Traveling Solo: Casablanca, Morocco: Women Guides
Author: Nicole Dreon
In March of 2013, I traveled solo to Casablanca, Morocco. It wasn’t my first time to Morocco but it was my first time to the country’s biggest city. Of course, just the name Casablanca conjures up so many romantic notions because of the movie. While I only planned to be in Casablanca for two nights, I wanted as much of an authentic experience as possible. This was my fourth trip to the country, and I really wanted to meet and interact with a local woman. In all my previous trips, there was never any shortage of men who were willing to show me around or act as a tour guide, but I always wondered where the women were hiding out. How come I never saw them anywhere??
I figured if there was one city in Morocco where I would have a better chance of interacting with a local woman it was Casablanca, since it was the biggest and most modern. After scouring the web for women guides in the city, I couldn’t find anything; men named Mohammed and Omar ran everything.
But then, after checking out various hotels and hostels online a few days before I left, I found a place to stay on Air BNB with a woman host named, Nadia. Immediately, I could tell by Nadia’s photo that she was warm and friendly and that she would be my perfect introduction to Casablanca. Even though she was just offering a place to sleep, I was hoping I could talk her into being my guide, at least for a few hours.
Nadia lived in the heart of the old medina where there weren’t any commercial hotels. In Casablanca, it’s funny to see all the contradictions of a growing economy. On one side of the road there will be malls and electronics stores and then right around the corner, small boys herd packs of goats.
Nadia’s house was clean and comfortable, and I was given a bedroom on the first floor that had it’s own shower. After giving me the lay of the land when I first arrived, Nadia showed me how to cook a local Moroccan dish that evening—the amazing Tagine, which Moroccans are known for.
Nadia cracked me up as we chatted in her small kitchen talking about this and that. She was wearing her pajamas (Moroccan women wear what we call pajamas everywhere), and I felt like I’d known her forever. She wanted me to stay up to eat with her family, but I was so tired from the jet lag, that I had to decline. (Her family didn’t eat until around 10pm—too late for this camper.)
During the two days that I stayed with Nadia, she would pop in and out of the house, as she ran around taking care of several of her family’s property rentals. When I first told Nadia I wanted a woman guide to show me around the medina, she kept trying to tell me, “No there are no women guides, only men guide here.”
“But you’re a woman who could guide,” I kept telling her.
And then it finally clicked.
"You want me to be your guide?” She laughed.
“Yes, you” I said. “And I will pay you!”
So for my final day in Casablanca, Nadia toured me around the local spots that she knew. I didn’t have to worry about some man asking me if I had a boyfriend or why I wasn’t married. Nadia and I went out for coffee and walked through the bazaar. She did her shopping, while I picked up some small things that I needed like deodorant. We bought treats at the bakery and visited a mosque. We talked about marriage, babies, and families. She told me how she and her husband were only going to have two kids, because they were, “too expensive”, she laughed. She never once indicated that she thought it was weird that I wasn’t married or didn’t have my own children.
When we returned to her house, I calculated the hours that Nadia had spent showing me around, and I decided to give her $25 for the three hours she spent with me. When I handed her the money, she seemed a bit surprised and caught off guard. “This is for guiding me,” I told her. “You are now our first guide with She Guides.”
“For me?” She was still surprised. “I was a good guide?”
“Yes, you,” I told her. “You were a great guide. Would you do this again for other women? Would you be their guide?”
“Of course,” she beamed. “Of course.”
And just like that—just by asking-- She Guides found its first guide.
For more about how you can connect with Nadia, please email She Guides at: firstname.lastname@example.org.