Morocco - The warmest Welcome I ever had

Narration from my travel diary
Monika Elsen

Today begins my guided 'country-and-people-get-to-know-you' tour.

The day begins with a leisurely breakfast, and the first impressions of the beautiful, oriental hotel and the sand dunes directly adjacent to it. It is about 25 degrees and the light wind is perfect, for me old northerner....

Breakfast consists of olives, various breads, a kind of scrambled eggs with tomato (in the tajine), boiled eggs and lots of different cakes. In addition, the obligatory tea. And the best! Freshly squeezed orange juice.

At noon we go to the family of my guide. I am invited for lunch. After all, my travel intention - as Moha knows - is to get to know the country AND the people. And he organizes everything for me. There is a kind of rice-tuna salad, tomato salad with onions and ... Tajine. This time with chicken, potatoes and many vegetables. It tastes fantastic.

I get such a warm welcome!!! I really didn't expect that. They take me in almost like a family member! The eldest daughter Khadija comes to visit especially to meet me.

Moha, my guide, got me pantallons, a top and a headscarf and gave them to me as a welcome gift. I should look like a Berber woman at least once.

Khadija paints a work of art on my hands. With henna. And she ties my headscarf. She says that now I am beautiful...

Morocco - Islam - the ablution

The ablution


An important ritual when you have done something wrong. Like confession for us back then? Or paying an indulgence? Interesting parallels! On the subject of ablution, I found the following article on the Internet:


Before prayer, reading from the Quran and any other act of worship, a Muslim should perform a ritual ablution. This ablution is called "wudu" in Arabic.

The validity of the prayer ablution is lost by:

  • using the toilet
  • sleeping
  • the leakage of blood, pus or other bodily fluids
  • blowing the nose with the right hand
  • by impure acts (however, after sexual intercourse/masturbation, a full ritual washing is required).

If any of these conditions occur, the prayer washing must be repeated....

How does one perform the prayer washing

First, the intention to perform the prayer washing is formulated in the heart. Then the words "Bismillahir-rahmanir-rahiym" (In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the All-Merciful) are spoken.

Then the following parts of the body are washed:

  1. Hands (3 times, starting on the right, up to the wrists, and between the fingers).
  2. Mouth (rinse the mouth 3 times with the right hand)
  3. Nose (take water with the right hand and pull it through the nose, then clean the inside of the nose with the fingers of the left hand. The whole again 3 x)
  4. Face (3 x from top to bottom and from the middle to the sides)
  5. Forearms (3 x up to above the elbow)
  6. Head (wet the front third of the head, starting from the hairline)
  7. Ears (clean the front and back of the ear with thumb and forefinger)
  8. Feet (start on the right side, clean the spaces between the toes with the little finger of the left hand, proceeding from right to left on both sides. Then apply water 3 times on the top and then on the bottom of the foot up to the ankles).

The enumerated parts of the body must be completely wetted with water. Earrings and jewelry as well as nail polish must be removed beforehand.

Morocco - What is HARAM

One word that we Europeans inevitably encounter again and again when we come into contact with the Islamic world is: HARAM.

Haram stands for a taboo. Something bad/evil. A sin. And haram is many behaviors practiced quite normally by us in the West. The most well known is probably drinking alcohol. But what I have learned is that all substances are haram that can alter one's state of mind, are addictive and dangerous. And such a ban actually makes sense. We know what alcohol and drugs can do. In itself, I don't think the taboo here is bad at all. The Muslims who abide by it certainly fare better. Besides, they are mostly hotheads. Who knows - maybe their society would then consist only of "murder and manslaughter"? At least there are fewer alcoholics than here. However, opinions differ on the famous hashish pipe. Perhaps because a normal consumption calms down? The hemp plant is actually an ancient medicinal plant? It can relieve pain? It is at least a gray area in the world of the Haram.

Let's move on to pork. Pigs are simply considered unclean. To my knowledge, pigs are the only mammals we eat that would also eat "us" - that is, they are omnivores. Or scavengers. So in a sense, they really are unclean. I don't know that we eat any scavengers otherwise - except in emergency situations. And that herbivores are healthier, I think is obvious. And if we once again interfere with the laws of nature, as in the case of feeding cows - when we came up with the idea of feeding animal meal to herbivores - such unhealthy effects as BSE and Kreuzfeld-Jakob disease, which were caused by dead sheep infected with the scrapie pathogen, will result. Personally, I have also turned away from pork. However, not because I don't like it - as Germans, pork is something we are born with - at least in my generation - but because I generally dislike undignified factory farming and don't want to support with my consumption the fact that animals continue to be seen as a production or industrial factor. And since I now prefer lamb and beef anyway and can get them more easily from organic farmers, it is not difficult for me to do without them.  Another aspect is added: pork spoils fastest in heat. And it is hot - at least in most Islamic countries.

Besides, credits are haram. That really surprised me. And I find it exciting. After all, debt makes you very unfree. You quickly come under pressure and can certainly become ill as a result.

Morocco - The religion

Religion and its role in our daily travel routine

Moha wanted to give me some insight right at the beginning. Of course, as a German, I am biased, having internalized many prejudices over the years. Unconsciously. What reconciled me today above all: The tolerance and humanity that I was allowed to experience. A basic principle of their religion. And... It is practiced by many. It is natural to share - especially with poor people and beggars. Moha gave so often, where I as a constantly "felt coerced by beggars" former Berliner automatically switched to denial. The hospitality is also terrific. I was embarrassed.

Religion offers support by holding on to old traditions. A counterweight to modernity. And at the same time a confirmation of renewed Western "discoveries" that are in vogue, such as fasting, yoga and meditation. Fasting during Ramadan, praying five times a day with appropriate movements while still practicing humility - proven ancient means of "grounding," coping with everyday life and avoiding life crises. Living (being allowed to live) spirituality and the belief in a higher meaning gives comfort - something that has been partially lost in our modern world.

Moha has always kept to times for prayer when possible. Either in a somewhat secluded room, but here the compass direction had to be determined beforehand, or in a mosque. There are mosques almost everywhere. Even at gas stations. Sometimes they even stand alone in the open countryside - without a place. I heard the muezzin call for the first time and remembered the ban on minarets in Switzerland, which caused a stir throughout Europe. I have no opinion on this, because while I reject intolerance, I also understand that cultures - no matter which - want to preserve their own values. In Switzerland, it is the huge, loud cowbells (which, by the way, are still traditionally swung by strong men at weddings) or the church bells that ring out every quarter of an hour. These, too, occasionally manage to pull me out of sleep, especially at 12 chimes at midnight.

I learned that there are exceptions to praying. For example, you don't have to pray while traveling. Or, if you really don't have time, you can pray longer in the evening to get back to your target. So it is suitable for everyday life, for example if you have to work all day. :-)

A favorite expression of Moha is Inshallah - God willing. I like it.

Morocco - Societal


Almost every younger Moroccan and many younger Moroccan women now have a cell phone or smartphone. The flood of information from the West has reached North Africa. Knowledge has become accessible. And consumer offers. But of course also visualizations of nudity and sexuality that run counter to religion. The social media connect, create new communication channels also between men and women, but on the other hand lead to many Moroccans increasingly trying to find Western women. More and more men are afraid of the traditional role of provider and avoid choosing a woman from their own ranks. Moreover, the latter is often still traditionally prepared for her existence as a wife and mother. Despite educational offers, she has to marry in order not to endanger the honor of the family.

The Berber wedding

I was allowed to see the photos and videos of the Berber wedding of Moha's sister. I already knew from television that weddings in the Arab environment often last for days. There is eating, dancing, and gift giving. But here I also got a glimpse of the splendor. The bride is elaborately tattooed with henna on her feet, legs, arms, and hands. She is festively dressed and wears a different gown for each ceremony. There are fixed rituals, when who sits together where, who presents gifts, what is smoked, where is eaten and danced. On the first day, the festivity takes place at the father of the bride. He is responsible for the location, for the music, for the food. Neighbors are welcome and invited as well as the whole clan. After that, the party is held at the groom's house. At the end, the bride is carried to the groom in a palanquin by family members. Not to the front door - this is done today by car, and in this case in the desert by jeep. From now on they belong together.

Children and marriage

According to the Prophet, one is allowed to have several wives, ideally four. However, this is not practiced because there is also the requirement that all wives must be considered and provided for equally. And providing for the wife(s) and of course the children is still the responsibility of the man. There is no pension insurance. So the only thing left for a married couple is to have many children. As a consequence of this, the large family cohesion, which is so contrary to our culture, is to be understood. The entire clan is responsible for this. The upbringing of the children is also very contrary to ours today. When I told Moha that beatings are now forbidden in Germany and at least the Youth Welfare Office is involved, he was very surprised. In Morocco, beatings are a matter of course.


Morocco - Languages


One thing I learned - you don't get far with classical Arabic or even with French.

The main language spoken is Moroccan Arabic, also called ad-Dariga, and the Berber language, Tamazight. In Wikipedia there are still other designations. Nevertheless, the Berber language has fundamentally the same roots and Berbers always understand each other. There are individual deviations depending on the region, just as everywhere dialects have grown regionally different. I remember the differences of the Swiss language in each canton. Nevertheless, all Swiss understand each other (except for the Valaisans maybe ;-)).

The official languages of the country and the authorities are French and classical Arabic. Both are taught in schools. Both can be found on the town signs. Whether it has to do with the old occupation forces that very few Moroccans like French? Who knows. I could speak a few words of French from time to time (mostly only the policemen had a good vocabulary ;-)), but most Moroccans quickly switched to English or even German.

A third font can be found on most of the signs: Berber script (a third official language since 2011). Unfortunately, it is not taught everywhere. However, school children are probably asked to learn it on their own. This is a pity, because the Tifinagh script used testifies to an ancient culture that existed before the immigration of the Arabs and Islamization (7th century). According to the name, one suspects a derivation from Phoenician. What about the Phoenicians, who had already bred purple snails in Essouira/Magador?  

Die Tifinagh Font

From Wikipedia: "The texts known from the pre-colonial period mostly consist only of short inscriptions on rocks (names or messages) and names and formulaic blessings on leather amulets or jewelry. The blades of Takouba swords in particular were often decorated with Tifinagh symbols, which were thought to bring good luck to the warrior. In Morocco, Tifinagh signs are traditionally painted on the skin with henna or other dyes for magical purposes. In newborns, they are supposed to make evil spirits and begrudging people or their "evil eye" harmless."

Even today, this script is used for magic. Thus, one occasionally comes across buried photos or personal items with these characters, which are supposed to bring about either evil spells or good ones. Officially, of course, this is forbidden.

It reminds me of our Germanic/Celtic runes, which are and were used both as characters, but also for magic.