Less than 15 kilometers south of mainland Europe, across the Strait of Gibraltar, is Morocco – a fantastic destination of sand dunes, beaches, crowded markets, resort towns and jaw-dropping mountains. Morocco is a beautiful country and has a way of engaging all your senses, making it a place that is without a doubt worth a visit. Though Morocco has a reputation as a great destination for many sorts of travelers, it is not necessarily well known for being a popular gay-friendly destination. This however doesn’t mean that it’s completely lacking in LGBT tourism.
Unlike its Spanish neighbor directly to the north where same-sex marriage is legal, homosexuality is illegal in Morocco and punishable by up to three years of imprisonment, though how this is enforced varies throughout the country. And, this law does not apply to non-Moroccan same-sex partners traveling or staying together on their journey. LGBT travelers to Morocco should, however, use discretion when traveling through the country. In fact, public displays of affection (and you can learn more here about the essentials of Moroccan tourism) should generally be avoided by both gay and straight couples as the country’s largely Muslim population are conservative in this regard. As this applies to the gay and straight community alike, the gay traveler through Morocco need not take offense with this reality as it is simply a sign of cultural respect. Tradition and custom should be taken into account by any visitor, gay or straight, traveling to a foreign country not just for safety. It also can be viewed as an opportunity to learn about life in a different country through immersion into the culture (a subject discussed in more detail at TwoBadTourists.com). Seeing something from the outside versus experiencing it from the inside provides two completely different insights into a way of life.
Though same-sex sexual activity may not be legal, this is not to say that Morocco has no gay culture. Morocco has been and continues to be a popular destination for LGBT travelers, whether the country acknowledges it or not. Cities like Tangier, Marrakesh, and Agadir have been particularly popular destinations for the homosexual community. Tangier is more of a former gay destination with only a lingering sense of what it used to be. While Agadir doesn’t have a gay scene per se, its beaches still attract a large European gay following. In Marrakesh you’re more likely to find a mixed crowd at certain bars and clubs. Many companies cater to the gay community by offering tours of all the best spots to see around the country.
Though LGBT individuals in Morocco are not uncommon, Moroccans still have an expectation of men to marry women and start a family. To not do so would be unusual. This is one of the issues gay travelers may face when interacting with the locals. Still, same-sex couples staying in big hotel chains or in foreign-owned riads in cities like Marrakesh should not encounter any issues as they are quite used to many types of visitors.
Like other non-western cultures, hand holding between men is not uncommon, but this simply indicates male friendship and nothing more. So if you see this occur do not make any immediate assumptions. It is also likely that you will not catch this quite so often in more urban areas. Many Moroccans are aware that in the western world two men holding hands often indicates them to be a couple and Moroccans would prefer to avoid this assumption.
Outlook of LGBT Rights
The potential outlook for LGBT equality in Morocco remains bleak. Traditional standards and a conservative religious culture means it will likely be a long while before the Maghreb catches up with western standards of LGBT acceptance. One Moroccan LGBT rights organization worth mentioning based in Spain is called Kif-Kif, which means “similar;” they also publish a magazine called Mithly.
Morocco’s culture and laws may not yet align with the nearby western world as its traditional religious and familial traditions run deep. Nevertheless, it continues to attract the gay community, however small, as a wondrous and exotic travel destination. LGBT travelers wanting to visit Morocco should exercise caution but know it is a wonderful destination to experience.
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Journey Beyond Travel can help you customize a unique and wonderful experience in Morocco, taking into consideration any concerns you may have. Our on the ground staff are aware of local culture and can provide you with the best experience while providing advice and a tour of Morocco you’re not soon to forget! Contact us today to get started!
About the Author:
This article was written by world traveler and blogger David Brown. You can follow the adventures (and misadventures) of David and his husband at TwoBadTourists.com. You can also join up with David on Google+ to learn more about world wayfaring, festivals, and more!