About to head off on a school trip to Morocco? You're going to have an incredible time exploring this fascinating country. But there are a few things your group should be made aware of, to ensure they don't inadvertently cause offence to their hosts.
Morocco is a Muslim country and, although in the cities attitudes do tend to be more liberal, modest dress is advised to avoid causing offence.
But what does modest dress mean? Strictly speaking, modest dress in Muslim culture means being clothed from wrist to ankle for women, and from over the shoulder to below the knee for men.
Essentially, both sexes should stay away from shorts or skirts cut above the knee, and sleeveless t-shirts. And if you do travel to more rural areas, which tend to be more conservative, it is a good idea to try to conform to the codes of modest dress as closely as possible.
Women do not need to wear a headscarf, although they are welcome to.
Travelling during Ramadan
Ramadan is a very interesting time to visit Morocco, but there are some important things to remember to avoid causing offence.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, in which they fast during the daylight hours. This means avoiding eating, drinking and even chewing gum. Muslims also abstain from other things during this time, including smoking. The fasting is obligatory for all Muslims (there are some exceptions, including pregnant women, nursing women, young children etc.).
Of course, if you’re not Muslim, no-one expects you to fast. However, you should avoid eating and drinking etc. in public during this time.
Some restaurants may close during Ramadan, and some may alter their opening hours.
Iftar is the traditional meal at which the fast is broken. You should note that there will be a higher demand on taxis and public transport at this time so, if you can avoid travelling then, it would be advisable to do so.
Being invited to someone’s home
If you are invited to a Moroccan’s home, taking a gift is always welcome. Suitable gifts include pastries, tea and sugar.
You should take your shoes off when entering the reception rooms (living room, dining room). Your host may tell you that it’s not necessary, but you should assume it is unless they say otherwise.
In Arabic culture, the left hand is considered unclean, as that is the hand traditionally used for sanitation. So, Moroccans usually only use their right hand to eat. This is particularly important to remember if you are sharing a tagine.
Tipping is expected in some situations in Morocco. In restaurants, you should expect to tip around 5dh in local restaurants to around 10-15% in more upmarket places. Museum and monument curators will expect around 3dh – 5dh, porters who load your luggage onto buses will expect around 5dh, and waiters in cafes will expect around 1dh per person at the table.
You’re going to want to take lots of pictures during your school trip to Morocco – and you should! There are a couple of key things to remember though. Firstly, you should avoiding photographing border checkpoints and anything related to the military. It’s usually OK to photograph mosques from a distance, but you should not get too close if you are not a Muslim – non-Muslims are not permitted to enter mosques in Morocco, and you also don’t want to appear to be peering in, as this could cause offence to the worshippers.
And the same applies to all sacred places in Morocco, including koubbas (tombs of local saints), the zaouias of the Sufis and graveyards too.