One of the biggest questions I had before heading off to Morocco this past year was “What is the bathroom situation there??” I was a bit worried about the new-to-me bathroom etiquette, since I am ultra-modest when it comes to privacy. It didn’t help that the only information I could find online skewed scary and turned out to be inaccurate.
So today I’m trying to add more info to the internet for any other modest travelers who might also have this question. I speak as someone who has never changed in front of my peers in gym class and would bring clothes into the shower with me in college so I didn’t have to walk around the dorm in a towel. So yes, this question definitely made me nervous.
I will say that on the whole, it was better than what I was fearing, but I did have to pee outside for the first time in my life – something I said I would NEVER do. But I think that was an outlier experience for Morocco.
We were in the country for only 6 days, starting and ending in Marrakech, with several days driving in between there and Merzouga in the middle. These observations are based on the locations we personally experienced.
Tips and things to know:
Keep coins on you at all times.
It is very common for public restrooms and restrooms at businesses to have an attendant present whom you should tip (even if you already made a purchase there). A few dirham is sufficient, but we actually found it very difficult to keep these small coins on us, as we seldom got such small change when making purchases. There were a few times we had to give the attendents a much larger tip than is customary because it’s all we had. Not the worst thing in the world, as I’m sure they were happy. But even worse is to use the restroom and give the attendent nothing. Be a good representative of your home country, and treat these locals with respect by following their tipping culture.
Toilet stalls were not always clean and doors/locks were not always functioning.
Despite having attendents, some of the toilets at rest stops are open to the elements and can have dirty water on the floor from rain and mud, and often have no hooks to hang your coat or bag. I had to pee a few times with my backpack on, and I had to hold up my dress to keep it clean. To make it harder, some of the stalls were super small and hard to maneuver in. Don’t bring anything into the stall that you could leave outside with your travel mate(s). Also, be prepared to guard the door for any shy occupants in your group who request it.
Squat toilets exist, but are not the rule.
Morocco does indeed have those “squat toilets” where it’s just a ceramic hole in the ground. However, every time I saw these, they had their own doors, and there were other stalls with toilets to sit on too, so I never used one. And I didn’t look at them too closely, but I never noticed them being particularly unclean or gross.
Bring hand sanitizer.
Not all restrooms we found had sinks and/or soap. Be prepared with some hand sanitizer.
Pack toilet paper and keep a roll with you at all times.
I brought 4 tiny rolls with me from home, and I’m very glad I brought some, but I didn’t need that many for only 6 days. I used about ¾ of one roll. Some places gave us toilet paper when we paid the attendant, but some didn’t have any at all. Kevin, being a dude, never ended up needing it, but I pee fairly often and needed it more than once. All overnight accommodations (besides our desert camp) came with toilet paper, though.
Not all toilets can handle the flushing of toilet paper.
It can seem really gross if you’ve never experienced it before, but if there is a basket next to the toilet, it likely means you are supposed to throw your used paper in there instead of in the toilet bowl so that it doesn’t clog. You might think that this would cause some bad smells to occur, but it really isn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure this is one of the main reason there are attendants, so that the baskets don’t fill up with nastiness. More often that not, these baskets were empty or nearly empty, meaning they are cleaned out often. I never noticed any offensive odors, and it didn’t seem strange by the end of the week.
Beware of the desert toilet possibilities.
I’ve heard lots of stories from other travelers who stayed in luxury desert camps with running water and beautiful private bathrooms in their tents.
We did NOT experience this. We made the decision to book our Sahara tour upon arrival to Marrakech (an unusually spontaneous choice for us), and we didn’t really know anything about our tour company or what to expect. When we got to our desert camp, I asked one of the workers where was the restroom, and he gestured grandly to the surrounding desert without saying a word.
I was very grateful for several things that night: that I was able to hold it until bedtime, that it was a moonless night, and that frequent outdoor peeing had developed a small area of weeds to give a tiny bit of privacy in the otherwise wide open sand dunes. The next morning I went again before the sunrise, but by then, the moon was out and it was a lot brighter. I was thankful that almost everyone was still sleeping. I definitely think I was dehydrated for awhile from abstaining from water in fear.
But this experience taught me that it was possible to squat and not pee on myself, so I’m not as afraid of it as I used to be. 🙂 However, any longer of a stay and I would have gotten pretty uncomfortable. Booking in advance could have prevented this surprise.
I’m hoping this information helps anyone who might be nervous about coming to Morocco. If you mentally prepare for this cultural difference and pack wisely, you can maintain your modesty and feel very comfortable using the facilities in this beautiful country.