Culture & People

Morocco’s cultural heritage reflects the influence of a long succession of invaders and settlers including the Carthaginians, Romans, French, Spanish and Arabs. The Berbers make up over half of the population and Moroccan society is a fascinating melting pot of Berber, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, African and European. This eclectic diversity has helped Morocco become a tolerant society, accepting of different religions and minorities.

The late Hassan II, king of Morocco, compared the country to a tree with its roots spreading deep into the heart of Africa, its trunk solidly set in the Arab-Islamic world and its branches reaching beyond Spain, Portugal and France to the heart of Europe.

In Morocco family and community are highly important, being the pillars that help maintain a stable and peaceful society. The famed “Arab Telephone” is no myth – everyone seems to know what everyone else is doing. But it’s all done in a gentle way and helps ensure stability and law and order. It’s almost impossible to be anonymous in Morocco.

Culture Shock

No matter where you arrive in Morocco, you immediately know you are in a different culture. There is a unique energy, street life, noise, everything feels so alive.

From the hustle and bustle of Marrakech’s Djemaa el-Fna, the intensity of  markets and medinas, to the emptiness of the Sahara and its mesmerising dunes, Morocco is both different and diverse

Whilst Morocco is modernising it still proudly hangs on to its traditions and simple ways of doing things – you will see women washing their clothes in the river and the soil being tilled with a simple wooden plough and donkey. In the south Berber families still ply a simple lifestyle, living in homespun wool tents.

Arguably one of the largest culture shocks for tourists is haggling. In the medina and markets. Haggling is a way of life and not something to shy away from – it is invariably a humorous interaction between a willing buyer and seller. Price is determined through what one is willing to pay, rather than a remote corporate office ascertaining the best price for maximisation of profits.

Geography and Landscape

The Kingdom of Morocco is a country of extraordinary beauty and diversity spanning from a Mediterranean coastline in the North, scenic mountain landscapes to the empty wilderness of the Sahara.

North of the Atlas Mountains are the historic cities of Fez, Marrakech and Meknes with their ancient medinas and souks. A cacophony of noise, colour, wares, ancient buildings and mosques.  The people going about their day to day business, represent the soul of these cities – marvellous places to while away the day.

The Atlas Mountain range, which cuts its way through virtually the entire country, is both stark and verdant, its rocky peaks being in contrast to its lush valleys. There are endless rambling opportunities to be enjoyed.

To the South, at the edge of the great ergs (dunes) of the Sahara, lie the desert frontier towns of Rissani and Mhamid from where you can camel trek with a nomad guide and spend the night in a desert camp under the stars.

The coastline is 2,000km. The towns on the coast have their own unique atmosphere including the capital city of Rabat, the commercial savviness of Casablanca, the eclectic mix that makes up Tangier, the tourist hub in Agadir and the calmness of Essaouira.  However, most of the coast is gloriously deserted bar a few basic simple fishing villages.


Morocco is a constitutional monarchy.  King Hassan II, who came to the throne in 1961, deceased on 23 July 1999.  His son Prince Sidi Mohamed, who succeeded him, became King Mohamed VI.

As a descendant of the Prophet, the King is the ‘Commander of the’Believers’ or, in other words, Morocco’s political and religious leader.  Morocco is currently undergoing a period of rapid growth while retaining its wealth of tradition and history. Its progressive ruler, King Mohammed VI, is actively encouraging foreign investment and is focused on increasing the country’s international presence whilst his wife champions women’s and children’s rights.


Islam is the official religion in Morocco and peacefully co-exists alongside other religions.  Each day of the year is marked by five calls to prayer and the muezzins announce prayer times from the minarets on top of the mosques.  Mosques in general are closed to non-Muslims however the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is open to non-Muslims if they pay to join an escorted walking tour.  On Fridays, please do not be offended if someone holds out his/her hand to ask for charity, which is an inherent part of Islam – you are free to hand over a few dirhams if you choose to .

The Berbers

The Berbers, known as the Imazighen (‘free people’) are the indigenous people of North Africa and beyond. They settled in Morocco well before the arrival of Arabic speaking populations.

Although mostly Muslim, Moroccan Berbers retain their ancient customs and festivals especially in rural areas and many speak a dialect known as Tamazight that is now officially recognised as a language. In response to pressure from the Berbers, Tifinagh is once again taught in some schools.

Outside of the cities, in and around their small villages, the Berbers lead an agricultural lifestyle – keeping sheep and goats and growing crops; mint, cereals and vegetables. The Berbers are proud of their heritage and often talk proudly about their culture and history. However, whilst they are proud people, they are also happily integrated into Morocco and Islam.


Arabic is the official language of education, the Civil Service and the media. Everyday language in Morocco is either a dialectal Arabic or Tamazight (Berber). Dialects vary with the region. Most people also speak French due to Morocco having been a French protectorate from 1912-1956. French is the legal and administrative language of the kingdom.

There is now a move to include English as a compulsory subject in school. Moroccans, especially those in the tourist industry, have an amazing ear and ability to learn foreign languages, hence do not be surprised if your driver also speaks English, Spanish and occasionally Italian and German. Spanish is also widely spoken in the north of Morocco.