Real Moroccan culture is diverse, rich and historical. First populated by the tribal native Amazigh (Berbers), the Arabs bought Islam to Morocco in 680BC, and began to populate the whole of North Africa.

The majority of the population today is either Berber or Arabic, with Berbers making up around 45% of the population. The Berbers – known as Amazigh – many take offence at the 'Berber' name - retain their own languages – there are three main dialects spoken – Tarifit, Tamazight and Tachelhit.

The Amazigh are historically a tribal group, and in past times, it was not uncommon for women to be tribal leaders. They have their own identity separate to the Arab Moroccans and recently, there have been moves to recognize and further promote Amazigh culture in Morocco. Amazigh are famed for their musical skills and much of the music of Morocco has Amazigh origins and feaures Amazigh performers. Amazigh are also responsible for many of the handicrafts available in Morocco, (such as Moroccan tile and table tanterns) with a rich heritage in craftsmanship. Many of Morocco's famous dishes, including cous cous and tajine are of Amazigh origin.

These days, Arabic is the primary language of Morocco and the vast majority follow Sunni Islam. Amazigh dialects are the second most common language, followed by French.

Real Moroccan culture is complex and difficult for many westerners to decipher. One key thing is the concept of shame – hsuma. Moroccans do not feel guilt – they feel shame, and so saving face is essential to good relations. This leads to Moroccans saying and doing things that they may not mean or wish to do, in order to save face, which in turn can be confusing and seem duplicitous to Westerners.

In Morocco, while much of the day to day life is bound by Islam, do not expect to be able to visit a mosque yourself – these are Muslim only places and you will not be welcomed.

Family rules in Morocco, and hospitality is a key part of Moroccan culture. In many homes, the door is always open and there is a meal ready to be eaten by guests dropping by, served with plenty of Moroccan Mint Tea and Moroccan cakes. Be sure, if you are invited, to take a small gift and to be there for some time – visits are not to be rushed. If you are sharing a meal with a Moroccan, expect to eat from a shared plate, and only eat with your right hand. Moroccan cuisine is an experience not to be missed.

One curious thing in Morocco is what I'll call the 'table rule' – if you place, for example, cigarettes on a table, then expect your companions to help themselves – if it's on the table, it's there to be shared.

While the majority of Moroccans do not drink alcohol, a number of younger men do, so don't be surprised to see Moroccans in bars having a drink – although if they get caught doing so, they face the prospect of a few nights in the local jail. Hashish is smoked pretty openly in outdoor cafes and bars, although as a tourist, it's not worth the risk of trying to sample the goods yourself – a Moroccan jail is not a place you would wish to find yourself in.

Women in Morocco should be conservative in their dress sense, both out of a sense of respect for the Morccan culture, who find scantily clad women shameful, and to avoid undue and unwanted male attention.

Homosexuality in Morocco is punishable, although do not be surprised to see men holding hands in the street and showing affection – this is quite common and does not infer anything about their sexual preference.

Real Moroccan culture is vast, diverse and completely different from western cultures. However, if you jump in with both feet, it can be a refreshing and ultimately rewarding experience.

Other articles on Morocco you may find interesting: