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Morocco: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Africa, Morocco

Moroccan Landscape
Photo by  Giustino

FACTS & STATS

Location: North Africa, between Algeria and Western Sahara, the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Capital: Rabat.

Climate: Mediterranean.

Map of MoroccoPopulation: 34,343,220 according to July 2008 estimate. About 15% live below the poverty line as of 2007. Morocco has an unemployment rate of about 9.8%. The Moroccan government has made attempts in recent times to diversify the economy in a bid to stimulate growth. In spite of these efforts there is a continued inability to develop enterprises and gain investments. Moroccan exports include textiles, electronics, chemicals, minerals, and fertilisers.

Ethnic Make-up: Arab-Berber 99.1%, Jews 0.2%, Others 0.7%.

Religions: Muslim 98.7%, Christian 1.1%, Jewish 0.2%. Islam is the official religion but Christianity and Judaism are also recognised as legal by the government of Morocco. The Baha’I faith has been outlawed and its practice is restricted. Evangelisation by any religion or religious organisations is not approved. Any attempt to induce the conversion of Muslims is deemed illegal and will incur punishment. Tolerance between the three main religions is encouraged and propagated by the government.

girl in moroccoLanguage: Arabic, Berber dialects, French.

Government: Constitutional Monarchy.

Travel Issues: Nationals of certain countries including North Americans and Europeans are allowed to enter Morocco for a period of up to 6 months without a visa. All others require a valid visa, passport with validity for a minimum of 3 months after date of arrival, documents for return or onward travel, and an International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever if arriving from an infected region. Inquire at your nearest embassy as to your specific requirements.

Health & Safety: No certificate of vaccination is required unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected region. Immunisation against cholera and malaria is recommended but not mandatory.

Morocco Street
Photo by  Joao Maximo

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Boy in MoroccoThe People
Moroccans are conservative people whose lives are governed by their religious faith. Once you have earned their respect they are very welcoming and hospitable. The grandeur of their art and architecture is something that is often taken for granted as a part of their lives; however, they graciously acknowledge your appreciation. They area a proud people with a natural dignity of demeanour. The rich dress extravagantly in silks and gold as a matter of routine. Moroccan men love their horses and weaponry while women indulge in rich silks and jewels.

The Religion
Morocco is an Islamic country and is tolerant of Christianity and Judaism. Other religions are not encouraged but there is no history of violence or persecution of other faiths. The dominant faith of Islam governs the social behaviour and etiquette. Non-Muslims are strictly forbidden from entering mosques unlike some other Muslim countries that allow visitors.

Coke MoroccoRole of Family
Family plays an important role in the life of a Moroccan. Extended family is the norm but there are modern nuclear families to be found in the cities. Children are brought up to value traditional culture and practices. Women have control over the domestic frontiers while men conduct business outside of it.

Ancestors
Ancestors and elder relatives are accorded the greatest of respect. They are looked to for wisdom and guidance and exert a great deal of control over the happenings within a family such as marriages and business deals. Though elder males relinquish control of businesses to their grown up sons they continue to be powerful members solely due to their seniority.

Moroccan ArchitectureRecreational Activities
The Moors enjoy a kind of football that is a bit different from the western version. Wrestling, fencing, powder-play involving firearms, and horse racing are other pastimes. As you enter the rural scene you may encounter snake charming, acrobatics, and jugglery. They also have a highly sensual music and dance that is extremely unique.

Anything else important for this culture
To be treated with respect you have to show extreme respect yourself. Once you’ve earned this respect life becomes considerably easier. It is important to have some familiarity with their religious observances and accommodate this into your life style as it is an integral part of Moroccan life.

 Morocco Vendor
Photo by Giustino

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

Meetings & Greetings
A non-aggressive shake hand is an accepted form of greeting. Kissing on alternate cheeks is the Moorish greeting between friends and family. Do not initiate greetings with the opposite gender. A slight bow may suffice to greet those of the opposite gender. When leaving, it is important to take individual leave of each person.

camelsCourtesy
Always greet the eldest person first and work your way down. Wait to be introduced and never speak before the eldest has spoken first. it is considered rude to rush straight into business. Always take time to have an informal conversation about matters in general.

Gift Giving
It is good etiquette to arrive with a token gift if invited to a Moroccan home. This can be in the form of well packaged sweets, dried fruits, and nuts. Do not gift alcohol. It is considered bad form to open gifts in front of guests.

Dress Code
It is important to dress well and conservatively if you’re headed for a business meeting or formal dinner. Too casual attire will give the impression of a lack of respect for the host and will not earn you any respect. Women need to keep shoulders and knees covered and not show too much skin. If wearing a local Moroccan costume, it is important to wear it as it should be and not too casually.

Moroccan TeaDining Etiquette
Moroccan dining is a communal affair where you might be sharing food off a common dish. You will be seated at a low table on cushions. Things begin with a washing of hands in a basin that is brought to you. Do not reach across but eat from the section directly in front of you. Food is eaten with the fingers of your right hand and never the left. Once the meal is over, the basin is brought round again to clean your hands.

Visiting a home
If invited to a Moroccan home always check to make sure the invitation includes your spouse. Often such invitations are aimed at males only. Arrive with a token gift to show your appreciation. Leave your foot wear outside the home before entering. Do not address female members directly.

 Rugs in Morocco
Photo by Smoobs
Communication Style
Communication is normally between people of the same gender, unless it is a business meeting. Never attempt to greet or speak with the opposite gender unless they initiate it. English is spoken widely among the educated. It is important to be courteous and formal in order to create a good impression.

Dos and Don’ts
Never attempt to visit or photograph a mosque. Always dress appropriately when sightseeing or visiting public places. The holy month of Ramadan is when Muslims fast and observe religious rituals. It is very important to not disrupt these matters even inadvertently. The Moroccan concept of Hshuma, or shame, may cause them to say Yes when they mean No. It takes some discernment to distinguish the real deal.

Girl and Coke photos by Giustino
Boy and Building photos by Smoobs
Camel photo by Shamir
Tea photo by  vaccaroni

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