Packing Guidelines for Morocco in Winter

Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Morocco (map)

My own standard equipment fits in my light hiker's pack. Best advice I have for visitors to Morocco in winter: dress warmly.
In advance of my mom and sister's trip to Morocco this week, Jacqueline and I prepared a series of packing guidelines and suggestions to help them decide what to bring. Our recommendations were based on our prior travel experience, as well as our time living here in Morocco. I'm posting the guidelines in hopes that they may prove useful for other visitors who have never traveled to Morocco, and/or who think the whole place is nothing but dry, hot desert. (Not the case!) Below are our general recommendations and suggested packing list.

We want you to bring what you need to be dry, warm, and comfortable during your trip in Morocco. Having lived here for the past few months, we know a thing or two about how to do that. So we have developed a few guidelines that we thought would be useful for you as you decide what to pack. First and foremost, there are four basic rules that you should not ignore:
1. NO ROLLING SUITCASES. As soon as you arrive in Fes and Marrakech, you will immediately see why—the streets between our taxi dropoff points and our hotels are long, windy, packed with people and animals, and not particularly clean. You will not be able to roll a suitcase. We will be moving a lot, so you need a pack that you can comfortably carry on your back through our numerous hotel changes. A hiker's backpack (even if it's not a full-size one) is best, but a duffel with shoulder strap could work if you feel comfortable carrying it.

2.YOU ARE NOT MOROCCAN. For someone with Caucasian complexion, blending in is not really possible in Morocco—Western tourists stick out like sore thumbs, even when wearing djellabas and hijabs. Accept this, and instead of trying to blend in, focus on comfort! Pack as if you're expecting to spend a week somewhere very cold and very rainy—it will be true during at least part of your stay here and layering is the best way to prepare yourself. Morocco may be famous for its desert, but much of the country is mountainous, and even the desert is cold in winter. Indoor heating is also rare. Moroccan women wear lots of makeup, but you don't have to—in fact, Western women here hardly ever do, so don't bother lugging it with you (Jacqueline doesn't!). Though you can't become Moroccan, keep in mind that conforming to local standards of modesty is expected—sleeveless shirts and low-cut necks aren't acceptable.

3. COMFORTABLE SHOES. We will spend the majority of your trip walking through cities that are in many ways still very medieval. There will be droppings and sometimes rotting waste in the streets, and large puddles when it rains (which it will). Because we will be covering so much ground on foot each day, shoes are the main priority—do not come without a pair of very waterproof, very warm, very comfortable shoes or boots.

4. MODERN COUNTRY. Keep in mind that although Morocco is still traditional in many ways, if you forget anything, it is available here. If you find it easier to pack without toiletries, for instance, it will be no problem to have us pick them up and have them waiting for you on arrival.
With those rules in mind, begin to plan out what you'll bring. We recommend each of you pack something along the lines of the following:

HEAD/HANDS
  • warm hat
  • pair small warm gloves

TOP
  • 1-2 long underwear tops
  • 1-2 thick wool sweaters
  • nice top or light sweater (long-sleeved) for nice dinner
  • fleece top
  • waterproof rain jacket

LEGS
  • 1-2 long underwear bottoms or thick tights (that fit under pants)
  • pair of jeans
  • pair of tough pants you don't mind ruining (waterproof is a plus)
  • pair sweatpants or pajama pants

FEET
  • pair of sturdy, comfy walking shoes (sneakers, hiking boots, or other)
  • other pair of comfy shoes suitable for nice dinner (Flats recommended over heels—there are cobblestones and potholes everywhere!)
  • pair of slippers
  • 3-4 pairs of warm hiking socks (at least 1 wool pair)

TOILETRIES
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Moisturizer
  • Shampoo
  • Bodywash, facewash
  • antibiotics, antidiarrheals

OTHER
  • Camera
  • 1-2 reading books
  • pair of earplugs (The early morning mosque loudspeakers will keep you from sleeping if you forget these.)

3 comments:

Jillian C. York said...

I would add one thing to that list - warm clothes for sleeping in! The most unexpected thing about living in Morocco for me was the lack of indoor heating.

Andrew Farrand said...

When Jacqueline and I developed these guidelines, we had been suffering through Fes� non-stop rains and chilly winter nights for eight, nine, maybe ten weeks (we had lost count long before). Our recommendations on rain and cold weather gear were, consequently, quite strong. Murphy�s Law kicked in, of course, providing our well-prepared visitors with sunny weather throughout their entire trip � even their four days in Fes. Those days were a very rare exception, however, and in general I still advise winter visitors to Morocco to heed the advice above and prepare for chillier temps!

Jillian C. York said...

Excellent :) I remember nights in my unheated Meknes apartment where I couldn't sleep it was so cold indoors!
I never did buy a space heater though...I have a healthy American fear of them.

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