After having visited Morocco numerous times, I have a good working knowledge of do’s and don’ts and have written a short guide:
Do prepare well. Bring the clothing you think you’ll need for the weather. In fact, you may want to bring alternative clothing in case the weather suddenly changes. It happens. If you are in a house or a place where there is a washing machine nearby, you’re in luck; you can wash clothes every few days and don’t have to pack so much.
Do stay away from the tourist traps. Haggling is an art in Morocco, but the dumb tourists don’t know that, and the salespeople take advantage. Knockoffs are common and you will also see stuff like this:
You might even see something like this:
Or, more likely, the obligatory pedestrian picking his nose or taking a leak outside.
Don’t wear a niqab or even a hijab. As a foreigner you already attract attention by your skin color, the way you talk, the way you walk and act. Niqab-wearing is rare, and though you will see it on occasion it is not enforced nor encouraged. As for hijab, you will see some women and girls wearing it (especially women anticipating marriage) and others not. While I understand the desire to blend in, you will have people asking if you are Muslim and trust me, you don’t want to have that conversation. Don’t think about telling them if you are atheist. You may want to claim you are “studying Islam” to be on the safe side, because while the people of the book (Ahl al-kitab) are okay, they kicked out all the Christian missionaries, and antisemitism is a hot button with the Palestine issues.
Don’t stare back at people. Act casual, like you would in your own country. Once you do that, people (especially the men) will stop staring. Some women may flirt and smile at you and tell you some compliments, but not in a harassing way.
Do wear a hoodie when weather permits, though. It helps a lot to deter stares!
Prostituted women are often found in cafes where they hang out on the top level or sitting with a man to talk and scope him out.
Don’t go to a men’s-only cafe, if you are female. Creepy!
Don’t visit without any contacts or friends. If you don’t have any, get a tour guide. Only as a last resort, though, because if you go this route every Moroccan approaching you will want money or sex, and the tour guide can get costly because he takes a cut out of whatever you buy.
Also, some families sell their own children for sex tourism 😦
Don’t freak out about the toilets. While there are some cafes that have regular Western toilets, you’re going to have to get used to the hole in the ground. If you’re having a hard time at first it’s because of course Westerners aren’t used to squatting.
The most important thing is while you are out is to bring toilet paper. People steal it so you cannot count on having it in public stalls.
Do go to the beach…
but if you are female you have to go to a female-only pool if you want to swim. No, really.
Do have someone with you if you need to go to the ATM to withdraw money. Pickpockets hang out nearby.
Here’s what Moroccan dirham look like (singular draham). You can live really cheaply exchanging dollars or Euros.
Don’t trust the little kids who come up to you to whatever reason. Even poor children pickpocket. Don’t keep your money or wallet in your back pocket because that’s where they’ll go for first.
Don’t trust strange men, either. They can and will harass you walking by or possibly follow you. Pay no attention to them. Even if you are a feminist this is not a place to assert your right as a woman to walk the streets safely and alone. You will want to have either another woman or a man accompanying you.
Note that the panhandlers and muggers of defenseless women are known as bouzebal (“father of garbage man”) and their characteristic look are those adidas running pants. Once when I was on a train there were two going to each cabin opening the door and looking in to see if there was a free seat. When a train guy questioned them, one tried to say,”My hand is hurt, I have stiches” and he kicked them off the train at the next stop.
Don’t believe whatever traffic rules you’ve been told. Nobody pays attention to them. This means you have to extremely careful when crossing the street. Again, don’t go alone.
Jaywalkers are everywhere after sunset. The ones that actually look before crossing the streets are the cats and dogs.
Nobody wears helmets, either. Here I saw 3 boys on one bike (only 2 pictured).
Do bring your passport wherever you go. As soon as a cop sees you’re American or European, you’ll be okay.
Do make sure you get a written, signed contract if you are moving to Morocco for work. Otherwise you’ll get ripped off.
Don’t take pictures involving people unless it’s from a distance. Below is a common sight: produce-selling outside of a mosque.
Do smoke plenty of hash and kief if you’re into that. The hash is out of this world! You can wash clothes right before you leave for your peace of mind, but any lingering smell is okay.
Do prepare what you’re going to write on the customs form both entering Morocco and returning to your country. Fake your contact if you want to, for privacy reasons. Remember it because TSA in America will ask you the same thing and check your story. If they don’t like you, they will take you into a back room to interrogate you about your religion and what you were doing, and search through all your things; then they’ll leave you to pack it up again.
Do enjoy the food stands. There are a couple of excellent barbecue sandwich-makers and the desserts (chebekiya and briouat are my personal favorites) are always great. Not everyone in Morocco can cook, however, so don’t assume if you are invited to someone’s house that the food will fit the description the tv and magazine ads have about Moroccan food. What they’re referring to are the restaurants, popular for tourists, and pretty expensive. Ironically while women cook at home, it tends to be men cooking in restaurants, attesting to the gendered divide between private and public life.
Barbecue sandwich of seasoned kefta (beef) with onion:
Also check out the advocado juice (a3sir l’avoca); it’s avocado with milk and sugar in it as a drink.
Don’t go during Ramadan, especially during your first visit, unless you’re prepared to forego smoking in public and stay indoors most of the day (all businesses closed until sunset). The people are very irritable during this time, and any infractions disobeying the publicly-enforced fasting will result in arrests for the natives and trouble for you.
Another thing is that Ramadan happens during really hot weather so outside the trees and such will look dead. When Morocco is green it looks like this:
Do try to learn at least a little darija (the Moroccan Arabic dialect), or French. It’s polite to know how to greet in darija and besides, you’ll need it to tell the difference between the men’s and women’s restrooms. Most people speak both. You can learn classical Arabic and use it there, but not only will you not have as much luck but while you can communicate with some people you won’t be able to understand what they are saying in darija.
Don’t have PDA. The closest thing that’s acceptable is this (below). Many of these couples are married; if not, they may claim they are if questioned, and those that aren’t like to go to the mountains or woods for cuddling. For example, I saw an area that used to be filled with olive trees and it was a popular spot for young couples, before the trees got cut down.
Do feed the stray cats and dogs if you want. The cats hang around trash bags in the neighborhoods and also around cafes and restaurants. The dogs come out at night and hang out in the woods and mountains.
I ended up rescuing 2 kittens who were brothers. The second one was wandering the neighborhood mewing and then ended up trapped in a chicken coop. The first one whose face you see we rescued after and he was in the neighborhood nearby and tried to hide from me by flattening himself in the dirt next to a tree.
They are now well-fed, active and happy cats as can be seen below.
Here is another cat, pics not mine:
Also in the mountains are the Berber people, better known as Amazigh. They are a fierce and proud people fighting to retain their language and culture in spite of pan-Arabism. Here are some children selling milk (below). The mountains (and woods) are also good places to smoke hash without detection if you don’t want to do it indoors. The Amazigh have held onto the cultivation of marijuana for their livelihood, so the king turns a blind eye to them even while he sends cops to crack down on dealers in the cities.
The Straight of Gibraltar:
Near a souk: