Now let me begin by prefacing that I hate the idea of policing how a person, or specifically how a woman, should choose to dress herself. I’m a big supporter of dress the way that makes you happy whether that’s walking around in a toga or in a full-bodied panda suit. However, I also know that belief comes from the privilege of growing up in NYC, where individuality and eccentricity is valued and we don’t give a **** about what others think of us. But across my travels and my three years in Morocco, I’ve learned that we shouldn’t just assume the values we have are “translated” directly into another culture or that just because we act or behave a certain way means we are “right” while others are “wrong.” Different cultures have different values, morals, codes of social conduct etc. Boiled down, when it comes to dressing appropriately during Ramadan or in a culture different than your own, be open to learning what’s commonly worn and socially accepted by locals and try to find a middle ground with your own style.
If you read my last post on “A Non-Muslim’s Ramadan Experience”, it’s quite obvious that I am not only non-Muslim, I’m also non-Moroccan. So I’m the last person to attempt to write the defining authority on how to dress in Morocco. But as someone who has lived there navigating cultural waters where I wasn’t just a passing tourist and I’m not a typical Moroccan woman. I’ve learned and adopted ways to dress that not only make me let seat down for tea with older, traditional and religious folk from rural Morocco but also make me feel happy to get dressed and walk around the medina in Marrakech.
Let me dispel a common misconception that irritates me- not all Moroccan women cover from head to toe! While I have seen women in rural parts of Morocco in my experience wearing the niqab (Conservative Muslim dress which covers the entire body and head except for the eyes) and the burka (Conservative Muslim dress which covers the entire body and head with a panel over the eyes), it’s very far from the norm in Morocco. The style isn’t native to Morocco and has been brought on by cultural influence from the Arabian Peninsula and adopted by individual Moroccan households.
Also, head covering or not is as personal and unique to the individual in Morocco as how western women choose to wear their own hair or wear jewelry. As a foreigner you will not be expected to cover your head, also known as wearing a hijab (headscarf). So if you plan to be in Morocco in the next month or in general, here are a few tips on how to dress appropriately during Ramadan.
1.) Loose, flowy tops are your best friend
If you’ve ever been to a place of worship, you should know the general concept is to be covered up. Well same goes during Ramadan, think of public spaces as religious spaces for the entire month of Ramadan. Now being in oversized or long sleeve tops doesn’t have to be plain or boring. I feel in love with these almost tunic like tops (since I’m 5’2, I can get away with long shirts being short dresses) and would wear them all the time while I lived in Morocco. They’re so light and easy to wear over leggings or loose cotton pants/joggers. You can buy these in any medina:
2.) Harem pants, cotton summer pants, summer joggers are the key
I LIVE IN COTTON JOGGERS! These were like my uniform pants in Morocco not just to bring less attention to my backside, or not only to be respectful, but they are super comfortable!!! Now not everyone has the body shape or desire to wear loose clothing from head to toe. But if flowy tops are not your thing or you just want variation, you can wear a more fitted (though I don’t suggest skin-tight) top paired with a harem pant if you like the boho look or the summer jogger/cotton pant if you like a more traditional pant hemline that’s not digging into you like jeans can.
3.) Embrace traditional clothing styles!
I’m not here for cultural appropriation of any kind so if you see a djellaba (Traditional Moroccan dress usually with a pointed hood) or a kaftan (a tunic/overdress/coat used across many Arab cultures), and think to yourself this is my next Halloween costume in your home country…..um NO! Or if you wear them with the intention of dressing up and making fun of Moroccan culture, I’ll also tell you to chill out and educate yourself. Rant over haha. Now if you’re open to wearing beautiful, and loose (though sometimes you’ll see and find some form fitting djellabas) outfits, you can be the envy of your friends back home seeing you in these often handmade pieces of art. Below you can see a silk, custom made djellabla my first host family had made for me my Peace Corps Volunteer Swearing-In Ceremony. It remains my most treasured item from Morocco to this day.
And there you have it y’all! Those were a few of my quick tips and a few outfit inspirations to help you to figure out dressing appropriately during Ramadan in Morocco. Do you think you’d use any of these tips when traveling to Morocco even when it’s not Ramadan? Also, for those of you wondering,”Why would I be in Morocco during Ramadan?” Well, if you want to experience Morocco through beauty, through ritual and through feminine connection and empowerment, you need to join our second 2019 Morocco Beauty tour! Meet me, where I can help you pack for Morocco in Ramadan (I got you ladies!!!) and take on the challenge of experiencing this country in a unique way. Sign up for May 7th – May 16th 2019 right here: *Morocco Beauty Journey*
Peace, Love & Couscous<3
Written and Images: by Brenda Garcia-Jaramillo