Published on March 8, 2014
MOROCCO For The Young & Curious [Culture Shock Booklet]
So that you don’t get a culture shock ;) Here are a few cultural aspects that you will need to get used to during your stay in Morocco Greeting in Morocco: Kissing and Hugging Bisous à la française (a kiss on each cheek) or hugs are commonly exchanged between samesex friends. This happens in all venues: at home, on the street, in restaurants, and in business meetings. Same-sex friends usually walk around holding hands, but couples, even married couples, rarely touch in public. Male/female contact in public is strictly limited to handshaking. Moroccans often greet strangers or tourists with two air kisses on the cheek or they shake hands. Food In Morocco the locals prefer to snack on the local delicacy boiled snails, and cook sheep’s head. Tasty! Grilled Sheep heads Boiled snails
Table manners Moroccans traditionally eat out of a communal bowl and without utensils, even when the food is really tricky — say “ couscous “ or “ shredded rghaif “. They do eat with their bare hands as well. Staring is Caring – You will be stared at by people. Chill, they are just curious. Unpunctuality – 15-20 minutes up and down, it’s all good :D Conservatism – Morocco is still mostly a conservative country. So if you wear very short skirts or decide to show the world your love for your boyfriend/girlfriend, be prepared see eyes popping at you everywhere! • Most residential areas have a problem with too much noise after 11 PM. So if you want to party hard, don’t do it at the accommodation provided! There will be a lot of randomness and craziness. CROSSING THE ROAD – Please remember to check carefully before crossing any road. Cars may be driving from a direction you do not expect. Driving is less a skill than an instinct – Drivers are NUTS in Morocco, especially in the cities. Some of them don’t respect the traffic rules. Chaos and Bamboozling – There can be a lot of chaos and confusion at a lot of places. But isn’t that where all the fun lies! :P And since you’re foreigners, be ready to be charged double the price! Be smart, learn to bargain, that’s the Moroccan way! Bargaining is the first essential skill you’ll need to pick up. From hotels and campgrounds to souvenir shopping in the souk, ask the price first and then bargain accordingly if you feel it’s too high. The merchant almost always works in some wiggle room (usually quite a lot in the markets!) and after a few days you’ll start to get a feel for the true price. The key to good bargaining is to see it as a game. Smile, sip a cup of tea and don’t take it too seriously or
you’ll only give yourself a heart attack. If you need to, start to walk away and you’ll often be called back for a better offer. Random Guides Requests for tips can be common in tourist areas. If someone offers to show you around a historical site or lead you to an address you should have some small change ready as a tip. You may also be approached in cities like Marrakech by people who want to lead you to the tanneries on the edge of the city walls. This inevitably leads from the tanneries to a far flung carpet shop where you’re pressured to buy a rather expensive souvenir. The Moroccan government has cracked down on this in recent years and all guides are supposed to be licensed. It’s best to avoid following anyone you haven’t arranged a tour with. Random Kids On the road, it’s common to meet children begging for sweets, pens or money. We found the best way to deal with this was to stop and greet the children with a handshake or a joke but not to actually give anything as it only encourages more begging. Some cyclists report kids throwing stones, especially in the “ Draa Valley “. We only had this happen once and even then it was a half-hearted attempt and not threatening. Again, stopping and encouraging the kids to come and say hello is a good tactic. In just a few minutes you can establish a relationship with them and they don’t want to throw stones at you anymore. Like kids everywhere in the world, they are bored and seeking attention. Souks ( Markets ) Colorful souks are a major part of Moroccan life and many villages have a weekly souk when people from a wide area turn up on their donkeys to buy their week’s provisions. In contrast, the souks in towns and cities offer an extensive range of goods aimed at the tourist market. Donkey and Door The streets in the medina are so crowded and narrow that cars (too wide) and even mopeds (too hard to control on steep hills and at low speeds) are impractical. So, centuries later, the donkey remains the preferred transport for delivering loads to shops and houses.
When two donkeys heading in opposite directions meet, everyone else has to get out of the way so they can pass. Sometimes shopkeepers even have to move their displays out of the way to make room. You can always tell when a donkey's coming up behind you, because of the gravelly cry of "belek, belek" ("Watch yourself!") from its handler, walking through the streets repeating the same single word all day long. Djemaa El Fna Djemaa el Fna is the central square in Marrakech, there are snake charmers, tea-sellers, performing monkeys, child acrobats and henna-muggers (the kind who paint you as you go by, then demand ‘bakshish’!), and burst out of the souk into total chaos. Hundreds of stalls lay in ranks up and down the square, selling every spicy, fruity, sugary and meaty delight you can imagine! Nightlife on the Place Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh: Check out this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbGqk0XfJtM&feature=player_embedded
Bathrooms There are public baths called hammams and several squatting toilets. Moroccan Hammam Squatting toilet Charity Please do not be offended if, sitting in a café or walking out of the bank, someone holds out his/her hand to ask for charity, which is an inherent part of Islam - you are free to hand over a dirham, or not. However, please do not give coins, sweets or biros to children as it encourages them to beg from every passing visitor. There is a lot for you to learn, discover and cherish. Love it, loathe it. That’s MOROCCO for you. Experience it!!
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