Moroccans generally love gifts and are generally generous people. Since 97% of the Population is Muslim, the art of gift-giving is based on the rigid rules of Islam. Most of the time, Moroccans give gifts out of duty, and as a symbol of respect, appreciation, and honor. If you are from another country and belongs to a different religion, it is important to remember these facts before offering something to a Moroccan. Knowing what and what not to do is vital in avoiding misunderstanding and maintaining a friendly relationship in Morocco.
Gift Giving Etiquette
Before you give a gift, it is prudent not overspend because their custom demands that they should return the favor by giving something of equal or greater value. Here are more tips to guide you on Moroccan gift giving.
Do’s in Gift Giving in Morocco
- Moroccans prefer to get to know you first before giving or accepting gifts. It is best to wait until after the first meeting to present a gift.
- When invited to a Moroccan home, you have to bring a gift for your host/hostess, such as yogurt, milk, pastries, nuts, or flowers.
- Bringing gifts for your host’s children like books or small items is a sign of affection.
- Gifts are presented with two hands, or the right hand. Never use the left hand alone for they are considered “unclean”.
- Do not open the gift upon receiving. Gifts are usually opened in private.
- An exchange of gift with someone from the opposite sex outside the family is always a sensitive issue. If a man has to give a gift to a woman friend, he should say it came from his wife or girlfriend.
- When giving gifts, double check to determine where the product is made. You wouldn’t want to give an Arab a gift made in Israel.
- For long term friendships, keep track of gifts received. You are expected to give something at least of the same value or more.
- Moroccans are not very particular with gift wraps. Presents are often presented in a gift bag or wrapped in cloth or scarf. It is alright to attach your business card on the gift.
- One thoughtful gift is a compass, so they can find the direction of Mecca wherever they are.
- Always express your gratitude for the gift you received. You can send a gift or call the person. Text messages and e-mails are not acceptable.
Don’ts in Gift Giving in Morocco
- Muslims forbid the consumption of alcohol. You should not bring any kind of liquor in a Moroccan house unless you are sure the recipient drinks.
- Avoid wrapping your gifts in pink, violet, and yellow, these colors are associated with death.
- It is advisable not to give gifts that can easily be found and made in Morocco.
- It is rude to refuse a gift from your host.
- Don’t admire an object too much. A Moroccan may think you want it as a gift.
- Don’t bring food or beverages to someone’s home, the host will feel insulted.
- Never bring sugar cones to a home unless the family is in mourning. These are given to families who lost someone.
Gifts to Avoid
There are a lot of things that are forbidden in Islam, and should not be given as gifts.
- Leather items made from pigskin – pigs are unclean animals for the Muslims.
- Dogs are also considered unclean so any dog item, even a picture or figurine with a dog is taboo.
- Knives and any sharp items – these symbolize an intention to sever a relationship.
- Nude drawings, sculptures, or artworks displaying the human body, is not acceptable.
- Items with logos – Moroccan think they’re tacky.
- Homemade or handmade gifts – it’s not the thought that counts for them. They prefer material things.
Gift Giving Occasions in Morocco
- Hostess Gift – these are always expected. It is common for a house guest to bring flowers, figs, or pastries for the host/hostess. Generally, mint tea is given to the visitor but don’t be surprised when the hostess presented you with a live chicken.
- Birthday – most traditional Muslim families don’t celebrate birthdays. But more modern Moroccans do celebrate birthdays but only for their children.
- Wedding – the wedding is one of the most celebrated occasions in Morocco. It usually lasts for three to seven days. From the dowry-giving to the bride’s henna party, until the grand gift-giving provided by the wedding guests. Money and other expensive gifts are presented to the newlyweds.
- Eid Al-Fitr – a holiday that takes place after Ramadan. Families gather to pray but aside from religious duties, parents, friends, and relatives buy new clothes for children and give them cash gifts known as eidaat.
- Eid Al-Adha – is a Muslim celebration at the end of a Hajj pilgrimage. The Eid is like Christmas for Christians and the Jewish Hanukkah.Every Muslim family celebrates with festivities and gifts are always expected. Gifts do not have to be religious in nature and visitors may bring small gifts like candies or toys for the children.
- Thank You – it is always important to express your gratitude by reciprocating with a gift and not just a card. This is offered within a week of receiving a gift.
- Housewarming – is you are a guest to a housewarming party, do not come empty-handed. Bring candles, desserts, or money for presents. If you can afford a sheep, that could be the best gift for it means good luck and a hearty meal for everyone.
- Coming of Age – this is when a baby boy is circumcised and a baby girl’s ears are pierced. Monetary gifts are the most common gifts.
- Newborn Baby – aqeeka or a newborn party is always celebrated after a child is born. Money and gold jewelry are the traditional gifts for this event.
- New Year’s Day – Moroccans usually celebrate New Year’s Day with lavish feasts among family and friends, Food and gifts are exchanged on this occasion.
- Funeral – the family in mourning is given money and the widow/widower is given white clothing because they have to wear white for 45 days.