Just to continue from my last post, I thought I’d share some of the things I learned about Moroccan culture. They’re really random facts I picked up from my guide at the time and it’s helped shape my appreciation for the culture and lifestyle.
9 Cool Things I Learned about Moroccan culture:
1. Donkeys are the most popular animal
Our ‘illegal’ guide Outman, told us that ‘Donkeys are the taxis of Fez’! You’ll see many of them packing loads of cargo through the streets of Old Fez. They’re used for transporting goods and occasionally, Fez folk ride them. If you hear someone behind you shout, “Halak!” then take the cue and get outta the way! It means someone with a donkey wants to pass.
2. Getting around in Fez
The way to skirt around between old Fez and new, is by taxi and there’s two types: petite and grande.
Petite taxis handle inner city transportation and run on a meter (make sure your driver is using one; it’s the law). Petite colors change per city; for instance, red is used in Fez and beige is in Marrakech.
Grande taxis are best for longer distances (i.e. to the airport) and are hired by flat rate, which you’ll negotiate with your driver before the trip. Incidentally, here’s a helpful guide on using taxis and how to order them.
3. Prayer Calls
At first you may thing there’s an air raid in the city, but the woven rumble of chanting that is sirened over a loudspeaker actually sounds peace. What you’re hearing are prayer calls and they’re coming from the mosques. Adhan (Arabic: “prayer calls“) occurs five times throughout the day, as part of the Muslim faith. It’s a cool experience, even if it wakes you from your slumber at 3 AM. When adhan begins, watch able-bodied Muslims file in, lining up inside and around the mosque for worship.
4. Dining etiquette in Morocco
Do as Moroccans do when dining– eat with your fingers!
However, you must use your right hand when eating and drinking and only your first three fingers to eat your food. To use anymore than three, is being “piggy”. Never use the left hand: it’s for the you-know-what duties.
5. Ubiquitous Pictures of the King
Morocco has a king and you will find a picture of him in every household and place of business!
6. Moroccans: Arabs vs.
What would a country be without it’s racial tensions?
There’s two classes in Morocco: Arab- Moroccans and Berber-Moroccans. Berbers were the original natives of Morocco, until the Arab world took over. Thus, there’s a discrepancy between the two classes. Arab-Morrocans will say the Berbers are of the lower caste, because they’re simple mountain folk with a rural lifestyle; whereas they are more refined. It’s similar to the story of ‘City Mouse vs Country Mouse‘.
But for travelers looking to buy souvenirs, what sets them apart is also their design and fabrics. The Berber style is a bit more folksy, native and simpler in design; their fabrics are of a rougher weave due to the fact they must withstand cold weather. Meanwhile, Arab-influenced tapestry is smooth to the touch and more ornate in design… more Arabic.
Both are beautiful and symbolic of the two natures of Moroccan life.
7. Superstition and the Hand of Fatima
Moroccans are superstitious. The Hand of Fatima or the ‘Eye of Fatima‘ is an ornate hand symbol used in amulets, charms, jewelry, mendhi designs, door entrances, etc… Often it looks like a mendhi hand and is said to offer protection against jealousy and bad wishes. This symbol is also to invite good luck, abundance and patience. Below is a rudimentary Berber version of it, used as a door handle design.
The Moroccan version of the Hand of Fatima.
8. Moroccans and their TV
It’s said that 80% of the homes in Fez have television. Looking over the buildings of Fez, satellite dishes and tv antennas decorate the rooftops leading you to believe this might not be far from true.
9. What do Moroccans speak
Ou est le toilette? …If you’ve taken a bit of high school French then you’ll have no problem getting around. French is the unofficial third most-spoken language in Morocco, after Arabic (the native language) and Berber (the second language) (read here). However, English and Spanish is slowly entering the picture, primarily for the sake of commerce; but for the time being, I wouldn’t count on getting by on them.