December is here and while I normally would be very excited about the coming of Christmas, since I’m here in Morocco, my excitement now is more directed to the arrival of January. That will be my one-year “in-country” mark (from the day I stepped off the plane at the Casablanca airport) and the coming of the newest stage or training group of volunteers! If any of you guys are reading this, mrHababikum (welcome!) almost!
In December last year, I was in the middle of my packing frenzy, trying to figure out what to take, what I would need, what kind of clothing would make my life easier. Sadly I found the Peace Corps-provided description to be somewhat lacking in most instances and misleading in others, so I thought a blog with pictures showing what I wear in my site most of the time might be useful to women who are coming to Morocco for whatever reason.
First, a couple notes.
Much of what you wear as a female PCV here is determined by how liberal or conservative your current location is. Some sites are more conservative than others. In my site, for example, I’m comfortable wearing shirts that expose my forearms. In other sites that would be a no-go.
Usually, you’ll also want your hair pulled back if it’s long. It doesn’t need to be covered. Unless you want to, of course.
This is how my training group dressed during CBT. It was cold. Notice the hats, scarves, coats – worn inside all day every day. Also, fingerless gloves or thin ones that you can still write or type with are great.
You’ll be arriving in winter, which means it will be cold, but likely not the kind of cold you’re used to. Houses and buildings all over the country are built out of concrete block and don’t have heating/insulation, so it’s usually colder inside than it is outside. And by cold, I mean you see your breath inside. I’m not sorry I brought a down vest and long underwear with me. I also brought my ginormous Columbia winter coat with a removable fleece liner, which I pretty much lived in during training.
That being said, summer will eventually come and teach you a new meaning of the word “hot,” so don’t skimp on light but covering hot-weather clothes.
And, of course, as you can probably tell from the following pictures, fashion is not my forte. I’m less concerned with looking good as with being able to go outside without drawing more stares than needed.
On to the pictures!
This is how I walked outside today to run errands around town. It’s cold and rainy today.
It’s cool here, even in the south, now and I’m wearing pants, a sweater and scarf with sandals.
In many sites, women will want to make sure their shirts cover their butts, at least to the length of where a mini-skirt would fall. As you can see, my shirt here doesn’t quite make that, but since I’m wearing fairly baggy pants, I’m not as concerned. If I’m wearing my jeans, which are much tighter, I wear something that covers my rear.
Sundresses are wonderful for covering up your rear. I brought several with me and use them quite a bit.
A good option for butt covering are either long shirts or a sundress/skirt that you can wear over a shirt. I went to the local thrift store and stocked up. Also, long cardigans are a good option.
Neck lines in my site are pretty high. Usually I try to go with less than a hand width of skin showing or I put on a scarf.
Winter, of course, is cold, so covering up is something you are compelled to do to keep from shivering. In the summer, however, my site is regularly over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with other sites getting even hotter. You still have to cover up.
My typical summer outfit: ankle-length skirt, light button down to cover my arms.
For your own sanity, bring linen pants. They’re light and more bearable than jeans. Also, ankle-length skirts.
Peace Corps information somewhere told me that below the knee skirts would be acceptable here, so I brought several mid-shin skirts for summer wear.
Bad summer outfit: skirt shows my shins, upper arms are uncovered.
In my site, it’s to the ankle or people will give you some raised eyebrows. If I could change anything about what I packed, it would have been to not bring skirts that aren’t long enough. Also more linen pants.
This is better – a cardigan to cover the arms, leggings under the skirt. Still to hot for summer though. Just buy a longer skirt.
The same goes with capri-length pants. They’re just not quite long enough. Some volunteers, however, are able to wear them, so it really kind of depends on your site.
T-shirt and cargo pants. Maybe some people can get away with it, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
As for shirts, short sleeves are usually too short. I have gone out before in short sleeves, but ended up feeling to self-concious. Even a looser unisex t-shirt is just about an inch too short in the arms for me.
As a remedy, one of my favorite summer clothing items is a super loose and light button-down shirt that I tend to throw on over whatever t-shirt I’m wearing.
Footwear is much less of a problem. Moroccans in my site wear sandals all the time. I brought a pair of hiking boots (which got most of their use in training when it was muddy all the time), a pair of casual Mary Jane-style Keens, a pair of walking shoes, running/sport shoes, and a pair of Keen sandals.
All the shoes I brought with me. Back row from left – walking shoes, running shoes, hiking boots, Keen sandals. Front – Keen casual shoes.
I’m pretty happy with my shoe choices, except for the Keen sandals. I was planning to be tramping around in the mountains somewhere and thought I would need more toe protection. However, I’m in a city and don’t do much hiking. I wish I had gone for a pair of more open Chacos instead, because the Keens tend to collect rocks when I’m walking, forcing me to stop every so often to empty them out. But that’s personal preference.
I also brought a pair of cheap flip flops, one of which I lost while traveling to site. I’ve replaced them with a pair of lovely plastic Moroccan house shoes, which are widely available here in any color you can imagine.
Mine have flowers.
My final piece of footwear was a pair of tall MukLuk slippers which are nice for sleeping in in the winter when you need six blankets on your bed to keep warm at night.
Knowing what I know now, I brought too much clothing. You will start wearing the same clothes for a week at a time just because you won’t be able to do laundry as much as you want. Everyone else does it. You can get by with fewer sets of clothes. And if not, you can just go buy some at the local souk for cheaper than you could in the US.
So that covers every-day outside wear. You should also bring an assortment of tank tops and light shorts that you can lounge around your house in. I never had indoor clothes in the US, but I sure do now. I’m planning to go through my packing list sometime in the next week to sort out what I’m glad I brought and what I wish I had left behind.