One of the best ways to dive into Moroccan culture is to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a local cafe. A simple conversation over a warm cup of sweet coffee could lead to a lifelong friendship long after you leave Morocco. By nature, Moroccan people are hospitable. It is an essential element to their culture. At first, they can seem intimidating and unapproachable. All it takes is an open mind and friendly nature to become fast friends with any of the Moroccan people.

This might lead to your new friend extending an invitation to enjoy a Moroccan meal at their home. What better opportunity to savor the delicious Moroccan cuisine! There are a few items of respect to keep in mind before entering someone’s home, however. A respected cultural practice is to remove shoes before entering a Moroccan home. As you would at home when invited to a friend’s for dinner, bring a gift along, such as a desert of cornes de gazelle, ghriba or briouates (almond paste cookie, almond-sugar cookie, and fried-cheese pastry, respectively). If you’re eating in the countryside, however, you might consider bringing over a chicken or meat product to add to the menu.

Once inside the home, there is a certain dining practice to keep in mind. Moroccan people use their hands like Westerners use utensils during meals. A slice of bread functions as a spoon or fork as well. Your dinner host will expect you to follow this practice. Asking for other utensils or not following the practice will appear disrespectful. Keep in mind when using hands as a utensil that Moroccan practice is to eat only with the right hand. The left hand is for restroom business.

Many Moroccan women are not typically on the streets of Morocco, but are often at home preparing food for the next family meal; however, in larger, more urban settings of Marrakech, Rabat, or Casablanca these conventions are slowly changing. When a woman visiting Morocco makes a new friend, that friend will invite her over for a cup of tea or a Hamman, a Moroccan bath.

Before snapping a picture of a Moroccan person or scenic background that a Moroccan person may appear in, ask permission first. Doing anything less is an offensive behavior, so much so that the person may request money for that picture of a tree or scenic overlook featured behind them. The only exception to this practice is when you have an established relationship with a Moroccan person. In fact, your new Moroccan friend will bring you to an ideal photographic location or request a copy of the photograph as a special memento of a new friend. In Morocco, you’ll have plenty of friends in no time.

By Sam Mitchell