People are often worried about mistakes not to make in Morocco so that they don’t offend people. people when they visit Morocco. I think this is a common fear when we travel somewhere new, especially if the culture is very different from what we’re used to. Often times what might WE might think offends locals is actually not offensive at all.
Truthfully very few Moroccan people would ever say anything or act offended if you made a slip. If however, you simply want to avoid that discomfort, I put together this list of “faux pas’” to avoid when you visit Morocco.
Traveling to a new country can be exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. One of the most common concerns among travelers is the fear of accidentally offending the locals. This is especially true when traveling to a country with a culture that may be very different from what we are used to.
In Morocco, a country with a rich history and a unique blend of cultures, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and traditions. However, the good news is that the vast majority of Moroccan people are friendly and welcoming, and it’s unlikely that you will cause offense inadvertently.
That being said, there are certain cultural norms and practices in Morocco that it’s helpful to be aware of. By familiarizing yourself with these customs, you can show respect for the local culture and avoid any awkward misunderstandings. In this post, we’ve compiled a list of common faux pas that travelers to Morocco should try to avoid. From dress codes to table manners, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make your trip to Morocco a success.
Ooops #1: Bargaining too Hard
I remember noticing tourists bargaining so hard on some purchases that it actually was insulting and impractical for the shop owners to sell at those prices. There is a culture of bargaining in Morocco and for those of us who come from countries where that does not exist, we can be confused by how it works.
It’s also pretty common that sellers will set higher prices for tourists. Yes, you should bargain, it’s part of the culture but do so with respect and understanding. You want to pay 100 dirham for a handmade leather bag? That’s just rude. Bargaining in such a way is not clever. It’s insulting.
Ooops #2: Being Overly Paranoid
I see a lot of tourists acting like they’re always on the lookout for scams and being taken advantage of in every single interaction. Not everyone is out to get you! Often times people do genuinely just want to be nice.
For example I was recently on the train from Casablanca to Marrakech by myself with a suitcase, bag and purse. The gentlemen, who fit every stereotype of “the bad Muslim guy” on TV and in movies couldn’t do enough to be kind.
He helped me with my bags, checked if it was alright before he opened the window shade, and offered to share his lunch not only with me but with two other travelers nearby. Genuine Moroccan kindness and hospitality. It’s a big faux pas to respond with suspicion to every small act of kindness and hospitality!
While it’s important to be aware of the possibility of scams and be vigilant when traveling in Morocco, it’s also important not to let fear and paranoia take over. While there are some people who may try to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists, the vast majority of Moroccans are friendly, welcoming, and eager to share their culture with visitors.
The key is to approach interactions with a healthy dose of skepticism and common sense, but also to keep an open mind and heart. By being mindful of the potential for scams and keeping your wits about you, you can enjoy all that Morocco has to offer without being overly paranoid or fearful.
Ooops #3: Ramadan Assumptions
A lot of people plan their visit to Morocco during Ramadan – often times they have no idea it’s Ramadan. Whether you decide to come during this month or not it’s good to do a little research and find out what Ramadan is and what it means for your visit. You shouldn’t assume that things will be business as usual. Many schedules change, activities are altered, things are closed, and people tend to be a little more on edge. Do due diligence before you come so that you are prepared.
Ramadan is an important religious event in Morocco and a time of reflection, fasting, and prayer for many Muslims. As a tourist, it is important to be respectful of this and not disrupt the traditions of those observing Ramadan. It is also important to keep in mind that alcohol is not typically served during Ramadan, and some restaurants may have limited hours or may be closed entirely.
Keep in mind that the days can be long and hot, and locals who are fasting may be more irritable or fatigued than usual. Be mindful of your behavior and try to be patient and understanding during this time. By taking the time to learn about Ramadan and its customs, you can gain a deeper appreciation for Moroccan culture and ensure that your trip is respectful and enjoyable for all involved.
Ooops #4: Being Annoyed by “the singing” at 5am
It’s not singing, it’s the call to prayer (adhan) and it happens 5 times a day; the first one is quite early. If you’re staying in the medina of any city you’re going to hear it. There is a mosque on almost every corner so it’s unlikely you will find somewhere to stay that you won’t hear the adhan – that’s the point!
The adhan is an important part of Muslim culture and tradition, and it’s not something that can be avoided in Morocco. Instead of being annoyed by it, try to appreciate the significance of the call to prayer and the beauty of the melodic chanting. Many travelers find the adhan to be a unique and memorable experience of their trip to Morocco, and it’s worth taking the time to learn more about the cultural and religious significance of the adhan.
Additionally, if you find the adhan to be too loud or disruptive, consider bringing earplugs or finding a hotel room that’s further away from the mosque. This can help to make the early morning call to prayer less disruptive to your sleep schedule. Overall, it’s important to approach the adhan with an open mind and a willingness to learn about and appreciate the local culture.
Best advice? Embrace it! After a few days you probably won’t even notice it.
Ooops #5: Too Much PDA
Public displays of affection (PDA) are generally not acceptable in Morocco. While it is perfectly fine to hold hands in public, or share a quick hug or a kiss, anything beyond that is not considered appropriate. This is particularly true in rural areas where people tend to be more conservative. Even in the cities, it is advisable to avoid making out or touching each other in a way that could make others uncomfortable. Remember that in Morocco, people generally keep their private lives private and are modest in their public behavior.
Moroccans are very loving – in private. It’s very uncommon and frowned upon to show a lot of affection in public. Holding hands in Morocco is fine. A hug here or there, and a stolen kiss are all fine in most situations. But, making out in public – is absolutely not ok.
You’ll certainly get some clicking tongues and sideways looks. The same can be said for hands wandering anywhere on each other’s bodies. The more rural you are the more frowned on public displays of affection are.
While you might feel tempted to show your love for your partner, doing so in public in Morocco can lead to disapproving looks and even negative reactions from locals. It’s always best to be respectful of local customs and traditions, even if they differ from your own. If you want to know more about the do’s and don’ts of PDA in Morocco, check out my full post on the subject.
Ooops #6: Taking Pictures of People, Palaces, and Police
I have been on the receiving end of snap-happy tourists. You will see things that you may not have ever seen before. People DO dress differently, and maybe even act differently. It’s never ok to take a picture of someone without their permission. This is especially true of women who are wearing a veil and men wearing beards. People who are more religious tend to not want photographs taken.
It’s also really important for visitors to know it is not ok to take pictures of police officers, military personnel, or palaces. Morocco is very serious when it comes to national security and these are major no-nos. If a police officer sees you take a picture of him/her don’t be surprised if they come to you and request you immediately delete the image. If you’re not sure you can take a picture, ask.
Ooops #7: Drones
If you are a drone enthusiast or a photographer who likes to use drones for aerial shots, be warned that Morocco has strict laws regarding the use of drones. It is important to remember that these laws are in place for a reason, and disregarding them can result in serious consequences.
The Moroccan government has banned the use of drones due to safety concerns and the risk they pose to national security. Unauthorized drones can interfere with air traffic, cause accidents, and invade people’s privacy. Moreover, the use of drones for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited unless you obtain permission from the relevant authorities.
Therefore, if you plan to visit Morocco and want to bring your drone along, it is best to leave it at home. The risks simply outweigh the benefits, and it is not worth the legal troubles and fines that come with violating the law. Instead, focus on other ways to capture the beauty of Morocco and its landscapes, such as through photography or videography from the ground.
Ooops #8: Not Covering Up
Truth: You can wear whatever you want in Morocco, there’s no “Morocco dress code” – but that doesn’t mean you should. You certainly do not need to dress like locals, nor should you, but be mindful of local norms. Women – booty shorts, cleavage-bearing or crop tops and see-through items are not a great idea.
If you do choose to dress more revealing please don’t wear a scarf on your head. This is more disrespectful than simply wearing nothing. Men, wear a shirt and long shorts; aside from young or teenage boys you will rarely see Moroccan men wearing a tank top or shorter, sport-style shorts.
Ooops #9: Expecting Everyone to Speak English
Moroccans speak a lot of languages. They’re very gifted when it comes to this but you shouldn’t assume everyone does speak English. Instead, ask! Arabic and French are spoken by almost everyone. Simply say;
Tkalem Ingles? – Arabic OR
Parlez vous anglais? – French
If they speak English they’ll switch for you. If they don’t, they’ll say no and you can move on! One other little note speaking louder or enunciating doesn’t help someone who doesn’t speak English it just comes off as rude!
It also would be wrong to assume everyone speaks French (they don’t!) One of the comments that I cringe most often when I hear is, “but you live in Morocco and you don’t speak French?!” Yes, many people do speak French but Arabic and the Amazigh (Berber) languages are the languages spoken by most everyone. Want to learn more? Here are a few words that can help you get started!
Ooops #10: Unclear (Sexual) Gender Relations
In Morocco it’s really normal for two male friends to hold hands or two women friends to do the same. It has zero meaning sexually. It’s really just a sign of friendship. Seeing two middle-aged male cops walking through an office building holding hands really changes ones perspective on gender relations!
It’s important to realize that Morocco is a large country with over 30 million people. What is and isn’t ok will vary a lot depending on where you are and the company you are with. I do hope that these “mistakes” are something you keep in mind when you visit but also be sure to take clues from the people around you or ask if you’re unsure about anything!
More Useful Information for Visiting Morocco
Be sure to check out some of our other articles for more in-depth information about traveling to Morocco, including what to wear, how to stay safe, and where to find the best food and shopping experiences.