Ride The Flavour (en)

Cultural mingle-mangle n°2: Morocco

Aug. 30th | 0 comments

Way of life

– The hammam we tested was not of its first youth, and it was after all for the better: we were at the heart of the Moroccan tradition. There are two rooms, the second hotter than the first one. The heat remains soft, we sweat without realizing it. Then comes the show … A Moroccan joins us. His mission: to cleanse us from head to toe. At first his flannel burns. We are on a spit, turning to offer each side to the burn of the scraper. We then adjust and relax. Eventually, our guy turns into a masseur and, in a far too expert movement to be  describable, he attacks our spinal column: several vertebrae crack but the stretching makes us grow 5 cm!
The price of this makeover: 10 dirhams (entry) + 30 dirhams (tip for the “massage”).

– Each village has its barber. We both tried it: our beard had never been cut with such precision before. Then, of course, you need time: 20 minutes for shaving only! The price is set by the client, roughly 30-40 dirhams for the beard, 50 dirhams for the beard and hair.

– Young people seem to dress more and more Western, but many men still wear the jilbab (with underwear of course). We would have tried, but cycling would have become quite complicated …

– The Moroccan television gets more than 400 channels for free. The national channels, but also a plethora from other Arab countries. An impressive link between the Arabic-speaking country!

– On a Moroccan table, you will not find any fork or knife. You will usually us bread as cutlery. Fingers are the only tools allowed!

– While having a meal, everyone has a glass of tea, coffee or Coca depending on the time, but there is always one in addition: the common water glass.

– In Morocco, donkeys are indispensible, in the countryside and even in cities (eg you cannot walk through the medina of Fez without crossing one). They of course carry water, the daily harvest or anything else … but also people! At Moulay Idriss, a city built on a hillside and made of narrow streets, the donkey is a real taxi.

– There are two types of taxis in Morocco: “small taxis” and “big taxis”. The first ones should stick to their city and have a meter. As for the second ones, old Mercedes (only!), they deal with trips between cities. They are expected to shuttle between well defined points: there are “stations” in every city. They leave their station once full (two front passengers, four behind): you can also ask them to leave as soon as you’re in, but you will have to pay for the empty seats.


The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar: so is the beginning and end of Ramadan defined by the observation of the moon. And as all countries do not see the moon from the same perspective, each gives its own dates of Ramadan. Apparently, this “interpretation” also reflects the relations between countries. An example: we heard that Morocco had announced the end of Ramadan a day after Saudi Arabia in part to assert its independence from the Mecca. In Morocco, Ramadan has begun on July 10th and ended on August 9th.

Rhythm of life during the month of Ramadan. Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. They feast during the night (between the Maghrib prayer, which breaks fasting, and the Fajr prayer, which announces the beginning of fasting), get up late and live slowly to hold until the night. Do not expect to eat in a small greasy spoon during a day of Ramadan! You will have to fall back on restaurants in touristic areas.

The traditional meal of Ramadan: harira (soup), eggs, bread, milk and dates.

– In Morocco, when passing a funeral procession, a sign of respect, people stop their current activity until it is gone.

Mean trick

During your stay in Morocco, probably in a city, you will be approached by a Moroccan. He will engage in conversation with you and, a few seconds later, you will tell him what you are looking for. And if you do not have a specific idea in mind, trust him, he will find you one. He will offer to take you there … “But do not worry, I’m not a guide.” Implying that he will not ask you for money. Simple kindness, you will think. Confident, you will follow him to your destination. But before leaving, he will say those words, thwarting any language barrier, “tip, money, buck, dirham …”


– Public bins are pretty rare in Moroccan cities … and the few of them available are not even used to their full potential. Throwing empty bottles, wrappings, butts on the ground is still standard.


– In Morocco, cycling is virtually nonexistent, and we did not cross any other cycling tourist … No doubt we should be a little crazy to ride 1000 km through Morocco in the middle of August.


– On the sides of mountains, forests are often scarred from top to bottom by a wide strip cleared of trees: it is in fact firebreaks, designed to prevent fires from spreading.

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