For The Young & Curious
[Culture Shock Booklet]
So that you don’t get a culture shock ;)
Here are a few cultural aspects that you will need to get used to during your stay in Morocco
Greeting in Morocco: Kissing and Hugging
Bisous à la française (a kiss on each cheek) or hugs are commonly exchanged between samesex friends. This happens in all venues: at home, on the street, in restaurants, and in business
meetings. Same-sex friends usually walk around holding hands, but couples, even married
couples, rarely touch in public. Male/female contact in public is strictly limited to handshaking.
Moroccans often greet strangers or tourists with two air kisses on the cheek or they shake
In Morocco the locals prefer to snack on the local delicacy boiled snails, and cook sheep’s
Grilled Sheep heads
Moroccans traditionally eat out of a communal
bowl and without utensils, even when the food
is really tricky — say “ couscous “ or “
shredded rghaif “.
They do eat with their bare hands as well.
Staring is Caring – You will be stared at by people. Chill, they are just curious.
Unpunctuality – 15-20 minutes up and down, it’s all good :D
Conservatism – Morocco is still mostly a conservative country. So if you wear
very short skirts or decide to show the world your love for your boyfriend/girlfriend,
be prepared see eyes popping at you everywhere!
Most residential areas have a problem with too much noise after 11 PM. So if
you want to party hard, don’t do it at the accommodation provided! There will
be a lot of randomness and craziness.
CROSSING THE ROAD – Please remember to check carefully before crossing any
road. Cars may be driving from a direction you do not expect.
Driving is less a skill than an instinct – Drivers are NUTS in Morocco,
especially in the cities. Some of them don’t respect the traffic rules.
Chaos and Bamboozling – There can be a lot of chaos and confusion at a lot of
places. But isn’t that where all the fun lies! :P And since you’re foreigners, be ready to
be charged double the price! Be smart, learn to bargain, that’s the Moroccan way!
Bargaining is the first essential skill you’ll need to pick up. From hotels and campgrounds to
souvenir shopping in the souk, ask the price first and then bargain accordingly if you feel it’s
too high. The merchant almost always works in some wiggle room (usually quite a lot in the
markets!) and after a few days you’ll start to get a feel for the true price. The key to good
bargaining is to see it as a game. Smile, sip a cup of tea and don’t take it too seriously or
you’ll only give yourself a heart attack. If you need to, start to walk away and you’ll often be
called back for a better offer.
Requests for tips can be common in tourist areas. If someone offers to show you around a
historical site or lead you to an address you should have some small change ready as a tip.
You may also be approached in cities like Marrakech by people who want to lead you to the
tanneries on the edge of the city walls. This inevitably leads from the tanneries to a far flung
carpet shop where you’re pressured to buy a rather expensive souvenir. The Moroccan
government has cracked down on this in recent years and all guides are supposed to be
licensed. It’s best to avoid following anyone you haven’t arranged a tour with.
On the road, it’s common to meet children begging for sweets, pens or money. We found the
best way to deal with this was to stop and greet the children with a handshake or a joke but
not to actually give anything as it only encourages more begging. Some cyclists report kids
throwing stones, especially in the “ Draa Valley “. We only had this happen once and even
then it was a half-hearted attempt and not threatening. Again, stopping and encouraging the
kids to come and say hello is a good tactic. In just a few minutes you can establish a
relationship with them and they don’t want to throw stones at you anymore.
Like kids everywhere in the world, they are bored and seeking attention.
Souks ( Markets )
Colorful souks are a major part of Moroccan life
and many villages have a weekly souk when
people from a wide area turn up on their donkeys
to buy their week’s provisions. In contrast, the
souks in towns and cities offer an extensive
range of goods aimed at the tourist market.
Donkey and Door
The streets in the medina are so crowded and
narrow that cars (too wide) and even mopeds
(too hard to control on steep hills and at low
speeds) are impractical. So, centuries later, the
donkey remains the preferred transport for
delivering loads to shops and houses.
When two donkeys heading in opposite directions meet, everyone else has to get out of the
way so they can pass. Sometimes shopkeepers even have to move their displays out of the
way to make room.
You can always tell when a donkey's coming up behind you, because of the gravelly cry of
"belek, belek" ("Watch yourself!") from its handler, walking through the streets repeating the
same single word all day long.
Djemaa El Fna
Djemaa el Fna is the central square in Marrakech, there are snake charmers, tea-sellers,
performing monkeys, child acrobats and henna-muggers (the kind who paint you as you go
by, then demand ‘bakshish’!), and burst out of the souk into total chaos.
Hundreds of stalls lay in ranks up and down the square, selling every spicy, fruity, sugary and
meaty delight you can imagine!
Nightlife on the Place Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh: Check out this link:
There are public baths called hammams and several squatting toilets.
Please do not be offended if, sitting in a café or walking out of the bank, someone holds out
his/her hand to ask for charity, which is an inherent part of Islam - you are free to hand over a
dirham, or not. However, please do not give coins, sweets or biros to children as it encourages
them to beg from every passing visitor.
There is a lot for you to learn, discover and cherish. Love it,
loathe it. That’s MOROCCO for you. Experience it!!