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, Jew, Muslim, African and European.

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.

Morocco is changing as a result of outside influences but its diverse culture remains anchored in age-old traditions that stress community life and family – values that are cherished and readily shared.

Culture Shock

Travel in Morocco and you may feel that you have plunged into a culture unlike anything you have ever experienced. Standing in Marrakech surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Djemaael-Fna, it’s difficult to imagine sitting on a desert dune enjoying the tranquillity of a Sahara sunset – Morocco is full of such contrasts.

When you leave your modern hotel with its mosaic swimming pool and travel across Morocco’s ever-changing landscape you will see women washing their clothes in the river and men tilling the soil with a simple wooden plough and donkey.

In contrast to the European-style estates in cities such as Marrakech there are Berber families living a simple nomadic lifestyle in homespun wool tents.
However the biggest culture shock for many visitors is having to haggle when you want to buy something.  Few things in Morocco outside of supermarkets have a marked up fixed price and haggling is a way of life.

Geography and Landscape

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

In the North are the historic cities of Fez, Marrakech and Meknes with old medinas and narrow winding streets in which you can lose yourself before emerging into the clatter of a bustling souk.

The Atlas Mountain range, with barely accessible passes in the winter, offers glorious valleys through which you can ramble for days, with a guide, in the summer.

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.

Cooler in the summer months, when mirages shimmer across the desert landscape, are Morocco’s coastal towns including the Capital City of Rabat, Essaouira and Tangier.


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 focussed 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 dirham, or not. However, please do not give coins, sweets or biros to children as it encourages them to beg from every passing visitor.

The Berbers

The Berbers, known as the Imazighen (‘free people’) are the indigenous people of North Africa and beyond. Interestingly the roots of the Toureg (‘pirates’) were also Imazighen and it was the Toureg who kept alive the symbolic alphabet known as Tifinagh. The Imazighen (singular = Amazigh) once ruled over kingdoms in the region but were conquered by the Romans and subsequently the Arabs in the seventh century.

Although mostly Muslim, Moroccan Berbers retain their ancient customs and festivals especially in rural areasand many speak a dialect known as Tamazight that is now officially recognised as a language. As a result Tifinagh is once again taught in some schools.

Outside of the cities, in and around their small villages, the Berbers have an agricultural lifestyle – keeping sheep and goats and growing crops e.g. mint, cereals, vegetables etc.


Arabic is the official language of education, the Civil Service and the media. Everyday language in Morocco is typically a dialectal Arabic as well as Tamazight (Berber) that is spoken in the Rif, Atlas and Souss – dialects vary with the region. Morocco was once a French Protectorate and most Moroccans speak French; many speak Spanish and English in addition to German and Italian. French is the legal and administrative language of the kingdom.