Let’s talk about Western prejudices regarding solo female travel in a Muslim country. I am a 24 year old woman from Sweden currently traveling alone through Morocco. Just reading this sentence causes discomfort and anxiety in many people. However, the basis of such emotions lies in misinformation and Islamophobia – and in my experience there is more truth missing than there is.

Questions about the safety and social status of women inspire me as I describe my travel plans before leaving. Three months, two backpacks, one mission: to explore sustainable tourism Visiting various projects and areas in Morocco that are known for such practices. And I will not lie, such thoughts have also crossed my mind several times. And they do that even when I feel threatened.

But I have now been two months on my journey and I can confidently say that I have not been abused once. Quite the opposite. To the point where my eyes are torn, in complete awe of the hospitality, gentleness and warmth shown by the people I have met. We are usually only told the stories that went horribly wrong. Balancing this narrative here is my experience:

From the day I entered Marrakech, I felt like I was being watched all the time. But as one of the few tourists in town, with blond curls and a backpack the size of a small village, that belongs to the territory. And the audience was all from funny to cheeky; flirtatious to polite; humble, helpful, stressful. The only thing they all had in common is an unwavering sense of respect. I’ve traveled a lot in my life and based on what I’ve learned, this quality is rare. Rare but precious and very, very much appreciated.

Another benefit of mixing with Moroccan people is the happy and humble attitude towards life among them. Ninety-eight percent of the people I meet every day smile at me. I would argue that the same statistics apply in my home country – but vice versa. Although many believe that the greatest danger for single travelers is being mugged or murdered, loneliness is the most common problem.

And if loneliness, which kills more people than poor diet, is the greatest threat – why is no one questioning a solo tour of Scandinavia? The narrative of travel through the Middle East and Africa is often based solely on fear of the unknown. Of course, terrible things happen. And more likely in places of severe poverty. But I don’t have any to report.

Also read: Is Morocco Safe For Female Tourists?

Instead, the welcoming culture of Morocco made me feel comfortable and connected. This is the narrative I want to promote – that of a country that welcomes its guests with unparalleled hospitality. Traveling around Sweden alone would be much more isolating as the locals avoid eye contact and small talk at all costs. And on a personal level, I’d rather live with combined caution than separate security.

If I take it all down, I remember how I felt when my phone gave me up in the middle of driving the winding roads of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco. It was my only source of navigation and the sun was just setting for the night. Today it is not common in Moroccan culture to travel alone – especially not as a woman. However, when I stopped next to a sidewalk cafe in a rural community, I was welcomed by open arms – no questions asked.

Also read: Travel to Morocco: Major Moroccan Cities and How to Get Around

There wasn’t a single woman in the house, there were men and boys of all ages. I desperately tried to remember the French word for charger as I zigzagged my eyes between my eyes. The young man on the shift waved me over to the cash register. He immediately led me behind the bar, turned on my phone, and fed me fresh mint tea and homemade bread. We couldn’t share much in verbal language, but our eyes spoke volumes: mine with gratitude and relief, his with curiosity and care.

They say it’s all in the eye of the beholder: I say they hit the mark with it – or at least the shoulder. The few times I’ve felt unsafe during this trip, nothing bad never happened. While there may be elements of danger in the situations, most of that fear will be based on preconceived ideas. And when I try to get rid of as many as possible, I invite everyone else to do the same. Here’s why:

As I walk down an alley in the medina of Marrakech, I hear quick steps. My shoulders instinctively tighten and I get ready for anything that comes my way. As I turn a corner, two schoolgirls meet me sharing a bar of chocolate. It is carefully measured to ensure an equivalent experience of indulgence. One of them sees me on their way. She quickly breaks her half in half and reaches out her hand to me. “Ca va, Madame?” she says and smiles eye to eye. “Chocolate?”

From the day I entered Marrakech, I felt like I was being watched all the time. But coupled with the social culture of curiosity that is cultivated in this country, that is something to be appreciated. It’s a way into society here, a warm welcome, a truce. By meeting the beholder’s eyes and greeting them again immediately, you cross the bridge from unknown to known – just like that.

I have not yet found people who are more attuned to their own way but who accept others than those I have met here. As a solo female traveler in Morocco, I was accepted and incorporated into society in a way that I have never experienced at home. By shifting the lens to what is to be gained from such an experience, by separating fear and fact, adventure awaits. If you don’t believe me, go there to see for yourself – this is the way to enjoy a sweet, sweet mint tea too!

Also read: Morocco’s Red City: Tourist Places In Marrakech You Must Visit