Moroccan Arts and Culture
The almost medieval-like hustle and bustle of Morocco is for most travelers a world away from their own cities and towns. The culture and people are usually so completely different from what they know that they often find themselves in situations to which they have no idea how to react. The following brief explanation of Moroccan art and culture is designed to help you get the most out of your stay in this amazing country.
The art of this country is truly special. Many historical examples are on display at the local museums. More modern examples are on display at art galleries and in souks. Beware of cheap imitations though!
There are so many different ways that the people express themselves – in carpets, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, sculpture, painting, carving, and calligraphy. They even hold an international art festival once a year to showcase all their talent. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this country, you should consider buying some of the local artwork. Not only will it provide you with a little memento of your trip, but it will help out the local people who are usually quite poor.
Souks are a way of life in Morocco and you usually wont have to go far to find one. You can often get good bargains here, but remember that most Moroccans will have a lot more experience than you will when it comes to haggling the price so you will seldom find yourself able to get better than that which is offered.
You may find, if you are friendly and courteous enough, that you will soon start to make friends with the locals. If this happens and you are invited to a meal, it is good to keep in mind some of the local customs. For example, you will usually take off your shoes when entering a house. You can follow your host’s example in this regard. Also it is a good idea to take a gift of some sort with. If you are in a home in the city you might take some pastries or some sugar with you. If you are in the county it would be better to buy a live chicken for the household which is likely to not be quite so well off. A home invitation is perhaps the most authentic way to sample Moroccan dishes. Most Moroccan food is eaten with the hands. If you are invited to join someone for a meal, you should always eat with the right hand as the left is supposed to be used for the toilet.
Any plans to visit mosques will usually meet with failure as these are considered to be very holy places that only Muslims are allowed access to. Though this is allowed in other parts of the world, the closest you will likely get to the inside of a mosque in Morocco is if you visit some ruins or disused mosques such as Tin Mal and Smara. Most other monuments are on view to the public for a price and you can also observe certain celebrations such as the Imichal wedding Fair.
When taking photographs of the local people, it would be wisest to ask their permission. Taking a photograph of someone with out their permission – especially in rural areas – can cause offense. This may result in them demanding money from you – even if you only intended to take a scenic shot of something. In contrast, taking photographs of someone you have become friendly with is usually very welcome. Often people with whom you’ve become acquainted will take you to a place where they can get a photograph taken with you for themselves. You should not be unfriendly about this as it usually does not result in you paying for the picture or any further harassment.
Traditionally the men take to the streets and the women are in control of their homes. This means that you will not often find woman in cafés or restaurants. If you are a woman and you strike up a friendship, you will likely be invited to the person’s home or to a hamman (bath) for further association. On the other hand, if you are a man or a man and woman traveling together, you will likely be invited into a café for some tea or a meal.
In general, Moroccan culture can be an exiting and worldly experience. The people are friendly and the place is colorful. Hospitality is really a part of their culture so you can strike up friendships virtually anywhere if you have the right attitude. Usually this results in further association with these dynamic and interesting people and a real taste of Moroccan life.