Morocco is known for its Atlantic and Mediterranean beaches, high mountains, Sahara Desert, imperial cities, and souks. It has a history and culture reflect the influence of a long succession of invaders and settlers—including the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, French, Spanish, and Arabs—as well as the presence of the Berbers, Morocco’s indigenous people, who make up half of the nation’s population.

Moroccans are extremely hospitable and very tolerant. Though most people are religious, they are generally easy-going, and most young Moroccan women don’t wear a veil, though they may well wear a headscarf. Nonetheless, you should try not to affront people’s religious beliefs, especially those of older, more conservative people, by, for example, wearing skimpy clothes, kissing and cuddling in public, or eating or smoking in the street during Ramadan.

Moroccan society is a fascinating melting pot of different cultures: Berber, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, African and European. The late Hassan II, king of Morocco, compared the country to a tree with its roots spreading deep into the heart of Africa, its trunk solidly set in the Arabo-Islamic world, and its branches reaching beyond Spain, Portugal and France to the heart of Europe. Morocco is changing rapidly as a result of modernization and democratization efforts; yet its diverse cultures are deeply anchored in age-old traditions that stress community life, baraka (sacred blessing), fate, family, and honor, all of which are values that Moroccans cherish and are always ready to share.

Historically, the Moroccan empire was a major player in world politics and the legendary cities of Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira, along with their monuments, are a standing witness of that historical role. Morocco is also a symphony of different forms of music and dance that make it one of the most “musical” countries in the world. The fine cuisine, the rich biodiversity, the hospitality, the vibrant civil society, the active elite, the diverse geography, the religious and ethnic tolerance, the Andalusian heritage, the varied economy and the longest Monarchy in the world-all of these make of it an interesting case that is worth studying closely.