Cultural tips for Morocco
Morocco is one of the most liberal Islamic countries – but you should respect and be sensitive to their customs and restrictions.
The main restriction a tourist will encounter is banned entry into the mosques if you are not a Muslim. This is unfortunate, as many mosques feature beautiful artistry of design.
There are a few noteworthy exceptions: the Hassan II in Casablanca, Mohammed V Mausoleum in Rabat, Malay Ismail Mausoleum in Meknes and the Moulay Ali Cherif Mausoleum at Rissani are open to all visitors.
Local Customs in Morocco
The Moroccans are extremely hospitable people. Traditionally, the men spend a lot of time in the streets and in cafés while the women are in charge of the home. It is not unusual to be invited by a Moroccan family for a meal. In this case, take your shoes off when entering the house, wash your hands as a symbolic gesture and wait for the master of the house to intone the bismillah (prayer). It is a good idea to take a gift, such as pastries or even a live chicken in rural areas! Most Moroccan food is eaten with the hands. You should, therefore, always eat with the right hand as the left hand is supposed to be used for the toilet.
Following some basic guidelines will further enhance your enjoyment of Morocco:
- Avoid wearing provocative clothing. You may get away with it in a group on a tour but by yourselves is not such a good idea.
- Accept mint tea when offered, this is considered a sign of hospitality. There is an exception – don’t feel obliged to accept mint tea from a shopkeeper!
- Avoid drinking, eating and smoking in public in daytime during the period of Ramadan.
- Most Moroccans are friendly and hospitable and will extend warm invitations if you do not act rudely or unfriendly towards them.
- If you would like to take a photo of the locals, be courteous and ask permission first. You might be asked for a tip for this! They really don’t miss out on any opportunity to earn money! As a guideline, give between 5 and 10 dirhams, which for Moroccans is a generous amount.
- If you are a woman and strike up a friendship with a Moroccan woman she will probably invite you to her home or to a hammam (see separate notes on the hammam experience).
- If you are a man or a couple you may be invited into a café for some tea or a meal.