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Unique Cultural Experiences in Morocco 

Getting Oriented

Like any country, Morocco’s culture changes as you move through its distinct regions, which allow you to enjoy a glimpse of local life in bustling cities, quiet towns, mountainous hamlets, and traditional villages. Morocco is a vibrant mix of cultural impact from European, African, and Middle Eastern control. This dynamic blend keeps you entertained as you go from nomadic desert communities to alpine mud villages to historic medinas in the center of lively cities. By moving from place to place, you can go behind the scenes and learn about authentic cultural norms that have influenced daily life for centuries.

Cultural Cities

Moroccan cities are an excellent place to start. Teeming with energy, historical monuments, and locals living their authentic lives, you can easily enjoy many cultural experiences. From Casablanca to Fes to Chefchaouen, there’s something at nearly every turn.

Explore the “Blue City” Chefchaouen

You’ll quickly learn why Chefchaouen is known as Morocco’s “Blue City” with its charming blue-hued streets weaving through a lively medina. Get an authentic taste of the city by exporing its historic core (largely influenced by Jewish and Muslim populations fleeing persecution in Europe) and shopping at its many souks. Explore the Grand Mosque and Kasbah, enjoy mint tea at Ras el Ma Spring, and watch the sunset from the Spanish Mosque, which offers a beautiful panoramic view of Chefchaouen. Consider enhancing your Moroccan journey with a captivating tour from Marrakech to Chefchaouen, allowing you to witness the unique charm of this azure city from the vibrant heart of Marrakech.

Explore Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

If you only visit one thing in Casablanca, let it be Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Morocco with the largest minaret in the world. You can admire its exquisite exterior, then head inside to explore the museum, baths, Koranic school, library, and massive prayer room. Enjoy the intricacies of the interior, which blend wood, marble, and carved stone together with arched and ornamented ceilings. As one of the few mosques that allow non-Muslims to enter, it’s a must-see.

Jewish Heritage Tour in Fes

Fes was the home of one of the most influential Talmudic scholars, plus the Maimonides in the 12th century. Therefore, the city is teeming with Jewish heritage. Listen to stories and visit sites such as synagogues and cemeteries  as you walk through the medina and Jewish Mellah of Fes. One highlight includes the Safroud Cemetery, where Rabbi Lahou Harroch and Rabbi Raphael Moshe Elbaz are buried.

Cultural Countryside

Now, leave the cities behind and head out into Morocco’s famed rural countryside. Visit small artsy towns or head out into breathtaking nature, all easily done on a day trip from the main hubs. 

Day Trip to Asilah

Asilah is one of Morocco’s most beautiful cities , set on the Atlantic Coast with long sandy beaches. Enjoy the surf or explore the historic old town, which reveals its historic Portuguese past. Stroll through the walled medina, engage with friendly locals, peruse the artisan shops, and join a festival or holiday celebration if visiting during the lively springtime.

Hike in Ait Bougumez

Often compared to the Himalayan Mountains, Ait Bougumez Valley is a green oasis surrounded by snow-capped peaks in the middle of Morocco’s baren beauty. Enjoy a free day to explore the area, known for exceptional hiking and charming small towns with mud-brick houses.

Arabic Calligraphy Workshop

On the way to or from the desert, stop in the small city of Tinejdad for an Arabic calligraphy workshop and lunch with a local artist. You’ll learn the history and art behind what the Arab world has considered a prestigious art form for over two thousand years. You’ll use the special ink and pens required to learn the basics, then try your newfound skill on your own! Afterward, visit the artist’s Berber Museum.

Cultural Outdoors

To get a sense of Morocco’s culture, explore the artisans, cultivators, and locals who rely on the land. You’ll chat with Berber families who live in the High Atlas Mountains and those who grow roses for cosmetic products. 

Cultural Immersion in the Atlas Mountains & Rose Valley

Discover the distinct and unique culture of the Atlas Mountains, where many people live in authentic Berber villages. You’ll first make a stop near El Kelaa Mgouna, the capital of Rose Valley, where artisans cultivate the famous flower and produce cosmetics. Then enjoy an easy walk between mountain villages and get to know the local way of life. Observe farming techniques, sip traditional tea, savor the local cuisine, listen to music, and more.

Other Cultural Themes

With so many cultural opportunities in Morocco, there’s far more to enjoy! Shop in more medinas, explore more local villages, relax at a hammam, learn how to cook traditional fare, enjoy the desert, attend a music festival, and more.

Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakech’s Medina

The square of Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech—located in the UNESCO world heritage site of the walled medina—is a destination not to be missed. The square feels like you’re stepping back in time, and as evening approaches, live performers, storytellers, and food stalls emerge and delight passersby. 

The nightly bazaar is a sensory overload worth experiencing. You’ll see everything from Berber musicians, acrobats, fortune tellers, comedy acts, and Henna tattoo artists. You might even see a snake charmer or two, beckoning their serpents with a flute. During the day, the square is more subdued, but you’ll still find peddlers selling things like fresh grapefruit and orange juice, dates, and nuts.

Spend a Day with Village Locals

Leaving Morocco’s major cities to visit local villages is a great opportunity for cultural immersion. For example, consider booking a day trip to the town of Imozer, located about two hours from Marrakech and situated in the High Atlas Mountains. Drink tea with locals, tour organically operated farmland, and enjoy a traditional lunch. Or. head to the Amizmiz area, about one hour from Marrakech, where you’ll hike through several small villages and stay the night with a local family.

Rissani, a desert town located in eastern Morocco, is another famous village with a small town square and souks. In addition, Rissani is home to the Maison Touareg bazaar and cultural center, where you can learn about tribes in the area and shop for local handicrafts.

Touring Morocco in private transport with a guide is a great way to learn more about the culture and traditions of the country. Many drivers are Berber, and they know the ins and outs of the desert communities. Your driver or guide will also help you meet and communicate with local nomadic families if that interests you.

It’s quite common to enjoy tea with Berber tribes in their tents. And in these situations, it’s good to be aware that a small tip is very much appreciated. For more information about ideal day trips from Marrakech.

Get Lost in Morocco’s Traditional Souks

One of the highlights of visiting Marrakech is the souks in the old city, where a maze of markets twists through different alleyways. It’s a thrill for the senses, with the scent of spices in the air and artisan goods like leather shoes and bright lanterns overflowing out of stalls.

There’s an entire souk displaying intricately woven Arab rugs and one dedicated to pretty babouches or Moroccan slippers. In addition, you’ll see artisans in their shops doing everything from carving wood to tailoring shoes by hand, with artisans often grouped by their craft.

The spice souk is worth visiting simply for the smells and visuals, with displays of cumin and saffron piled high. Souk Semmarine and Souk el-Kebir offer all sorts of trinkets. At Souk Cherifia, you’ll find products by local designers, with everything from hand-embroidered linens and towels to leather bags.

You’ll find souks throughout Moroccan villages and towns, selling local goods. The medieval city of Fes is well-known for its souks, and visiting the local markets can feel like you’re stepping back in time. The medina of Fes el Bali is where you’ll find some of the best markets, displaying everything from spices to silk fabrics.

Visit Collectives for Artisan Goods

You can find artisan collectives throughout Morocco. The oasis town of Erfoud in the Sahara Desert is famous for fossils, while you’ll find handmade ceramics in Fes that are handpainted with plant-based paint. Fes is also famous for ancient dyeing vat tanneries. The Chaouwara tanneries are the city’s most famous, and you’ll be able to view the intense process of turning hides into leather and dying them. You’ll find a range of leather goods throughout the city, including wallets and handbags.

Sefrou is located less than 20 miles from Fes and provides the opportunity to visit with local artisans. You’ll find everything from traditional Berber rugs to wooden bicycles and woven goods. Houddadine Square is where many artisans gather, with everyone from blacksmiths to tinsmiths honing their crafts.

Known as the city of roses, Kalaat M’gouna in Dades Valley is famous for its roses and produces an abundance of high-quality rose oil and rose water. Rose oil is predominantly used for beauty purposes, while you can use rose water for both beauty and culinary. Every May, the city hosts a festival of roses to celebrate the harvest.

Argan oil is one of Morocco’s most sought-after products, and some of the best quality argan oils are at fair trade cooperatives around Essaouria. For example, in Tamanar, just south of Essaouira, the Amal Women’s Cooperative sells products to support the ancient tradition of argan oil making. In addition, it provides a fair salary to the women in the cooperative.

Learn to Cook Like a Local

Another highlight of visiting Morocco is trying the local cuisine and learning to cook traditional foods like cumin-laced kefta meatballs and chicken with preserved lemons. In addition, you’ll find that most cooking schools offer a market visit, where you’ll learn about local produce and spices. Marrakech offers some of the best cooking classes in the country.

Dar Les Cigognes, boutique hotel, offers daily cooking classes where you might make anything from bread to yogurt, and the well-known restaurant La Maison Arabe offers workshops where you’ll prepare a full three-course meal. The Amal Center is a non-profit that teaches disadvantaged local women cooking skills to find work in restaurants and offers an onsite restaurant and cooking classes for visitors. For further cultural immersion,Traveling Spoon in Marrakech, Rabat, and Casablanca pairs you with a local family that will teach you how to cook a dish in their kitchen.

Even if the culinary arts is not your forte, diving into Moroccan cuisine is one of the best ways to learn about the culture. The fare is fresh and complex, with Berber, Mediterranean, and Arabic roots, and varies from region to region. Plus, located on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the food is seafood-heavy, and flavors like harissa and saffron are staples. Popular must-try dishes include fragrant vegetable and meat tagine—a stew cooked in an earthenware pot—and pastilla, a meat pie.

Relax in a Traditional Hammam

A hammam is a traditional Moroccan bathhouse and a regular part of everyday life for many Moroccans. There are various hammams, ranging from high-end luxury spa retreats to more affordable, no-frills experiences.

Many hammams offer separate bathing areas for women and men. Others have days of the week for men and days for women, while a few bathhouses only service one gender. The ritual varies but normally requires three steps. You’ll first sit in a steam room to open your pores, then a hammam attendant will wash and scrub your body with traditional black soap and a scrub glove, called a kessa. Lastly, you’ll enjoy a customary cold water bath.

Local hammams include everything from large steam rooms to pools, and it’s completely acceptable to go nude. For an exclusive experience, many hotels offer sumptuous retreats—try the luxe Royal Mansour or La Mamounia in Marrakech. But, of course, you can’t go wrong at the opulent Le Bains de Marrakech, either, one of Marrakech’s first private bathhouses.

See The Sand Dunes of the Sahara

The Sahara dunes are a must-see, and a camel trek is an ideal way to experience the desert landscape and interact with Berber tribes in the area.

Embark on an unforgettable camel trekking Sahara tour, where you’ll ride camels through the desert to oasis towns and Ouarzazate, where you can spend the night in a traditional riad. During the tour, you’ll also spend the evening with a Berber tribe around a campfire, listening to local music and traditional stories, plus exploring the Ait Benhaddou kasbah (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

The two best places to experience the Sahara are Merzouga, where you’ll see the sweeping sand-blown sand sea of Erg Chebbi, and Zagora’s famous sand sea at Chegaga. 

Experience a Local Music Festival

The Gnaoua (Gnawa) Music Festival in the eclectic beach town of Essaouira is one of Morocco’s largest music festivals and attracts thousands of music lovers every year. The festival is four days of free concerts set in an outside venue, with traditional and contemporary music. Gnawa music originates from African slaves and has been preserved through generations. The dreamy style of music combines poetry with dancing, and the festival encapsulates both modern and old with a mix of world music, blues, reggae, and hip-hop.

Another festival is the Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival, held every June in the village of Joujoka, an Ahi Srif tribal area in the Rif Mountains. It’s essential to book early if interested, as the festival offers only fifty people the opportunity to spend three days in the mountains listening to traditional Joujoka musicians. The music originates from the 15th century. Those who are lucky enough to score a ticket will have the chance to listen to traditional folk music, drums, and rhaita, a North African double-reed instrument.

Lastly, at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, you can experience ten days of eclectic concerts. It’s the country’s oldest festival, created to represent religious and cultural tolerance. Each year the festival combines diverse musicians from different faiths to perform together throughout the city in various venues.

A Note on Local Customs 

As Morocco is a Muslim country, there are certain things to be aware of when visiting. For example, modest clothing for women is the norm, and every day you’ll likely hear the loud and poetic call to prayer from mosques. It’s a unique experience and one that exemplifies daily life in Morocco. Also known as the adhan, the call to prayer plays a central role in Islamic society—you’ll hear it five times each day, starting at dawn.

If you visit a mosque during your time in Morocco, there are a few things to remember. You must take off your shoes before entering the mosque prayer hall, and men and women should wear conservative clothing, covering their shoulders. Women are also traditionally expected to cover their heads with a scarf while inside the mosque. At mosques allowing non-Muslim visitors, there will be guides to help you with the customs.

When shopping in Morocco, shopkeepers may seem pushy at first, but they often simply want to show you their store and won’t pressure you to purchase their goods. Speaking to shopkeepers can be an interesting way to learn about local culture and traditions, and bargaining is the norm.

How to Craft the Perfect Cultural Itinerary in Morocco

Morocco oozes authentic culture—you wouldn’t be able to avoid it, even if you tried! You can easily explore the local culture, whether you stick to the cities or venture out into the countryside (or both). To visit two or three different cities and enjoy a day in rural Morocco, give yourself at least one week. In general, 7-10 days will enable you to see the Moroccan highlights and dig deeper into the culture.