Have you been wondering what living in Morocco is really like? Upon arrival, you will be amazed to discover the country’s rich cultural history and varied geography and climate. Prepare yourself for a life in Morocco by reading information on history, culture, cuisine, and everyday life.
Morocco is a country rich in history, tradition and culture most of which is tied to it’s official religion of Islam. The Berbers are believed to be the original inhabitants around 8000 BC, and still make up a large part of the population today. Since then it has been settled, colonized and reclaimed by several different nations including the Phoenicians during the Roman Empire, the flourish of Islam under Idrisid Empire, the Alouite Dynasty, and French and Spanish protectorate lasting until 1956 when Morocco gained its independence from France. Many of the customs, laws, and practices within Islam widely influence the people and the culture of Morocco today.
As the country develops and Westernizes, many modern changes can be noted in the people living in major cities such as Rabat, Casablanca and Tangier, while Fes and Marrakesh maintain the traditions of old world Morocco. In smaller towns and rural areas a much different lifestyle exists, and it can be hard to believe that in a country a little larger than the size of California, such a difference exists. In the cities, you will find cars, buses, and taxis making the streets noisy and busy while tall buildings penetrate the skyline. Yet, in the rural areas a camel or donkey is the mode of transportation among the small houses and farmlands or dessert landscapes. The convenience of cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores are nonexistent in these places and people often rely on trading goods rather than purchasing them.
The people of Morocco are kind, warm, and well known around the world for their hospitality. A Moroccan, after having just met you, will invite you to his home for a feast of all they have to give, even if they are of meager means. They value building personal relationships, and want to help others for the sake of it, not always for their own personal gain. Family is important to Moroccans and you will often find extended family gathering for meals, tea, and visits. Moroccans will often ask you about the health and well-being of your own family, even if they have never met them. They have a genuine interest in concern for other people. Personal honour and respect is most important to Moroccans so crossing these lines can quickly turn a valuable relationship sour almost immediately.
Morocco is a Muslim country, and modest dress is the norm. While there has been some significant Westernization of clothing styles, even the latest fashions are given a modest take in this country. Many women wear the traditional djellaba and headscarf, yet it is common to see younger girls and women who wear jeans and T-shirts.
As a visitor, you certainly aren’t expected to wear traditional dress, but covering up your shoulders and upper arms, not wearing anything above the knee, and keeping all parts of your midriff covered would be a good way to show you respect the culture of modesty present among the locals. To keep cool in the warmer climate, keeping your garments loose not only adds to a modesty factor, but will also keep you cooler during the day as well.
For men, it is also a good idea to consider modesty as well and keep with the same lines of women’s dress in keeping the shoulders covered and not wearing a pair of shorts that go above the knee.
In more rural areas, it is better for both men and women to consider covering up even further by wearing long, loose pants or an ankle-length skirt. For women, covering more of the arm with at least a ¾ length sleeve is also a good idea. If you are planning to attend a mosque, this dress, as well as covering the hair would be necessary. Additionally, both men and women need to remove their shoes before entering a mosque.
Another such custom is a weekly trip to the local hammam where Moroccans spend a great deal of time exfoliating their skin, washing their hair and bodies thoroughly in no particular rush. The large bath houses separated by men’s and women’s quarters are steamy rooms where many people socialize as much as they bathe. For those who don’t have a shower in their house, the hammam is not only a way of life but a necessity. Even those living in large apartments with modern amenities still visit the local hammams on a regular basis.
The modernization of Morocco continues as technology flourishes, free-trade agreements open, and the people embrace the conveniences of the Western world. Running hot water, seated toilets, televisions and satellite dishes, home appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, side by side refrigerators, vehicles, computers, and cell phones are the things we easily take for granted as a way of life. However, these things are still reserved for the rich and have a long way to go before anyone will ever be able to take them for granted in Morocco.
The art of this country is truly special. Many historical examples are on display at the local museums. More modern examples are on display at art galleries and in souks. Beware of cheap imitations though!
There are so many different ways that the people express themselves – in carpets, clothing, jewellery, ceramics, sculpture, painting, carving, and calligraphy. They even hold an international art festival once a year to showcase all their talent. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this country, you should consider buying some of the local artwork. Not only will it provide you with a little memento of your trip, but it will help out the local people who are usually quite poor.