Lost in Africa: Morocco Culture

Morocco — By on December 2, 2009 at 8:00 am

By Molly Gallagher
LG International Correspondent

When I arrived to Morocco I had no idea what to expect. I traveled to the country through a group called, Morocco Exchange. The program is meant to give Americans a better understanding of Islam and the cultural differences that exist. Two aspects of the program that interested me were how they provide the opportunity to meet local Moroccans and to stay with a host family for two nights. I knew nothing about Morocco before I went and I knew very little about Islam, so I wanted to experience the religion and country for myself. Here is a little bit about what I learned in Morocco

1. Hijab – The Head Scarf

After talking to two Moroccan female students the most important cultural difference I learned was the most women in Morocco wear a head scarf for cultural reasons, NOT religious reasons. So, many times in Morocco women will wear modern clothes with a head scarf. If a woman lives in a village where a majority of the other women wear a hijab (head scarf or covering) she sometimes will also.

2. All About Islam

Religion is very important to Muslims. The students we talked to explained that they try to pray five times a day (one of the pillars of the religion), but they are not perfect. A professor we met and talked to said that he feels comfortable letting his children chose whether Islam is the religion for them. Most families and parents we were intorudced to said that they start teaching their children to pray five time a days when they are about 10 years old.

3. Come on Over!

Most Moroccan families have at least one, but sometimes several guest rooms. Yet these are not the guest rooms we typically think of in America. Usually in Morocco the room has a couch with colorful, shiny fabric that wraps around the entire room. Moroccans love entertaining guests, so they happily keep an extra room in their house for visitors. Our guide, Katie, was a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Morocco. She said that by the end of her two-year stay she had been to about 250 homes out of the 400 in her village. Most Moroccans will openly and happily have guests and invite people over.

4. Family is Number One

One of our host sister’s was very modern for a Moroccan. She lives in Dubai and frankly talked about her ex-boyfriend. However, she said when it comes to getting married she could never marry a man who is not Moroccan, because her father would not approve. In Rabat, we spent an afternoon walking around with two Rabat university students. They talked to us about how many Moroccans have very close relationships with their parents and family. They talk to them about everything, except about their boyfriends or girlfriends. The Moroccan students that we talked to said that many students in university date in college, but after they graduate they start to think about marriage.

Overall, Morocco was an incredible experience for me. From now on I will never look at the Islamic culture the same. There are so many differences within Islam and between other cultures and I now know how important it is not to generalize the culture and religion.

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