When you travel to any new and unfamiliar part of the world, it is important to not only be knowledgeable about the local customs, but to know how to be respectful of them, as well. For westerners, this is especially important when visiting conservative countries like Morocco. Here are 7 tips to consider while traveling to Morocco.
How to Dress
When it comes to clothing, the culturally appropriate traveler should strive to dress modestly. This is most important for women. As a general guideline, cover your shoulders and upper arms. Clothing should also cover anything above the knee. Plunging necklines or exposed midriffs are, for the most part, not socially acceptable. You may find that Moroccans are more lenient with the dress code in cities than they are in rural areas. Long sleeves, long skirts, and non-tight clothing are a sign of respect to those you are visiting. In certain situations, it is even appropriate for women to use a scarf to cover their head and hair. Read our full guide: What To Wear In Morocco.
Time has a very different meaning, culturally, in Morocco than in does in western countries. While in some parts of the world it is rude to be running more than a few minutes late, you need to use some extra patience in Morocco. Time management is much more relaxed in the country, and it is not unusual for things like meals to run a half hour later than scheduled. Know this going in, so you are not agitated by the results.
Avoid Public Affection
When it comes to women and men, public displays of affection are not appropriate for Moroccan culture. While kissing in public may seldom raise eyebrows in the United States, it is unacceptable behavior in Morocco. On the other hand, it is pretty common to see men holding hands with other men. This is a normal show of friendship for Moroccan men.
One custom that may take some travelers a little getting used to is eating with your hands. It is common for travelers to adapt to the local custom of using your hand to scoop out food from a shared dish. Before doing so, your host will probably offer you a bowl to wash your hands. To do so, hold your hands over the bowl while the other person pours water over your hands to clean them.
Feet and Shoes
Two things that are not clean by Moroccan cultural standards are shoes and feet. When you enter a local person’s home, you should expect to take off your shoes. Even if your host waves your gesture off and says you do not need to remove your shoes, you may want to insist. You want to be respectful of your host. Along the same lines, it is not appropriate to sit with your feet propped up, or even to step over someone who is sitting on the ground in your path. Walk around them, and keep your feet on the ground.
Negotiating for Price
While many Americans are used to paying a set price for items, this is not the norm in many other parts of the world, including Morocco. If a price is not marked on an item you have your eye on, be ready to negotiate the price. Usually the vendor starts the negotiation by announcing a price. If you are in a tourist-rich section of town, the price is probably a lot higher than the item is worth. It is up to you to decide the worth of the product, and how much you are willing to pay without offending anyone. Often, it will take several back-and-forth offers before you reach a price agreed upon by both parties. The exception to this theory is when a price is clearly marked on a product. In that case, you should be prepared to pay full value because it is inappropriate to negotiate a lower price.
While many areas of Morocco are tourist-friendly, if you are a non-Muslim you cannot enter a mosque. While this may be disappointing to some travelers, you need to be sensitive and respectful of the local customs. There are a handful of locations where this rule does not apply. If you have any questions or concerns, though, it is best to ask someone ahead of time rather than to risk offending a great majority of people.
Visiting Morocco is an incredible experience.
Like any country, though, you should do a little research ahead of time to know what is culturally acceptable, and how to be respectful towards those you hope to learn more about. Following these seven culturally appropriate tips will be a start to putting yourself on track to a great and rewarding adventure.