Anytime you visit a foreign country it is best to understand the rules of etiquette. In some countries a gesture can be a friendly greeting, while in others it is a rude offense. Traveling to Morocco, a country located in North Africa, is no different. To best enjoy your Moroccan holiday, there are certain things you should know about cultural etiquette as it relates to language, dress code, greetings and dining.
Moroccans primarily speak Arabic, specifically a Moroccan Arabic dialect. If you elect to go trekking in the mountains or in the Sahara Desert, you should expect Arabic to be the main language you hear. French is another common language of the country; however, it is spoken mostly in the northern region in places like the Rif Mountains, Algiers and Casablanca. Berber-Arabic can be found in the mountain and desert regions as well. English, Spanish and French are spoken and understood in cities such as Fez, Marrakesh and Casablanca. It would be polite for you to learn some conversational French before your trip.
Morocco is mainly a Muslim country so your dress should reflect the cultural norm. Dressing in Muslim tunics is not appropriate for a foreigner; however, you should not wear skimpy shirts, shorts or skirts. Instead, you should wear modest clothing such as skirts that reach below the knees, light cotton pants and shirts that cover your shoulders. Beachwear is appropriate at tourist resorts along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast, but not at local restaurants in these same areas.
Hospitality is key to the Moroccan culture. After introductions have been made, it is customary to ask about family or friends during a conversation. You can greet people with handshakes as long as they are the same gender. A "Western" handshake tends to be firm and enthusiastic, whereas in Morocco a gentler handshake is required. Women must offer their hand first if they wish to shake hands with a man. A Muslim woman, especially those in full veil tend to refrain from physical contact. In this situation a slight bow or head tilt of acknowledgment would be acceptable.
Public affection such as kissing and hugging is not tolerated in Morocco. To a certain degree hand holding is considered a platonic gesture and is not as taboo as other affectionate displays. Cultural etiquette also states that a woman, when young and unmarried, should travel with a group or be accompanied by a man, rather than going alone to a public place.
It is customary to be invited to a family home for a meal while in Morocco. If that is the case, you should not refuse any offer of food and graciously accept any present given to you when you are invited in. It is customary to bring a gift, such as flowers, sweets or pastries. In certain households, the men and women dine separately and require a more conservative dress code.