Before a meal, you should clean your hands with rose or orange scented water. Then, wait until the host announces "Bismillah", at which point, eating can begin. Eat with your right hand only, using your thumb and your first two fingers. (Using more is a sign of gluttony, and even if the food is delicious, you don't want to be rude!) Your left hand should only be used for picking up bread or passing dishes to your table mates. And never help yourself to bread -- wait until it is given to you! Use the bread to mop up sauces and clean your plate. Don't hog all the meat either, which is easy to do, since your host will try to be generous with it. Believe it or not, it's considered fine to lick your fingers, but not until the end of the meal. In the meantime, wipe them on your bread or use your napkin if necessary.
According to Globe Trekker, if you begin to feel full, try to continue nibbling. If you stop eating altogether, the entire table may follow suit! Be sure to honor your host with good conversation during the meal and praise for the food. (But don't gush about it, or you'll make your host uncomfortable!) Moroccan's are a very hospitable people, and your host will offer you the best portions. You may also enjoy up to three cups of mint tea during the course of your meal.
The main meal in a Moroccan household is a mid-day meal. Actually, this is true in many cultures, including European. It makes more sense to have your largest meal in the middle of the day, and to eat a light evening meal so that you're not still digesting food when you go to bed, which is not conducive to a good night's sleep. If you are lucky enough to be invited by a Moroccan friend, be a good guest and bring a modest gift such as fresh fruit or juice. If there are children in the household, you can bring yogurt too.
Now that you know about how to behave politely at the table, you should also be aware of a few other Moroccan customs, such as removing one's shoes at the door. It's impolite to walk all over the carpet with your shoes on! (And don't forget to wear clean socks!)
While there, be sure to learn everyone's names and try your best to remember them. Don't let the conversation get one-sided, which can easily happen since your host is likely to ask you a lot of questions. Show that you care about him and his family by asking similar questions.
Finally, be polite as you would with any host anywhere, and at least offer to help clear the table. Chances are they won't let you, but it's nice to make the gesture!
If you'd like to sample Moroccan cuisine at its finest, join us at Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro and Lounge in San Diego. Contact us for a reservation today!