Navigating Cultural Etiquette: Things Not To Do In Morocco

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Morocco is among the most striking, captivating, and historically significant countries globally. Located near the northwestmost corner of Africa, millions of tourists from around the world descend on Morocco at various times throughout the year. However, some things tourists should never do when visiting Morocco, bordering the Mediterranean and North Atlantic seas.

Morocco is a Muslim country, strictly following traditional Islamic customs and laws. Tourists should never disrespect Islam, especially in public. In addition, tourists must always be respectful to the monarchy while never walking around in beach clothes and assuming everyone speaks English. 

Despite Morocco being in Africa, the country is consistently among the most popular tourist destinations globally due to its unique culture, historical importance, affordability, and beautiful geographical locations. However, Morocco does not follow the same customs and traditions most westerners are accustomed to, which this article will explore, detail, and demonstrate. 

What Should Tourists Never Do In Morocco? 

Most well-traveled tourists will agree that when you visit another country, you should always abide by its customs, traditions, and laws, no matter how much you disagree with them. 

Morocco is no exception to the rule, with numerous tourists over the years, unfortunately, finding out the difficult way. However, it should be noted that Morocco is a truly amazing place to visit.

Tourists that have previously been to the African country will undoubtedly share their amazing experiences concerning the unmatched desert scenery, the vibrant mountains, and the overall affordability. 

Many Moroccans and tourists will agree that the African country is among the most captivating destinations of all time due to its global historical significance and unique cultural identity while simultaneously being incredibly effortless access with numerous daily flights. 

While Morocco is indisputably fascinating and charming, locals and tourists must abide by the accepted laws, customs, and social norms. Sadly, tourists occasionally leave a bad taste in the mouth of the country they visited, most frequently caused by showing signs of disrespect, disobedience, and insisting on speaking English despite the country’s local language. 

In Morocco, tourists and locals will be exposed to the full extent of the law if they do not behave themselves in an acceptable, appropriate manner while in the country. At the same time, if you do not go out of your way to induce chaos, violence, or disrespect the locals, Morocco is among the safest and most distinct destinations you will ever visit. 

If you have never been to Morocco previously, we recommend visiting it as soon as possible. The cultural and historical significance of many locations within the African country remains unmatched. Without visiting Morocco, it is impossible to term yourself well-traveled as the hidden gem, located in the northwest of the country, is a must-see for people of all ages, shapes, and cultures. 

However, none of this should deter you from visiting the enthralling African country, which, amazingly, simultaneously borders the Mediterranean Ocean and the North Atlantic Sea. This article will demonstrate the important laws tourists should follow for as long as they are in the country. 

As long as you do not break the local laws or disrespect the monarchy, Morocco remains a must-see destination for anyone with the financial means to afford it. 

Do Not Disrespect Islam

Anyone that has visited worked, or lived in Morocco will understand that it is a strictly Muslim country, meaning that many things accepted in western countries are forbidden. 

Slightly over ninety percent of Morocco’s population identifies as Muslim, which is accurately reflected by the country’s laws, customs, and social norms. Due to the overwhelmingly large percentage of Muslims in Morocco, it has become the state religion, meaning it is vital to respect it at all times while visiting the country. 

Moreover, most Morocco citizens consider themselves Sunni Muslims, although many prefer to follow the Sufi branch of Islam. While many tourists incorrectly assume that Morocco’s Islam laws are as conservative or as strict as those found in the Middle East, the African country is surprisingly liberal regarding their implementation of the legislature on travelers. 

Despite Morocco being among the most liberal Islam nations, disrespecting the Muslim faith while being in the hidden African gem is incredibly rude and distasteful. As is customary when visiting any friends or family, visitors should never disrespect their host in any way, especially when it comes to deeply-held personal beliefs. 

Instead of disrespecting the local Islam faith, asking questions if you do not fully understand a certain law, custom, or social norm while in Morocco is recommended. Furthermore, there is no reason to question their religion or beliefs, no matter how much you disagree with them. Rather, limit all discussions and questions about Islam to mainly factual matters. 

Interestingly, certain places in Morocco do not allow non-Islamic people to enter, such as historical shrines or mosques. While this may seem unusual or controversial to most westerners, it is permanently entrenched into Moroccan culture, meaning tourists should abide by the unique custom. 

Additionally, tourists should always dress in a modest or non-revealing fashion. Despite being largely accepted in most western countries, dressing in a revealing manner and not covering most of the body is frowned upon in Morocco due to their social norms mainly being based on traditional Islam practices. 

Do Not Openly Disrespect The Monarchy

There are certain Islamic-based social norms, customs, and general etiquette that tourists can get away with breaking. However, openly disrespecting Morocco’s monarchy is a serious criminal offense, leading to severe yet self-induced punishment. 

While it is illegal to openly disrespect Morocco’s monarchy, criticizing, mocking, and even speaking about them in a bad light is breaking the law. Breaking the law, especially when openly criticizing the monarchy, is considered a serious crime, with perpetrators exposed to the full extent of Morocco’s legal system. 

At the same time, Morocco’s king has not traditionally been known as a brutal dictator, with the ruler becoming admired for his willingness to overlook a few misguided statements of mutterings. However, it is vital to never disrespect the monarchy or the king to decrease the likelihood of receiving a harsh jail sentence lasting three years. 

Despite most democratic western countries permitting their leaders or monarchs to be openly criticized by any tourist or member of the population, the same cannot be said for most Islam nations, including Morocco. 

Instead of disrespecting the king or defacing anything with his face printed on it, which will lead to immediate incarceration, keep to yourself and enjoy the country’s incredible natural beauty. 

Do Not Eat With Your Left Hand In Public

As Morocco is a Muslim country, with most of its citizens abiding by the Islamic faith, eating with your left hand is considered unclean and could result in a few raised eyebrows from the locals. 

In western countries, most people choose to consume their food with cutlery. However, there are a few native dishes that people prefer using their hands to eat. Many of Morocco’s traditional dishes are consumed exclusively using the right hand, as the left hand is reserved for bathroom activities. 

This means that utilizing your left hand to consume some of Morocco’s traditional foods or dishes is not accepted, although it is not technically legally forbidden. Despite it being uncommon to use the left hand to consume most local dishes, visitors can easily consume their food with cutlery in private or at most of the accepted tourist hot spots. 

It should be noted that while using your right hand to consume most traditional Moroccan dishes is best practice, unwittingly going against the custom by utilizing your left hand is unlikely to cause any significant drama or other severe legal consequences. If locals see you eating your food with your left hand, they might laugh or scowl at you in the worst-case scenario. 

Do Not Walk Around In Beachwear

All western tourists must remember and understand that Morocco is a Muslim country, with its social norms, customs, and societal practices dictated by the Islam faith. 

Traditionally, Islam nation citizens and believers have maintained a relatively conservative approach to the clothes they wear and dress in general. Regarding the conservative dressing custom existing throughout the stunning north African country, tourists should only wear revealing beachwear at one of Morocco’s jaw-dropping beaches. 

If you are not at the beach or in the vicinity of the ocean, you should never wear beachwear, as doing so goes against most of what the Moroccan population stands for. In addition, swimwear is not, in any way, appropriate clothing attire for visiting any of Morocco’s globally famous towns, cities, or villages. 

While it may seem like never wearing beach attire around Morocco’s famous destinations is easy to continuously follow, the soaring yearly temperatures of the north African country can occasionally make it challenging. 

However, no matter how high the temperatures may be or how uncomfortable your sweaty clothes are, it is never acceptable to wear beachwear anywhere in Morocco unless you are at one of the country’s beautiful, warm, and sandy beaches.

Wearing swimwear at the beach is an accepted practice in Morocco. However, when you visit a restaurant, go back to your hotel, or travel anywhere else in the country, ensure you are always covered up. 

Do Not Expect Locals To Speak English

English is accepted as being the world’s common language. While most Moroccans can speak some form of English, it is not their mother tongue, meaning tourists should not be disappointed when they can’t effectively communicate with the locals. 

While Morocco’s main dialect is overwhelmingly Arabic, there are certain regions in the south where the locals understand Spanish due to historical forms of colonialism.

At the same time, a few regions located in the middle of Morocco have a strong understanding of the French language, which is also the result of previous colonialism. 

In Morocco’s main industrial or commercial areas, such as Fez, Marrakech, Tangier, Casablanca, and Rabat, most locals understand the English language. Their decent comprehension of English will undoubtedly make it easier and more effective for tourists to communicate with Moroccan citizens. 

If you can speak Arabic, communication throughout Morocco will be an effortless and straightforward process. However, English speakers should not fear the communication barrier as the liberal Islam nation is more educated and in tune with western civilization than most would expect. 

Do Not Assume Casablanca To Be The Same As The Movie

Many tourists that traveled to Morocco over the last fifty years have incorrectly assumed that the town of Casablanca is the same as they imagined it to be per the classic 1942 movie. 

It can be said that the classic movie and the current depiction of Casablanca are on complete opposite sides of the civilization spectrum. Over the years, Casablanca has developed into Morocco’s main economic, banking, trade, and finance capital. 

In the 1842 movie, Casablanca is depicted as a city full of unparalleled allure, romance, and even lust. In reality, the only thing the movie has in common with the city is an appropriately-themed restaurant known as Rick’s café. 

As tourists progress through the city of Casablanca, they will find a busy and bustling business district, worlds apart from those exemplified by the movie of the same name. In addition, Casablanca houses among the biggest shopping malls on the African continent, known as the Twin Centre complex. 

Despite the reality of modern-day Casablanca being completely different from the movie, numerous historical and significant sites are located within the city, with the stand out being the king Hassan II Mosque. 

Do Not Expect Couscous To Be On The Menu

It is accepted that couscous is indisputably Morocco’s favored national dish. While couscous has become a beloved food in most regions of the world, it originated in the north African country. 

Despite couscous’s origin in Morocco while being, by quite some distance, the most popular food dish in the country, it is not available on every restaurant’s menu. While couscous is Morocco’s national dish, most tourists are excited to try it a few times in the country; it is only readily available at traditional tourist hotspots. 

Moroccan tradition and customs usually dictate couscous to be served exclusively on Fridays. In direct accordance with wider Islamic social norms, couscous is accepted as being the staple food, reserved for the holy day occurring on Fridays. 

While it is not strictly forbidden for Islamic loyalists to eat couscous on days of the week other than Friday, the dish’s preparation is incredibly time-consuming, resulting in most Moroccan locals reserving it for their holy day. 

If, as a tourist, you are struggling to find a locally-prepared couscous dish outside of the main tourist attractions, Moroccans recommend you try other exemplary dishes such as tangia, tagine, or even pastilla. 

Do Not Leave Morocco Before Trying Their Mint Tea

Over the previous decade, mint tea has become increasingly popular throughout the western world, although, in Morocco, tea is frequently considered the national drink of choice. 

If you are visiting the stunning north African country soon, you must try their outstanding mint tea before you leave, although as soon as possible to avoid departing Morocco disappointed.

In most western countries, you can easily find and consume various forms of mint tea; however, none come close to the flavor and authenticity associated with the Moroccan edition. 

Morocco’s mint tea is packed full of fresh mint sprigs, sugar, spices, and other unique flavors. After drinking local Moroccan mint tea, most people experience an unmatched refreshing feeling, which has developed into a way of life for local citizens. 

To obtain the best mint tea experience, local citizens recommend ordering a fresh cup from a nearby café before relaxing while watching an enormously diverse population pass you by. 

Do not haggle with locals working in the world-famous souks

Visiting one of Morocco’s globally famous souks is essential for any tourist to cross off their list. 

Moroccan souks are an enthralling experience for any traveler, with the unique spices, footwear, and clothing exceptional. In addition, the souks have become closely associated with distinct hookah pipes, leather goods, tea sets, and distinguished lamps.

While the prices at the authentic Moroccan souks are usually reasonable, some tourists are inclined to haggle with shop owners to death over a few dollars worth of merchandise.

However, haggling is a locally accepted custom or social norm, meaning a bit of negotiation between you and the shop’s owner is not frowned upon. 

At the same time, excessive haggling is not acceptable. Most shop owners within Morocco’s numerous souks are attempting to make a living for their families, meaning that every dollar matters.

As a tourist, you can easily go without a dollar or two, which you may save by excessively haggling with one of the local citizens, although this is certainly not the best practice. 

Morocco travel tips

Here are some useful Morocco travel tips to help you have an enjoyable and hassle-free experience:

  1. Dress modestly: To respect Moroccan culture, especially in non-touristy areas, avoid wearing revealing clothing. Opt for long sleeves and trousers or skirts that cover your knees.
  2. Learn basic phrases: Familiarise yourself with some essential Arabic phrases, such as greetings and thank yous. As many Moroccans also speak French, knowing some French can be helpful too. Languages spoken in Morocco – Everyone speaks Arabic and the Beber language of Amazigh, many will also speak French, especially in the larger cities.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink bottled water to avoid any potential health issues associated with consuming tap water in Morocco.
  4. Carry cash: Many establishments in Morocco still rely on cash transactions. Keep smaller denominations handy for easier payments, especially in souks and local markets.
  5. Bargain wisely: Haggling is an integral part of Moroccan culture. When shopping at souks, don’t be afraid to negotiate prices. Start by offering half the asking price and work your way up from there.
  6. Be cautious with street food: While Moroccan street food can be delicious, ensure you choose vendors with high hygiene standards to avoid any stomach upsets, whilst it is dirt cheap, hotel bars may be more sanitary.
  7. Stay connected: Download offline maps, such as Google Maps, to help you navigate the labyrinthine streets of Moroccan cities, especially in the medinas where you can get completely lost. Don’t travel as a woman alone, especially at night, women draw a lot of unwanted attention if walking alone.
  8. Hire a local guide: A knowledgeable local guide can provide valuable insights into Moroccan culture, history, and customs and is essential when you go to the sahara desert. They can also help you access areas that may be off-limits to tourists, like certain mosques or restricted areas. Choose carefully, do not pick one up on the street where they may demand money.
  9. Be prepared for public restrooms: Bring toilet paper and hand sanitiser, as public restrooms in Morocco may lack these amenities.
  10. Respect local customs: Refrain from public displays of affection, be mindful of religious practices, and avoid photographing locals without permission when you visit Morocco. Moroccan people are very friendly and social, but do respect their customs!
  11. Relax! Moroccan understanding of time is different to ours! They have a distinct perception of time and punctuality compared to Western notions. As the saying goes, “Europeans have clocks, we have time,” highlighting the more relaxed approach to timekeeping in Morocco.

Conclusion

Morocco is a must-see destination for anyone passionate about stunning scenery, unparalleled mountains, historically significant sites, and experiencing a diverse yet authentic Islamic culture. However, as a tourist, you should never disrespect the Islam faith, eat with your left hand in public, or disrespect the monarchy if you want a pleasant visiting experience. 

FAQs on Morocco Do’s and Don’ts

What is considered rude in Morocco?

In Morocco, it is considered rude to refuse hospitality or not show appreciation for the offered food and drink. Using your left hand to eat, pointing your feet at someone, and showing the soles of your shoes are also deemed impolite. Additionally, discussing religion or politics insensitively can be perceived as disrespectful.

Is it OK to hold hands in Morocco?

Holding hands in Morocco is generally acceptable for married couples or those in a committed relationship. However, public displays of affection should be kept to a minimum, as Moroccan culture values modesty and discretion.

Can Moroccans kiss in public?

Kissing in public is generally frowned upon in Morocco, especially amongst locals. It is important to respect the cultural norms and maintain a modest approach to public affection, as overt displays can be considered disrespectful.

What is forbidden in Morocco?

In Morocco, it is forbidden to consume alcohol in public places, and drug use is strictly prohibited. Taking photographs of military installations or personnel is not allowed. Additionally, dressing inappropriately, such as wearing revealing clothing, can be seen as disrespectful, especially in more conservative areas or during religious observances.

What are some basic Arabic words and phrases that could be helpful during my visit to Morocco?

It’s always beneficial to learn a few basic Arabic words and phrases when visiting Morocco. Some useful terms include:

  • Hello: As-salaam alaykum
  • Goodbye: Ma’a salama
  • Thank you: Shukran
  • Please: Min fadlak (to a male), Min fadlik (to a female)
  • Yes: Na’am
  • No: La

Many Moroccans also speak French, which can be helpful if you’re unable to communicate in Arabic.

Are there any specific Moroccan cultural customs I should be aware of to avoid being rude or drawing unwanted attention?

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To respect Moroccan culture and avoid drawing unwanted attention, it’s essential to dress modestly, especially in non-touristy areas. Avoid wearing revealing clothing, such as shorts or tank tops. Be mindful of local customs, such as not using your left hand for eating or handing over money. Additionally, refrain from public displays of affection, as this is considered inappropriate in Morocco.

What should I be prepared for when visiting a Moroccan bathroom?

Moroccan bathrooms may differ from Western concepts of restrooms, often lacking toilet paper and sometimes featuring squat toilets. It’s a good idea to carry tissues or toilet paper with you, as well as hand sanitiser, to ensure your comfort and hygiene during your visit.

Can I visit mosques in Morocco as a non-Muslim?

Most mosques in Morocco are off-limits to non-Muslims, with the exception of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. To explore other beautiful mosques and religious sites, consider hiring a local guide, who can provide access to certain areas and share insightful information about Moroccan culture and religious practices.

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