Homosexual acts are illegal in Morocco, and can be punished with a heavy fine or imprisonment for up to three years. However, although no one will dare say it out loud, male homosexuality is actually relatively common. No, the men you see holding hands are not a gay couple (platonic same-sex affection is freely shown), but there was a time when the city of Tangier had quite a gay scene. Today, an increase in male prostitution has led to a rise in harassment by authorities, who follow local men and beat information about what happened in the hotel room out of them. It's important that you be discreet if you meet local men anywhere in the country. Lesbians shouldn't encounter any problems, as the only annoyance would be having to explain to the macho Moroccan men that you're into the ladies -- everyone seems to think there's no such thing as a lesbian here.
So where to go to get your gaydar working in Marrakech? You go where the straight crowds go. Look for the trendiest places in town or head straight to the following:
Local and foreign hipsters love this place, and that's where you'll find the biggest gay and straight blend in the city. Move to the North African dance beats, sip on the signature cocktails, and you'll probably end up making conversation with a perfect stranger.
Pacha is known in the international clubbing world as the place for all-night dancing. In between the huge crowds in its Marrakech home, you'll likely find some same-sex rubbing on the dance-floor.
There are obviously no gay hotels in Marrakech, and none advertise as gay-friendly. However, if you stick to the foreign-owned properties, you're more likely to find like-minded people. For the local experience, choose one of the traditional (and beautiful) riads. Here are the suggested places, known to be especially welcoming:
Riad Dar Zaman
Located in the Medina, this welcoming riad has a multilingual and open-minded (gay-friendly) staff, that gladly provides tips on where to go in the city. If you're in town in the summer, you'll enjoy the outdoor pool and sun terrace; if it's winter, you'll want to be by the fireplace. After a day around the city, you can request the service of a massage:
A building from the early 1800s is now this attractive riad, located just a short walk from the famous Djemaa El Fna market square. Since it's quite a discreet place, you may be able to do some nude sunbathing on the terrace:
Combining classic Moroccan architecture and style with modern design, this riad is an attractive place to stay in the heart of the city. The souks are just around the corner, and after a day around the city, guests can relax on the sun terrace:
La Maison Des Oliviers
Looking for a welcoming place with a large pool? This is it. It's 8km outside the city center, but the perfect place to relax and get away from it all:
It's one of the most tastefully-decorated modern riads, attracting cosmopolitan guests. It's conveniently located in the medina, and features a seasonal outdoor pool and sun terrace:
Look for the hotel or apartment that best matches your budget, type of trip or personality. You may guarantee your reservation but do NOT pay anything at the time of booking. Payments are only made at the property, and there are no booking fees. Most hotels and apartments allow cancellations with no penalty if done up to 24 or 48 hours in advance. You'll see that information at the time of booking and again in the confirmation email:
Search for Marrakech hotels or Marrakech apartments