THE RICH CULTURE OF MOROCCO
To understand Moroccan culture it is important to understand Islam which in intrinsically entwined into every day life. For the Moroccan, Alla is the most important being in his or her life followed by respect of parents and older relatives. Islam is practised by the majority of Moroccans and governs their personal, political, economic and legal lives. The Quran and the actions of the Prophet Mohammed (the Sunnah) are used as the basis for all guidance in the religion.
Among certain obligations for Muslims are to pray five times a day – at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The exact time is listed in the local newspaper each day. Friday is the Muslim holy day. Many shops close on a Friday.
During the holy month of Ramadan all Muslims must fast from dawn to dusk. Fasting includes no eating, drinking, cigarette smoking, or gum chewing. Expatriates are not required to fast; however, they must not eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public although it is now accepted that non-muslims will eat in restaurant and be served by Moroccan staff. Each night at sunset, families and friends gather together to celebrate the breaking of the fast. The festivities often continue well into the night. In general, things happen more slowly during Ramadan. Many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Shops may be open and closed at unusual times.
Moroccans’ most cherished possession is their honour and dignity, which reflects not only on themselves but on all members of their extended family. All Moroccans will go out of their way to preserve their personal honour and that of their. They are always concerned as to how others ee them and to lose one’s honour mat result in being ostracised by their family and wider society.
The family is the most significant unit of Moroccan life and plays an important role in all social relations. It can be quite hard for Westerners to understand that the family group is always more important than the individual members. That is why it is acceptable in Moroccan society to engage in nepotism because it clearly marks commitment to the family.
Etiquette & Customs in Morocco
Meeting and greeting is always a special event in Moroccan culture. At the greeting each person takes their time and talks about their families, friends, and other general topics. Handshakes are the customary greeting between individuals of the same sex. Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on both cheeks, starting with the left cheek while shaking hands, men with men and women with women. In any greeting that does take place between men and women, the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head in greeting.
When entering a social function, shake hands with the person to your right and then continue around the room going from right to left. It is important to say good-bye to each person individually when leaving.
Gift Giving Etiquette
If you are invited to a Moroccan’s home bring sweet pastries, nuts, figs, dates or flowers to the hostess. A small gift for the children is seen as a token of affection. Do not bring alcohol unless you know that your host drinks. Gifts are not opened when received.
If you are invited to a Moroccan’s house you should remove your shoes. You should dress smartly as doing so demonstrates respect towards your hosts. Remember to shake everyone’s hand individually.
Food is usually served at a knee-high round table. The guest of honour generally sits next to the host. A washing basin will be brought to the table before the meal is served. Hold your hands over the basin while water is poured over them. Dry your hands on the towel provided.
Do not begin eating until the host blesses the food or begins to eat. Food is served from a communal bowl and you should eat from the section of the bowl that is in front of you. Never reach across the bowl to get something from the other side. As an honoured guest, choice cuts will be put in front of you.
Scoop the food with a piece of bread or the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand. . Eat and drink only with the right hand and do not wipe your hands on your napkin. Water is often served from a communal glass. If you want your own glass it is a good idea to ask for a soft drink. The washing basin will be brought around the table again at the end of the meal. Expect to be urged to take more food off the communal plate. Providing an abundance of food is a sign of hospitality.
Business Etiquette and Protocol in Morocco
Moroccans prefer to do business with those they know and respect, therefore expect to spend time cultivating a personal relationship before business is conducted. You can learn more about business protocol under the business section of this site but remember, as a general rule of thumb it is who you know is more important than what you know, so it is important to network and cultivate a number of contacts who may then assist you in working your way through the seemingly never ending bureaucracy.