Although I have travelled to over 30 countries, Morocco was my introduction to the African continent. Morocco is primarily a Muslim nation with Arabic as the primary language, an well as Berber that is largely spoken in the native communities. The third most common language here is French due to French colonization (that ended in 1956).
In Marrakesh French is the first language that merchants will use to approach tourists, even before English. The traditional guest houses are called Riads and the public baths are called Hammams and can be found in most Riads. At first impression, Marrakesh was tougher to navigate than I imagined. After visiting many “old towns” in Europe that have been rebuilt with the primary purpose of tourism, this Old Town returned the term to its original meaning.
Walking through these streets you really do feel transported about 1000 years back in time. The roads are dusty, the dress is conservative, the merchants are aggressive and the prices are cheap. Although some women (especially tourists) do bare shoulders and legs, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to do so.
Overall Morocco is a peaceful country that opposes religious extremism, campaigns for peace among nations and has good trade relations with the US, the EU and the other members of the African Union. Women’s rights made a big leap in 2004 when Polygamy was outlawed, women gained the right to custody and to divorce.
While most women are practicing Muslims, the headscarves are often worn both as a religious courtesy and as a fashion statement and as protection from the sun. After all, Marrakesh is nicknamed the red city due to the constant and powerful sunshine.