The Best Moroccan Traditions
Morocco is steeped in centuries-old traditions. You’ll see palaces and landmarks dotted throughout ancient city streets that date back to medieval times; and quickly learn that behind every inconspicuous doorway, there’s generations of stories to tell.
One of my favorite parts about Moroccan culture is how so many traditions are still integrated into the tapestry of daily life, and how proud people are to share their country with visitors.
In my opinion, here’s the 5 best traditions in Moroccan culture that have stood the test of time, and what you should put at the top of your list when you visit!
1) Natural Apothecaries
Morocco is known for its colorful, all-natural apothecaries; and it’s amazing to see the herbalists who tend to them confidently lure people in, offering remedies to any physical, mental and spiritual ailments one could conjure up.
I was really excited to tour one and lucky for me, there’s no shortage of apothecaries in the souks of old Marrakech. My favorite experience was at Herboriste la Sagesse, where the enticing colors and scents out front are reinforced by three stories of shops and offices, with jars stacked to the ceilings of herbal medicines.
Our group was invited to the top level for tea, and women of the family-owned shop gave us interactive demonstrations of all sorts of things we didn’t know we needed.
After spending the better part of two hours, our collective haul included:
Crystalized eucalyptus for sinuses
Black cumin seed for headaches
Dry herbs for tea
A slew of argan oil beauty products
Natural perfume bars
African black soap
Indigo as a color dye
Herbs and spices such as turmeric, paprika, saffron, and the traditional 35-spice blend
Note- we didn’t attempt to bargain at the apothecaries. Prices seemed set or were visibly written, and items were weighed out with a cost agreed upon.
2) Moroccan Mint Tea
Jokingly referred to as “Berber whisky”, Moroccan mint tea is a deeply engrained tradition and a symbol of hospitality and friendship across the country. It is prepared in a stainless steel tea pot using green tea and boiling water as its base, then fresh mint leaves and raw cane sugar are added and mixed thoroughly by pouring and re-pouring.
The tea is then served in small glasses, and never filled to the top, as that would indicate that one should have their glass and leave. Instead, the host will fill your glass only halfway, as an invitation to have more (three is considered minimum / respectful).
Locals are known for their impressive pours, generally at 12 inches or higher, to create sweet frothy bubbles on top.
3) Hammam Spa
A Moroccan hammam, similar to a Turkish bath, is a public steam room and weekly cleanliness and social ritual for many Moroccans. The baths are separated by gender, and it’s traditional to go fully naked, though disposable underwear may be provided.
My first hammam experience was at Les Baines de Marrakech, and it was one of the most beautifully ornate spas I’ve ever been in.
The experience starts in a eucalyptus steam room, where an attendant rinsed me with buckets of warm water while I laid on a bed. She then applied African black soap, and scrubbed my whole body rigorously with a bristled glove, which removed so much dead skin I had to ask if it was normal (she said it was). After rinsing, a layer of calming French clay is applied, followed by a full shower.
I was then invited to relax and drink mint tea before my hour long relaxation massage.
I personally loved the hammam experience and booked a second treatment ($75 USD for 2 hours) before flying home.
4) Handmade Crafts
Take a walk in any Moroccan city or village and your senses will be bombarded with some of the most intricate craftsmanship on the planet. Moroccan crafts are the result of a unique trading culture and the natural local resources including stone, wood, metal, mineral and clay deposits, and supplies of leather and wool.
With over 3,000 shops in the Marrakech medina alone, you’ll find everything from zellige (ornate Moroccan tiles) to textiles like rugs, poofs, scarves and kaftans; ceramics like cooking dishes and wall decor; metal work taking the shape of lights, mirrors and tea pots; leather and wool goods like bags and traditional cushioned seating, Berber jewelry, shoes, woven goods, and even wooden bowls and baskets.
Take your time when browsing, talk to the shopkeepers and see if you can learn about the maker and perhaps you’ll even score an invitation to see how something is made. When purchasing, bargaining or “doing it the Moroccan way” is acceptable after small talk and banter have been established; however after seeing the attention to detail and the love and care that goes into it, I was often happy to pay close to asking price.
Riads are traditional Moroccan homes that are usually two or three stories tall and built facing inward toward a private courtyard with a garden or pool. From the outside, they are completely unassuming, just another door in a winding alleyway, but once inside, they offer a magical sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding medina. Many are converted into hotels and some even have spa services and delicious cafes and restaurants.