The culture in Morocco has been weaved by centuries of tradition and influence from a variety of factors, ranging from religion to politics. Good manners in the Northern African nation tend to be a little different from the standard good manners understood in many western countries. Generally, Morocco is a place where modesty is prized, religion is sacred, and conservative values are celebrated.
There are a few things to remember if you plan on taking a trip to Morocco. Keep reading to find out what etiquette tips you have to know about before leaving for Morocco.
10 You Won’t Be Allowed In Most Mosques
Generally, many mosques in Morocco will be off-limits to those who are not Muslims. You are allowed to admire the building from the outside, but in many cases, only those of the Islamic faith will be permitted to enter.
According to Rough Guides, non-Muslims are allowed into a select few mosques, including the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. But if you’re not allowed inside, you also won’t be allowed to take pictures of the inside with your camera through the doors. Graveyards are also considered sacred in Morocco and shouldn’t be walked through.
9 Be Respectful During Ramadan
Being a predominantly Islamic country, Morocco has different rules and etiquettes during the holy month of Ramadan. For Muslims, this is a time of prayer, reflection, community, and fasting. Visitors to Morocco are not expected to partake in the tradition of fasting between dawn and dusk, but it is still wise to be respectful.
During Ramadan, it’s a good idea to avoid eating and drinking outside the confines of public restaurants or your hotel, just as a courtesy to locals who are fasting. This is especially true if you’re in a non-touristy area of the country.
8 In General, Dress Conservatively
The traditions of Morocco tend to be quite conservative by western standards. In order to fit in with the locals and avoid drawing unwanted attention, it’s a good idea to dress conservatively. For men, this usually means trousers instead of shorts and shirts with short sleeves at least.
Women might like to make sure they’re wearing clothing that is not tight-fitting or short in any way. Frommer’s advises that there are some high-end restaurants in the country where it’s acceptable to dress in a European style rather than according to Middle Eastern values, but it’s never a good idea to wear clothes that are too revealing.
7 Be Wary Of Being Too Friendly
It’s always important to be polite and respectful while in Morocco, but being overly friendly is another matter. While you may come from a country where it’s standard practice to make small talk with strangers, in Morocco this kind of attitude can be taken the wrong way.
For example, Moroccan women tend to be more aloof than friendly when it comes to interacting with men. If you’re overly friendly, this can be seen as romantic interest, which is likely to provoke unwanted attention. In particular, it’s wise to avoid physical contact with men of any kind.
6 Remember Handshake Etiquette
When greeting people in Morocco, a simple handshake is what usually works best. But according to Lonely Planet, there are a few rules to remember when it comes time to shake hands. In most cases, standard handshakes in Morocco are followed by lightly placing your right hand on your heart.
If you’re a man, remember that Moroccan women might not feel comfortable shaking your hand. To avoid an awkward situation, it’s better to avoid offering a handshake to a Moroccan woman. If she instigates the handshake, however, feel free to comply.
5 When Eating From A Communal Bowl, Stay Within Your Own Boundaries
Dining etiquette throughout the Middle East tends to be different from what many westerners are used to. As Journey Beyond Travel explains, you will probably experience food served in a communal bowl rather than in individual plates. The proper etiquette here is to only eat out of your section of the bowl.
Mentally cut out your section of the bowl, which should be relative to how many people are sitting at the table. Feel free to go back to that section as much as you like (and you are allowed to double-dip). But don’t cross the boundaries and eat from other people’s sections.
4 Never Eat With Your Left Hand
There’s another rule to remember when it comes to eating, besides sticking to your section of the communal bowl. Always, always take food using your right hand. This even applies if you are left-handed. Though it may be less convenient for you, this is expected because the left hand is considered unclean.
In Middle Eastern culture, the left hand is typically used in the restroom. If you use it to eat out of a communal bowl, the other dinner guests will probably be horrified. Even if you’re eating from your own plate, it’s considered bad form.
3 Avoid Giving Direct Compliments
Islamic culture tends to encourage the value of modesty. You might mean no harm at all by complimenting a local in Morocco, but this can be seen as too forward and can make them uncomfortable. If you ever want to praise someone, it’s best to be as subtle about it as possible. You’ll find that many locals won’t accept compliments, even if they’re a reflection of the truth.
You might also find that you don’t receive many compliments during your visit to Morocco. Remember this is part of the culture.
2 Be Careful What You Photograph
This tip is especially important in the age of the smartphone, where many people photograph every single thing they see, do, and eat. The rules around taking photos in Morocco tend to be stricter than what many westerners are used to. When it comes to mosques, for example, refrain from taking pictures of the interior. It’s also strictly forbidden to photograph military and police personnel or border checkpoints.
If you want to take a photo of a local or their property, the safest thing to do is always ask. In some cases, they will want a tip as compensation.
1 Swap Bon Appetit For Bismillah
You may have heard the term Bismillah in the famous Queen song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Even some hard-core fans of the band don’t realize that this phrase actually appears in the Qu’ran and means “In the name of Allah” or “In the name of God”. In Islamic culture, this is usually set at the beginning of a meal.
To really impress the locals, say Bismillah instead of Bon Appetit before you start eating or drinking. It will really win you some points!