Morocco's distinct and authentic culture (unchanged in many ways) is perhaps the primary reason to explore the country. You'll find traditional villages that still live today as they have through history. Cities like Casablanca and Chefchaouen lift the veil and let you see the way locals live day-to-day. Visit small towns and Berber villages in the mountains, peruse artisan collectives, and get off the beaten path to discover Morocco's incredible countryside.

Getting Oriented

 Desert camels wearing traditional attire.

Like any country, Morocco's culture changes as you move through its distinct regions. Enjoy a glimpse of local life in bustling cities, quiet towns, mountainous hamlets, and traditional villages. By going behind the scenes, you can learn about authentic cultural norms that have influenced daily life for centuries. 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.

Read about the best time to visit Morocco so that you can make the most out of your trip. Favorable conditions enhance many cultural experiences, but you can still enjoy a few popular excursions and off-the-beaten-path adventures regardless of the weather.

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 cultural experiences. From Casablanca to Fes to Chefchaouen, there's something at nearly every turn.

Off-The-Beaten-Path Casablanca

Go beyond the typical Medina sightseeing and go off the beaten path in Casablanca.

When visiting Moroccan cities, many visitors stick to the old town medina. But with Casablanca, you'll find more authentic and local experiences by venturing off the beaten path. Walk along the city's beachfront promenade or hang out in one of the lively parks. Stroll The Hobous (New Medina) in search of art deco architecture or pop into Rick's Cafe to follow Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart's footsteps. Read More

Explore the "Blue City" Chefchaouen

Weave through the charming blue streets of Chefchaouen.

You'll quickly learn why Chefchaouen is known as the "Blue City" of Morocco, with its charming blue-hued streets weaving through its Medina. Get an authentic taste of the city by exploring 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. Read More

Explore Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

Casablanca's Hassan II Mosque glows at dusk.

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 grandiose 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! Read More

Cultural Day Trips

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

Colorful streets of Asilah and its quirky street art.

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. Read More

Day Trip to Ait Bougumez

 Explore the verdant Ait Bougumez Valley.

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. Read More

Plan your trip to Morocco
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Cultural Outdoors

To really 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

 Immerse yourself in the unique culture of the Atlas Mountains Berber villages.

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 make products for 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. Read More

Other Cultural Themes

Visit Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakech's Medina

Jemaa el-Fnaa

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, you'll be delighted by the live performers, storytellers, and food stalls that emerge. 

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

Berber man walking past an ancient Moroccan village

Leaving Morocco's major cities to visit local villages is a great opportunity for cultural immersion. Consider booking a day trip to the village 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 notable village with a small town square and souks. 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's something you are interested in.

It's quite common to enjoy tea with Berber tribes in their tents—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, check out this article.

Get Lost in Morocco's Traditional Souks

Storefronts line the streets in Marrakech.

One of the highlights of visiting Marrakech is the souks in the old city, where a maze of markets is connected 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. 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, and at Souk Cherifia, you’ll find designs 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 are 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

 Moroccan women making argan oil

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 pungent 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 found at fair trade cooperatives around Essaouria. In Tamanar, just south of Essaouira, the Amal Women's Cooperative sells products to support the ancient tradition of argan oil making. It provides a fair salary to the women in the cooperative. 

Learn to Cook Like a Local

Morrocan pastilla

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

Dar Les Cigognes, a 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 influences from Berber, Mediterranean, and Arabic roots, and varies from region to region. Being situated on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the food is also 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.

Get Scrubbed Down in a Traditional Hammam

Woman relaxing in a hammam

A hammam is a traditional Moroccan bathhouse and a regular part of everyday life for many Moroccans. There are various types of 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 of the week for women, while some only service one gender. The ritual varies but is normally done in three steps. You'll first sit in a steam room to open your pores, then your body will be washed with traditional black soap and scrubbed with a scrub glove, called a kessa, by a hammam attendant. Then, a cold water bath is customary.

Local hammams include everything from large steam rooms to pools, and it is completely acceptable to go nude. For an exclusive experience, many hotels offer sumptuous retreats—try the luxe Royal Mansour or La Mamounia in Marrakesh. 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

Camels in the Sahara Desert

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.

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 be able to spend the evening with a Berber tribe around a campfire listening to local music and listening to traditional stories, as well as explore 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. Interested? This 4-day tour is a great example of how you can maximize your time. You'll hike through a river gorge, wander through a classic kasbah, and—of course—ride camels in the desert.

Experience a Local Music Festival

Concertgoers at the Gnaoua Music Festival in Essaouira

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 was traditionally created by African slaves and has been preserved through generations. The dreamy style of music combines poetry with dancing, and today, the festival encapsulates both modern and old with a mix of world music, blues, reggae, and hip-hop.

The Master Musicians of Joujouka festival is 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.

At the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, you can experience 10 days of eclectic concerts. It is the countries oldest festival, created in the 1990s to represent religious and cultural tolerance. Each year the festival combines diverse musicians from different faiths to perform together throughout the city in different venues.

A Note on Local Customs 

 Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca

As Morocco is a Muslim country, there are certain things to be aware of when visiting. 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 your shoes off 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 along.

When shopping in Morocco, shopkeepers may seem pushy at first, but many times they 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 expected.

How to Craft the Perfect Cultural Itinerary in Morocco

Visit one of the numerous women cooperatives for argan oil, rose oil, carpet weaving, and more.

 

Morocco oozes authentic culture—you wouldn't be able to avoid it 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 is a good time to see the Moroccan highlights and dig deep into the culture. Read up on how to spend ten days in the country for even more itinerary ideas!

Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following trips that include cultural experiences: