Morocco has a rich and colorful culture that is blend of religious and ethnic traditions which have been drawn from Berber, Arab, African, Mediterranean, and Jewish cultures. The number of tourists to the country has doubled in the last 20 years to 10 million, but much of the country remains unchanged, and to get the most out of your trip to Morocco, it is good to have a basic knowledge of the country’s culture. Read our culture guide to Morocco to get yourself up to speed.
Moroccans are extremely polite and will always shake your hand, inquire after your family, and provide you with cup of mint tea before even beginning to think about any type of business. All transactions take time, so be patient. Vendors and shop owners are often friendly, even when they’re not trying to make a sale, and can offer great advice about local spots to check out.
Out and About
Moroccans are tolerant and hospitable, but there are a few points to remember. It is best not to show any signs of affection for your partner in public, whether you are a heterosexual or homosexual couple, since touching outside of marriage is illegal and homosexuality is outlawed. You should show respect to the country’s religion and not eat or drink in the street during Ramadan, or drink alcohol near a mosque. If you are speaking with your hands, always use your right hand as the left hand is considered ‘unclean’ as it is used for cleaning. It is considered rude to point an index finger at another person.
99% of the country is Sunni Muslim, but there are many other religions that are represented and it is wonderful to wake to the call to prayer each morning and to hear it in the evening too (there are five mandatory prayer times each day). Non-Muslims are not allowed into mosques, but there are a few exceptions. Hassan II Mosque stands on a headland in Casablanca and the 16th century Ali Ben Youssef in Marrakesh is an Islamic museum that is open to all and has some amazing displays of Islamic designs. Tin Mal is a partially restored mosque in the High Atlas and it is also possible to visit the Grand Mosque Samara in the western Sahara as it is no longer in use. The courtyard at Moulay Ismail in Meknes is also open to all. Walking through a graveyard should be avoided as they are considered holy places. Families always gather together after prayers on Fridays and the traditional meal to share together is couscous.
In traditional restaurants and private homes, the right hand is used in place of cutlery. There is definitely a knack that takes practice! Take a crusty piece of bread with your fingers and use it like a spoon to scoop up the food, and be sure to wipe your hands well after finishing a dish.
Clothing is a very important part of Moroccan culture and etiquette and many people (especially those living in rural communities) can be offended by what they view as revealing clothing – especially women and men showing bare legs and shoulders. In reality, “modest dress” means that in cosmopolitan cities, woman should have covered shoulders and skirts to the knee. In rural communities, it is best to be covered from head to toe in baggy fit clothes, Men should wear at least a short sleeve tee-shirt and shorts to the knee. Sleeveless tops and skimpy shorts are not acceptable for either sex. Many women visiting Morocco wear a head scarf and find that this is the best thing to do, since wearing local clothes makes them less of a target for harassment.
Visiting a Moroccan Home
To be invited to someone’s home is very special indeed. As soon as you arrive, take off your shoes. If you have been invited for a meal, a box of pastries, dates, or nuts will be much appreciated as a gift, though avoid bringing alcohol as many Moroccans are Muslim and do not drink.
Morocco is a country where tips are always appreciated – even by taxi drivers who you technically don’t need to tip! Here is a guide to the appropriate tips to give in Moroccan dirham.
Waiters in cafes 1 MAD
Waiters in restaurants 5 MAD (or 10% of the bill in top restaurants)
Museum curators 5 MAD
Fuel station attendants 5 MAD
Hotel porters 5 -10 MAD (depending on how many cases)
At the Spa 10-20 MAD
Solo Female Travel
Visiting Morocco is a very different travel experience if you are a woman. You should definitely dress modestly and this should include a head scarf. It is best to stick to all the busy areas and to keep a low profile to avoid undue unwanted attention. Whilst some women travelers say they were persistently harassed, others have very little trouble. A Moroccan man should never touch a woman so if you find that someone does shout “Shooma!” loudly and this will definitely be off putting to them as it means “Shame on you!”. As a woman, you should not smoke in public and should not enter a bar – behavior usually associated with prostitutes. It is a good idea if you get into a difficult situation to say that you are traveling with a man and he is your husband.