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People and Culture

Morocco - People and Culture

Morocco is a country rich in history, tradition and culture most of which is tied to it’s official religion of Islam. The Berbers are believed to be the original inhabitants around 8000 BC, and still make up a large part of the population today. Since then it has been settled, colonized and reclaimed by several different nations including the Phoenicians during the Roman Empire, the flourish of Islam under Idrisid Empire, the Alouite Dynasty, and French and Spanish protectorate lasting until 1956 when Morocco gained its independence from France. Many of the customs, laws, and practices within Islam widely influence the people and the culture of Morocco today.

As the country develops and Westernizes, many modern changes can be noted in the people living in major cities such as Rabat, Casablanca and Tangier, while Fes and Marrakesh maintain the traditions of old world Morocco. In smaller towns and rural areas a much different lifestyle exists, and it can be hard to believe that in a country a little larger than the size of California, such a difference exists. In the cities, you will find cars, buses, and taxis making the streets noisy and busy while tall buildings penetrate the skyline. Yet, in the rural areas a camel or donkey is the mode of transportation among the small houses and farmlands or dessert landscapes. The convenience of cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores are nonexistent in these places and people often rely on trading goods rather than purchasing them.

The people of Morocco are kind, warm, and well known around the world for their hospitality. A Moroccan, after having just met you, will invite you to his home for a feast of all they have to give, even if they are of meager means. They value building personal relationships, and want to help others for the sake of it, not always for their own personal gain. Family is important to Moroccans and you will often find extended family gathering for meals, tea, and visits. Moroccans will often ask you about the health and well-being of your own family, even if they have never met them. They have a genuine interest in concern for other people. Personal honor and respect is most important to Moroccans so crossing these lines can quickly turn a valuable relationship sour almost immediately.

You will find many men and woman wearing the traditional djellaba, a long hooded robe worn over their clothes. Women add the hijab, or head covering in a sign of submission to God. For special occasions, a caftan replaces the djellaba. The main difference between the two is that a caftan is made of more expensive fabrics and does not include the traditional hood. It is also adorned with lace, embroidery beading of bright colors. You will find just as many men and women among the younger generation wearing Western style clothing such as T-shirts and jeans and modern suits.

As modern as Morocco becomes, some old traditions and ways of life live strong among the fancy cars and clothes of the Western world. Such traditions are the souks where goods and sometimes services are sold, and also sometimes traded. Although there are many department stores in the cities selling groceries, clothes, and household items, many people prefer to buy from their local souk vendors than at the major chains stores. Bargaining and purchasing needed items for trusted vendors is a way of life, and everything needed is purchased at a more reasonable price than the brightly lit stores.

Another such custom is a weekly trip to the local hammam where Moroccans spend a great deal of time exfoliating their skin, washing their hair and bodies thoroughly in no particular rush. The large bath houses separated by men’s and women’s quarters are steamy rooms where many people socialize as much as they bathe. For those who don’t have a shower in their house, the hammam is not only a way of life but a necessity. Even those living in large apartments with modern amenities still visit the local hammams on a regular basis.

Additionally, Morocco is still a male dominated society, although the government is working hard to maintain and advance the rights of women and children. There are still places such as tea cafes where the presence of women is not welcome, and other places such as the courthouses where men and women are still expected to sit on opposite sides of the room.

The modernization of Morocco continues as technology flourishes, free-trade agreements open, and the people embrace the conveniences of the Western world. Running hot water, seated toilets, televisions and satellite dishes, home appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, side by side refrigerators, vehicles, computers, and cell phones are the things we easily take for granted as a way of life. However, these things are still reserved for the rich and have a long way to go before anyone will ever be able to take them for granted in Morocco.

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