(© Aussies In Morocco Tours™)
Packing a suitcase is one thing, but preparing yourself to be immersed in a different culture and way of life is something else entirely. From slowing down to a more relaxed rhythm of daily life, to enjoying new customs, we take a look at some different aspects of life in Morocco.
Go with the flow
For most of us, the 9 to 5 is our reality, and this holiday will come as a welcomed break from the daily grind, but it may take a little adjusting to get used to the slower pace of life in Morocco. Here are our tips for how to embrace life in the slow lane, Moroccan style.
- Things don’t always run on time. International flights may be an exception, but it’s perfectly normal to experience delays on regional trains and coaches. Service in local restaurants and cafes can also be slow. Try to remember that you’re in Marrakech, not Melbourne.
- If your guide/driver or a local tells you a time to meet or depart, or how long something will take, ask them if they mean “Moroccan time”, or regular time? This will not only win laughs but help avoid any confusion. (“20 minutes” to a Moroccan can sometimes mean an hour in reality).
- Always have a good book with you, or make sure your device is loaded up with your favourite music, audiobooks or podcasts, to enjoy on long drives or in downtime.
Tea is always a good idea
For Moroccans, tea is an important daily ritual, as well as a traditional way to offer a hand of friendship to someone new, like you.
Whether you’ve just spent 20 minutes negotiating the price on a rug in a souk and the store owner invites you to take a seat, or you’ve just arrived at your riad or guesthouse after a long journey, if you’re ever asked if you’d like tea, the answer should always be “yes”.
Moroccan tea is made from a special Chinese gunpowder tea brewed in boiling hot water, with fresh mint leaves when possible, and more sugar than you’d care to know about. While some might be tempted to request their tea “sans sucre”, or with no sugar, we’d recommend sticking to the sugary version (as it’s so much tastier) and just ensure you keep up a good dental routine while holidaying in Morocco!
Eating like a Moroccan
While on your Maghreb (Arabic word for NW Africa) adventures, you’ll eat most of your meals at your hotel, or cafes and restaurants that cater to westerners and serve individual meals with cutlery. But, if you are lucky enough to eat with a local family, it’s worth keeping the following in mind.
- Eating in a Moroccan home involves the entire family gathering around a small, low table, with everyone sitting on the floor on cushions, or on small stools. The food is served in one large communal tagine (a terracotta pot used to slow cook stew and serve cous cous in), and everyone will dig in, scooping food up from the edge closest to them.
- Bread replaces cutlery. Each person is given a small round loaf of bread or a large chunk of bread from a bigger loaf, to break off pieces and scoop food up with. (Coeliacs might want to bring supplies of their own gluten-free bread with them, or keep a set of travel cutlery handy).
- Always eat with your right hand — sorry lefties! In Moroccan culture, the left hand is solely reserved for toilet time and is kept strictly out of the communal tagine. You may use both hands to break bread, but be sure that your right hand is used for all the dipping and food-to-mouth actions.
Being a vegetarian might raise eyebrows in Morocco, but is more commonly accepted these days. If you’re carnivorous, however, don’t be surprised if the family push the best cuts of meat your way during the meal. Try and accept as much as you can until you’re full — what may seem like a very humble meal was probably put on at great expense to them.
Read more: 5 ways to experience the real Morocco
Keep it light
It’s safe to say that Moroccans have the gift of the gab. They’re a very warm and hospitable people, and there’s a good chance you’ll develop a great rapport with the locals you meet during your stay, from shop owners to hotel staff, and of course, your driver and guide.
While things will mostly be fun and games, there are some topics that are best to steer clear of, due to differing cultural values and the sensitivities that come with being in a (more liberal, but still very much) Muslim country. Here are some points to remember.
- Politics and religion. Whether we’re talking Moroccan local politics (you may be curious about the King or royal family as you pass the grand imperial palaces), the current state of world politics, or anything Palestine/Israel related, it’s best to stay well clear of the political arena. The same goes for religion, for obvious reasons.
- Women’s rights. As a Muslim country, Morocco comes with its specific views on women’s role in society. If you’re a single woman, wearing a wedding band on your ring finger can help avoid any prying questions into your marital status, remembering that it’s not as common in Morocco for women to put career and education before marriage and family.
- Sexual freedom. Being gay is illegal in Muslim countries, and Morocco is no different. LGTBQ travellers are advised to practice discretion showing affection in public places. Also best for heterosexual couples to stay discreet in public.
- Your income. While it’s fine to chat about your job or career, it’s best not to disclose how much you earn. As is common when travelling in developing countries, local incomes are no match to our minimum wages and quality of life, so it’s important not to go into too much detail, out of sensitivity.
For exploring the wonders of Morocco check out our Tours page for some ideas here and also some of our other blog posts where we cover some different options from the run-of-the-mill tour options offered repeatedly elsewhere. For example if you like art you might be interested in the tour mentioned here and here. If you are returning to Morocco you might be interested in the suggestions here. If you are going to be in Morocco in or around July, which is their low season, you might find some ideas that appeal to you here and here. Contact us at Aussies in Morocco Tours™ to work out your itinerary.
Refreshed and updated November 2020