Morocco has been called “home” by many different people throughout the centuries, and the local culture is reflective of this. In addition to the indigenous Amazigh (Berbers) people, the country has hosted a variety of cultures coming from the East (Phoenicians and Arabs), the South (Sub-Saharan Africans), and the North (Romans and Spanish Andalusians – both Muslim and Jewish) throughout history. With such a variety of influences, no wonder that Moroccan culture can seem a bit confusing at first!
Obviously, a big part of any culture is language, in Morocco culture it is much the same! The vast majority of the population identifies as Berber, Arab, or a mix. The country’s two official languages are Classical Arabic and Tashelheit, though many Moroccans speak a number of languages with French, Spanish (particularly in the north) and English being common.
Morocco is a Muslim country, with 99% of its population identifying as Sunni Muslim, but religious minorities are widely respected.
Moroccans are a very welcoming and tolerant people towards different cultures, ideas and ways of life. This doesn’t mean they don’t have strong beliefs and cultural norms – and you should definitely avoid offending those at all costs.
-Morocco Etiquette: Clothing
As a conservative and religious country, clothing is something you have to be mindful of when visiting Morocco. Especially in rural areas, you should always attempt to cover body parts considered “private.” For women, this can mean covering the arms (or at least the shoulders) and the knees up. For men, it requires covering up the shoulders and above the knee.
In cosmopolitan cities, such as Marrakesh, Casablanca, and Rabat, the dress code is more relaxed. It is common to see women, Moroccan and foreign alike, wearing short-sleeve tops and knee-length skirts while men often wear sleeveless t-shirts. If you are ever unsure about what to wear, keep in mind that the best guide to knowing what is appropriate is to note how the locals dress and follow their lead.
-Morocco Etiquette: Greetings and Gestures
Moroccans tend to be more formal when greeting than Westerners. When you meet someone for the first time, it is common to inquire about marital status, children, as well as the health and well-being of one’s family. Traditionally, Moroccans typically greet with a handshake and sometimes two kisses (starting with the left cheek) but this only occurs when the two people greeting are of the same sex. In any greeting that takes place between a man and a woman, the woman should extend her hand first if she wants to be greeted – if she does not do this, a man should bow his head in greeting.
With the recent pandemic due to COVID 19, most Moroccans have reverted back to a common greeting of placing your right hand on your heart after saying “hello” (or rather, salaam alykum). This is as true for friends and acquaintances as it is now for family members. When in doubt, follow the lead of the person you are greeting and do not shake hands, cheek-kiss, or otherwise.
Public displays of affection in Morocco should also be kept to a minimum, as Morocco is a largely conservative culture.
Any gesture you make in Morocco should be done with your right hand (yes, even if you’re traditionally a lefty!). The left hand is considered impure and is saved for bathroom duties and cleaning chores.
-Morocco Etiquette: Domestic & table etiquette in Morocco
Eating in local cafés, or if invited to a home, you may notice the etiquette in Morocco is to use your hands rather than a knife and fork. Muslims eat only with the right hand (the left is used for the toilet), and you should do likewise. Hold the bread between the fingers and use your thumb as a scoop; it’s often easier to discard the soft centre of the bread and to use the crust only.
When eating from a communal plate at someone’s home, the table etiquette in Morocco is to take only what is immediately in front of you, unless specifically offered a piece of meat by the host.
When invited to a home, you normally take your shoes off before entering the reception rooms – follow your host’s lead. It is Moroccan custom to take a gift: sweet pastries or tea and sugar are always acceptable.
-Tipping Etiquette in Morocco
Tipping in Morocco is customary, so you will be expected to leave a few dirhams in a number of places during your travels through the country. Although there is no standard amount that you should always leave in different establishments and different circumstances. In all cases, tipping is a very emotive attitude and it’s often based on a personal perception of the quality of the service provided.
-Morocco Culture of Ramadan
Ramadan is a month-long holy celebration held each year in the Islam world. The Islamic calendar follows a lunar pattern so every year Ramadan is held at a different time in the Western calendar (it generally moves about 10 days forward on Gregorian calendar from year to year). This month of celebrations is dedicated to swam, or fasting, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. From sunrise to sunset, the faithful abstain from food, drink, tobacco, and sexual thoughts and activity to focus on spiritual renewal.
As you can imagine, this month of fasting has a deep impact on daily life in Islamic countries and Morocco is no exception. While traveling during Ramadan is a great opportunity to discover Islamic culture and customs, it can require a little planning ahead. Although you are not required to fast while in Morocco during Ramadan, it is expected that you show respect by avoiding eating and drinking in public places.
We hope these basic culture and etiquette tips will help you have an enjoyable time in Morocco without worry!