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Moroccan Etiquette and Culture

Posted: 4th December 2015 09:11

Like many of its North African neighbours, Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich history that encompasses many different civilisations and religions; Romans, Jews, Carthaginians, Moors and Arabs have all helped to shape its social structures and customs. Nowadays, the country is home to a population that is 99% Arab-Berber, with strong cultural influences coming from the relatively recent rule of the Spanish and French, as well as typical Anglo-American lifestyles. Whilst Morocco is generally considered to be a relaxed and easy-going country, it is important to remember that day-to-day life is closely entwined with Islam, the country’s main religion. Moroccans personal, political, economic and legal affairs are all conducted with Islam at their core, so certain traditions and customs are vital to understanding and getting along in this fascinating country.

Everyday Customs and Etiquette

Tolerance is a big part of Moroccan society, and the large numbers of tourists who visit the country every year means that many Moroccans are accustomed to the typical habits of people from all over the world. However, there are a few simple behaviours and customs that all tourists should adhere to. Due to Islamic tradition, both men and women should dress modestly; women should generally be covered from wrist to ankle and men from over the shoulder to below the knee. However, ideas of ‘modest’ dress differ between urban and rural areas, so the best guide is to note how local Moroccans dress. In all areas, public displays of affection tend to be frowned upon, as does eating, drinking and smoking in public during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Greetings

The customary greeting between individuals of the same sex is a handshake, and among close friends and family it is common to kiss on both cheeks. As a sign of respect, sincerity and friendship, it is also common to place your right hand over your heart after greeting someone. As the left hand is generally considered to be ‘unclean’, it is generally seen as impolite to use it for greeting or accepting money and gifts.

Respect

Moroccan society is also extremely family-orientated and maintains the tradition of showing utmost respect to elders, meaning it is polite to give elderly people room to pass you in the street and to allow an older person to take precedence over you in a queuing situation, for example when waiting for a taxi. Following these few simple customs will ensure that you make the most of your time wherever you are in the country, be that the bustling cities on the winding coast or the secluded retreats of the Atlas Mountains. Learning a few words in Arabic and French, dressing appropriately and greeting locals in a warm and respectful manner will enhance your experience of the country and its culture, and will leave Moroccans ready to welcome you back with open arms in the future.