MENA: Saudi Arabia Bans Moroccan Women From Traveling to Mecca

The decision last month by Saudi Arabia to ban Moroccan women [Ar] of a “young age” from traveling to Mecca, the holiest meeting site in Islam, to perform the Umrah, or minor pilgrimage, has stirred outrage in Morocco. Saudi authorities justified the ban on the suspicion that young female visa applicants (whether accompanied by their parents or not) “may have something else in mind” than strictly pious intentions, in clear reference to underground prostitution. Moroccan conservative members of the parliament have been vocal in condemning what they consider “a trial of intentions” and an “insult to all Moroccan women and to their families.” Bloggers are also reacting to the Saudi ban.

Tawaf of the Kaaba – a ritual of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, by Omar Chatriwala on Flickr

Sudanese-born commentator Nesrine Malik who writes on the Guardian's Comment is Free considers that Saudi Arabia, by implementing this ban, is failing in its religious duties toward fellow Muslims. She has a suggestion:

Saudi Arabia has a duty to facilitate pilgrimages to Mecca for all Muslims worldwide. I would therefore suggest, in order to mitigate the problem and in the spirit of slanderous generalisation, that Saudi men be banned from Morocco, lest they use their tourist visas for “other purposes”.

Moroccan blogger Sarah (Words for Change) responds to the ban in a post she titles “I am a Prostitute, a Witch, a Drug Addict, a Zionist.” She explains her dislike of mounting stereotypes against Moroccans. She writes:

I tried to stay very diplomatic all this years while explaining how much Morocco is an amazing country and that what they talk about are cultural aspects of the Moroccan identity blablablabla. Today I decide not to be diplomatic anymore and to respond to what they accuse us of […]
Moroccan women are more honorable than many oriental manipulative little girls who practice superficial sex, anal sex to preserve their virginity and buy a Chinese spare virginity in case they lose it, and still they will act like virgin Mary “Achraf mini Echaraf Mafiich” [as if they were more honorable than honor itself].

Lebanese blogger Mustapha from is shocked by the ban and says Moroccan authorities should have responded more vigorously. He writes:

But the blame sits not only with the Saudis. The Moroccans should have made a bigger stink out of this. They should have threatened to go all the way and if need-be ban their citizens from going to Saudi Arabia. Maybe this would generate the kind of publicity that forces the entire Arab world to debate this all-too-common stereotype.

Moroccan blogger Anas from Big Brother Maroc agrees [Fr]. He writes:

[Q]ue faire ? Notre pays n'a ni le pétrole des Saoudiens, ni suffisamment de puissance économique pour refuser “l'aide” en millions de dollars que donne la Monarchie Saoudienne au Maroc.

Si cela ne dépendait que de moi, j'aurai décidé de ne plus partir à la Mecque, mon pays économisera les millions de dollars au lieu de les transférer vers l'Arabie saoudite à travers les pèlerinages de Marocains, j'imposerai le Visa aux Saoudiens et je commencerai à corriger ce qui est à corriger dans mon pays.

What can we do? Unlike Saudi Arabia, our country doesn't have oil, nor sufficient economic power to afford losing out on the millions of dollars of “aid” that Saudi royals offer Morocco.

If it were up to me, I would refuse to visit Mecca anymore, and help my country save millions of dollars instead of transferring them to Saudi Arabia through the pilgrimage. I would impose a visa on Saudis and start fixing the problems within my own country.

The issue also sparked a discussion on Twitter.

Miss Nabokov (Morocco) writes:

If this is how it's going to be, then Saudi men should be banned from Morocco as they're the ones that go over there looking for sex.

What makes me angry is SA [Saudi Arabia] & the Gulf accuse Morocco of lax morals when THEIR men are the ones coming over and exploiting impoverished girls.

Jillian C. York (USA) agrees:

Morocco is a pretty poor country. The blame is on Saudi Arabia for continuously exploiting that fact.

@Medmouad (Morocco) responds:

@jilliancyork I prefer to say both Morocco & KSA (Gulf in general) are to blame. If Moroccan subjects are well defended, it would be better

Afrinomad (Morocco) joins the discussion. He writes:

@jilliancyork it's revolting that from the perspective of Gulf Arabs, “Moroccan” is not seen a nationality but an occupation

Tarek Amr @gr33ndata (Egypt) tweets:

عشان الناس إل زعلت لما قلت الحج و العمرة لازم تكون تحت إدارة دولية بعيدا عن خبل السعودية و عنصريتها

For those who were angered when I suggested that the Hajj and the Umrah should be put under an international administration and taken away from the madness and racism of Saudi Arabia, I suggest you follow think link [leading to Aljazeera's article about the ban]

Jasmine Aladdin (Egypt) agrees. She tweets:

@gr33ndata da habbal weste3bat gamed awi we ta55aloofff begad we maloush ay 3elaqa bel deen!!!

This is madness. It's a wicked affront. What a backwardness really. It has nothing to do with religion!!!

Ahmed Fouad (Egypt) disagrees. He tweets:

@gr33ndata لا اعتقد ان سبب المنع هو العنصرية ولكن اكيد هوا المحافظة علي قدسية هذا البلد وطهارتة

I don't think this has anything to do with racism. It's definitely an attempt to maintain the sanctity of this country and its purity.

This isn't the only time controversy was raised around this issue. More recently, the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan had to issue an apology after a popular cartoon it produces created a stir when it depicted Moroccan women as greedy witches scheming to lure wealthy Kuwaiti males into marriage.

The Egyptian Ministry of Information's website was reportedly attacked by a Moroccan hacker who broke into its server causing it to collapse. According to [Ar], a Moroccan online news website, the attack was meant to express anger at the way Moroccan women were depicted in an Egyptian TV series aired this summer called al-Aar (The Shame).

Photo by omar_chatriwala available on Flickr and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


  • Muhammad

    Only Allah knows what are the intentions inside heart; no-one else. Claiming it that anyone knows other’s heart intentions itself a “Shirk”.

    Second who gave the right to insult a Nation and women; Islam has given huge respect to humanity and specially women and condenmnd the practices of before Islam specially when girls were burried alive…..

  • reda2casa

    This is a way not acceptable, those people are just hypocrit and backward.
    we should ban all saoudis come to Morocco.

  • قرأت ردة الفعل في عمود شوف تشوف و باقي جريدة المساء.
    كما تابعت نشاط الناشطين على الفيسبوك ضد هذا التصريح و غيره من النظارت الدونية بين العرب بعضهم البعض. الموضوع يتكرر تحت مسمى العنصرية لكن تتغير صورته من دولة لأخرى حسب تحكمها و نفوذها.

  • It’s time for a Democratic revolution in “Saudi Arabia” and all of the Gulf monarchies.

  • XXX

    I’m Moroccan working in the GCC, believe me Moroccan girls do have a terrible reputation and I must confess lot of girls work as sex workers. Lets not generalise, there are also others married to honourables men varying from princes to simple individuals and also Moroccan males and females working in Universities or other honourable functions. Yet we should not turn our eyes blind to this reality. It’s shocking to see, just try to travel around from Dubai to Doha you will just be horrified. Sex workers is an issue related to poverty. I think the Saudi decision is not wise as human trafficking and sex workers whether form Morocco, Lebanon even Iraqi girls is linked to poverty and wars but also the hypocrite mentality of GCC males, willing to pay for sex but not to invest in such countries sufficiently to help the economies recovering. If you talk to them they will put the blame on corruption in Morocco, it’s vicious circle…anyhow the discussion might be long, but sex worker and women trafficking from Morocco to GCC is a reality and we should not deny it but address it with clear strategy. Exporting countries should ban single young girls to travel to such countries without clear reason. Receiving or consumers countries in spite of banning blindly and stigmatising a whole society, millinery civilisation they should behave more responsibly issuing strict visa rules not allowing single young women to visit countries in the region without clear reason( whether familial reunification, working permit..) but do not stigmatise one single society one culture known for it’s hospitality, generosity and civilisation. The ban should be enforced for all young ladies whether Philippino, Moroccan, Russian, Eastern European, Iraqi, Iranian or Lebanese women (citizenship of most girls working as sex workers in GCC) second step is to criminalise prostitution in GCC. Don’t understand me wrongly, I don’t mean to criminalise poor girls working as sex workers, but criminalising the guys, the consumers. Anyone caught using the services of such girls should be jailed and fined heavily. Also forbidding fake marriages ( misyar and other temporary marriages) that in reality an hypocrite way to abuse Muslim women whether Iraqi, Egyptian, Moroccan or Lebanese. Criminalising prostitution of GCC males inside their countries but also outside countries as forbidding them to travel to Beirut, Casablanca, Damascus, Amman, Dubai without clear business or working reasons or without their families. It might to be perceived as drastic but it is the only way if we want to talk about hard talks and hard measures. Everyone knows what Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari …males do while travelling to those destinations. But the GCC societies turns their eyes blind to such practices and put the blame on poor girls renown for their beauty not having much to sell except their bodies ( Moroccan and Lebanese girls always renown for being beauties of the Arab world)
    Hard measures tackling GCC males are the only way to tackle this plea affecting many lives. Putting shame, stigmatising a whole society and poor young beautiful girls is not the solution. The prophet (pbah) said once if poverty was a man I would have fought him….!

    • Somebody

      I agree with you on everything you said. It is irresponsible of Arabia to stigmatize Morrocan women this way instead of tuckling their domestic problem of prostitution and their men encouraging this phenomenon through sex tourism aroud the world. I also agree on the fact that there is a flaw somewhere in the Morrocan education and economic and social system as far as poverty is concerned. Yes, something should be done about it and the first thing is to talk about it in the open to air this social dis-ease and cure it. Educating women is the first step toward that goal by making education compulsary until the age of 18 and holding parents responsible for failing to do so will give a push toward making our young women more aware of their self value, their worth, their duties and responsabilities.

  • I couldn’t help laughing when I read “I would therefore suggest, in order to mitigate the problem and in the spirit of slanderous generalisation, that Saudi men be banned from Morocco, lest they use their tourist visas for “other purposes”.

  • moulana saleem ebrahim

    Salam ,well dont be surprized my friends,Saudis have forbidden their men and women to marry non Saudis. They claim that foreigners will usurp their citizens [marriage] to live in a tax free country.I often think what Muhammad [SAW] would say about this ,for he had many nationalities around him .Bilaal,Shuaib,Salman,Maria Qibtiyya ,Juhariyya [ RAA]. We must not confuse Saudi/Wahabi Laws to the recommendations of Muhammad [SAW] . This is not Islam and against the principles of Dawah/invitation , human rights ,womens rights , freedom of worship and moment. We would see these sort of phobic tendencies in the western world towards the Muslims but not in the heart of Islam ,land of revelation ,land of Muhammad,land of zam zam,land of kaba, land of maqame Ebrahim and so on .So to the Saudis what next? , forbid all women to perform hajj??? wassalaam

  • moejoe

    This is just another example of the institutionalized discrimination faced by non GCC Muslims in Saudi Arabia. A country that claims to be Islamic yet seems to forget the Islamic concept of all being equal except for in deeds — and colour, background and wealth having no significance in someones level of status.
    The most arrogant of the wealthy are those who have attained significant wealth through inheritance or luck, e.g lottery winners or those who sit on oil that they lack the sophistication to extract and needed to sell themselves to western companies who have the ability and technology to extract it.
    So in the space of 50 years a peoples who have made no advancement for the past 1000 years and relied on the fact that they were from the land where Islam originated and to which Muslim face for protection from various Muslim Empires became amongst the most wealthy on earth.
    Now there is no strong Turkish/North African/Afghan Muslim Empire, they rely on the protection of the west who protect them because of their oil wealth and strategic location. Now they cannot look down onto those that extracted the oil to them and militarily protect them, so instead they look down on others from poorer countries and distance themselves from non GCC Muslims because they do not want to share the burden of poverty that other Muslim countries face .
    Yes, Morocco has prostitution, which I must add in Marrakech is decreasing due to the recent economic boom, BUT many of the clients are from Saudi, as is the case in Bahrain and Dubai, and now many Saudi’s are heading to Thailand, but unfortunately for them there THEY are on the receiving end of discrimination as signs reading “Arabs (Gulf Arabs) and Indians are not welcome” are common at the entrances to many bars.
    I have never experienced discrimination from Saudi, but points to make to any Saudi who looks down on any nation is this: Israel and Saudi were formed around the same time, both on barren lands, Saudi had the advantage of oil to acquire almost unlimited wealth, Israel did not. Yet 50 years later who has produced more, who has made the biggest contribution science and technology in the fields of medicine, weapons and other areas. Which country has the better infrastructure, literacy rate, and education system, which country has better living conditions and opportunities for its average citizen and which country is more respected ( not necessarily liked). Then you can bullet point Saudis relevance to two things Islam and Oil and nothing to do with anything the people have achieved.
    1) For 1200 years, was protected, sustained and maintained by Muslim Empires only because of Makkah and Medina and its status as the birth place of Islam.
    2) For 50 years has been protected and helped by the USA because of its oil.

  • […] Outrage is mounting in Morocco at Saudi Arabia’s decision last month to ban Moroccan women “of a young age” from […]

  • Fatouche

    I dont understand why Saudians are playing the role of being very chaste ,they should first check on their women who travel abroad and do things I cannot describe!Saudian men buy cheap poor prostitutes and Saudian ladies buy ‘gigolos\.I did not want to be rude but this is too much.Offends should be faced by same offends!Yalee beto men 2ezaz maye7adefsh el nass bel toob!

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