Educators Programs in Morocco
Morocco offers travelers surprises around every corner. You can watch the sunset as you trek across the world’s largest desert, step back in time while visiting ancient cities, and learn about the exotic culture from friendly local residents. Some of our most captivating photos come from Morocco, and students who go to the country quickly see why.
Amid stunning landscapes, you’ll be immersed in the Moroccan lifestyle, allowing you to experience aspects of life you won’t see elsewhere.
Morocco is slightly larger than the U.S. state of Texas and has almost the same number of people as California with a population of 37 million. The north African nation borders the Alboran Sea to the north, which is western part of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. On land, it’s bordered by Algeria and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. About 80-percent of this territory is administered by Morocco.
The nation is separated from Europe by the Strait of Gibraltar, which at its narrowest point is only eight miles across. This makes it possible for people to take ferry rides between the two continents.
Morocco is one of 11 countries that includes portions of the Sahara Desert, which spans 3.3 million square miles. The country also has mountainous areas near the northern coast and inland, along with plateaus, valleys and coastal plains.
Arabic is the official language in Morocco. About a third of the population also can speak French, but you will find few English speakers outside the tourist areas. There also are a few indigenous languages spoken by the Amazigh population, such as Tamazight, Tachelhit, and Tarifit. Overall though, it’s helpful to know some Arabic words while traveling in Morocco.
When meeting someone, you may be greeted by the phrase “Labas?” which is like saying “What’s up?” It comes from the Standard Arabic literally meaning “No harm?” It also can be used as a “how are you?” type of phrase.
Muslims will also greet one another with the Islamic phrase “Assalamu Aleikum” meaning “Peace be upon you.” Moroccans touch their heart after shaking hands with one another as a sign of honor and respect and react positively towards foreigners who do so as well. You also can use the same greeting for hello.
In addition to this greeting, here are other words and phrases that may help while you’re in the country:
- How are you? Labas? Good: Mizien
- Good morning: Sabah al-khair; Good afternoon: Msa’ al-khair; Good night: Laila sa’ida
- Welcome: Ahlan; Goodbye: B’salama
- Please: Afak; Thank you: Shukran
- Excuse me: Smihlee
- What is your name? Shnu smeetuk? My name is ___. Smeetee ___.
- Where are you from? Min feenta? I am from ___. Ana min ___.
- Do you speak English? Tatkalum ingleezee?
- I don’t understand. Ma kafhamsh.
- Where is ___? Feen kayn ___?
- How much is it? Shihal hada?
Moroccans are friendly and happy to welcome people to their country. While on the program, it’s important for you to dress modestly and be respectful of their customs, especially during prayer time.
Women do not have to cover their heads, but tight clothing, two-piece bathing suits, miniskirts, shorts, and shirts that bare your shoulders should be avoided. Men also generally should avoid wearing sports shorts or sleeveless shirts unless they are playing a sport.
Aside from clothing, here are some other social norms to follow:
- Avoid using your left hand for eating or handing people objects since the left hand is considered unclean. Avoid public displays of affection and gestures like using your index finger to beckon people.
- Remove your shoes when entering a home or if you see shoes outside a building.
- Bring a travel-size roll of toilet paper or tissues since most toilets in Morocco will not have toilet paper available.
- Keep your phone away from the street when walking in a city since thieves on motorbikes may try to grab it from your hand.
- Avoid hash at all costs. Hash from the cannabis plants is readily available in parts of Morocco but buying or using hash is illegal in Morocco and can be harshly punished. Plus, it’s against Rustic Pathways’ strictly enforced policies.
If you want to buy something while in Morocco, you may want to try haggling. Many locals haggle when buying items, including food. Keep in mind the starting price is inflated, so you should start with an offer that is about half that price. Then you can go up a little bit if need be.
Food & Drink
Mint tea is the national drink of Morocco. It’s made from green tea with fresh mint and sugar and is commonly served during mealtime. Moroccans often pour tea from several inches above the glass so the mint smell can fill the air.
Food is often eaten with your hands in Morocco rather than utensils. While in country, here are some delectable dishes you may eat:
- Couscous – Morocco’s national dish; It’s often eaten on Fridays since that’s the Muslim holy day.
- Stewed lentils
- Tajine – a meat and vegetable stew
- Kalia – lamb stew
- Pastilla – meat pie
- Harira – lentil, tomato, and chickpea soup
- Pastries filled with almond paste and honey cakes.
The currency is the Moroccan dirham. One dirham is worth about 10 U.S. cents, so one U.S. dollar is approximately equivalent to 10 dirhams. A number of vendors in Morocco do not accept credit cards, so having local currency is helpful. We recommend bringing a little money for souvenirs, though you’ll need to remember that vendors in Morocco often haggle over prices.
It’s generally quite hot in Morocco from June-August, so it’s important to stay hydrated. There’s also lots of sunshine and very little rain. Here are the average weather conditions in the country during these months:
|High Temperature||88 F||98 F||97 F|
|Low Temperature||61 F||67 F||68 F|
|Average Rainfall||0.2 inches||0.04 inches||0.12 inches|
|Monthly Rainy Days||1.2 days||0.6 days||1.2 days|
Morocco has taken the lead in promoting renewable energy. Its Noor Power Plant in the Sahara Desert is the world’s largest concentrated solar power farm. It’s huge – the size of 3,500 football fields. The farm produces enough electricity to power a mid-sized city.
The solar panels at the plant melt salt that stores energy that can be used at night. The Moroccan government secured $3 billion from the World Bank for the project. The country has a goal of producing more than half of its energy by renewable resources by 2030.
The Moroccan government is also working on tackling issues like air pollution and desertification caused by drought and overgrazing. The United Nations and other international partners have stepped up to assist local communities struggling with poverty and land degradation.
Education is required in Morocco through age 15 and is free. However, in reality there are major educational deficits in the country. In rural areas, less than half of girls graduate from high school. Teenage girls often leave school to help with household duties and childcare.
That said, the country has made large improvements in its literacy rate in the past two decades. About 50-percent of the population was literate in 2004, but by 2021 that rate had increased to 75 percent.
More than 99-percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, which is the state religion. In the country, it’s against the law to criticize Islam. However, Morocco allows more personal freedoms than a number of other Muslim countries and generally visitors do not have greater expectations than general respectfulness.
There are about 20 million Amazigh people in Morocco. They are sometimes referred to as Berbers. However, they prefer the name Amazigh, which means free people.
Some of the Amazigh tribes live nomadically in the Sahara Desert. However, most Amazigh people are farmers or mountain dwellers who live in small communities. They are known for making jewelry, weaving, pottery and other art forms.
In addition to the Amazigh, there are a number of smaller ethnic groups, such as the Sahrawis. Their culture is a mix of Arab and indigenous African.
Other Fun Facts About Morocco
- Rabat became the capital after Moroccan independence in 1955. It’s one of four “imperial cities,” which all served as capitals at some point in the region’s history. The other three are Fez, Marrakech, and Meknes.
- The English name for Morocco was derived from the ancient capital of Marrakech, which comes from the Amazigh words mur and akush meaning “Land of God.”
- Marrakech is called the “red city” because of the color of its buildings. The hue comes from the clay and red sandstone used to construct the older structures in the city. In reality, the buildings look more pink than red.
- A souk refers to a marketplace in Morocco.
- Morocco was the first country to recognize the independence of the United States. The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1786.
- Morocco is one of three monarchies remaining in Africa. The other two are Lesotho and Eswatini, which is the former Swaziland.
- The city of Tangier on the North African coast by the Strait of Gibraltar was an international city from 1922 to 1956. It was ruled by representatives of eight European countries.
- The University of Al Karaouine in Fez is the oldest university in the world and was established in 859 A.D.
- According to Amazigh culture, the liver, not the heart, is considered the place for love in the body. Therefore, if you have troubles, you can say your liver is broken.
- Believe it or not, Morocco has the highest ski resort in Africa called Oukaimeden.
- Morocco is sometimes called Africa’s “Little Hollywood” since many movies have been filmed there entirely or partially, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Captain Phillips, Men in Black: International and Inventing Anna.
- Snake charming was introduced in the country 500 years ago and still can be seen in Marrakech’s central square.
- It’s common to see bags of colorful dyes while walking through a souk. The dyes are used by Moroccan rug and textile makers.
- As the 2022 World Cup showcased, soccer is the most popular sport in Morocco, so soccer lovers are quite welcome!
Rustic Pathways in Morocco
In the summer of 2022, high school and college students traveled across Morocco, immersing themselves in the culture and scenery. Check out some photo highlights.
This program gives students the chance to visit Sahara Desert, fortified villages or ksars, the “red city” of Marrakech with its clay structures and more. Yet, it’s often the people that teens meet during the trip that they remember the most.
Ashley embarked on a life-changing journey to Morocco in 2021. From forging connections with local villagers to surfing in Essaouira, her adventure was a captivating blend of cultural immersion and personal growth.
In 2017, Annalise’s trip to Morocco unveiled a world of profound cultural differences and transformative service work. Through joyful soccer games with local children and a serene desert sunrise, she learned the importance of prioritizing her happiness.
Morocco: A Country Of Captivating Colors And Cultures
In this documentary, see how three different people live their lives in this beautiful country.
Moroccan Radio Station
Hear the sounds of Morocco by streaming their radio stations. Try a few different genres, and find your next favorite artist!
Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca
Looking for a transporting read? Try The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah. One part travel sketch, one part an immigrant’s tale, we think this book brings the enchantment of Morocco to life. In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams is the follow-up read.
A popular street food in Morocco, these spiced potato cakes can be eaten as a side or as a sandwich filler in khobz.
Creating Amazigh Cuisine
Now that you’re accustomed to Moroccan culture, practice creating a staple food of the Atlas Mountains. The Amazigh culture brought the world a perfect Couscous, and we challenge you to try making it at home!