Living in Morocco?
Moroccan Cuisine and Everyday Life
If you don’t like cumin, you most likely won’t fall in love with Moroccan cuisine, as this spice is used in almost every dish. The national dish of Morocco is couscous, a semolina-based pasta served with a meat stew. Preparing a traditional couscous dish is very time-consuming, so it is usually prepared on Friday morning and consumed after the weekly prayer service. Harira, a hearty lamb soup, is another national specialty, traditionally eaten at the end of Ramadan to break the fast.
Meat, including lamb, fish, and fowl, is served in many dishes. One favorite is b’stillah, pigeon baked in pastry, and another is mechoui, slow-roasted lamb. Vegetables that are often used in Moroccan cooking include tomatoes, peppers, onions, and eggplants. Tagine, a rich stew of meat and vegetables, is a traditional Berber dish, named after the earthenware pot in which it is prepared.
If you are invited to a Moroccan home for dinner, be sure to remove your shoes when you enter the house. Make sure that your spouse has also been invited, as conservative Muslims will not host mixed-sex dinner parties. Appropriate gifts to bring your host include flowers, sweet pastries, nuts, dates or figs, but no alcohol, unless you are sure that your host drinks alcoholic beverages.
In a traditional Moroccan home, food is served from a communal bowl or plate. Try to eat only from the portion of the dish in front of you. Eat and drink only with your right hand, as the left hand is considered unclean.
Although Morocco is a Muslim country, it follows the Western-style working week from Monday to Friday. The business day generally starts at 09:00 and ends at 19:00, with time for prayers and a long lunch break built in. On Friday, shops and business close from 11:00 to 15:00 for the main weekly prayers, during which time all Muslims gather together at the local mosque.
Government agencies and post offices are usually open from 08:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 18:30 on Monday to Thursday, and from 08:30 to 11:30 and 14:00 to 18:30 on Fridays. Banks are generally open on Monday to Friday from 08:15 to 15:45. Shops are usually open from 09:00 to 19:00 with a lunch break, and many are closed on Sundays. Supermarkets in the big cities stay open until 22:00.
Opening hours during Ramadan vary from those stated above. Generally speaking, there is no lunch break, and instead shops and offices close earlier.
The currency in Morocco is the dirham (MAD), and 10 MAD equaled 1 USD in March 2016. Morocco is still mainly a cash-based society, although major credit cards are accepted in big cities. ATMs often run out of money on weekends, so it is best to withdraw in advance during the week. Please note that you are not allowed to take more than 1000 MAD into or out of the country. Be sure to keep receipts for all payments as, according to legislation in Morocco, they must be presented when converting any remaining dirhams.
When you open a bank account in Morocco, you need to choose between a convertible dirham account and a normal dirham account. Only foreign currency can be deposited or wired into a convertible account. The only items required in order to open a bank account in Morocco are a passport and some money to make your first deposit. Once you have obtained your residence permit, you can also open a normal dirham account if you wish. You can get a debit card for this account, but you will only be able to use it within Morocco.
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