Women are generally expected to fulfill the traditional Islamic role of attending to the home and family. However, attitudes are changing and a recent revision of the Mudawana code of family law has granted women more rights.
Homes in the tightly-packed old towns (ormedinas) are built around an inside courtyard inside. This provides an open area where women and extended families can socialise in privacy. Some of the old courtyard homes in Marrakech have been converted into small restaurants called riads.
The French began building ‘new towns’ outside the old walled cities to house the growing population. On the very outskirts, many poor migrants end up in ‘tin can cities’ or shantytowns which have sprung up at the edges of the cities.
Life remains rustic in many rural areas. Villagers carry out subsistence farming, sometimes growing crops of nuts or fruits for extra cash.
Keeping out the heat
Earthen dwellings regulate temperatures in the hot summers, but need continual maintenance to keep out the winter weather.
Buildings are often made of traditional materials such as stone and adobe (sand, clay and straw/manure). In the small towns to the south, houses are constructed of compacted earth and gravel.
Attempts have been made to introduce modern amenities such as electricity and piped water to some rural areas, though in many villages facilities are basic.
A sophisticated culinary blend
The different historical and cultural influences of Morocco’s past can clearly be seen in its cuisine. Staples such as seksou/ couscous,tajines (stews cooked in traditional pots bearing the same name) and thick soups such as harira (a blend of chickpeas, lentils and vegetables) are testament to the country’s Berber origins.
Nomads introduced dates, milk and cheese products. The Andalucian influence from Spain can be tasted in lemons, olives and olive oil. From the east, the Arabs brought saffron, coriander, cumin and paprika which regularly spice Moroccan dishes. Finally, the French colonial era lingers in the sophisticated blend of different foods and delicacies such as snails.
With a plentiful supply of meat, Moroccans enjoy brochettes (grilled kebabs of mutton, liver and fat), kefta (spicy meatballs of mutton and offal) and mechoui (lamb roasted on a spit or baked in a special oven). Pastilla or pigeon pie is also a favourite dish. Desserts are usually fruits or pastries, which are often filled with almond/ marzipan.
Muslims are not permitted to drink alcohol and the nation’s staple drink is mint tea, a green tea flavoured with mint sprigs and made with lots of sugar. Coffee is drunk black and strong.