Morocco holds so much mystery, so much allure, even the name itself roles off the tongue and instantly evokes exotic ideas of adventure and beauty. Something about deciding to teach in Morocco is edgier and more exotic than other locations. The land of spice and music lies outside the Western coordinates of comfortability and familiarity on the unknown edge of the map that is fraying. That is Morocco and it seems few people know much about this unique country on the northwestern coast of Africa.
Food & Culture
The official language of Morocco is Arabic but you’ll also find: Berber, French, and Spanish. Islam is the predominant religion, as it also is in Turkey, and the majority of the Middle East and North Africa. Better just to state the obvious. Morocco is unlike any place anywhere else in the world. What other country borders a sea (the Mediterranean) contains part of a desert (the Sahara, the world’s largest), features not one but two of the oldest yet most happening cities on the planet (Fez and Marrakech) and is less than an hour’s plane ride away from Europe? If the question is, “Why live and teach in Morocco?” then the answer is, “Why not!”
The local culture is quite different, which is part of its appeal. During your travels you will become accustomed to hearing the Muslim call to prayer emanating from the muezzin five times a day and tasting cumin in nearly every Moroccan dish.
That being said, what doesn’t take any getting used to is the marvelous Moroccan cuisine. International dishes like couscous are commonplace alongside lesser-known traditional dishes such as tagine and pastilla, all of which are excellent. Tagine is a thick stew of meat and veggies and that gets its name from the traditional dish it is cooked in. The pastilla is a thick meat pie that was traditionally filled with pigeon but chicken is now more commonplace. Fresh juice stands bless every corner of every street in many cities. Having a fresh avocado juice is a luxury many will take for granted until the absence of it upon arriving back home leaves them in terrible withdrawals.
Getting around can be an altogether different issue, as English is rarely spoken in cities outside of tourist-meccas like Fez and Marrakech. Foreigners are treated reasonably well and there is little reason to fear any kind of anti-western sentiment. Rather than being prejudiced against you, most Moroccans are eager to share with you their thoughts and involve you in their daily activities. The social individual will find it quite easy to have two or three good local friends after merely a month or two.
Things to Do
As for time off, there are so many incredible things to do, events to witness, and places to see that it isn’t possible to do them in even one year. From riding a camel in the Sahara, to sailing around Essaouira on a catamaran, or witnessing a traditional Berber wedding festival, time spent in Morocco is time that will never be forgotten. So while the lack of English may make travel a little intimidating it is well worth it. Plus, it is easy to hire guides when necessary.
Teaching in Morocco
Morocco’s previously limited market for English teachers has expanded dramatically in recent years. The country has made major attempts to modernize in order to appeal both as a tourism hotspot and as a nation looking toward new and former alliances in the Western World, especially in terms of an Energy partner. If you’re looking to gain experience working and living in a North African country pulsating to the beat of its own drum, Morocco is really the perfect choice.
Salaries are generally quite a bit better here when compared to European locations, or at least they’ll go further as Morocco is very affordable both in day-to-day living expenses and weekend travel.
Looking for a school to take you on is certainly bound to be more of a search on your part than it would be in many Asian countries where they tend to court prospective teachers. Here you’ll have to be your own Romeo or Juliet, and that means scouring TEFL websites and contacting schools directly. Most schools offer decent contracts with generally excellent vacation time thanks to the observance of so many Muslim holidays. Finding the school is the hard part but, with a bit of luck or at least a TEFL Certificate in hand, you’ll be well on your way to Africa.
Once you’ve found a placement the challenge of finding lodging arises. Luckily, most schools assist in this process, and while the majority of lodging is surprisingly affordable, ensuring its safety and close proximity to your school is paramount. Trying to get across certain cities (Casablanca comes to mind) is like attempting to eat a popsicle in the sunshine, it just can’t be done efficiently and without getting sticky. Ideally, you won’t have to focus on teaching until you’re settled. It is definitely a good idea to arrive several days before your contract begins so you can gain your bearings.
Students can range anywhere from kindergarten age to retirement age, and all sorts in between. Calls of “Teacher, teacher!” emanate from the classrooms full of younger students while long stories about the olden days come from the mouths of the older. Cheating is unfortunately quite commonplace and the importance of keeping control of the classroom cannot be overstated. Be sure to set standards right away and stick to them.