Being More – Morocco’s female driver guide

Nisrine Zalagh is a bright, warm and dynamic young woman. One of Morocco’s first female driver guides, she has valiantly entered a previously male dominated industry. We took a pit stop with her to find out more about how she was inspired to do this job and what it has opened up for her.

Early days

“I grew up in a village near Fes, my parents then moved from there to the city so that we could continue our studies, they put me and my siblings first leaving the comfort of friends and family so we could have a better life. We worked hard, I gained a business degree from Fes University then moved to Casablanca where I found my first job working in Insurance, which I did for 4 or 5 years. I didn’t like being locked in offices however, I yearned to be free – I discussed it with my friends back in the medina and we came up with this idea – why not work in tourism, be a driver”

Leading the way

“While I had driven before, I needed to get a professional license and qualification to become a tourist driver guide. I had heard about a couple of women who had tried this profession in Marrakech, but I’ve never met them (I’d love to meet them on the road someday). I had no real precedent but I knew I’d be ok.”

What did the male drivers think?

“I did meet some concerned, rather than resistant, male drivers when I started to get out on the road, they’d come and ask if I’m a driver or a guest. Their belief was that it is hard work for a woman to be on the road for days, travelling across the Atlas and the desert villages, and that it’s not something for a woman really. I don’t know why they thought that, women can do anything we’re strong, and even in the cities they work more than men… it’s a perception. They’ve got used to me now, I don’t get asked anymore if I’m a guest!

Do you get different kinds of bookings?

” I get the same bookings as male drivers would; females, males, families and the same itineraries and activities, sometimes I do find I have more female travellers, but I think its that now more women are travelling all over the world, so I’d say 60 or 70% are female travellers because women are adventurous and want to explore. Women are more interested and interesting than men ha! ha!.”

Are guest intrigued?

“They are interested to have a female driver, especially the women – they like to have me as their driver, and ask me a lot of questions. From the airport to the guest houses they are facing men in reception, hotels, shops -everywhere, when they see me as a female driver they really like it. It’s seen as great for women to be strong and be something in life – otherwise women in tourism are usually behind the scenes, cleaning, housekeeping, cooking.

I tell them that women in Moroccan can do what they like, it’s becoming easier now they just need some freedom from the family and society. I think its up to women if they believe in themselves they can do what they like, sometimes it’s just confidence. I’ve started to have other women contact me to learn how to be a driver, I hope they have the courage to give it a go”

What brings you joy?

“Being with guests, in the car, driving a long road and exchanging stories and characters, something very deep from me goes to them, my work, my love and my culture – the connection I feel is very strong. In turn I learn about their countries, about life in the US for instance.

I’m very proud of my country and I like taking them through villages and seeing the happiness in my client’s faces, how they understand the beauty of our culture, the hospitality of our people makes me proud. I like it when we take a road and stop somewhere to have tea, and start talking and have some rest together after the long hours. There are tears in my eyes just thinking of it.”

Where do you like going?

“I love the High Atlas and route to Ouzazarte, Tinghir and the calm of the desert, and also Fes Medina – it’s like a living piece of art, a museum. There are lots of interesting places I’d like to go to more that aren’t so often visited, in the mountains in particular, and there are other places like Sidi Kaouki along from Essaouira I think people could visit more. People are going to the North more now I’ve noticed, its really opening up, Tangier, Chefchaouen…”

How do you see things changing in the future?

“Everything changes every day – in the future there will be electric cars, in Morocco they are going to make the infrastructure for that, then it will be easier, I can be flexible I’m ready to update. I always want to try the new things. I want to stay in this job, it’s my passion, my thing is being on the road with my guests.”

Any parting thoughts?

“I just want to say – please come to Morocco, we have a beautiful country with nice people, our culture is rich, you can learn a lot from Moroccan people. You will be in a safe place and we will take care of you. And I would like to add when I have guests with me, they spend a lovely time and they go back and tell stories about us and how we are, that we are amazing and sweet and warm, that what I like the best.

Some of my guests told me that I am their star in Moroccan flag – that was so nice for me, it stuck in my head”