Five Reasons Why Morocco Will Pleasantly Surprise You

Moroccan Hospitality is an Objective 10/10:  Interested in a confidence boost? Or being spoiled by locals? Or easily making new friends? Morocco is definitely your place. Not only are Moroccans very inviting and welcoming to guests, but they actually take genuine pleasure in doing so.

From my own experiences of living with a Moroccan host family in Meknes and by visiting the homes of some of my Moroccan friends, I can say that Moroccan hospitality goes above just taking care of you. They will tell you to make yourself at home as they feed you delicious home-cooked food and shower you with compliments. Now that is what I call a win. Many Moroccan homes also include a “Salon Marocain”, or a beautifully decorated room designed for hosting guests. In other words, Moroccans take hospitality to a whole new level. The hospitality and generosity of Moroccan families are some of the most beautiful aspects of the culture and makes Morocco a genuinely kind place to be.

Tip: Stay with a host family if studying or traveling abroad in Morocco, and attend functions and events that will allow you to make friends with locals. It is really a life-changing experience to be able to stay with a Moroccan family and observe this beautiful part of the Moroccan culture firsthand.

Dynamic Natural Environment: For a relatively small country, Morocco will take you by surprise by all of its diverse and beautiful natural landscapes! I was pleasantly surprised while traveling through the country with how quickly the landscape could change and it would feel like I was in a completely different place. With the Mediterranean on the northern coast, the Atlantic on the west coast, the Sahara desert in the east and the Atlas mountain range running through the country, people seeking unique adventures (like me) will absolutely not be disappointed. In the souks, a typical marketplace in Morocco, they even make an effort to preserve the natural environment by utilizing reusable bags.

Tip: Take an organized Sahara desert tour through Merzouga and spend the night in a Berber Camp to simultaneously experience some of the unique parts of Morocco’s culture and natural environment.

The Unique Architecture: The architecture and overall design in Morocco is on a whole new level of interesting. It is majestic and full of historical significance. Minarets, arches, and elaborate doors and gates characterize many Moroccan cities and towns. It is not uncommon to be casually strolling through the souks in the medina (old city) and pass by a large, beautiful door or an arch-shaped fountain decorated in colorful tile. Some of the historical sites, like the madrasas (educational institutions) are decorated in Moorish-style tile and designed with verses of the Quran.

Tip: Marrakech, Fez, Meknes, and Rabat, the four imperial cities of Morocco, are where this architecture and history are the most visible (in my opinion).

You Can Break the Rules: Among all the words used to describe Moroccans as a whole, “uptight” and “rule-oriented” would absolutely not be on the list. From my experience living in a Moroccan home, I can’t remember a single time my host family mentioned any rules for us to follow. While that definitely is not to say that you can be as impolite and disrespectful as you want. It does, however, make for a more relaxed and comfortable environment. Taking efforts to be polite and respectful are definitely appreciated, though. Even then, Morocco has visibly different standards on etiquette.

Remember all the “rules” your parents taught you when you were younger on how to behave properly, such as “do not eat with your hands” or “take your shoes off when you enter a guest’s house”? Well, those are not a thing in Morocco. In fact, Moroccans tend to eat with bread or their hands. The best part is that not only is it not considered impolite, but it is completely normal! It is also not considered impolite to eat too much, as they actually encourage you to eat a lot! I’ve also observed that Moroccans go to bed late at night, wake up later in the morning, and wear shoes in their houses. In fact, as long as it does not conflict with their religious values, Moroccan’s are more relaxed about rules in general.

Time of Heightened Sociopolitical Change: Morocco is becoming more modern and is slowly abandoning restrictive traditional norms. The most obvious example is the shift in women’s roles. More and more Moroccan women are holding jobs traditionally held by men and have more rights than they had previously. Even with the trend of modernity, the Moroccan cultural traditions remain rich. Needless to say, it is a very interesting time to visit the country.

Kerstin Westerlund is a student at California Lutheran University and was an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied with ISA in Meknes, Morocco.

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