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This is a slightly edited version from a cultural spotlight that we recently highlighted by Ismail, a Product Design at Buffer.
I’m 9,762 years old. Every day of my life I was in Morocco. I was born in a Ksar. This is a fortified village named “Zaouit Sidi Ali,” which is one of the 360 Kasrs located in Er-Rissani.
My village was once a farming community. They spent their lives tending to their date palm trees and selling the fruits to make money.
My extended family, which included 18 members, moved 60 miles from Errachidia after years of droughts. My family made this big move to seek a better future, with better work opportunities and education for their children.
We have more information about Morocco, from religion and education to greetings and food.
Family relationships are the foundation of Moroccan culture. My entire life was spent in a shared house with my extended family. Our culture holds that only sons should leave the home to go to work. Even though I live alone in Casablanca now, my brother and all my family live in Errachidia.
As a child, I shared a room with my brother, two cousins, and I never felt alone. It was a strong sense of community and family that I felt. Women tend to stay at home with their children, while men work outside. Everybody was looking after each other. We believe that the larger the family is, the better you will be off.
Morocco’s education system includes pre-school, primary and secondary levels, as well as tertiary. My family didn’t have an education degree at that time. My uncles and father had been to primary school. My aunts and mother had never been to school. They learned basic Arabic writing and reading from the mosque where they also memorized the Quran.
My family was aware of the importance education. They never said they would have a chance at their age and won’t allow the same to happen to their children. Every one of my family members worked hard to ensure that we all went to school and received the education we required.
As most children my age, I went to a public school where corporal punishment was common. It was difficult to go to primary school because teachers had the power and authority over students. Parents would be unable to complain because they believe that punishment is the only way for children to concentrate on their education.
My secondary school was quite far from my house so I had to walk half an hour to get there. It’s not as long as the walk required by many rural children who had to walk up to an hour to get to school.
While most Moroccan universities are completely free, it is important to pass an exam and get good marks to attend a good one. Except for those from wealthy families, most students get education funds to help pay for their education. All the money I received was spent on English courses while I was still living with my family.
I received my bachelor’s degree in software engineering from The Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, Errachidia. I moved to Casablanca in order to obtain my diploma as a software engineer at ENSETM.
Morocco’s life is very different depending on where you live. Errachidia is quite different to Casablanca. One has a slower lifestyle while the other has one that is more rapid.
My family is close-knit and my neighbors were always there for me. They knock on our doors whenever they have a need for bread, salt, or an onion and ask if we have any.
Living in a country that has many challenges is a lesson in resilience. It teaches you how to be happy with less and not worry about the discomforts. You can always appreciate what you have, no matter how wealthy you are.
The Moroccan land is diverse
Many people believe that Morocco is only sand dunes and camels. This misconception could have been influenced by Road to Morocco, which depicts Morocco as a desert country. Most of Morocco’s territory is covered by mountain ranges. The Atlas Mountains stretch from the center north to the south.
Morocco enjoys a lot of sunshine all year, but it also has many weather patterns. The desert is dry and hot. Mild temperatures can be found in the coastal plains. The mountains are hot and dry in the summer. They are often cold, wet, and snowy in winter.
Fun fact: You can ski in Morocco’s North, even though it is -5 degrees Celsius, but you can still swim or surf down South at 27 degrees Celsius the next day.
Most Moroccans are Muslims and Islam is their state religion. Only a small percentage of the population is Christian. A smaller number of people are Jewish. Morocco’s kingdom is one of the most ancient monarchies in the world. It was established 12 centuries ago. Mohammed VI, the Moroccan king, is known as “Amir El Mouminin,” which means leader of the faithful. The motto of Morocco is “God Fatherland, King.”
Morocco’s original name was “Marrakesh” which, in Berber language, means “The Land of God”. Morocco is nine miles from Europe and is therefore a mix of Arabs and Berber.
In general, the street Moroccans will speak mainly Moroccan Darija, and not Classical Arabic. You may also hear the Amazigh language spoken in Berber areas, and the Hassani dialect from the south.
Moroccan Darija, unlike Classical Arabic, is only spoken and written. It is flexible and dynamic. One of its most memorable expressions is “3tini wahed bidat”, which literally means “Give one three eggs”, but it can also be translated as “Give one three eggs”. I’m not sure what “one” refers to.
Although Darija has a lot of vocabulary that is Amazigh and Arabic, there are many words that have been added to the language through French, Spanish and other languages.
Morocco speaks a lot of French, so you’ll have more opportunities if you speak French. Because of Spain’s influence and proximity, some Moroccans speak Spanish.
Morocco’s population is accustomed to wearing the same clothes as other countries. There are some national costumes that are worn occasionally for religious celebrations and holy days. These are some of them:
Djellabas is a long, loose dress with sleeves and a hood. The fabric of the Djellaba varies according to the weather. To keep warm in winter, we wear Djellaba made from light cotton. The hood is often folded over the “tarbouche”, a small Moroccan red hat. Men also wear the “babouches,” which are a slipper without heels that is usually yellow or white.
Kaftan is a dress that women wear for special occasions like weddings and engagement parties. It is decorated beautifully, but it looks almost like a djellaba with no hood.
Moroccan weddings are an amazing occasion that brings together all of Morocco’s traditions, including music and fashion.
Are you a Moroccan bride or groom? It’s unlikely. Don’t miss the opportunity if you get it. Make sure you have at least three days left. A traditional Moroccan wedding takes three days, and the party ends with the wildest celebration you can imagine.
The Amariya is a traditional Moroccan wooden or metal chair, which can be decorated with gold or silver. It’s one of my favorite things about Moroccan weddings. The chair can be used to present the bride and groom to their guests at the wedding ceremony.
Food is my favorite part
Moroccans typically eat three meals per day. You might have tea, bread and olive oil as breakfast.
Tagine, the main meal of the day, is the largest. Slowly cooked in oil and earthenware, it is a stew consisting of meats (usually beef, lamb, or chicken), and vegetables.
Perhaps you are wondering how we eat it. Let me tell you about “khobza”, our unique style of bread. This flat, round loaf can be torn into pieces and eaten with every meal. Some exceptions exist, such as Couscous, which I will share with you very soon.
Morocco is a country where everyone eats together from one large plate. Everyone uses their right hand to hold the food. It’s called Tegomass. To get sauce, meat, and potatoes, you grab a piece bread. You should always eat the meat at the bottom of the plate. Respect this order.
Moroccans encourage guests to eat as much as they like, and this is a way to show generosity.
Lunch can also include different dishes depending on the season, the occasion or the day. Some of these are:
- Couscous – (The national dish of Morocco) Couscous is often mistakenly thought to be a common meal. Couscous is the main course on Fridays. On Fridays, couscous will be the main dish.
- Pastilla : is one of the most exquisite Moroccan dishes. This is spiced pork meat wrapped in flaky Warkha pastry. It’s often sprinkled with cinnamon or sugar.
- Tanjia is a pot of puffed clay that can be used to cook a meal of lamb, beef or pork. The spices are then mixed in the same pot, and then buried under hot Ash.
- Hergma: Lamb and cow’s feet with hot spices and hummus
There are many others, including Rfissa and Hout, Kefta and Briouats, Bisara and Chebakia.
Morocco’s dinners range from light to very heavy, with bread and soup being the most common.
Moroccans love mint tea and will drink it as much as possible. This is culturally significant because the higher your guests are greeted, the better. The tea is also better if it’s poured from a distance. This creates tiny white foam bubbles which rest on top of your tea.
An old Moroccan proverb states that “When the stomach is full it tells the brain to sing”. I believe that this gives you an idea of what I will be sharing with you next… Music.
Dance and music
Moroccan music is a fundamental aspect of Morocco’s culture. There are many musical styles available, each with its own history.
- Andalusian Musik: Andalusian music is a Spanish-language musical genre that originates in Andalusia. It is performed with classical instruments and sounds like a mix of Spanish and Arab music.
- Amazigh Music is also known as Ahidus. It is a form of collective song and dance that originated in tribes from the Eastern High Atlas.
- Chaabi Music is a folk music genre that has been popularized and often touches on social issues. It is most commonly used at weddings
- Gnawa Music : Songs are usually played with a three-string camel skin basse instrument (hajhouj), heavy castinganets (krakebs), or religious chanting.
Modern Moroccan music styles include Hiphop, Rock and Rai.
Saad Lamjarred is one of the most famous Moroccan singers. Saad Lamjarred’s hit song “Lm3allem”, which was originally in Arabic, was the first Arabic song that had more than a million views on YouTube.
There are many different rhythms and melodies. But there is also a bizarre musical instrument that changes the rhythm and draws attention to it. It makes you want to dance. Its name is Al-Qa’dah. This video shows you how it works during a beautiful competition with Flamenco.
Fan fact: Al-Qa’dah can be used as more than an instrument. It can also be used to wash and clean clothes.
Events and holidays
Morocco is home to many holidays and festivals. Three New Years are available for everyone. The first is from the Gregorian Calendar. The second is for Amazigh New Year (Yennayer), and the third is for Islamic New Year, Fatih Muharram.
Moroccans celebrate both secular and religious holidays. Eid al-Fitr is a major Muslim holiday. It is observed in the Ramadan last three days.
Eid al-Adha is the other major Muslim holiday. The Quran describes the anniversary of this event. God did not command Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismail, but instead gave him a ram. Every Moroccan household sacrifices a sheep to God and shares it with their family at Eid al-Adha.
Other national holidays are also celebrated. The Green March, which was the liberation of the Sahara from Spanish occupation, is one of the most important. King Hassan II commanded all Moroccans to make a long march towards the Kingdom’s south.
You are already blessed if you have enough money to provide for your basic needs and a roof over you head.
Asking a Moroccan how they are doing is “Alhamdulillah” or “Thank God!” Then they’ll say “Hssen Mn Chi W kfess Mn chi”, which means “Better than Some, Worse than Others”. These words have always been a source of hope and gratitude for me. For others, they make people feel more comfortable staying where they are.
Morocco is not a very expensive country. The city where you live will determine how much money you spend. Casablanca, a large city, is two- to three times more costly than smaller ones. A household with less than four members will earn around $1,000 per month.
Souk: Millions and millions of items… with no prices
My summers were spent in the Souk, a Moroccan market where I helped my father sell toys for children. Being introverted, I found it uncomfortable to be there. Vendors are not allowed to wait for customers to buy. Invite them. Loudly shout out the prices. You have a better chance of getting people to buy from you if they can hear you. It took me many years to accept myself and be confident in my abilities.
You need to be able to negotiate prices when shopping in Moroccan Souks. Moroccan culture is known for its ability to negotiate. This is a common practice among Moroccans. In reality, nobody accepts the first price at the Souk.
Moroccan Souk is a great place to lose yourself in. The Attar shop with its colorful dunes of spices and different smells was always something I admired.
Morocco is a cat nation
You’ll likely encounter hundreds of stray cat when you walk down the streets. These adorable critters are usually loved and cared for by the locals.
The majority of cats live in the streets. They call the city home and are an integral part of its life. They don’t fear humans and will sit wherever they like in busy markets.
You will have a lot of fun counting street cats in Morocco.
Moroccans often shake hands when saying goodbye and greetings. Friends who are close to one another often hug and kiss each other. People with opposite sex simply shake hands. Moroccans use the phrase Al-salamu al-salam to greet each other, which is a form of “May peace be with you.” The answer is Wa “alaykum salam,” which means “May peace also be upon you.”
Morocco has a very extended greeting. It is not uncommon to ask about the family of the person (father, mother and children ),
We do not rush
Moroccans don’t rush and everything will be done insha Allah “if God wills”. A well-known proverb states “lazerba slah”, which means “There is no gain from haste”, while another says “Li zerbo mato”, which means “People who rush are the ones who are killed.”
It has its pros and cons. It is not uncommon to travel for a single day to Morocco’s hospital. You never know when your turn will come in the waiting room. The same applies to paperwork and other stuff.
We love soccer
Whatever you call it, soccer is football. Or, as they say in Morocco Coura.
Football is a favorite sport in Morocco. The ultras are a top-ranked team worldwide!
Moroccans enjoy playing soccer as much or more than watching it. Women also love it as much as men. They follow both local and international soccer tournaments.
Here are some fun facts about Morocco
- Morocco has been home to Gladiator, Game of Thrones and Prison Break as well as dozens of other films and tv shows.
- Casablanca was not the location for Casablanca.
- Moroccan mothers are obsessed with their living rooms. We were forbidden from sitting in the living room as children. The living room must be kept intact for guests. It is your dream to one day sit there. It was spotless when you were a child, so Mum would still clean it.
- Morocco is the largest exporter of hashish in the world. According to the World Customs Organisation it supplies 70% of European Hashish (I have never used it;)
You won’t be surprised at how bizarre things can be in Morocco. It’s possible to be both good and bad at times. Do not be surprised at how absurd things can sometimes seem. Moroccans are so used to being surprised and amazed for the umpteenth times that they have lost their senses of wonder.
Many Moroccans long to travel abroad. Many are trying to leave Morocco using illegal forms. Most Moroccans abroad dream of returning one day.
Morocco’s wait-a-minute rule could mean that someone is saying it for an hour.
Morocco is a country where people wake you up if they notice you’re falling asleep.
What’s the difference between two Moroccan coffee shops? Another coffee shop.
The symbol of love in Morocco is not the heart, but the liver.
Although we disagree on the type of Morocco we want as Moroccans, we all agree that this country is our home. It is the land, the people, and the food.
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Morocco’s life and that it inspires you to travel there one day.
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