Gay-friendly: Marrakech for homosexuals

Traveling to an Islamic country and experiencing the magic of the Thousand and One Nights together – as a homosexual couple? This sounds more dangerous than it really is. Even though Marrakech’s clubs and hotels do not openly use labels such as “gay” or “gay-friendly” for advertising, it is the new “Pink City”, having overtaken the formerly international zone of Tanger.

gay marrakech

(Photo: Travelguide Marrakech)

To begin with: According to Moroccan law, homosexual acts are illegal and will be punished severely. Near Rabat, for example, two young Moroccans were sentenced to four months imprisonment each in 2013 because of homosexual contacts. Strongly influenced by religion and patriarchal structures, Moroccan society is characterized by traditional values, and is, thus, rather homophobic. Nevertheless, homosexuality is tolerated to the greatest possible extent, as far as it’s lived out discreetly. In apparent contrast to this are the many men who are holding hands while walking through parks or the medina. They are not gay, but communicating with their friends in the traditional manner.

In Morocco, there is little room for exchanging caresses in public. Hetero — as well as homo — or bisexual couples should be discreet and save living out their passions for the privacy of the riad. In spite of these repressive conditions, a gay scene has grown in Marrakech. Its most famous representative was fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent who chose to settle down in Marrakech. Together with his partner, he renovated the Jardin Majorelle, where he was buried later.

Clubs and night life for a gay audience

In the 1990s, the number of Europeans in Marrakech increased as the international jet set discovered the city. Soon, the word of a gay night life in the South-Moroccan imperial city spread.

le pacha marrakech

(Le Pacha, Photo: lebaroude)

The top address is, without a doubt, Le Diamant noir, which is rather gay than gay-friendly during the week. Apart from that, the gay party scene meets at the VIP-Club, in Le Pacha, Le Comptoir Darna, or in the other bars along the Avenue Mohammed V. in the district Gueliz. The natural cruising area of choice is the crowd that gathers every evening on the Jemaa el-Fnaa to take a stroll and grab a bite to eat.

Gay-friendly hosts: discreet riads and open hearts

Today, more than 1000 riads offer accommodations in the medina of Marrakech. They are the first choice for those seeking an authentic experience in style. Many of these classy town houses are in the possession of Europeans, and a lot of these once-neglected buildings have been refurbished in the traditional style by their new owners. Today, many riads are luxurious guest houses where European elegance meets Moroccan handicraft.

riad anabel marrakech

(Roof terrace, Riad Anabel*)

The following riads are gay-friendly (incomplete list):

Riad ChorfaImpressive riad in the northern medina, well-located
Riad ArihaIn the northern medina
Riad Ariha
Riad Al MamouneA great central location near the Heritage Museum
Riad Al Mamoune
Riad La Terrasse des Oliviers (my tip)A lovely riad with a swimming pool in the northern medina. Easy to get to from the station
Riad La Terrasse des Oliviers
Riad SamsaraSomewhat remote, beautiful riad in the northern medina
Riad El FennA stunning boutique riad in the perfect location. It''s pretty hard to find anything much better'
Riad El Fenn

In a Nutshell: Marrakech for homosexuals

In Morocco, body contact, intimacy, and caresses take place not in the public sphere, but in private. Thus, homosexuals are not treated differently from heterosexuals. Some guest houses are labeled “gay-friendly” and are used to homosexual clients, so there are no irritations when, say, a double bed is requested. The gay night life can be best experienced in one of the clubs mentioned above, but it is advisable to keep a keen mind even there: It is not unlikely that the young man showering you with compliments is a prostitute, and the police are rather strict in their effort to contain prostitution, especially as it is gradually increasing in Morocco. If you get closer to one of the natives, remember to be discreet and keep the Moroccan law in mind! Apart from this, Marrakech is as good a holiday destination for gays and lesbians as it is for heterosexually orientated.


  1. As we, in the West, publicly claim – and get – our rights, by public display, we create outrage in countries ruled by medieval (let’s say like UK in 1950 – that’s more comparable) traditions. Recently, Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria, sharpened the laws against gays. While we have our gay marriages in public, in or safe Europe, or in the US (yes, I had one, too), we increase the hardship for our brothers and sisters in Africa and islamic countries. Our rights, displayed publicly, our gay pride parades, have caused outrage in traditional communities, and the ruin of many discretely living African gay couples. While we proudly hold hands in countries whose customs we hardly know, we cause police crackdowns on our gay brothers. People who could live together, have sex discretely, are now branded “gay” and persecuted, as the price they pay for our public display of our freedom.
    African brothers, we have gone too quickly, we made yor life miserable, we turned your freedom into a nighmare, please accept my apologies for causing so much grief in your lives.

    1. You definitely don’t have to appologize for doing what you’re doing. As hard as it is for us it’s not your fault. It’s our backwards’ society’s fault and no one else’s. Enjoy your freedom and live your life. We can never enjoy it ourselves, but speaking for me at least, it makes me very happy that gay people around the world are able to live without the constant stress and fear. Just don’t forget us. Sending love whoever you are, wherever you are. A gay moroccan.

    2. Please! Open homosexuality in the west is not to blame for the continued and sometimes increased oppression of gays globally. That would be like looking at the advancement of women’s rights in the west, then turning around and blaming the visibility of those rights on the continued and in some places increasing oppression of women globally. Please do not make excuses for the perpetrators of oppression. They only have their own violent mentalities to blame for the crimes they comit against humanity and liberty.

    3. Hiding in the shadows is what causes problems. Being open, allowing people to know openly gay people is the way to make progress. Open the closet doors and join the world.

  2. 16/01/2017 …. Le Diamant Noir has closed . Didn’t even find Comptoir Darna gay friendly its a very busy posh restaurant and the bar up stairs was busy with straight people also . Avenue Mohammed has guys cruising up and down by McDonald (Gueliz) Park over the road from Macdonald has cruising guys bare left as you walk around the park some not to nice toilets got cruised by rent boys 200 DH for a quickie apparently .. So glad for our freedom at home ..

    1. I never succeed to get in my hotel with a local. Receptionists are aware of the business around and stop you. Instead, in riads it’s easier, since there’s no access control during the night. But be sure the native won’t put up a fight and wake everybody in the riad if you don’t pay him as much as he wants. As for rented apartments, I guess it’s the same story: if there’s a receptionist, he may stop him.

  3. Hi. My husband and I (same sex) are considering bringing our newly adopted son to Marrakech. Do you think this will be a problem? We are not overly affectionate and would respect local laws/traditions however our son calls is both Dad and so it will be very clear that we are a couple / family. Im of Indian origin and my husband is English.

  4. Ash you should be fine, they do not speak great English anyway so doubt will be an issue. In a way everyone has to be a bit careful here as itbis a dog eat dog place.
    Maybe get your husband to wear a burka and you will be fine 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *