Moroccan Culture and Practical tips

from an american living in morocco

  • Dress: You can wear whatever you want, including shorts.  However, it is advisable to wear pants and cover your shoulders, especially when outside of big cities.  You will draw less attention to yourself and also show some respect for Moroccans’ culture.  Girls who wear short shorts or dresses are likely to get some comments from boys.
  • Currency: The official currency is the Moroccan dirham (MAD).  Eleven dirhams are roughly equivalent to one euro, and ten dirhams to one U.S. dollar.
  • Water: It is not uncommon for Western visitors to Morocco to get upset stomachs.  It is best to drink only bottled or boiled water and used bottled or boiled water for brushing teeth and washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Cell phones: You can buy a Moroccan sim card for about 2 euros and get 5 gigabytes of data that lasts a month for about 5 euros.  This can be especially useful for the GPS, but be advised that the GPS signal is often weak inside medinas.
  • Greetings: A simple “salam” goes a long way.  It is customary to touch your hand to your heart after shaking someone’s hand.  When greeting a group of people, start from the rightmost person and go right to left.
  • Toilets: Most toilets in Morocco are squatty potties.  You can put toilet paper in the toilet.  To flush, fill the bucket in the bathroom with water and pour it down the hole.  Make sure you have a supply of toilet paper with you as not all restrooms have toilet paper.  (Females: face the hole to pee for best results.)
  • Food: Moroccans share meals with everyone eating from one plate or tagine.  Forks and knives are not used, but rather Moroccans eat with their hands (the right hand) and grab the food with bread.  Restaurants will provide foreigners with forks and knives.  If you are invited to someone’s home, they will offer you more food than you can possibly eat.  This is Moroccans’ way of saying that you are welcome and a friend, and they may be insulted if you don’t accept the food.
  • Tea: Moroccan tea (Berber Whiskey) is green tea with sugar and sometimes mint.  Moroccans put in a lot of sugar, so make sure you ask for no sugar if you don’t like sweet drinks.
  • Souks (Markets): Bargain with the vendors.  But also take some time to talk with the vendors and get to know them.  Yes, they want to make money, but most of them truly like to get to know you.
  • Explore non-touristy areas: To get a better taste of Moroccan life, venture outside of where most tourists go.  Go eat in a restaurant that is full of Moroccans and try to talk to Moroccans as much as you can.  Moroccans enjoy sharing their culture with foreigners.
  • Unofficial guides: In the big cities, many teenage boys and young men will try to show you around the medina for a small tip.  While they will not let you get lost, they may take you a roundabout way so that you need them to find your way back.  Also, if policemen come near, they may run off to avoid getting in trouble.
  • Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory but is greatly appreciated.  If you want to make sure the money gets to the workers instead of the owner, you may want to leave the tip in the room at a hotel, on the table at a restaurant (if safe), or give it to the workers directly.
  • Transportation: Within Morocco, there are four main modes of public transportation: petite taxi, grand taxi, bus, and train.
    • Petite taxis go within a city and use a meter.  Make sure you tell the taxi driver to start the meter or fix a price before starting on the trip.  Taxi fares are generally cheap.
    • Grand taxis go between towns and cities.  There are fixed fares between locations.  The drivers are usually fair with tourists, but you may want to ask someone at a hotel or restaurant for the price beforehand.  To take a grand taxi, go to the grand taxi station and tell them where you want to go.  Once six people with the same destination arrive, the taxi will leave.  Sometimes you may have to wait a while for a taxi to leave, especially if you are trying to go in the heat of the afternoon or in the evening.  You can pay for all the spots in the taxi if you don’t want to wait.
    • The two main bus lines are CTM and Supratours.  These have the nicest buses and run on time.  You can view the time tables at www.ctm.ma and www.supratours.ma.  To go from Tangier/Chefchaouen to the south of Morocco (Er-Rachidia/Merzouga/Rissani) take a bus first to Fez, and then transfer.  Note that there is no onboard bathroom, but the buses make stops at cafés.  Night buses are safe.
    • The train runs between the major cities and is reliable.  You can view the timetable at www.oncf.ma.  For safety, it is best to travel first class if you take a night train.
  • Burping: Burping is socially acceptable, and Moroccans say “lhmdollah” (“Thanks to Allah”) after burping.
  • Alcohol: You can buy alcohol in Morocco, but it is hard to find in small towns.  Erfoud is the last city where you can buy alcohol before the Merzouga desert.
  • Time zone: Morocco is in the time zone UTC + 01:00, the same as central Europe.  As of October 2018, Morocco no longer observes Daylight Saving Time.