Some advice for gay travellers to Morocco
With its striking beauty, fascinating history, and traditional customs perhaps no other country has such a long term yet complicated relationship with its gay tourists than Morocco.
Ironically during the conservative 1950’s Morocco’s larger cities (specifically Tangier) were well known gay hot spots. Many famous writers, many of them gay (including Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, and Tennessee Williams) descended on the city looking for some fun and inspiration. By the time William Burroughs wrote his infamous book Naked Lunch the bon vivant crowd’s city of choice had been dubbed “Queer Tangier” in many circles.
While the scene has calmed down significantly since its heyday, Morocco remains a top spot of gay travellers in need of a sunny escape with a rich cultural and artistic pedigree. When planning a trip here, keep in mind that there isn’t much of an exclusively gay scene and that a trip to Morocco will be a more immersive experience. The best introduction to the country is still getting lost in the famous souks brimming with vibrant life at every turn. The Jemaa el-Fnaa in the old medina district of Marrakech feels like another world and is an experience no one forgets.
Some of Morocco’s top sights seem tailor made for artistic travellers, such as the artist designed Majorelle Garden which features a cubist villa. The intricate hidden courtyards of the riads dotted throughout Moroccan cities are particularly good places to take in some architectural splendour while kicking your feet up. And the fun doesn’t stop once you leave the large urban centres. Camel rides over golden sand dunes, ascending to the summits of the Atlas mountains, or taking in the majesty of the limestone river canyons of Todgha Gorge are all popular options. For a more leisurely time, the beaches of Agadir are perfect for soaking up some sun and are a popular spot with gay european tourists.
Of course anyone discussing LGBT travel in Morocco must discuss the nations anti-homosexuality law. There have been high profile cases concerning foreign nationals being prosecuted for breaching local laws, however, it is important to mention that this law is not applicable to non-Moroccan same sex partners who are travelling guests. Any tourist practicing discretion and adapting to local customs should have no problems at all. Discrimination in regards to shared accommodation shouldn’t be a worry either since foreign owned riads and large chain hotels are accustomed to welcoming same sex couples. Due to the highly religious and conservative environment, public displays of affection between couples – gay or straight – are highly frowned upon. In many ways the experience a gay tourist couple would have versus their straight counterpart would be exactly the same.
Adapting to the local code of conduct could feel stifling for some, no doubt. Many other gay travellers however have chosen to respect the long held traditions and enjoy Morocco’s vast vault of riches. To come to Morocco is to immerse yourself into a world that feels nothing like home, and when all is said and done, isn’t that what travel is for?
Further Afield has always been about inclusivity and acceptance so staying at our partner property in Marrakech – Riad dar Zaman – means you’re guaranteed an accepting and warm welcome from Peter and his team. Check out his insider’s guide to Morocco on our blog too.