Moroccan families will not eat a meal without inviting others to partake with them. This is an old Moroccan tradition, as well as an Islamic tenet. In the event that you are invited to a meal at someone’s house, arrive with a small gift such as pastries or fruit. If you observe these social etiquettes, your host will be appreciative and the meal will be a pleasant experience for all parties. While this is seen across all of Morocco, tourists see this custom most practiced in poor and rural areas. This act can be quite surprising to many westerners, but it is considered offensive to decline such an invitation. If you are invited to a meal, feel free to ask what would be appropriate for you to bring. This gives you an opportunity to establish a good relationship with your new friend. This sharing of food is a symbol of friendship and it can offer a rewarding glimpse into Moroccans’ lives.

The population of Morocco is about 27.3 million people and even though it is a diverse country, Moroccans are open, hospitable, and friendly. Moroccans are known for their friendliness and hospitality. They are very friendly, nice, and helpful, especially when it comes to tourists. For example, if a tourist is in need of assistance, a Moroccan will do anything in their power to help them. Moroccans sufficiently express their welcoming to tourists and it has been known to generate an increased amount of tourism. For Moroccans, inviting people to their homes for food is a way to show respect and continuing friendship. Food at home is significant and represents a sharing of individuals. This is very important for foreigners to understand. If an invitation is extended to you, you should make every effort to accept it, as it signifies a strong social bond and lasting friendship.

1.1. Background

Morocco is a country located in North Africa, inhabited by approximately 33 million people. The country’s rich culture is a product of the various civilizations that have touched the soil of Morocco, each leaving their mark with the customs, traditions, or art of the country. The first of these groups was the Berbers who were the original people of Morocco from at least 2000 BC. In the second century, Phoenicians established settlements along the Mediterranean, although they were concentrated more in the neighboring country of Carthage. With the downfall of Carthage after the Punic wars, Rome took control of the remaining Phoenician land and the rest of Morocco was ruled by the Berbers. Then in the seventh century, Islam brought its religion and culture to Morocco through the Arabs, who would in the following centuries bring more settlers and at times rule over the land.

 The Arabs have left a huge influence on the Moroccan culture and language. In the same century, the Islamic Idrisid dynasty took hold of the country, the state of which was shifted to the city of Fez. Successive rules of different family tribes continued for several more centuries. Then from the 15th to 19th century, European countries including Spain, Portugal, and France came to Morocco and often raided it to get a hold of the valuable land. In 1843, the French tried to establish a puppet state in Morocco but the sultans would continuously regain control and independence for their country. In the 20th century, an age of poverty for the whole country led to the popular uprising and independence of Morocco from French and Spanish colonial rule in 1956. On November 18, 2006, Morocco celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence. Today, Morocco has become a constitutional monarchy with a diverse history and culture. A third of the population in Moroccan cities is concentrated around the four imperial cities: Rabat, the capital city, Casablanca, Marrakesh, and Fes. This has created long-standing economic and social imbalances between the regions, often a primary motivation for the rural to urban drift. 

The remaining portion of the population still resides among rural mountains, basins, and plains. Close to the Western Sahara, Morocco has a disputed territorial claim with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. In any case, the diverse history of Morocco has produced an interesting and hospitable culture full of open-minded and friendly people.

Table of Contents: 1. Introduction 1.1. Background 1.2. Purpose

1.2. Purpose

The purpose of this essay is to show that the people in Morocco provide their guests with a grand treatment that exceeds even that which is prescribed by the Arab code of hospitality. The essay will describe how Morocco is an extremely hospitable country and the main aim is to prove the extreme kindness the Moroccans give and places it amongst one of the most hospitable countries. It will show that Moroccans do not only provide hospitality due to the tourist trade, but because they see all guests as a gift from God. This has been proven by the statements “الضيف وما تحمل” “the guest and whatever he brings” and “ليتك تمر يدا” “I wish you pass by peacefully”. The text will describe signs that describe the warm welcome visitors to Morocco are offered. It will look at the reactions of Moroccans when taking guests around the cities, to show they are not embarrassed by any poor areas in the cities and not trying to hide them from their guests. This could be the most contradicting point in the essay. An area which I noticed separated from the rest of town in Oujda had a sign for an area for the mentally ill. In English towns, it is made sure that such areas are kept away from the public and are often hidden away. The Moroccans are not trying to hide anything away from their guests, which shows they have nothing to be ashamed of when any guests visit.

2. Moroccan Hospitality Culture

In Morocco, the host is sincere and not motivated by a desire for self-gain. People offer their guests the best reception they can provide, and the guest holds a very special place in Moroccan society. The level of hospitality and the generosity of the reception are benchmarks of the host’s standing, and a host is judged by his/her behavior towards guests. Although Moroccans are not as rich as Westerners, hospitality is one of the key cornerstones of their culture. A host will be genuinely distressed if a guest does not eat enough, as it is only through feeding the guest that the host has a chance to show off their food and the great skill of the cook! Hospitality remains a fundamental part of the way people interact and do business with each other. 

In villages, a person’s wealth is more likely to be judged by the quality of the reception the person can provide rather than material possessions. Even poor families will scrape together a meal for their guests. It is said that a true Moroccan will feed a guest until the last morsel of food in the house has been consumed! Moroccan hospitality transcends the normal divisions made between guests and hosts. Moroccan people are always very pleased to meet strangers whose origins are not well known in Morocco. These strangers will often be treated like long lost friends, and upon parting the hosts will heap blessings upon the guest and invite them to return one day. This can be an unusually enriching experience for a visitor to the country, but such encounters with Moroccans in the street sometimes lead to an uncomfortable scramble to find an excuse not to invite the person back to one’s house!

2.1. Traditional Values

The traditional Moroccan proverb “Open the door and you will break the enemy’s leg” is descriptive of the Moroccans’ approach to hospitality from the time of the Old Testament where the food laws of the Hebrews declared an enemy to be all persons outside the group, who it was then fitting and proper to hate. Foreigners were always suspect persons and not infrequently enemies of the group, so it was mandatory to make sure that all food, drink, and accommodation offered to a stranger was not contaminated. This could be verified by using the services of a soothsayer to ensure that the guest was not an enemy or to recite an incantation that would reveal an enemy’s secret intentions. Though modern-day Morocco has obviously put an end to practices such as these, it remains strong in Moroccans’ attitudes towards guests.

Moroccan society is known for its hospitality. Hospitality manifests itself in a wide range of institutions and behaviors, from the more intimate one (coffee invitations) to the more impersonal one (public rest house). The difference is very thin between what is customary and what is required by etiquette and ritual. More importantly, hospitality is a universal value in Morocco. It is not the practice of the elite or the pious, but rather an integral part of the culture itself.

2.2. Welcoming Gestures

Various gestures in Morocco seem to express warmth and friendliness. When you are invited to someone’s home, a standard way of showing hospitality is to wash one’s hands (this would be prior to sitting down to a meal, which traditionally is eaten by hand from a communal plate). This is most frequently done at a table in the house using a bowl, pitcher and towel presented to the guest. It is polite to remove the left hand when washing, as the left hand is generally thought of as unclean because it is used for washing after defecation. It should be noted that handshaking as a form of greeting seems to be confined to big cities and is fairly modern. This is quickly becoming more common, but is still often avoided between persons of the opposite sex. 

In the context of rural areas or less Westernized towns, a suitably friendly greeting consists of both shaking hands and then placing the hand over the heart. Other popular forms of greeting include inviting someone to share with you salt, bread, and food. These are all considered to be typical signs of agreement or friendship. In some areas, it is also common to kiss the hand of an elder. At times a suitable orifice is found in the hand being kissed, and one proceeds to spit in it. This is by no means meant to be offensive but is just a way of averting the evil eye and is considered better than offering a direct refusal to do so. Finally, if an invitation is accepted to visit someone’s house, it is common to bring some kind of gift. This will usually be something like pastries, juice, or some fruit and will be claimed to be unnecessary by the host before actually being accepted.

2.3. Generosity and Sharing

Moroccans are also enjoined by the teachings of the Prophet to be charitable to those in need. This is not defined in religious terms, and one can be quite creative in the way that one goes about doing this. One form of charity which is quite accessible to almost all Moroccans is the idea of feeding those who are less fortunate. This is commonly done through the giving of a “derham for God’s sake” to a beggar, who will usually then pool his resources with others in need to buy a communal tagine. Another commonly practiced form of charity, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan, is to provide a meal for a group of people who are less fortunate. This can be done individually or on a community basis, and it is not uncommon for various kinds of food and clothing to be provided to poor families, beggars, orphans, and the disabled at various times during the year.

Generosity and sharing are an important part of Moroccan culture. There are a number of social and religious obligations which aim at ensuring that nobody in Moroccan society will be left without the basic necessities of life. The most important of these is the idea that everyone should take care of his relatives to the best of his ability. It is considered shameful for a person to turn his back on a relative who is in need. This includes distant relatives, of whom the most important are the living descendants of a great grandfather. If one of these descendants is in need, he will likely turn first to those who are better off, and it is expected that they will provide assistance.

3. Moroccan Friendliness

Across the board, you will find that Moroccans are a friendly, welcoming, and very hospitable people. Moroccans are both respectful and hospitable people. They are very friendly to their foreign visitors and will try to help them in many ways. It should be noted that hospitality from the Moroccans does not mean that they are wanting something from you because they help you. Moroccan hospitality comes from the heart. It is truly a sign of friendship. Even the poorest Moroccan will offer his last crust of bread to a guest. Moroccan hospitality is an essential and important part of the culture. It is taken very seriously. One of the greatest honors is to be invited to a Moroccan’s home. This event is taken so seriously that even the poorest families will save for weeks or months in order to prepare the best meal and entertain their guests. 

The severe contrasts of wealth and poverty do not affect the hospitality of the Moroccan people. During your stay in Morocco, you will undoubtedly meet many people who are living in conditions that you could not imagine. It is situations like this that make you realize the Moroccan has intent behind his hospitality. Though a man might be living in a home made of little more than mud and straw, he will do all in his power to make his guest comfortable and welcome. Realizing the strength of this aspect of the culture is to understand one of the keys to the Moroccan mind and values. The act of serving a guest is more important than the type or the amount of food placed before him. This is a concept commonly misunderstood by foreigners, but it is one to value and to learn from. The Moroccan’s warm hospitality is as much an offering from you to him, the guest, as an offering to serve from him to you.

3.1. Warm Greetings

This courteous and polite style of greeting is often a big shock to visitors from the western world and can be uncomfortable at first to someone used to a quick casual greeting. Usually, an “hello” or the Arabic “salam” is sufficient for a foreigner greeting Moroccans. However, the Moroccan habit of going that extra mile and elaborate greetings is always the same.

These warm greetings today integrate words from French and English. The greeting “bonjour” is now commonly used in place of the traditional Arabic greeting since the French “protectorate” from 1912 to 1956. English words or phrases may also be used, but are integrated with Moroccan accent and pronunciation.

Every conversation or visit to a Moroccan’s house begins with a formal greeting. Moroccans take their time to greet you with words as well as a handshake. The phrase “As-Salamu Alaikum”, meaning “peace be upon you” is immediately followed by “wa alaikumus-salaam”, meaning “and peace be upon you”. This exchange is a requirement for Muslims and those who do not return the greetings are considered to be rude. In rural areas, it is common for each person greeting another to propose and exchange wishes for the others family, their camels, their sheep and anything else of importance. It is a constant back and forth of polite phrases meaning “are you well” until the two people part ways.

3.2. Genuine Interactions

In Morocco, friendliness is not qualified with an ostentatious attitude but rather with sincerity. The Moroccans, including Berbers, are the type of people that like to be around others and make good conversation. They’re not the type of people to isolate themselves from their neighbors, they prefer to share what they have and so they try to make sure that new neighbors feel welcomed. Whether you are being invited to a wedding party of a distant relative, a shared meal during Ramadan in the comfort of someone’s home, or the mint tea ceremony to seal a business deal, the Moroccans always have the mentality of the more the merrier. It is not uncommon to see large extended families in the city, it’s quite likely that they all live within the vicinity of one another. In their downtime, Moroccans would visit their relatives unannounced and engage in discussions about current events, politics, sports, or recent gossip in addition to sipping tea. 

One of the most frequent questions a Moroccan is likely to ask a visitor is if they have a family in Morocco and if they do, the Moroccan would insist that they visit their family for a meal. A good example of a Moroccan’s friendliness is their tradition of welcoming guests to eat. It is culturally unacceptable to let a guest leave without having something to eat and this is applicable to both the poor and the rich. Local families will often invite guests to a meal depending on what they can afford but even a poor family will go as far as feeding their guests their last piece of bread. Moroccans take the widely known proverb “atith anna nkhallas” (an old Arabic saying which means I’m giving it until we’re done) very seriously. This refers to when a guest is offered a portion of someone’s food and the guest declines it. The person offering will keep saying “atith anna nkhallas” until the guest reluctantly accepts it. Although the guest was actually still hungry and was only declining the offer out of respect, they now feel bad because they’ve taken their host’s food who might not have much. At the end of the day, the guest is likely to invite the family out for a meal at a later date to return the favor. It is said that one plate of food can bond a friendship for life.

3.3. Helpful Attitude

In 2005, I was relaxing at a sidewalk café in Essaouira when I caught an unpleasant whiff of something burning. Then a boy appeared and, without saying a word, doused the fire with a can of water. He had simply seen me flinch at the smell and thought he could help. Nothing more was needed and, once sure all was well, he went on his way. It was just another of countless acts of spontaneous goodwill that I have experienced in Morocco, where an offer of help is the most natural thing in the world. Shopkeepers have happily closed their stalls to guide me through the medina tangle, motorists have gone out of their way to escort me to a destination, and perfect strangers have invited me into their homes for a meal or to spend the night. Such helpfulness is not without self-interest, as Moroccan lore dictates that divine favour will be earned if one helps a traveller. Another belief is that destiny places the helper in the right place at the right time. Whatever the reasons, the sharing of someone else’s burden is an embedded behaviour that is hearteningly common in Morocco.

3.4. Respect for Visitors

Visitors to Morocco are often treated with the highest respect. The social code of hospitality comes into play here, since guests are often considered an important part of Moroccan society. This hospitality is manifest in several ways, ranging from a genuine interest in the guests to an insistence on providing food and drink. Whether or not they are interested in buying carpets, the invitation for tea is a must, and it is sometimes difficult to extricate oneself from the situation. The host is not simply being polite here, since the offer of refreshment carries with it an obligation to accept. This may seem strange to the Westerner, who often feels that acceptance will lead to a high-pressure sales situation, but it is simply a different aspect of hospitality and not often a prelude to a sale. If a sale is contemplated – always by the guest rather than the host – there is a ritual haggling over the price in the market. Hosts are often quite offended if a visitor chooses to stay in a hotel rather than with them, since the latter is a snub to their hospitality. In the countryside, these visitors may quite well be offered the family’s last scraps of food and drink, despite the host family’s poverty. Refusal of such a well-meaning offer is often the gravest insult one can give.

4. Hospitality in Moroccan Homes

Invite their guests repetitively before finally accepting a positive response. An invitation to a Moroccan’s house is a very serious offer and the host will expect you to turn up, possibly even unannounced at the specified time. Custom dictates that a guest will be offered the best seat in the house; the seat furthest away from the door to protect them from the heat of the sun, which is a mark of respect towards the guest and indicates the importance of hospitality in Morocco. This also applies to meal times where the head of the household will eat last and the least, dedicating all the food to the guests. The food will always be more than enough and it is polite to accept a second helping. If refused, the function of good mannerism requires the host to offer a third time before giving up. 

The guest will almost always be offered refreshments and just about everything will be stopped in order to talk and catch up on news especially in smaller towns and villages. It is common for a Moroccan host to offer their guests coffee, tea or some kind of refreshment and then leave them up to 15 minutes so as to allow them to nap or relax, making it clear that there is no hurry and no obligation to leave. This practice of ceremonial hospitality is called Dakhla and can sometimes put guests in a difficult position when pressed for time. In general, everything is done at a slow and relaxing pace in regard to guests which can be quite refreshing in this fast paced modern world.

4.1. Invitations and Acceptance

When a Moroccan invites someone to his home, he does so with a feeling of sincerity. The person is usually invited more than once, and each time the invitation is extended, it is done so in earnest. Should it be refused every time, the host is bound to feel slighted and insulted. He will be left with the impression that the invitee was not comfortable in revealing his true feelings about the matter, and that the invitee was ignorant of the true intentions behind each invitation. It is very important to clarify the intentions behind the invitations. In response, the invitee should consider the implications of the invitation and evaluate his relationship with the host. If he feels that the invitation was extended with genuine feeling, he should accept and thus take the relationship to a higher level. If he evaluates the invitation as having been made out of politeness and courtesy, and the relationship not particularly close, he might consider turning down the invitation. However, if the relationship has already been close, he should expect future invitations and should accept any of them that are made in earnest.

 Invitations are usually made a day or two in advance. Part of the Moroccan mentality is that of preparedness in every situation, and should something happen which would necessitate a postponement of the invitation, very little notice would be given. In some cases, the invitee may receive the invitation mere hours before the appointed time, but the spontaneous nature of such a gesture would in itself be an indication of the sincerity of the invitation. Upon the arrival of the guest, the host will do everything so that the guest feels at home. This includes offerings of tea and light conversation before the meal is served.

4.2. Traditional Moroccan Cuisine

Tea herb, chin or sha are slow cooked in a round boiling pot. Moroccans take great pride in their tea and it is quite engrossing for many to partake in the rituals of tea preparation. It is often viewed as a national symbol for Moroccan hospitality, and finding someone who is skilled in the practice of making tea is not all that difficult. This means you may be offered tea more times than you can politely accept. If you do not understand the absolute necessity of accepting this tea, often times it means missing out on opportunities to bond with friends and discussing various events, as well as acquiring a better understanding of Moroccan Arabic. Tea serves as the center point to hospitality among friends and family. If you are invited into someone’s home to have tea prepared by his or her mother, this is a statement of great acceptance and the practice of refusing such an invitation is often offensive. 

Different practices for preparing tea can be found in each region and often discussion has been accompanied by tea preparations from various people. High quality Chinese gunpowder tea is a must, as are the better brands of mint and sugar available. Often times basic Lipton black tea is also used to offer a guest a choice. Sugar should be dissolved into mint left in a pot with a small amount of boiling water, and a great deal of sugar should be cooked on the bottom of the tea glasses to form a form of caramel. This process of preparation is known in the Arabic language as ‘attay bil hlib’ (tea with milk), where after the tea is poured extra sugar and a bit of mint are added to the pot before it is poured again to finalize the color of the tea. This particular style of tea is quite sweet and despite the tiny cups it may keep you up at night if you aren’t used to it!

As stated before, Moroccan cuisine is a very important aspect of Moroccan hospitality. In your homestay, typically an effort is made to cook for you as they believe they can make a better meal than you can purchase. It is more of a hassle for you to purchase and prepare food than it is for them to do it themselves. If you decline invitations too often, you may be missing out on the best of what Moroccan culture has to offer you. Attitudes about dining practices prohibit many Moroccans from openly saying they would like a meal, therefore making an unspoken invitation highly likely. Meals are intimate family events often shared within the kitchen and not publicly in the dining room. Often the lowest members of the household eat last or not at all during these occasions and guests will be treated to the best portions of the meal. During your programs at schools, if you do not participate in a meal you may be preventing a Moroccan English teacher from improving their language proficiency. Coming to the meals in your Dar or at the home of a teacher is also an opportunity for a student to practice speaking English with you in a less threatening environment than their classroom.

4.3. Tea Ceremonies

Tea in Morocco is considered a sign of hospitality and it is impolite to refuse it. Often, if a host has nothing else to offer, they will offer tea. It is served not only to guests, but it is also a staple of everyday life. Every day, at intervals of a few hours, you can observe the preparation and drinking of this drink. Because Moroccans take their time with tea, it is consumed at all hours of the day: after a long day’s work, during the meal, or at a social gathering. Tea making is considered an art form and can vary between the different regions of Morocco. Oftentimes, people will go to the local “maalem” (master) to purchase their supply of tea, because this person will have knowledge of a wide range of teas from different regions. The most widely used tea is Chinese green tea, but other teas such as mint tea, or mixed mint and wormwood tea are also prevalent. The most esteemed tea is Touareg tea, a drink deeply rooted in nomadic tradition. Unfortunately, this tea is seldom available to be purchased by the lower economic classes in Morocco. Touareg tea is prepared with water and a large amount of sugar, and then mixed with a piece of salt. It is then strained repeatedly. After being poured into a tea glass from high above the teapot, a froth is created on the top of the liquid. The tea is then garnished with a few drops of the host’s mouth, as a sign of full sincerity and hospitality.

4.4. Accommodations and Comfort

In a Moroccan home, the paramount aim of the host is to make his guest as comfortable as possible. An overnight guest, and indeed most visitors invited for tea or a meal, will invariably be offered the best seat in the house, usually an armchair or the seat at the end of a salon next to the corner pillows. And should the visit be of the overnight variety, then the guest will be given the best room in the house. And in some cases, depending on the region of the country, such as the south, the best room in the house may be the Master’s room itself. This may sound quite exalted for a person wanting to experience life as a Moroccan would live it, but take into consideration that in the little rooms of the Medina’s as well as the countryside, often sparsely furnished with hardly more than a room for sleeping, the best room is not the luxury-filled sanctuary one might imagine but rather the warmest and quietest room in the house.

In addition to their courteousness, the warmth Moroccans show toward their guests by making them feel comfortable and at home is beyond comparison. A guest is considered a gift from God, and is treated as such. Moroccan hospitality is world renowned and is legendary. Anything less than true generosity of time, resources, and self is considered inadequate. In the homes of the well-to-do, this means literally that no expense will be spared in the treatment of guests, and in the homes of the less fortunate this often means that they will go without or consume the last of what they have so that their guests may partake.

5. Cultural Etiquette in Morocco

Greet people with a handshake while saying ‘Asalamu Alaykum’ (Peace be with you) while placing your right hand over your heart is the common form of greeting. Don’t rush this as it is an important ritual in establishing a relationship. Moroccan culture is male-dominated, the handshake will be between men, while women greet each other with a hug and kisses on the cheeks. In urban areas, lifestyle has become westernized and Moroccans are quite accustomed to interacting with others of a different cultural background. The traditional Arabic sayings of ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’, etc., are still commonly used as Moroccans place a lot of emphasis on the ritual of greeting and it is considered impolite to launch straight into conversation without some small talk, i.e., inquiring about each other’s health or the health of their family. 

In actual fact, many people say that Moroccans are nosy, but it is just part of their culture to show concern and interest. When departing from somebody, it is common to say ‘Ma’a Salama’ (goodbye or peace be with you). The giving and receiving of objects is done with both hands or the right hand only, but never the left hand which is considered unclean. When eating with Moroccans, it is customary to eat with the right hand, as the left is often considered ‘the toilet hand’. Try and always use your right hand in this situation, even if you are left-handed! In Moroccan culture, it is unacceptable to publicly show signs of anger, irritation, or hostility. Try to maintain a sense of humor and cultivate sincere personal relationships. Always remain calm and patient and refrain from public displays of affection with the opposite sex. 

This is particularly important to remember as foreigners have been charged with public indecency without realizing it. It is also seen as discourteous to refuse an invitation to someone’s house. This situation often feels uncomfortable for most foreigners as they feel like they are imposing, but it is an important aspect of Moroccan hospitality and it is usually a sincere gesture. This implies that you should try and keep a close relationship with your neighbors, as this makes the life of expatriates much easier. Satisfying relationships with neighbors are highly valued in Morocco.

5.1. Dress Code

With the recent development in technology, Morocco is becoming somewhat of a cultural mecca and one of the world’s top destinations for travelers and the international elite. It has become more westernized. Moroccan people are used to a variety of cultures and to those who espouse many different ways of life. That being said, the dress code in Morocco is very important because, for Moroccans, appearance is very important. While in the more remote areas of Morocco and amidst the older generation, it is still more common to find a person adorned in traditional Moroccan garb. In the cities, a mode of dress not so different from Europe is not uncommon. Morocco is a Muslim country, and while the law is very lenient in regards to dress, it is still very important to show respect to the local culture and customs. 

For men, it is preferable to wear long pants, and for women, it’s a good idea to take a pashmina to cover bare shoulders and arms, and a skirt or dress that goes past the knees. The clothing of the Berber people is quite unique and has various styles, so it is not uncommon to see a lot of different attire. But try not to wear anything that is too form-fitting or obscene, especially in the bigger cities, and try to avoid clothing that is too revealing. This may result in a lot of staring or unwanted attention in some circumstances. Most Moroccans don western-style clothing, and many have no qualms about wearing European fashions. However, one thing to note is that Moroccans take pride in wearing clean and pressed clothing, so you may get some unwanted attention or be passed over for service at a kiosk or other similar venue if you look too disheveled. This is not an attempt to promote prejudice, it’s simply to say that if you show respect to the culture and dress nice, people will view you in a more favorable light.

 The staring and hazing will happen regardless. This has been especially true in my case, as I am a foreigner that speaks the local Moroccan Arabic dialect. Often times upon first glance, people take me to be a native, and when I don western attire or look disheveled, people are more inclined to bother me or I get treated in a manner that I would rather avoid.

5.2. Politeness and Courtesy

A large part of Moroccan etiquette is hospitality. Moroccans are very proud of their country and their culture and love to see tourists visiting their country. It is quite common to have invitations from people to drink tea, eat lunch, or take dinner. It is considered impolite to refuse these invitations and, above all, it shows goodwill and is an opportunity to learn more about Moroccan culture from the people themselves.

Moroccan culture is quite a collective society and it is evident in their etiquette. Moroccans do not have a word for “please” in their spoken Arabic language and do not see the importance in constantly being polite. It is argued that saying “please” all the time suggests that you are not genuine in your intents. Non-verbal istikhdamd (respect) is the most common form of politeness in Moroccan society, e.g. leaving enough food on your plate after you have been invited to eat at someone’s house or the offering of help to those in need. High-status individuals are often addressed using titles and it is impolite to beckon people over with your hand or show the soles of your feet.

The same as in Middle Eastern society, Christian women have to consider wearing a headscarf if they plan to visit mosques. Moroccans are also a very hospitable culture and it is impolite to decline an invitation to have a drink. The most common form of preparing food among Moroccans is in a tajine. It is considered polite to eat from the area of the tajine nearest to you and not to delve around for tastier pieces of meat, etc. Pieces of bread are also often torn and shared among people in Moroccan culture.

Moroccan etiquette is a very complicated manner and varies significantly between different cultures. It is seen as an important value and mark of respect to adhere to the etiquette as it portrays well on families. Moroccan etiquette has many points in common with Middle Eastern etiquette.

5.3. Gift Giving Customs

Gift giving is an extremely important part of Moroccan business culture. The Moroccan business world is always keen on receiving gifts and it is looked at positively. Business in Morocco is personal and it is important that one develops a network of associates who can be called upon for favors of the kind that circumvent rules and regulations. At the heart of Morocco is the souk. The souk is not just a place to buy goods, it is a way of life. If you spend any length of time in Morocco, you will be invited to visit a shop and be offered the chance to drink tea with the shopkeeper. This is an invitation that should not be immediately brushed off as a ploy to sell you mediocre goods. After sipping tea for an hour, the shopkeeper may give you a gift of small value. The exchange of gifts is an important aspect of Moroccan culture and it is important you give and receive gifts with both hands. It is common for Moroccans to refuse a gift at first before ultimately accepting it.

 If a gift is offered to you, it is polite and culturally prescribed to refuse it three times before accepting. This is all a part of the ritual and should not be taken as an indication that the gift is not wanted. An accepted gift, regardless of value, should be reciprocated. Gifts are seen as a token of appreciation and you will be expected to show your appreciation at a later date. Bear in mind that in the eyes of a Moroccan, apparent wealth and actual wealth are one and the same. A person of wealth is no more likely to give a lavish gift than a poor person, so the value of a gift should be seen within the context of its meaning to the person giving it. Failure to reciprocate a gift could be damaging to a relationship and there is the possibility that the relationship will be terminated.

6. Moroccan Festivals and Celebrations

The King and his family celebrate their royal birthdays, the King’s enthronement, as well as the independence from France, with nationwide public celebrations. With the exception of 2004, the National Popular Culture Festival has been held once a year. The location of this festival changes, although it is usually held in one of the cities with a rich imperial history such as Fes, Marrakesh, or Rabat. During the summer months, many towns and villages have a local festival. These all are characterized by music, dance, food, and an atmosphere of jollity. The most well-known festival is the Gnaoua World Music Festival held in Essaouira. This four-day festival features a combination of music from local Gnaoua musicians, as well as North African and foreign artists in a variety of genres.

The religious festivals in Morocco are celebrated with a great sense of national pride and traditional fervor. The two main religious groups are the Berbers and the Arabs. Most of the Berber festivals are linked to the agricultural calendar. The most important is the Berber New Year, which is celebrated on the 13th of January. This marks the beginning of the agricultural year and is a time of great joy with much singing and dancing. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed as a month of fasting by Muslims around the world. Although no special festivities are held to mark the ending of Ramadan, the celebration of Eid al-Fitr and Aïd al-Adha are marked by a feast with a variety of food and sweetmeats being prepared. Sacrifices of domestic animals are made in a similar manner to the Muslim festival of Eid. Eid al-Adha is the holier of the two Eid festivals and is often termed the Festival of Sacrifice. Special prayers are made at this time and an animal is sacrificed as a symbol of Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah.

6.1. Religious Festivals

During Ramadan, in Islamic tradition, eating, drinking, and smoking are prohibited from sunrise until the evening call to prayer. At this time, the fast is broken with a light meal called ftour. At the sunset call to prayer, a large, diverse meal is initiated by the consumption of a date and a glass of milk. Harira is the traditional soup of Ramadan, and it is often accompanied by chebakia. The iftar meal is a time of fellowship with family and friends. On special occasions, festivities will be held at night. On the 27th day of Ramadan, Moroccans celebrate Laylat al-Qadr, the night in which the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Often considered the most holy day of the month. Sufi brotherhoods, known for their spiritual music, lead processions through urban centers and illuminate the nights with their singing and instrumental music. Public squares and streets will be lined with musicians and entertainers. 

A unique feature of Ramadan in Morocco is the gnawa music, a spiritual trance music accompanied by ritual dance that is also practiced in Algeria and Tunisia. The three days after Ramadan, the Islamic world celebrates one of two major Islamic holidays in the form of a feast known as Eid ul-Fitr. A sweet breakfast is shared in the morning of the first day, and the holiday is often commemorated by visits to family and prayer at mosques. People will dress in their finest clothing, and children will receive gifts. In Morocco, it is customary to have a special meal on the second day of Eid ul-Fitr. Sheep are sacrificed, and the meat is distributed among family, friends, and the poor. The holiday is a time of forgiveness and charity and also marks the end of the fast for the gnawa and is therefore a time of much celebration and music.

6.2. Cultural Events

Most cultural events are held either on religious festivals or to mark the memory of a saint. They usually take place annually and are confined to a particular village or tribal douar. Even when the event is in theory open to the general public, it is unlikely that a foreigner would know about it in order to attend. It is a great pity that some of the most interesting spectacles in Morocco should be so inaccessible to the outsider. This is especially the case with the Guedra of the Blue Men in the southern oases and the fantasia and the dances involving the Aissaoua brotherhood. The Guedra, which is both a healing ceremony and a popular entertainment, is a dance performed by a man in women’s clothing with a crêpe mask. This solemnly hypnotic rite, resembling a classical Greek tragedy, can only be witnessed in the domestic quarters of a family of marabouts. The sights and sounds of the fantasia, culminating in a wild cavalry charge at a mock enemy, are more widely available, taking place as they do outdoors at festivals throughout the country.

6.3. Music and Dance Performances

The music and dance performances play a key part in most of the Moroccan festivals. Music in Morocco is an amalgamation of different cultural influences. Berber music though has made some inroads fanfare and is actually completely dominant, which is a lot to the chagrin of some older generations. Rai is a style of music which was mainly developed in Algeria, but has a very large following in Morocco. It’s music which deals mostly with addressing social issues, but there are also love songs and party music. Either way it brings in a vibrant atmosphere. Chaabi is a typically Moroccan form of music and it is arguably the most popular. Its simple and direct style has led to it being dubbed as Moroccan pop music. 

The most prolific form of music is known as Nass el Ghiwane. These are balladeers famed for their combination of mystical Sufi lyrics and a style of music which is a complex fusion of Berber, African, and western sounds. Mention must also be made of Amazigh poetry which is often sung alongside hand clapping and drum rhythms. As a whole Moroccan music is vibrant and expressive and this is very evident when they party. From the smallest unknown village to the biggest city festivals, the music will never be far away. Gnaoua music has to date been a highlight at the Gnaoua festival in Essaouria. It is music which has links with spiritual healing and incorporates an amalgamation of rhythms, call and response singing, and acrobatic dance. The effectiveness of the music goes beyond mere entertainment. Fans of traditional Berber music will also find that there are many performances of Ahwach and Rouais to go and see at local festivals around the Atlas region, and it is possible that local Berber weddings may sometimes be crashed.

7. Souks and Markets

A souk or market place is a highly active and significant part of the Moroccan culture and a visit to one is an unforgettable experience. A souk often operates in the available space between Fajr and Duhur prayers or after Jumah on Fridays. It is a meeting place where members of the country, in rural or urban environments, can trade. This ancient market form has now begun to move towards the fixed shop type of market place and in many instances very much resembles a bazaar. The appeal of the souk for many is that it is an active market set in a rural or in some cases urban environment where a barter can still be carried out. Tourists of Morocco will not be used to the bustling and hurried atmosphere of a souk and may be unaware of the techniques used by tradesmen to secure a deal. Moroccans are said to be natural born salesmen and you will very likely be accosted by several during a trip to the souk. A common sales tactic is for a tradesman to ask a series of questions to potential buyers in an attempt to uncover their exact needs or wants. This is called “qualifying the customer” and is done to gather information and to form a rapport with the customer. It is more likely that a customer will buy if there is a form of relationship between them and the seller and “qualified” customers may be addressed again in the future.

7.1. Bargaining Techniques

Persistence is key, and even after paying a “good price”, most Moroccans will tell you that it was, in fact, too high. So don’t be disheartened if later you discover you were paying “tourist prices”. Remember, if you are invited to share mint tea, this usually means that the trader will try to make a sale (and the mint tea is delicious!).

A good idea is to start by comparing the price of the article to something more commonly bought in everyday life. Often, the price of bread is a good measure. If the price is still too high, start to walk away. If the trader drops the price by a significant amount, it usually means it is near the real price of the article.

Shop around and ask guides and hotels for rough ideas on prices. For Moroccan items, it is important to determine whether or not they are “tourist prices”. If the price seems high, ask the trader if that is the very best price. In Arabic, this is “gheir had al-qlaada?” or “al-hiSS al-akheet?”.

Bargaining is an art in Morocco and is inseparable from the whole souk and medina experience. It is a long-held tradition often portrayed in films, but do not be fooled. It is usually dramatic for the benefit of onlookers or the vendor. Yes, some tourists do find it intense, but like everything else in Morocco, there is a sense of theatre and trickery involved, so it’s best to laugh and join in.

7.2. Traditional Crafts and Products

Weaving is a very popular craft and wool is dyed in an array of fabulous colors. Women in the Atlas mountains use a different style of knotting to those in the Saharan regions and it is possible to determine the origin of a rug from the way in which the wool has been woven. Leatherwork is also common and includes purses, handbags, and slippers although the highest quality is found in the modern and chic ‘city-style’ handbags. Morocco is famous for the quality of its leather and the tanneries in Fes and Marrakesh provide an interesting attraction for tourists. Metalwork includes lantern and pot making and the etching of designs onto teapots and jugs. Silver, shells, and beads are used by Tuareg jewelers to create fantastically intricate designs of earrings, amulets, and pendants. The complex and skillful art of the jewelers is integral to the Tuareg culture and unlike many artistic traditions, it has not been adopted by members of other social groups. Carpentry includes the making of fine cedar wood furniture and painted doors with Arabesque and Islamic designs. Pottery is a more basic form of craft and is a specialty of the Rif region. Each pottery center produces its own distinct type of earthenware, with Fes being noted for its blue and white items and Tamegroute producing its characteristic green-colored glaze.

7.3. Shopping Tips

Do not just look at the first item that catches your fancy, as there will surely be something better further on. You should walk a complete circuit of the medina before you start spending your money so that when you do buy something you can be reasonably sure that it is the best item available for the price. You should not start asking the price of an item unless you are sure that you want to buy it; this will merely encourage the seller to pester you throughout the morning until you finally give in and buy his item when you see it properly. When someone asks you what you would like to pay for an item, you should respond by asking him how much he wants for it. When he gives you a price, you should halve it and begin the haggling process. Haggling is an important part of the Moroccan shopping experience; it is not considered rude and is expected of the customer. You should not feel pressured to pay much more than you are willing as in most cases you will be able to find a similar item elsewhere. Always remember to keep smiling and to play the game; it is not unusual for a seller to become upset if you suddenly decide not to buy his item after naming a price.

8. Moroccan Tourism and Hospitality Industry

There are many sectors within the tourism industry. These include transportation services to tourist destinations and also internal travelling, accommodation and food. All are equally important in enabling Morocco to provide a good quality service to tourists. Transport services are important as it is the first thing the tourists will encounter. Providing good transportation can give the tourists a good impression and may result in them coming back to Morocco. At the same time, it promotes job opportunities for Moroccans. The aviation industry has grown rapidly since the liberalization of air transport in 2004. Low cost flights are now available from many European cities. The national carrier Royal Air Maroc is a fully owned government company. It has had a long history of financial difficulties and in 2011 there were plans to offer shares of the company for public subscription on the Casablanca stock exchange. Royal Air Maroc has recently signed a partnership agreement with four other African airlines with the view of forming a southern air transport alliance. The objective is to pool the resources and expertise of the airlines to create a competitive advantage in the air transport of passengers and goods between North West Africa and the rest of the continent. This will be done by offering a wider range of destinations and connections between the countries, better quality service and reduced costs for the customer.

The tourism and hospitality industry is considered one of the important industries in generating foreign currency and employment opportunities for the Moroccan people. It is the second largest foreign exchange earner after phosphates. In 2008, the travel and tourism industry directly contributed to 4.7% of Morocco’s GDP. This mainly results from the growing demand and popularity for Moroccan tourist destinations. The industry is mainly important for the service it provides for people from all over the world. The industry also helps the rest of the world to understand and experience Moroccan culture. On the whole, this industry is the gateway for Morocco to show others the traditions and customs it has to offer.

8.1. Tourist Accommodations

Finally, in recent years there has been an increase in private holiday rentals being marketed to tourists in Morocco, particularly in the cities of Marrakech and Essaouira and in upmarket tourist locations such as the Costa del Sol. This has included the rental of private Riads and Villas, many of which have been constructed in recent times to meet the demands of the European second home buyer and tourist rental market in the region.

The Ministry of Tourism has been keen to encourage foreign investment in Morocco’s tourist accommodation, and since changes in the law in 2001, several foreign investors have acquired or built hotels in Morocco, some with financial assistance from government investment funds.

Morocco also has a small selection of Organic Tourism accommodation known as gites d’etape which are generally simple village houses converted to offer accommodation and meals and are to be found in rural and off the beaten track areas. There are also a small number of farm stays in Morocco offering a bed and breakfast service and a chance to experience rural Moroccan life. Quality standards and regulations are in place for all forms of tourist accommodation in Morocco, and are enforced by the Ministry of Tourism. All hotels and tourist accommodation are subject to a residence tax of between 1 euro and 10 dirhams per day which is to be paid by the client.

There are around 2,500 hotels in Morocco at present with a capacity of some 230,000 beds, the majority of which are in the three to five star categories, and continue to increase annually. In addition, Morocco also has an extensive range of budget accommodation which includes auberges and youth hostels which are graded by the Youth Hostel Association of Morocco. Camping is also a popular form of tourist accommodation which has long been established in Morocco, and sites are to be found in most parts of the country, although the Tourism Ministry is keen to regulate the sector and improve the quality of the offering.

8.2. Tourist Attractions

Various forms of cultural attractions are available for tourists. These can range from visits to significant historical sites and museums to architectural sightseeing and mingling with the local Moroccans. Popular sites for history-seeking tourists include the Saadian Tombs in Marrakech, the Roman ruins of Volubilis near Meknes, and the Tower of Hassan in Rabat. There are also a large number of interesting museums with a wide range of themes from modern art and science to the traditions of Moroccan carpets and textiles. Tangiers in the northwest of Morocco is home to some fascinating 1930s American architecture from its brief modernization as an international zone between the two World Wars. Another particular activity that can be very cultural in itself is wandering around in the old medinas of the cities and haggling with the vendors, a unique experience quite unlike any other and a great way to pick up some souvenirs.

Most of Morocco’s tourism is focused on the country’s culture, its beautiful coastline, and the amazing Sahara desert. A trip to Morocco is a great experience which will leave you with a treasure trove of memories. Undertake all, it will be an amazing opportunity to learn and appreciate a new, fascinating culture.

8.3. Tourist Services

Coming now to the travel agencies, who are by no means uniform in the quality of service, but with a general improvement in the tourist sector and a trend towards more professional conduct of travel business, it is fair to say that they now exert a far greater effort than in past years to inform and orient their clients in Morocco, this in relation to both Moroccan and foreign travel agencies tourists. Efforts to this end are often apparent in the offer and organization of package tours into Morocco, often in conjunction with foreign tour operators, designed to take advantage of Morocco’s climate and the off-peak season in other Mediterranean.

Tourist information in Morocco has three principal sources: abroad, national tourist offices, and travel agencies. Important as the first and last of these, the role of the national tourist offices in the major tourist generating countries can hardly be overemphasized. In that they serve as the voice of the Moroccan National Tourist Office in informing prospective clients on all aspects of tourism in Morocco, they carry out a continuing information and PR campaign as part of the overall promotion strategy aimed at upkeeping the image of Morocco as a tourist destination. They provide practical information and suggestions on getting to Morocco and organizing their stay, by means of brochures and personal contact.

The travel services available in Morocco include a variety of services, such as information and orientation services, transportation services, accommodation services, catering services, and other services. Various travel agencies, national tourist offices, hotel managers, and other operators in this sector provide some services which very often proved to be decisive in fostering the interest of international visitors in the country and even encouraging them to extend the length of their stay with a view to repeat the experience.