Gift giving in Morocco is more than selecting a gift out of obligation and presenting it beautifully. It’s an act of honor and tact, and represents the givers knowledge of the recipient’s personality.
Since more than 97% of Morocco’s population is Muslim, gift giving is intertwined with Islamic tradition and belief. In Islam, gift giving is one of the best ways to show honor, appreciation, love and respect. Because of this, gifts are exchange a lot.
To get a rundown on all things Moroccan gift giving, we talked to two bloggers: Amanda Mouttaki and Emma Joystonbechal. Mouttaki runs a Moroccan food blog and Joystonbechal runs a blog called The Good Life in Morocco.
Mouttaki summed up Moroccan gift giving philosophy: “Moroccans are very generous people and saving face is an important part of their culture. Keep in mind when giving a gift not to overspend. They will want to give you a gift that is of equal or greater value, even if they can’t really afford it.”
Gift Wrap and Presentation: Paper gift wrap isn’t a common way to conceal and present a gift.
Mouttaki explained, “Gift wrapping is becoming more popular but is mostly limited to wedding gifts. Gift bags might be more common.”
Joystonbechal added that presents are often wrapped in cloth or a scarf.
Etiquette: Gifts are generally not opened upon reciprocation but later in private.
Giving to someone of the opposite sex is always a delicate matter outside of the family. If a male gives a female business associate a gift, it’s recommended he say that it’s from his wife.
Go to Gifts: The gift of money is popular and is not seen as tacky. Also, pastries and candies are sure to please and never to offend.
Taboo Gifts: Mouttaki advised, “any type of alcohol would be quite taboo as most Moroccans are Muslim and alcohol is prohibited.”
Joystonbechal said, “don’t give lighters or things to do with fire.”
Business Gift Giving Standards: Gift giving between businesses and associates isn’t expected but does sometimes occur.
Gift Giving Occasions: Weddings and births are the most popular gift giving occasions.
*Hostess Gift: Hostess gifts are expected. Common ones include pastries, figs or flowers. Moroccans are known for their hospitality so mint tea will almost always be given to any visitor who visits a Moroccan home.
In the rural parts of Morocco, where tradition is the norm, a popular hostess gift is a live chicken.
“If you are receiving a gift, you may say something like “oh you didn’t have to do that.” Which is a bit confusing as it’s an unspoken requirement to bring some type of gift when invited to someone’s home’, said Mouttaki. “You also would want to keep track of what you were given and give something slightly larger when you visit that person’s home in the future.’
* Birthday: “In Islam birthdays are not celebrated, however, some families do celebrate,” Mouttaki told us. When families do celebrate birthdays, it’s generally just for children.
* Weddings: Moroccan weddings are elaborate and full of tradition and gift giving. Traditional Moroccan weddings last three to seven days and often start with a dowry gift, include a henna party for the bride and end with lavish gifts- usually money- from the wedding guests.
*Eid: These are two of the biggest Muslim holidays. The first Eid of the year is Eid Al-Fitr which takes place after Ramadan (a month of fasting) while Eid Al-Adha celebrates the end of the Hajj pilgrimage. Festivals and family celebrations take place and gift giving is considered a must. Common gifts are comparable to what we give for Christmas in the U.S.
*Thank You Gifts: Thank yous are generally expressed verbally and followed up within a week of receiving a gift with a thank you gift not a card.
*House Warming: Candles, desserts and money are common.
As far as the housewarming celebration is concerned, Joystonbachel explained that “it is expected that you invite everyone around for couscous to your house. If you have money you would sacrifice a sheep for good luck and make a big meal for everyone.”
*Coming of Age: Mouttaki explained that gifts are often given when a baby boy is circumcised and girls get their ears pierced. This gift is usually monetary.
*Baby Gifts: Gift giving to newborns is very common. “Gifts are given at an aqeeka which is a party that parents throw for their child after it’s born. Money or gold jewelry for the child are given,” Mouttaki told us.
*Zakat: An obligatory monetary gift that everyone gives to charity. It’s one of the five pillars of Islam.
*Christmas: Christmas is not recognized in Morocco.
*New Year’s: New Year’s Eve in Morocco is a huge celebration between friends and family. Elaborate dinners are prepared and gifts are exchanged.
*Funeral: Joystonbachel explained that it is customary to give the family money at funerals. The spouse of the deceased is also gifted white clothing because they have to wear all white for 45 days.
*Enjoy this article? Click here to learn about gift giving in other parts of the world.