. Seeing his passion extend to and be shared with the locals was amazing as well. 

To be completely honest, travelling in a group was a big part of why this trip was so special. With Contiki I had a guide who could tell me the best spots to go, where was safest and where was best to avoid going alone. All the planning and coordination was done for me, so all I had to do was soak up the good stuff and enjoy the ride. Having an expert accompanying me and the group every step of the way was definitely a plus that I’d recommend to most people. 

boats in Morocco

Image source:Contiki

The People

Everyone in Morocco was so welcoming and hospitable. I was surprised by the extent of it. The locals were so kind and respectful, they opened their arms to all travellers and made us all feel at home, regardless of faith or background, basking in the warmth of the community.

Personally, I wasn’t treated like a tourist at all. I think a lot of people either assumed or just knew that I was a Muslim woman, and actually a lot of people spoke to me in Darija which I unfortunately don’t understand, but it was nice to be seen in that way. I felt valued and respected as a Muslim woman.

Whenever we visited a Mosque, Brahim was always so considerate, being a practising Muslim himself, and would ask me if I wanted to go in and pray. It’s little things like this, never being more than 5 minutes away from a Mosque, that made being in Morocco so special. I truly felt like I was home and with my people, and it was so empowering to be in a country that celebrated my faith.

I do think part of the reason I had such a beautiful time on my trip is because I was travelling as a Muslim woman in a Muslim country. I’m part of that community and I understand the community as well. For any non-Muslims travelling to Morocco, I think they would definitely still have a wonderful time, but it would be different to my own experience and there would be a few things they might have to adapt to.

market in Morocco

Image source:Contiki

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Amy Bonifas
by Amy Bonifas Oct 21, 2020

A cultural education

There are a lot of misconceptions about Islam in the West and I think it largely comes from a place of misunderstanding. There are over 2 billion Muslims in the world, and we don’t all act or think the same. Really, there’s so much to learn and appreciate about Islamic history and culture, especially right now in the face of so much widespread misinformation.

I learned a lot of things myself and gained a fresher perspective. For example, I learned that the first university in the world was established in Fes, and it was founded by a woman. Education for all is a really important aspect of Islam, and women like men are encouraged to study and get an education and go to uni. 

I also found out that Morocco is a leader in solar power and all the Mosques are run with solar energy. Waste of any kind is against Islamic values and sustainability is deeply rooted in the Islamic faith. Donating or reusing what you no longer need is heavily encouraged. It’s a religion and a country that really cares about global warming and creating sustainable practices, which I think not many people are aware of. 

Not to mention how stunning Morocco is. Every city and desert we visited was jaw-droppingly beautiful, it was like a little paradise of its own and I felt so lucky just being there.

Travelling as a Muslim woman in a Muslim country I think really changed my perspective on my religion, despite being a part of it myself. I’ve found a greater appreciation for it, and seeing how much good it has done for others in Morocco, people like me, has made me so proud to be part of the community.

group of friends in the desert in Morocco

Image source:Contiki

The strong community bond

Living in the UK, the Islam community isn’t as widespread, which does present certain limitations and can sometimes feel a little isolating for me. For example, during Ramadan, I’m generally the only one in my office who fasts, and while I obviously don’t expect non-Muslims to, being in a country where I know everyone participates in fasting is a great comfort during that time. It’s about the feeling of community really.

That feeling of community in Morocco was so strong. I felt at peace being there. It was really special to be able to hear the Call to Prayer every day, something I don’t get to have in London, and it was heartwarming to see all the hoards of people heading to the Mosques to pray together as well. I also know that in Morocco, and in Muslim countries, I have the ability to pray anywhere and anytime I want without feeling out of place. It’s the same with eating food. I know that everything is halal, so I have no issues finding last-minute meals. 

I have nothing but positive feelings about my religion, and spending time so closely in the community only reinforced that. My trip to Morocco was a deeply cultural and educational experience, one that only deepened my love and understanding of my faith, and one I won’t forget any time soon. To have been able to travel to Morocco was so special to me; it felt like a home away from home.

camel riding at night in Morocco

Image source:Contiki

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